A Handfasting in Little Whinging|
(In which two lonely, bookish orphans lost in Darkest Surrey rescue each other.)
an Harry Potter fanfiction
by Andrew yclept Aelfwine
The characters and situations of the Harry Potter series are copyright J.K. Rowling. They may not be used or reproduced commercially without permission. The use of these characters and situations is not to be construed as challenge to said copyright. They are merely borrowed for this work of non-commercial fanfiction, from which the author derives no financial benefit.
Warnings: Harry/Hermione. Pre-Hogwarts AU. Orphaned Hermione. Pre-teen marriage, with age-appropriate affection.
This was written in December. I have another part for it, which I'm not quite satisfied with, this being the reason why I've not posted the fanfic yet.
I'm posting it now in honour of J.K. Rowling's recent revelation. :-)
Harry Potter was ten years of age, and he'd lived with his aunt Petunia Dursley, his uncle Vernon, and his cousin Dudley at Number Four Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey for as long as he could remember. In the course of that time he'd learnt better than to openly express curiosity about anything that didn't concern him, which meant, of course, practically everything.
None the less, he was intensely curious about the world. Being denied the question as a means of learning, he'd learnt to be observant. There was nothing Harry liked better than a day after school when he wasn't meant to be home until it was time to prepare his family's dinner, because his aunt had nothing for him to do and didn't want to see his face. After all, it meant he could spend more time being observant in some place that was neither Saint Grogory's School nor Privet Drive.
The places he could go on such a day were still a bit limited, of course. He had no pocket money, as his relatives told him they were already forced to spend an absurd amount of money just housing his useless self in the cupboard under the stairs, feeding him on the scraps of the meals he cooked for them, and clothing him in his cousin's cast-offs, so ice cream shops and video arcades were right out. In the park nearest Privet Drive he would be either beaten for his cousin's amusement or told by one of the neighbours to take his sneaking self away and do something useful rather than skulk about interfering with decent people. The library, of course, was one place where he could go, as Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley never ever went there. The librarians had long since learnt that Harry was polite, quiet, and did no harm, so they were happy to let him lose himself in the stacks.
But it was a lovely September day, slightly overcast as it usually was but warmer than the norm, and Harry wanted to enjoy it. So he took the other option, and headed away from school in the opposite direction from Privet Drive, towards a public park on the fringe of Little Whinging which had been made from the gardens of some long-demolished country house. Nothing much had been done with it beyond the bare minimum maintenance required to stop it turning into an impenetrable mass of bramble, but a ten year old boy who knew how to move in the woods could make his way inside and find a place to sit peacefully and make up stories about some strange foreign world where he had friends to play with and a family who loved him.
Mrs. Ireton, who lived in Number Two and played bridge with Aunt Petunia, had called him a “nasty little Gypsy brat” one afternoon a fortnight back when she and her two snarling poodles walked past as he was trimming the hedges, and Harry had been inspired to read every book the library had about Gypsies, who called themselves Romany. He knew his dad's mysterious family couldn't have actually been Romany, because if they had been some distant cousin would have come to Little Whinging and taken him back from the Dursleys when he was a toddler, but he desperately wished they had been, for just that reason.
Romany Harry would live in a painted wagon with his mother and father and sisters and brothers. He'd know all sorts of useful things, like how to drive a horse and wagon, how to snare rabbits and game birds, how to play the fiddle, and how to put the Evil Eye on rude Gadje, which was what Romany called outsiders such as the Dursleys. One of the books had said Romany sometimes got engaged when they were only young kids, so maybe Romany Harry would have a fiancée as well, a charming girl from another Romany family who was already very good at reading cards and palms. He was a little fuzzy on what being engaged meant beyond getting married when they were grown up, but he knew that Romany Harry and his fiancée would be the best of friends. It would be brilliant to have a friend like that.
Harry didn't know very much about girls, but one of the things he did know was that they were nicer than boys, at least a little bit. Some of the girls at school would actually smile at him, and one or two had even talked to him when Dudley wasn't there to say they shouldn't go near Harry because he'd give them a disease, and to hit them if they didn't listen to his warning. Also, Dudley was full of contempt for girls. Anybody Dudley thought was weak and gross and stupid had to be all right, since Dudley said much the same about Harry. Which made absolutely no sense at all, as Harry could lift more weight than his cousin despite being half his size, but that was typical Dursley thinking for you.
