Through the next few weeks Hermione watched the Quibbler and the Daily Prophet like a hawk, searching for anything concerning Harry.
The Prophet stayed amazingly silent about Harry’s appearance, although they reran the interview the Quibbler printed after the battle.
The day before Halloween the Quibbler claimed Harry was ready to break into the Quidditch world, and alternately, the arts:
“I saw him myself,”
said Nora Robbins, resident of London. “My piping lessons are in the same
building. He was heavily bandaged, but I’d recognize him anywhere!”
The offices of Victor Jacobson: Operatic Trainer, have declined to comment. Henry Powell, the producer of the magical opera: Ophelia’s Return, has also refused to confirm or deny Potters participation in his newest project.
Thankfully, Halloween fell on a Saturday, giving Hermione plenty of time to convince Severus he was going whether he liked it or not.
“I see no reason why I have to be present,” said Severus, conveniently finding a pile of third year scrolls. “We hardly did anything.”
“We brought the Amazons and the Jotun,” said Hermione. “Without us the battle would have been far more destructive.”
“If you hadn’t noticed, you did that,” said Severus, pulling his reading glasses out of a pocket and putting them on.
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but found she really couldn’t. She had known where Dumbledore had gone and had fetched him. She had met Alexandra, binding her to the Amazons. Without the Amazons, the Jotun would have never participated.
“Well,” said Hermione, searching for an excuse. “You’re still my consort, you need to escort me.”
“Consort?” Severus asked, his eyebrows high, a smile playing around his thin lips.
“Unless you want me to go with Goyle,” Hermione said testily. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind one more.”
“Well in that case,” Severus said, raising an eyebrow. Hermione smiled triumphantly.
Dumbledore, accompanied by Professor McGonagall, waited for the rest of what Ginny had begun to call the Hogwarts’ Contingency in his office. His deep purple robes glittered silver faintly as he moved. They were a present from Alexandra. The hat was more like a tall cap made of the same fabric. A thick lining of silver fabric lined it; a chunk of enchanted unmelting ice was carved in the shape of a nine pointed star above his brow.
McGonagall was dressed in a tartan skirt and white ruffled skirt. Her hair was braided and down, for a change.
“Stop pacing,” McGonagall said. Dumbledore froze mid-stride and turned to face her. She spied the curly toe of one of his shoes, tapping soundlessly under his robes.
She sighed and threw him a disapproving look.
“Perhaps a spot of tea,” Dumbledore said, relaxing slightly in resignation.
McGonagall nodded at him and walked to a tea service in the corner. Dumbledore decided perhaps it was best to sit down. He caught himself drumming a jig with his fingertips and was thankful when McGonagall handed him a cup so he’d have something to do with his hands. He sipped it and lifted his eyebrows.
“Ogden’s?” Dumbledore asked McGonagall.
“It will calm your nerves,” said McGonagall firmly. “Drink it.”
“I haven’t eaten today,” admitted Dumbledore.
“More the better.” McGonagall fixed him with a stern look.
His eyes twinkled at her as he downed his cup. He was just setting it down when green flames leapt up in the fireplace.
Dumbledore stood as his daughter walked through the flames. He was surprised when Sophia followed her daughter through the flames.
“Since I am being honored as well, I am allowed to bring a partner,” said Alexandra, her jaw set stubbornly.
Alexandra stood in robes patterned after her fathers; except the color was crème and the woven metal gold. It gave her a healthy glow. Her head covering was more like a middle-eastern scarf. A veil hung loosely, one end fastened near one of her ears. Her mothers outfit matched Alexandra’s, but the color was light pink.
“Of course you are,” said Dumbledore smiling at them, slightly nervously. McGonagall was glad she had slipped him a nip. She’d never seen him this wound up.
“You go veiled in public?” McGonagall asked.
“We have heard that the air is-,” Alexandra seemed to be searching for a word. “Not always so clean here.”
They all turned at a knock at the door and Remus, Severus, and Hermione entered, wearing dress robes.
Severus was wearing the same dark robes he wore to the opera, but this time his accessories were in a deep green that matched Hermione’s dress robes. Lupin was wearing light brown dress robes and was fiddling with a fraying buttonhole that didn’t want to work properly.
