Over the remaining week and a half before the Hogwarts Express, Harry and Hermione spent much of their free time exploring each other’s lips.
It was the first time either of them had dated, or kissed, and they were excited to learn as much about it as they could, and try it out as much as they could, before only being able to see each other every so often over the summer. They also tried it in every different place they could think of around the castle where they wouldn’t be caught by teachers or other students (as they felt the Potter rumor mill didn’t need that added to it, not yet anyway — that could wait for the fall), to see if location made any difference in what it felt like. Or at least, that was the excuse Hermione offered when she proposed the idea — that it was simply intellectual curiosity, a theory in need of testing — but they both knew it was just an excuse to snog more, and neither of them cared.
The Saturday after the third task, Dumbledore called for an impromptu feast, under the pretense of celebrating the successful culmination of the first TriWizard Cup in over a century. But as soon as he stood up and started talking after everyone had finished eating, it quickly became apparent that he had another reason for wanting everyone together so he could speak.
“As many of you may have heard already, when Mister Potter and Miss Granger were portkeyed away from stands Tuesday night, they were transported to where Voldemort had been hiding out in his weakened, but humanoid form. Thanks to their quick thinking and defensive use of magic, they were able to subdue Voldemort, his helper, and his snake, and bring them back to the castle. They were also able to report that Professor Moody was not really Professor Moody, but rather Bartemius Crouch Junior, long thought to have died in Azkaban many years ago.
“And speaking of people long thought dead, Voldemort’s helper turned out to be none other than Peter Pettigrew, long thought to have been murdered by Sirius Black when Sirius allegedly killed twelve muggles and Mister Pettigrew thirteen years ago. However, it turns out that it was actually Pettigrew who committed that mass murder, and then escaped by turning into his unregistered animagus rat form.
"All four of these are now in Magical Law Enforcement’s custody, with trials impending for the two humans and whatever Voldemort is now. Of which, Peter Pettigrew’s trial will also serve to free Sirius Black and clear his name from the charges levied against him thirteen years ago that sent him to Azkaban without trial.
“Now, many in the Ministry would not want me to be telling you all this, and neither would many of your parents. But I believe that it is important for everyone to be aware of the threats facing us all, especially as it was two students who were able to bring these criminals to justice. So let this be a reminder that even the youngest amongst us can make the biggest differences. And since this will probably not be the end of Voldemort, and certainly not of the evil he espoused, as both the fake Mad-Eye reminded you all year, and the real one will certainly agree — Constant Vigilance!”
Many of those in the room were staring in shock at the headmaster by the time he’d finished, but far more had already heard that Harry and Hermione had brought back He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, from one source or another. Several people had asked Harry and Hermione directly what had happened, and who they’d brought back with them when they returned. Other students had asked the handful of students whose parents worked in the Magical Law Enforcement office, or otherwise had an ear on what was going on, what they’d heard from home. But whoever they’d heard it from, most students already knew at least some of the information Dumbledore had just told them, and many knew even more than what he'd told them.
Therefore, the speech received more nodding heads and resigned looks than gasps and panicked whispers and looks of disbelief and horror. And those who did react that way quickly stopped as they realized no one else was doing that, and had apparently already heard this news, turning instead to look at them in disbelief. The teachers also seemed rather surprised that there really wasn’t much surprise amongst the student body at this life-changing announcement from Dumbledore.
Once Dumbledore sat back down, however, there was much whispering amongst the crowd, everyone comparing notes with their neighbor between what Dumbledore had just told them, and everything they’d already heard. As for Harry and Hermione, they were merely discussing their slight surprise that Dumbledore had decided to share so much the entire school — he hadn’t explained this much after Harry had defeated the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets two years earlier. They, of course, had been called into the headmaster's office the day after the third task to debrief him on everything that had happened in the graveyard the night before, though they hadn’t really learned anything new from their discussion with him that night.
It was also the first time they’d heard about Sirius finally getting a proper trial, or rather Pettigrew’s trial overturning the lack of a trial Sirius had received thirteen years earlier. So as everyone else was whispering about the capture of Voldemort and company, Harry and Hermione were speculating on when Sirius would be declared free, and if it occurred over the upcoming summer, whether the powers that be would allow Harry to finally go live with his godfather, and escape the Dursleys forever.