When Harry got to the park, he went in through the gate. As usual, there was nobody about to ask him what he was doing, which was fine. There might be somebody taking a walk within, but the people who came here lived in the neighbourhood around the park and would take no more notice of him than they would of anyone else. After all, they'd not heard the nasty things that Aunt Petunia had to say about the boy who grew her prize-winning roses and baked the biscuits and cakes that had all her friends in the bridge club complimenting her skills and asking for her recipes.
Harry spent a little time watching the squirrels who were running about gathering nuts, and then he sat on a rock by the little brook to view the small fish in the water. He could feel the tension of the school day flowing out of him with every breath. At last, he made his way along a path of root-jumbled bricks that long dead working men had carefully laid down in a neat herringbone pattern, between two thick tangles of bushes and briar that had been manicured hedges back before the Second World War. He moved as quietly and as swiftly as he would have done if he'd fallen into a story and had to make his way to safety past trolls or Calormenes or stormtroopers, not because he thought there were any of those about but because he wanted to practise just in case such a thing might happen.
He still had a very slight hope that it could. After all, Harry was well used to dodging Dudley and his friends. Living in Narnia or Middle Earth or somewhere like that couldn't be any worse than living in Little Whinging with three people who detested him, even if he never got to meet the Pevensies or Gandalf, so he felt he should be ready to make the best of it.
In reality, Harry was headed for a comfortable little place where he'd hidden a couple of paperbacks that he'd scrounged out of a dustbin and didn't feel he could keep safely concealed at home. A Wizard of Earthsea and The Hobbit were the sort of books that would get him the belt if his uncle knew he was reading them.
To his surprise, he heard a soft whimpering when he reached his spot, under the shade of a tall tree with a nice little hollow that was the perfect size to hold a couple of small books sealed up in a plastic bag. When he cautiously edged round the last corner, he saw a girl sitting with her knees all drawn up and her arms wrapped about them. That was a surprise.
An even greater surprise was that she was the new girl who'd come into his class at Saint Grogory's School this year. He'd heard tittering when she was introduced as Hermione, which apparently wasn't a proper name like Sarah or Emma. Dudley's sidekick Piers Polkiss had said something nasty about her teeth looking like a beaver's, which was rich because her incisors were only a tiny bit bigger than the other girls', whereas Piers himself had the look of a particularly ugly ferret or weasel in every respect, from his pointy nose to his crooked yellow teeth.
Hermione's nervous smile had hardened into an impassive mask before a full week of school was done, and the sight had hit Harry like a fist in the gut. On the first day she'd answered more questions than anybody else, but the answering had ended soon after the nervous smiles disappeared. He'd watched her during the lessons since, and realised that she was almost physically restraining herself from raising her hand or shouting out answers. He'd felt something in common with her, and would have liked to get to know her if he hadn't known that it would only lead to a scene out in the school yard with Dudley making some loud statement about how he'd never hit a girl and then hitting Hermione anyway as he and Piers and their friends stood round and laughed.
"What's that? Oh, it's a boy. He can't see me or hear me, anyhow, and even if he could he couldn't help me in any way, because he's only a kid, just like me, not a scientist or even a magician, and this is weird enough that an occultist or some person who's trying to build a UFO in their garden shed is just as likely to be able to do any good as anybody with a Chair in Physics at Oxford or Cambridge. Sweet Christ, Hermione, why did you have to be such a bloody freak?" Harry realised that she was talking to herself out loud, as if she were certain that he was deaf.
"Err, excuse me, but I can hear you, actually. And if you're a freak I'm very glad to meet you, since I've been told I was one all my life and I've never met another of my own kind."
She raised her head so suddenly that she almost hit it against the tree trunk. "What? You can see me?"
"Yes. Why shouldn't I? Only I'm sorry if I'm not meant to, and I'll go away if you'd rather I did that."
"Oh, don't, please! Nobody else has been able to see me or to hear a single word that I say since lunchtime. I was hiding in the toilets trying not to cry because that horrible cow Hazel Witherton had deliberately knocked my tray off the table when I was only halfway finished, and I was wishing that Hazel and the other nasty vicious boys and girls and all of the people who don't really care if I live or die couldn't see me or hear me, and somehow after that nobody could. Except for you, but of course I didn't realise that at the time."