“Where is Miss Weasley?” McGonagall asked.
“She should be here soon,” Hermione said.
“Does she even know the password?” Remus asked, giving up on the buttonhole.
From the way they all looked at him blankly, he assumed not.
“I’ll go down and wait for her,” Remus said, backing out of the room and closing the door behind him.
“You look lovely,” Alexandra said to Hermione.
“You look better,” said Hermione smiling. “Your robes are gorgeous!”
“Thank you,” said Sophia.
“Mother wove the fabric,” Alexandra said.
Dumbledore looked down at his robes. He looked at Alexandra and then Sophia evenly in turn. These were wedding robes. The cedar smell was from them being in storage for so long.
Sophia had woven them as a girl in love, hoping it would right all wrongs and conquer all. She had been mistaken, but the robes had remained. Dumbledore caught the guilty look in Sophia’s eyes and knew.
“It was a shame to let them go to waste,” Sophia brusquely.
“Indeed,” said Dumbledore. “But something is wrong.”
He waved his wand at them, something he might never have done if he hadn’t ingested the Firewhisky. In a flash Alexandra and her mother had exchanged the color of their robes. Sophia had blushed but said nothing.
“There,” said Dumbledore gruffly. “Just as long as we’re being practical.”
The door opened and Ginny walked in, followed by Remus. She was wearing black velvet robes. Hermione raised her eyebrows, but assumed Fred and George had enough notice to get her something suitable.
“You look nice,” Hermione said to Ginny, excitedly.
“Thanks,” said Ginny.
“I would have thought the boys would be breaking down your door to escort you,” said Severus, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m going with Harry,” Ginny said, nervously. From the look on Dumbledore’s face he didn’t know this. She thought she saw him frown for a moment, but it was gone quickly.
“Well then,” McGonagall said, walking to the fireplace. “We’re all here, let’s go.”
With a brusque movement she threw floo powder into the fire and stepped through.
The gathering was wonderful. To Hermione’s delight Pieter and Anna were present.
“I am representing the Brotherhood,” said Pieter boomed proudly.
Pieter stood tall in black silk robes. A white fur cloak draped over his shoulders. A tall cylindrical hat perched on his head, a large ruby set into the white silk band. Anna beamed proudly at him. She stood in deep red dress robes, her brown hair down and curled like Hermiones. Her body had either bounced back from pregnancy well or her robes were enchanted to make her curvaceous and fit.
“Come, Hermione,” Anna said in a thick Russian accent, embracing her and arranging one of her curls in a motherly fashion. “I have pictures of the little ones”
Hermione grabbed Ginnys arm and Anna produced an impossibly large photo fold from her tiny handbag.
Tiny Boris was adorable, as Hermione had suspected. His sisters seemed to arrange themselves in every frame, even if it was just a hand or half a face in the picture. They smiled and waved furiously. Misha was posed in a lovely portrait of him near the piano. His sisters darted in and out of the legs of his bench, crawling on the floor.
“I hear we will be spending Christmas together in France this year,” Anna said.
“How many people did Anastasia invite?” Hermione blurted out, a picture of Nadja poking Boris falling out of her hands and fluttering to the floor.
“Hermione! Ginny!” a girl’s voice called out, distracting them. Hermione retrieved Anna’s picture and turned to the voice.
Hermione and Ginny saw Parvati waving at them enthusiastically, her stomach beginning to show the swell of early pregnancy. Anna shooed them in the direction of Parvati, laughing and tucking away her pictures. Parvati’s arms were thrown apart to show off her stomach.
“Good Lord, he’s quick,” Ginny said under her breath. Hermione punched her on the arm. Luckily, Parvati didn’t hear.
“Wow, Parvati,” Hermione breathed and put her hand on the other girl’s stomach without thinking.
Parvati didn’t seem to mind being handled and beamed proudly.
“Gregory’s so proud,” Parvati gushed. Hermione couldn’t imagine, but then again people gave her pitying looks when they saw her with Severus.