Midway through the final week before the Hogwarts Express would return them all home, Harry and Hermione were relaxing by the Black Lake, when Fleur approached them.
“Hi Harry, Hermione,” the Veela said brightly as she walked up to them.
“Hi Fleur,” replied Harry and Hermione in chorus, before Hermione added, “So what brings you to this lovely spot by the lake?”
“I wanted to offer you two half of my TriWizard winnings for capturing Voldemort and his two followers,” answered Fleur. “It may not have been part of the tournament, but it was certainly far more important, and proved you were more than worthy to have competed in the tournament, regardless of your choice not to actually compete and not being the one to have your name come out, respectively. So you two deserve the winnings at least as much as I deserve it for completing three meaningless tasks slightly better or quicker than my fellow competitors."
“That’s really nice of you, Fleur, and we certainly appreciate the offer, but I really don’t need the money, and you are the one who earned it according to the rules,” replied Harry sincerely. "Of course, I can’t speak for Hermione, but—”
“I don’t need it either,” interjected Hermione quickly. “My parents are pretty well-to-do in the muggle world—"
But Fleur waved them both off. “I know ze Potters are extremely wealthy, so even if you only have access to a school vault until you're of age, I know you don’t need it,” she said. “But ze truth is, neizer do I. Ze Delacour's aren’t Potter rich, but I don’t ‘ave any need for a zousand galleons, any more zan you do. So please, allow me to thank you for saving ze wizarding world yet again, and take it — buy your girlfriend something nice with it. If ‘Ermione is your girlfriend, of course, I don’t mean to be presumptuous.”
“She is,” replied Hermione with a smile. “We officially started dating the afternoon before the third task, but we’ve kind of been dating without realizing it ever since Harry’s name came out of the goblet and we started spending all our time together because Harry’s other friend called him a liar and refused to believe that Harry hadn’t entered himself."
“Zat redheaded Ronald fellow ‘oo was your ‘ostage in ze second task?” asked Fleur, and Harry and Hermione nodded. “ ‘E seemed like a real git when you two ‘ad words after ze task."
“He’s decent enough when he’s not being lazy, or jealous of everyone with any bit of popularity, or arguing with Hermione, but there’s just too many of those moments to ignore,” replied Harry, “And it took Hermione pointing it out to me after me being friends with him for three and a half years for me to finally see it. But he was the first person to ever want to be friends with me, so I ignored his behavior for the longest time, too close to see it clearly and subconsciously feeling like I owed him something in return for being friends with me when no one else would.
“And I would consider being friends with him again if he would genuinely and sincerely apologize to Hermione, without having to be asked by one of us to do so, for how he treated her for three plus years, and start treating her respectfully going forward. And ideally stop being so lazy with his homework and certainly stop expecting Hermione to do it for him. But given the fact I can’t remember ever hearing him apologize to anyone for anything, I have my doubts that it will ever happen."
“It often takes us ze longest to realize ze faults of those closest to us,” responded Fleur solemnly, nodding her head. “And when we finally do, it is ze hardest to leave zem.” She paused for a second, before adding with a grin, “But it is even ‘arder to distract me from making you take ‘alf of ze TriWizard winnings."
Harry and Hermione groaned, but Harry did reach out and take the sack of galleons she held out to him, and gave a sincere, “Thank you.”
The three of them continued to chat a while longer, until finally heading up to the Great Hall for supper together.
Finally, the day to take the Hogwarts Express back to London arrived.
Harry still wasn’t looking forward to being stuck at the Dursleys with little contact for at least several weeks, but between Hermione promising to come over and visit as often as her parents would allow her, and the hope that Sirius would legally be free before the end of summer and could come rescue him from his relatives, never to return, Harry’s summer was looking much more promising than it ever had before.