"Really?" He'd noticed that the teacher and the other pupils were ignoring the new girl through the afternoon, but he'd thought it was just because they didn't like her very much; after all, most of them ignored Harry as well. And of course he'd not seen Hazel knock Hermione's tray onto the floor because he'd eaten his meal and escaped to the school yard before Dudley and Piers got done stuffing their faces and decided it was time to amuse themselves with a bit of indoor Harry Hunting.
"Yes. I think I was lucky I didn't get sat upon in class, and directly after the last lesson of the day I heard Miss Frosting telling the custodian that someone had put an empty chair and desk in her classroom for some reason and they needed taken out immediately so the pupils wouldn't start making up stupid stories about ghosts. And then when I got back to my aunt and uncle's house and knocked on the door nobody would answer, not even when I could hear my cousins Claire and Rebecca talking to each other right there in the foyer where they couldn't have not heard my knock, and if nothing else they would have started cackling about how I was locked out and would have to go and sleep rough with all the other mad homeless people and that but for my ugly face and scrawny body I'd probably be raped as well."
Harry didn't know what to say to that, but Hermione paused, so he made a sympathetic noise in his throat.
"I know my relatives don't want me," she said, "and it's been made crystal clear that I'm nothing but a burden to them, but they've always at least let me in the house before today. And they've never pretended that I didn't exist, except maybe at meals when they didn't want to give me a second helping even though there was more than enough food left, so I'm pretty certain it's more than just some sort of a vicious game they're playing. Whatever they think of me, they'd certainly never risk someone ringing Children's Services to say there was a young girl crying outside the house, because that would make them look bad in front of the neighbours. So the only logical conclusion is that they truly can't perceive I'm there.
"It must be something I did, somehow, and I suppose it might seem better than having to be with people who are mean to me. But now I'm lonely and scared, and I don't know how I'll get food to eat, or sit for my GCSEs, or anything."
"Oh. I've often wished my relatives couldn't see me, either, but it's never worked."
The girl named Hermione had been crying, he saw, and it looked as if she were about to cry again. "For Heaven's sake, you needn't make fun of me. It's very rude."
"But I'm not making fun. I live with my aunt and uncle and cousin as well, and they're nasty. I've often wished they'd not see me, but it never works for more than a few minutes, if it does at all."
"Yes. You said you were a freak, didn't you? That's what they always call me. Maybe if we're both freaks we can be friends? I've always wanted a friend."
"I've always wanted a friend as well." And suddenly she was up on her feet, and she'd thrown her arms about him. He knew that there was such a thing as hugging, but he didn't remember ever being hugged before. He probably would have panicked if it had been anyone else, but somehow with this girl he knew it was all right. He put his own arms round her and hugged her back.
After what felt like an eternity of embracing, but was probably only a couple of minutes, they sat down at the foot of the tree together. "I'm Hermione," she said. "Hermione Granger. I recognise you from school, of course. You're Harry Potter, right? Somehow I thought as soon as I saw you that you had the look of being the only person in the room who might understand me. I always used to think intuition was rubbish when compared with logic, but now I'm really starting to believe I was wrong."
He wasn't sure what to say in response to that, so he concentrated on the only things he could say. "Yes, I'm Harry. It's nice to meet you properly, Hermione. And I'd love to be your friend."
"There's nothing in the world I'd like better, Harry."
"I don't have much, but if mean people can't see you then I'm sure my relatives won't have the least idea you're there, and you're welcome to share my cupboard with me. And maybe if folk can't see you we could work together to get the things you might want that I don't have to share with you, like more clothes and... well, I don't know what girls need, really."
"My relatives had already put all of my things out for the dustman. I presume that as soon as they forgot about me they started wondering why their very smallest bedroom had a bunch of strange stuff in it and decided they'd best be rid of it promptly. I'm almost glad now that they wouldn't let me bring more than a single suitcase when I came to live with them, as much as it hurt when they said so, because it was pretty easy to fit everything into my backpack and bring it with me and it would have been so very hard to stand there by the garden wall making choices. I had lots of wonderful books at home in Oxford, and I miss them, but at least I've still got Narnia and Tolkien and my pictures of Mum and Dad. And did you say 'cupboard,' Harry?"