“When’s the baby due?” Ginny asked, still a little amazed someone her age was going to be a parent. She hoped the Goyle family was still well off.
“April,” said Parvati. She scowled at Hermione who seemed to be thinking. “Stop doing the math, I got pregnant this summer.”
“Where’s Padma?” Hermione asked.
“With Gregory, mingling,” Parvati rolled her eyes.
“Must be nice to be able to take off,” said Severus wistfully as he neared them. “Congratulations Madame Goyle.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Parvati stammered.
“Gregory always showed promise when he had enough confidence to apply himself,” Severus said. “Apparently he needs a little more urging than others.” Severus looked behind Parvati and chuckled.
The girls turned to see Padma fussing over Gregory’s dress robes. It was apparent they had more of an eastern cut to them and he wasn’t sure how they were supposed to hang.
“Err,” said Parvati. “I think I’d better go help them.”
Ginny shook her head and quirked a corner of her mouth.
“Who’d have thunk it?” Ginny said.
Severus put an arm around Hermione and kissed her forehead out of the corner of his mouth. Ginny noted this out of the corner of her eye and gave Severus a brownie point.
“I hope they don’t get pregnant at the same time,” Hermione frowned.
“No man should have to deal with two pregnant wives,” said Pieter from behind them. He shuddered. Anna smacked his arm. “What, you want me to take another wife?”
“Let us go,” Anna said, ignoring her husband, who looked pleased at her annoyance. “They want us to go to the stage area.”
Hermione noticed Sophia was following Dumbledore, her arm in his. Alexandra looked at Hermione and smiled slightly. Hermione nodded at her and smiled back. She was tremendously relieved no one was angry at her for telling Dumbledore he was a father.
As they approached the stage area they met up with Harry, unmasked. Hermione and Ginny had straggled back to talk to him as he joined their parade.
To Hermione’s surprise, Harry kissed Ginny hello on the cheek and Ginny had flushed a deep scarlet. His robes matched hers so perfectly Hermione could only guess it was Harry; not the twins, that had bought Ginny’s robes.
Ginny had had feelings for Harry since she was a child and would never care what he looked like. Harry knew Ginny well enough to appreciate her. Ginny knew him well enough to see through whatever hare-brained scheme he and Ron came up with next. In Hermione’s opinion, it was about time. She imagined Molly was thrilled.
Neville was already on stage with his Gran. She was delivering a teary speech about what an honor it was for the Longbottoms to be recognized for their contribution in the fight against Dark Wizards. A large picture of Alice and Frank Longbottom hovered in the background.
As the Longbottoms made their way offstage to rousing applause, Arthur Weasley stepped into the light from the opposite side of the stage and thanked them. Hermione saw Ron across the stage and waved. As Arthur began speaking, Neville shook Harry’s hand and even quirked a corner of his mouth at Severus when the Potions Master smiled at him thinly and nodded once. His Gran was talking loudly to McGonagall about Frank and the legacy of his line, her tears gone and her iron expression firmly back in place.
Thank God, Neville had convinced her to leave the stuffed vulture at home.
To Hermione’s relief, she saw tables appear on the stage. As they made their way on stage she saw the audience was seated at dinner tables and more focused on the menus in front of them rather than the stage, although when Dumbledore stepped out they all began applauding again.
Dumbledore gave them a small bow and took his place near Arthur Weasley. Molly had joined them on stage and sat on Arthur’s other side. She had given Hermione an excited small hug as Hermione sat beside her; then beamed at Ginny and Harry sitting together. Padma Goyle didn’t look excited at having to sit next to Harry, but at a glare from Ginny sat and made polite conversation.
Hermione smiled in understanding and chanced a glance at Severus. Ron was pulling out a chair beside him. They were taking their seats and picking their menus up. Typical unromantic, unobservant males.
On Ron’s other side Hermione saw Neville pull a chair out for Alexandra. At least someone at the table had manners.
Their meal was simple, but delicious. As dessert was served the sky exploded with color.
“Fire dancers!” Severus exclaimed. “Excellent, Molly! Arthur would never have thought of this.”
Molly looked shocked for a moment, but thanked him and beamed at Hermione.