Boarding the train after the horseless carriage ride to the Hogsmeade station, Harry and Hermione found a compartment alone near the back of the train. Contrary to how they previously would have sat had they been the only two in the compartment, they sat side by side, Hermione half trying to fit herself into Harry’s seat, giving Crookshanks the entire bench across from them to himself. Not that that was the humans’ goal, of course, it just happened to work out that way for the kneazle as Hermione wanted to be as close to Harry as she could for as long as she could before they had to go to their separate homes for the summer. And Harry certainly wasn’t complaining about it.
The morning passed by quickly, until sometime after lunch the compartment door was abruptly slid open, and Harry and Hermione looked up to find Malfoy and company standing there glaring.
Without invitation, Draco sneered, "So you think you’re all special because you captured the Dark Lord and a couple of his followers. Saved the wizarding world once again. Well, it doesn’t matter. You've still picked the losing side, Potter! He may be locked up for now, but he’ll never stay that way. And when he’s back for real, it’ll be mudbloods like her that are the first to go,” he finished, jerking his head towards Hermione.
“Ah, yes, because if I’d just befriended you instead of Hermione first year, Voldemort would have let me join his motley crew instead of trying to kill me every year — not,” replied Harry dryly, his hand subtly sneaking into his pocket to close around his wand. He felt Hermione do the same where she was leaning up against him. "There was no winning side for me here, Draco, so stop trying to act all high and mighty. You’re just a piece of scum who’s name nobody would even know if you didn’t come from a rich family."
In a flash, wands were out and spells were shouted, the three Slytherins dropping like the paperweights they were only good for. A second later, the twins stepped over them and into the compartment, commenting on the unique results of combining different hexes, before challenging Harry and Hermione to a game of exploding snaps.
The four of them had been playing for several games when Harry looked up at the twins and asked, "What’s up, guys? You don’t seem your normal upbeat selves."
Both twins sighed, and George asked, “Remember how we made a bet with Ludo at the World Cup?”
“Yeah,” nodded Harry and Hermione.
“Well, he payed us in Leprechaun gold, so it all disappeared,” replied Fred.
“At first we thought it was a mistake, but after we finally pinned him down, he told us we were too young to be betting,” continued George.
“And when we tried to make him just give us our money back, he refused.”
“But in the end, we found out he’s in up to his neck with the goblins, and hasn’t got a knut to pay out to anyone.”
“But that was all your savings!” exclaimed Harry.
Fred and George nodded sadly.
Before anyone could say anything else, a brilliant idea popped into Hermione’s head. Leaning over, she quickly whispered it into Harry’s ear, his face lighting up as he heard her quite frankly genius idea. Jumping up, he scrambled around in his trunk until he found what he was looking for. Sitting back down, he held the sack of gold Fleur had given them out towards the twins.
“Fleur insisted we take half for capturing Voldemort, Pettigrew, and Crouch Junior. But neither of us have any use for it, and you clearly do, so take it. Start building that joke shop you’ve been talking about all year.”
“Harry, you’re mental. We can’t do that,” said Fred in an awed voice.
“Yes you can, and you will. Consider it an investment. Once you’re up and running, you can pay us back with interest, or give us a really small cut of your profits. It’s a thing muggles do,” replied Harry, tossing the sack into Fred’s lap.
“Please,” added Hermione. “You’re both brilliant, and you can make good use out of it. The world can always use more laughs, and we all know you’re not going to get any support at home, financial or emotional. Bagman may not pay up, but Harry and I are in a position where we can, and we both want to. So please.”
“You are mental,” replied George, as he slowly reached down and picked up the sack Harry’d tossed in his lap. “Thank you.”
“This means more than you can possibly imagine,” added Fred.
The remainder of the journey passed quickly, Fred and George elaborating on at length about all the plans they had for their joke shop, until the train finally pulled into Kings Cross.
Harry and Hermione waited in the compartment until everyone else had deboarded the train, getting in a last-minute snog, and hoping Mrs Weasley would leave as soon as she had all her children, and not try to wait around for Harry as well. When they finally crossed through the magical barrier into the muggle world, holding hands, they thankfully found they were right, and the only two groups of people still waiting were Uncle Vernon and Hermione’s parents.
As they paused just outside the barrier, before heading to their respective families to leave, Hermione leaned over and gave Harry a quick peck on the cheek, whispering, “I’ll see you as soon as I can.”
~ The End ~