"Yes. They say that's all a freak like me deserves."
Hermione was crying again. "Oh, Harry, that's nonsense. Your relatives are wrong, you know. And so are mine, but if my Mum and Dad ever come back, you can live with us always. We'll finish out primary school together at my old school where the teachers were nice, and then we'll go to a good grammar school, and we'll go to university, and then maybe we'll even start up a business that we can work at together, just like Mum and Dad did. If Mum and Dad ever come back... They'd love you, I'm sure of it."
Harry patted her back, because he had got the idea from books that that was what one was meant to do for a friend who was crying. "But even if they don't, we'll always be together, Hermione. My Mum and Dad are dead, but if they weren't, I'm sure they'd love you. I never even knew them, but I'm sure they would."
"I'm so sorry, Harry. Although it does give us another thing in common, in a way. My Mum and Dad were in Africa this summer, doing dentistry out in the bush on very poor people who might well have died slowly and horribly without their help, and there was an earthquake, and a dam burst open. There was a terrible flood, and the village they were working in was simply gone."
Harry hugged Hermione a little closer, and after a while she began speaking again. "The Foreign Office will only say they're missing, but Aunt Vivian and Uncle Anthony say they're dead. They also say my parents were soft-headed lunatics who should have stayed in Britain and worked hard just as they do instead of gallivanting off to foreign countries where the people are all ungrateful cannibal savages with bones in their noses. But I know that's rubbish, because Mum and Dad worked very hard indeed, much harder than my aunt and uncle ever do. All of the African people I've met were very nice, much nicer than a lot of British people. None of them had bones in their noses, and none of them ate people. I do hope they're wrong about Mum and Dad being dead as well. But in any case, Harry, we're together. I have to say that I always did want a brother or a sister, but Mum said it wasn't going to happen, because the doctors had told her it was a miracle she'd even been able to have me."
Staying with Hermione forever sounded wonderful, but somehow Harry knew they simply couldn't be brother and sister, even though he couldn't articulate exactly why that was. "Err... Aunt Petunia was my mum's sister, and she's horrible to me. I don't want to be horrible to your kids when we're grown up."
Hermione smiled. "That's another thing we've got in common. My Aunt Vivian was my dad's sister, and she's vicious to me. I'm sure she'd have sold me into slavery instead of bringing me here, or at least abandoned me somewhere by the side of the road, if she'd thought there was any chance at all she could get away with it. And actually, well, I know we're young, Harry, but Mum and Dad were always so very happy together, and they did everything together, and I know that they met when they were only ten or eleven. Aunt Vivian says that my dad went horribly wrong somewhere and it was all my mum's fault because she'd 'bewitched him' when they were at school. So as I think about it, maybe it's better if we're not brother and sister. Would you like to... well, I suppose we can't get married, considering how young we are, but maybe we could become engaged? That might be appropriate, I think, since it does sound as if we'll have to be sharing a room and all of that." She gave him a shy little smile, as if she were worried what he might say or think.
"I don't really know how to get engaged, but I'd be glad to do it if you'd like to. Especially if it means we can share the cupboard, cos I've got no other place for you to stay in. Dudley's second bedroom is full of the things he's broken, and the guest bedroom is only for company and I think my relatives wouldn't recognise you as company since they'll not be able to see you."
Hermione grinned. "Your cousin's Dudley Dursley, right? That huge horrible boy who looks like a pink and blond walrus without any tusks or whiskers and enjoys hitting people?"
"Yes. And just wait till you see his father. My uncle's whiskers make him look so much like a walrus that if only he had tusks as well he'd be in constant danger of being caught with a net and hauled back to the zoo." They both burst into giggles at that image.
"I know for a fact that your cousin can't see me, Harry, because he tripped over me in the corridor as he was leaving school. I thought surely he'd hit me or at least call me hateful names, but instead he told his nasty little ferret-looking friend that the lazy custodians ought to be flogged until they bled because they'd left grease all over the floor. In any case, I want to stay close to the only person who can see me, so a cupboard will be fine as long as you're there."