“You’re going to love this, dear,” she said, squeezing Hermione’s arm.
Hermione watched as soft orchestra music began to fill the festival area. As Harry passed sets of omnioculars down the length of the table she squinted at the sky. Hermione kept passing them until she got a pair of her own. She raised them to her face and she felt her mouth drop open.
The sparks she had seen in the sky were witches and wizards throwing flame and performing acrobatic tricks on their brooms. She watched as a small Asian wizard spun her broom impossibly like a top and shot multi-colored fire out of her wand. She pulled out of it and created a hoop of flame just as a blonde wizard swooped over her. As he flew away from her, the hoop changed into a butterfly and flitted after him.
The small witch alternately hid from him and teased him, making him grow frustrated in his chase. Other performers, dressed as flaming birds that flashed different colors as different parts of the orchestra played.
Harry slipped her a note jotted on a napkin halfway through the performance. Molly read it as Hermione opened it and burst into giggles.
Bet I’d be better at this than opera.
Hermione giggled uncontrollably and Severus quirked an eyebrow at her. She crumpled the note and tucked it into her robes.
“Probably a good idea there was no wine,” Severus said as he and Hermione stepped through their fireplace at Hogwarts.
“Probably,” said Hermione. “Could you believe Narcissa Malfoy was there?”
“Dressed in mourning,” said Severus, bitterly. “How clever of her.” He walked to his drink cabinet and poured himself a generous amount of Firewhisky.
Hermione intercepted it on the way to his mouth, and drank a bit before she handed it back to him.
“Thank you,” she said as he drank what was left in the glass. He frowned as he refilled it.
“For what?” Severus asked as he sipped at his glass.
“Going with me,” she said. “I know you didn’t want to.”
“It was nothing,” Severus lied.
He had detested the entire event.
Well, not the entire event. He had always enjoyed fire dancers. Perhaps the Headmaster would consider adding an art to the curriculum. It would be nice to see something like this on a regular basis.
The idea that the bubble-headed Patil brat was having the spawn of the ox-brained Goyle boy was enough to give him a headache. Maybe he’d be lucky and the child would turn out to be a squib.
Having to be forced to hear the exploits of the Longbottom line for the thousandth time would have been the end of him. He was glad they had just caught the end of it.
Potters appearance was disturbing to say the least. Unfortunately, he would probably have the Weasley girl mounted and breeding within half a decade.
Watching Dumbledore lose his dignity and publicly play a lovesick fool was stomach churning. The man had requested six youth serums, for Merlin’s sake. Severus shuttered to think of what he was doing with them.
An attractive, red haired young man adjusted his purple dress robes in a long mirror. His full red beard nearly reached his chest, his straight hair pulled back with a black ribbon. He fingered the side of his nose thoughtfully.
“Was I really this good looking?”
“Of course you were.”
A short woman with long blonde hair wrapped her arms around him from behind and peered around him at her own reflection. He turned and looked down into her face.
“Sophie-,” he began.
“Albus,” she smiled at his and placed a finger on his lips. “We were young. It was over a half a century ago.”
“You had time to tell me,” Dumbledore said.
“I’m sorry,” she said. For a moment Dumbledore worried she might cry, but she didn’t.
“No you’re not,” said Dumbledore.
“No, not really,” Sophia said, standing on her toes to kiss him.
He sighed. The damned woman was insufferable. At least he was wise enough this time to give up.
“The potions will only last a few hours,” Dumbledore said, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes.
“So we should make the best use of our time,” said Sophie with a twinkle in her eye.
“We can talk later,” said Albus, picking her up and hefting her over a shoulder.
She squeaked in delight as he strode across the room and threw her on the bed. She made to take off but he grabbed her robes and yanked her to him.
Sophia giggled as he growled. Her arms encircled him and began untying his sash.
“I’m not even sure I remember how to do this,” he chuckled and struggled with her robes.
“I think I can help,” said Sophia as Dumbledore’s robes fell open. “You used to like it when I did this.”
Sophia snaked a hand under his robes and watched as Dumbledore’s expression changed.
“Now I remember.”