"That's good. I'd like to share it with you, although I wish I had a better place for you to live in. So, what do we do? I've heard of engagement rings, but I'm not sure where I could get you one, and for that matter I've no money to buy it with."
"I'm not altogether certain how to do it myself, really. But I did once read about handfasting, which is what the witches would do when they got married. Maybe we could be handfasted instead? We'd not need rings for it, although it would be nice if we could have them someday. We'd not need a register office or a priest, either, which is good cos I don't know if they could see me and even if they could they'd probably say we're only kids and we can't get married yet. Besides, I don't want to wait whilst the banns are read or the notice is posted, do you?"
"No. So, what do we do?" Harry didn't know how he knew it, but somehow he understood that Hermione was somebody he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. She was like him, in a way that nobody else was. Well, the odd people who sometimes seemed to recognise him, like the little man who'd bowed to him in a shop once, they might be sort of like Harry and Hermione as well, but none of them had ever tried to get to know him, much less wanted to stay with him.
"I don't have that book any more, I'm afraid. Oh, I wish I did, because we really should do it right! But I can remember that we're meant to tie our wrists together, and when that's done we promise to stay with each other and love each other and to always take care of each other, and we declare that we're saying so in the presence of everything that's good in the universe, and we call upon the earth and the sky to witness what we've sworn. And I think we... err, that we're meant to ask our, well, our ancestors to bless us and witness for us as well. Oh, Mummy, Daddy..." Hermione began to cry again, and Harry hugged her round the shoulders. Somehow she wound up in his lap, and he held her as tightly as he could. It felt nice to hold someone like that, as if the lingering sadness that he always felt was somehow lessened because he could comfort another person who was sad. He stroked her hair, which was very curly. He liked it rather a lot.
"I'm sorry, Hermione. So sorry." He pulled his ragged handkerchief out of his pocket for her to wipe her eyes with.
"I'm sorry for you, Harry," she murmured. "You never even got to know your parents, and that's so horribly unfair."
"It actually... it feels a little better because I've got you here. I wish it hadn't had to happen this way, but I'm glad we can take care of each other."
"I'm glad as well. So, I suppose we should get on with our handfasting. I don't know why, but for some reason I think it's very important. Perhaps because there seems to be magic going on here? I was raised to believe that magic was a fine thing in stories but not something to take too seriously in real life, but I don't know what else could have done this. I'm not sure that I know very much about magic, but from what all the stories say it seems it's important to do things appropriately, and somehow I think that we need to be handfasted if we're going to be sleeping in a cupboard together. Err... I'm sorry if that's..." Her face was bright red, almost as red as Uncle Vernon's face got when he was shouting, except Hermione's face actually looked sort of cute that way.
"No, it's okay. I mean... we don't have to do any of the things that adults do, right? That class was awfully embarrassing, and I was kind of glad they said we shouldn't do any of it until we were grown."
"I was glad about that as well. But I'm reasonably sure we don't have to, at least not until we're grown up and our bodies are ready for it. Although something makes me think that when we are, it, well, it won't be any hardship. You're... you're the nicest looking boy I've ever seen, Harry. And when we're grown up, I'm sure you'll be a very handsome man."
He didn't know what to say. He was sure his face must be as red as Hermione's. "Err... thank you. You're the prettiest girl I've ever seen. And I'm sure you'll be absolutely breathtakingly beautiful when we're grown up."
"Oh, Harry. Thank you. I'm glad that the boy I'm getting handfasted to has a silver tongue on top of being handsome." She winked.
"I'm glad that I'm getting handfasted to the nicest and most beautiful girl I've ever known, and the smartest one as well. So, what are we meant to do?"
"We're meant to be kneeling, side by side. And we need something to tie our wrists together with. Have you any string? Or maybe we could use a vine?"
"There's lots of ivy growing over there. Shall I get some?" Harry pointed to an old bit of crumbling stone wall that made up one side of the little clearing they were in.
"I think maybe we should get it together. It might help the magic, somehow."
"That makes sense." They got to their feet and went over to the wall. Halfway there, he realised that they were holding hands. It felt very right.
It wasn't hard to pull away a nice three foot piece of ivy. "Thank you, Earth, for this your gift," Hermione said.
Somehow Harry knew that was the right thing to say. "Thank you, Earth, for this your gift. And thank you, Ivy Plant, for sharing your vine with us."
Hermione smiled at him. "And now we're meant to kneel down together. Maybe we'll do it right there, under the tree, where I was sitting when we met?"
"Yes. It feels right there." They knelt. It seemed to Harry as if a beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and the branches to fall right on the two of them. Hermione's face almost glowed. He wondered what it would be like when they were grown up and could kiss each other on the lips. He didn't know, but he felt sure they'd both like it.
"And now we put our wrists together, and we tie them with the vine. I understand that numbers are important in magic, so I think we should wrap it round three times, once for you, once for me, and once for the two of us together."
"That sounds good." It was awkward to work together to tie a knot with his right hand and Hermione's left, and they were giggling by the time they were done. It was nice to have a friend to laugh with.
"And now we're meant to ask all that's good in the universe to bless us. Well, I don't know Whom I'm talking to, or what name I should call You by, and I'm sorry if that's not what You'd like, but somehow I've always kind of felt there must be something good out there, or Somebody, so Whomever you are, I pray You bless Harry and me and our handfasting."
"And I don't know Whom I'm talking to either, if You're the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that they talk about at the church or if You're the witches' Goddess and God or if You're Aslan or if there's some other name You'd prefer, but I know You're good because You've let Hermione and me find each other, and I ask You to bless Hermione and me and our handfasting."
"I ask all my ancestors to bless us and to witness the promises Harry and I make to each other." Hermione's voice caught a little bit on 'ancestors,' but she spoke on steadily.
"I ask all my ancestors to bless us and to witness the promises Hermione and I make to each other." Somehow Harry could feel the presence of hundreds or even thousands of people. Some of them he could very nearly see, most especially a man with hair that was as thick and as black as Harry's and a red-headed woman whose eyes were green, just like his.
"And here in the presence of our families and all that's good, Harry, I promise that I will stand by you always, that I will do you good and not evil, and that I will share all that I am with you, in sickness and in health, in wealth and in poverty, in our youth and in our old age, from now until the end of time."
"And here in the presence of our families and all that's good, Hermione, I promise that I will stand by you always, that I will do you good and not evil, and that I will share all that I am with you, in sickness and in healthy, in wealth and in poverty, in our youth and in our old age, from now until the end of time." Something had changed. There was a feeling in the air like the quiet calm before a storm. Harry felt as if he and Hermione were kneeling in the very heart of the safest place in the universe. He knew instinctively that there was enormous power all about them, the sort of power that could destroy all sorts of things, but it would never ever harm them.
"So witness Earth, so witness Sky," Hermione said.
"So witness Earth, so witness Sky." As soon he said the words, Harry could feel the ground beneath him and the air all around him more distinctly than he ever had before. The sun was very bright now. He knew there was something else they were meant to do. What was it? Then a little scrap of memory came to him, of a film he'd seen once on the television at Mrs. Figg's. He wasn't sure if it was right... but he looked at Hermione's face, and their eyes met, and he knew she knew as well and that it was exactly right. They turned towards each other at the very same instant, their lips met, and they kissed.
Harry had even less concept of kissing than he'd had of hugging, but he realised instantly that kissing Hermione was absolutely the most wonderful thing he'd ever done. More than that, it was something he'd been born to do. A wild energy coursed through their bodies, like a sort of electricity that flowed through the earth and up through them into the the sky and beyond it to the Sun and out into the universe. He wondered if they might explode with the strength of it, but he knew it would be a wonderful kind of exploding and that he and Hermione would be together forever even if they did explode, so it was fine. For an instant he felt a prickle of heat where the vine tied their hands together, as if it had suddenly burst into flame, but a sort of flame that would never hurt them, because it was their flame and it meant that their handfasting was real and they weren't just two kids in a park playing a game.
And now he could clearly see and hear the people who were stood all about them. They were his family and Hermione's, generations and generations of them, cheering and clapping their hands and stomping their feet and doing more unusual things, such as shaking spears and swords and wooden rods that shot sparks, which he knew down deep in his gut meant exactly the same thing as the clapping and cheering. There were far more of them than could ever have stood within that little clearing, but somehow they were there and they fit very comfortably, as if the small open space had become much bigger than it had been when Harry and Hermione began their handfasting ceremony.
There was music in the air, fiddles and viols and harps and lutes and flutes and bagpipes and drums and ancient horns made of bronze or wood or mammoth ivory mingling with voices in a score of languages and all somehow managing to harmonise perfectly. The assembled crowd began a complicated dance that simultaneously had people in rings holding hands, people in lines weaving amongst each other, groups doing complicated steps and patterns that traced geometric figures across the floor, and couples sweeping elegantly about in each others' arms, as if thousands of years of different kinds of dancing were happening all at once and in perfect synchronisation as people in suits and dresses, people wearing many varieties of graceful clothing made from fur, silk, wool, or linen, and people who wore nothing but paint and elaborate jewellery, which Harry understood had the same significance as the very smartest formal clothes anybody could buy, all celebrated the joining of their two families.
And in the midst of it all were Harry and Hermione. They rose to their feet, their hands no longer bound but joined by a deeper and more subtle tie of which the ivy had been but the merest symbol. They whirled each other into the steps of an elaborate formal dance that neither had ever been taught but which came to them as naturally as breathing, as if they'd both been schooled to dance that way ever since they could walk. It ended with Hermione in Harry's arms, her head pillowed on his shoulder and his face buried in her hair. The many ancestors bid them a soft farewell and slipped back to their own homes. The last to leave were two couples: the man with Harry's hair and the woman with Harry's eyes, and a handsome man with Hermione's bushy hair, only his was almost blond where hers was dark brown, and a beautiful woman with a nose and chin that were very much the same shape as Hermione's. Harry could feel the four adults embracing the two of them.
And then they were gone, although somehow Harry knew that they would never be too far away. The newly handfasted couple spent another long moment simply holding each other. At last Harry felt Hermione stir in his arms, and they drew very slightly apart, standing at arms' length so they could gaze in each others' eyes. Hermione's eyes were glimmering with tears, but she was grinning more brightly than Harry had ever seen anyone grin before. "Oh, Harry, I love you."
"I love you, Hermione." It seemed the most natural thing in the world for them to kiss on the lips again, as if they'd done it every day of their lives so far just as they would do it every day for the rest of their lives.
"You know," she whispered at last, "I'm still sad that Mummy and Daddy are gone, but I'm infinitely happier than I was only an hour ago, even though I thought it was possible they might still be living on Earth an hour ago and now I know they're not, because I also know they're very close to us, even if we can't see them most of the time, and that someday we'll be with them forever. And I know that they love me and they love you and that they're friends with your parents and most of all that they're not hurting. Thank you, Harry."
"Thank you, Hermione. I'd never even seen a picture of my parents before, although somehow now that I've seen them I feel as if deep inside I always did have some notion of what they looked like."
"Oh, Harry. I used to think I despised Aunt Vivian and Uncle Anthony, but that's nothing compared with how much I detest your aunt and uncle. But what's important right now is that we're together and we'll grow up to be like our own parents, to be better adults than our uncles and aunts. And if by some chance we should someday end up raising the children of your cousin or mine, we'll love them just as much as our own kids and we'll give them everything they need to be happy and healthy. We'll teach them to be good, kind, thoughtful, and loving people who'll behave nothing like their parents or their grandparents. That would be the best revenge we could ever have, wouldn't it?"
"And someday, Harry, we will have pictures of your mum and dad. I don't know how I know it, but I feel certain that your parents have lots of friends who are still alive even though they can't come to see us, and when we're older we'll meet them. They'll give us pictures of them, and we'll put those with our pictures of my parents so we can look at them and think of them even when we can't see that they're watching over us."
"We will. And we're together now, forever. That's the most important thing."
"It is." Hermione glanced up at the sky. "And speaking of family, or at least relatives, when do we have to be home?"
Harry looked at his battered watch, a broken cast-off from Dudley that he'd somehow managed to coax back to life by taking out the battery and putting it in again. "They'll want me to start cooking their dinner at five thirty. We can still get there in time, as long as we leave shortly."
Hermione's laughter rang out like a bell. "That's good. I'd hate to begin my first night as a handfasted witch by turning my husband's relatives into toads in order to stop them shouting at him, even if they do very much deserve it."
"It might be difficult to explain to the neighbours why I was living with my wife, whom they probably couldn't even see because they're most all of them very nasty people, and three ugly toads that looked a bit like my uncle and aunt and Dudley, so I reckon you're right."
"Then let's go, my husband."
"Let's go, my wife."
Hermione picked up her bag and they headed out along the jumbly brick path. As they left the park, they held the gate for a white-haired couple who were going in. "Such lovely children," Harry heard the old woman say behind them. "Don't they remind you of us, Frank?"
"That they do, love. God send that lad never has to leave his lass to go and drive a tank through some poor foreign blighter's hedgerows."
"Amen. But if he does, I hope he'll come back to her just as you came back to me."
Hermione squeezed his hand. The young newlyweds shared a soft smile and made their way back to Privet Drive, walking arm in arm the whole way.
Harry was a bit worried that Hermione's invisibility might have worn off, but none of the Dursleys paid the least attention to the girl who stayed close to his side. Aunt Petunia ordered him to cook up a huge meal of chops with fried onions and mushrooms, jacket potatoes, roasted sprouts, and salad, with a raspberry fool for pudding, a feast that not even Dudley and Uncle Vernon could finish. Hermione was a great help, and he didn't know how he could have got it all done by dinnertime without her. Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice that the salad was being washed and dried and tossed at the very same time Harry was working at the cooker.
When the Dursleys were done, Uncle Vernon went off to sit in the living room with his Scotch and the Times, whilst Dudley went to his bedroom to play video games on the computer they'd bought him yesterday to replace the one he'd thrown through the window when he got frustrated with not being able to beat the sixth level of Castle Wolfenstein 3D. "We don't waste food in this house, boy," Aunt Petunia said. "You're going to sit down and eat all of that, and if there's the merest scrap left you'll regret it."
Harry looked at the platters and serving bowls. Then he looked at Hermione, and they shared a smile. What remained on the table was a perfect meal for the two of them, including two potatoes, a pair of sizeable chops, and a generous double serving of pudding. There were candles burning on the table, and when Harry went to extinguish them Aunt Petunia said "Don't. They're all but done with, and I'll not have candle ends left sitting in the holders and making it look as if we were too poor to buy new ones. Let them burn down, so we'll have got our money's worth out of them."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, "a candlelight dinner for our wedding night! It's perfect! Well, I admit that traditionally we ought to have a nice claret to drink with it rather than only water, but I suppose we're a little too young for wine so it's probably just as well."
"It is perfect. You're here." They kissed, heedless of Aunt Petunia, whose complete inability to perceive Hermione apparently extended as far as an inability to attend to the fact that Harry was talking with and touching a person she couldn't see, and sat down at the table together. After they'd fed each other the last bites of raspberry fool, they shared another long kiss.
Aunt Petunia checked over the serving dishes and the empty plates for leftovers and curtly directed Harry to hurry and do the washing up. When he and Hermione had finished that job, his aunt put her hand on his shoulder and turned him round. He was a bit worried that perhaps she'd forgotten the fiasco when she tried to cut his hair when he was nine and it grew back overnight. Hermione took his hand, as if she knew that he was nervous.
"You're dirty, boy. Get your pyjamas and your towel, go upstairs right now, and clean yourself. I expect you to take a proper bath, to fill the tub, to use hot water, and to take at least an hour. Not to mention that I had better be able to tell by what's gone from the bar and the bottle that you've used both soap and shampoo. We'll not have you going about like some dirty undisciplined savage and making it look in front of the neighbours and your teachers at school as if we're letting you run wild, the way your good-for-nothing father's freak family would have done."
Harry looked at Hermione. This meant she'd have time to clean herself as well, so it was a good thing. But how were they meant to share the bath? If he stood outside the bathroom door so she could have her privacy, Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon would surely see him and want to know what he was doing disobeying the orders he'd been given, and he knew perfectly well that he couldn't tell them an invisible girl was taking her own bath and he'd get himself cleaned up just as soon as she was done with it. Even if he didn't mention that the invisible girl was his wife, he'd be locked in the cupboard for the rest of the week when he wasn't at school or working, and most likely he'd get the belt for good measure.
Part Two. Please don't assume these are chapters. They're sections, because LJ are idiots who'll not let me make posts as long as I need for a fic like this.