A/N: Sorry for the delay; I still feel like tweaking this, and had to force myself to give up and push it out. This installment is the longest, at just north of seven thousand words. Yow! My final comments will be at the end. =)
Sebastian and Arienne Delacour were absolutely thrilled to welcome Harry into their home, and treated him as beloved family right from the beginning. It was hard to watch as he struggled through counseling sessions to undo the damage wrought by the Dursleys, but it was also immensely rewarding to see him overcome it. They never once regretted their decision to get involved, even discounting his impact on their daughter.
As the years went by and Harry continued opening up, he and Sebastian became very close. Harry learned a great deal from the older man. More importantly, they had what was undeniably a healthy father/son relationship, and neither of them was complaining.
Arienne was likewise close, and loved gently mothering him whenever he was around. And unlike Molly Weasley, she knew when to back off — and she never questioned his character, either. That Molly had done so would always boggle her mind, even after mere months of knowing the young man.
When they eventually passed on many decades later, their loss was felt keenly by the entire family, and that very much included Harry Potter.
It would turn out that Sebastian had indeed read Rita Skeeter's article the morning of the Third Task. A single floo call was all it took to set the ball rolling. He had been waiting for this ever since he heard that Rita was allowed to interview Harry alone.
She just could not help herself, and he felt strongly that this would be where she finally screwed up — and he was right.
Contrary to Remus Lupin's belief, the majority owner of the Daily Prophet was actually also the editor, a man named Barnabus Cuffe (though Fudge did own most of the rest). He was served with a lawsuit the very next morning, and it was quite the doozy. He nearly had a heart attack just reading the documents he was served with. The Potter family, via Sebastian Delacour's legal team, was suing for damages in more than sufficient amount that they would end up owning the Prophet outright.
Even worse, it looked to Cuffe like they had a very good chance of winning; Rita had well and truly hacked off the wrong people this time.
Firstly, they were suing over Rita's all-too-obvious libel of Harry Potter over the course of the year. This, Cuffe expected, and certainly could have weathered. But then they added that they were suing over every single Harry Potter quote that had ever been published over the years — and there were hundreds of them — none of which had actually been uttered by Harry Potter in any way, shape, or form.
And finally, Sebastian Delacour, as agent of House Potter, had declared Hermione Granger a protectee of the House. They were also suing on her behalf, over Rita's libel of her earlier during the Tournament. And given how easily disproven those accusations were on top of everything else, the lawyers now had Cuffe over the proverbial barrel.
Cuffe contacted Sebastian Delacour the very same day with every intention of settling out of court. He wasn't sure what that would involve, but he was sure it would be expensive, albeit less so than letting them win the court case.
In the end, the Potter family walked away with twenty percent ownership in the Daily Prophet, a guarantee that full-page apologies would be printed for the Potters and Granger in a week's time, and possession of a nice juicy tidbit about a now forcibly-retired Rita Skeeter.
The woman was arrested the following day on suspicion of being an unregistered animagus. While that would have merely meant a fine normally, she was not a pureblood, and they were able to question her under veritaserum about her activities as a beetle. And those activities — many of which translated to 'espionage' — saw her receive a five year prison sentence at the Azkaban resort.
While she survived it with her sanity intact — barely — she was not so foolish as to remain in the country. She fled to Germany, never to be heard from in Britain again.
So far as the Potters were concerned, all was well.
The trial of Albus Dumbledore, which took place three weeks after school let out, was a worldwide sensation. That the defeater of Grindelwald had sunk to such depths was horrifying to any right-minded Witch or Wizard, regardless of culture or even so-called blood status. Had he kept his fingers out of the Potter pie, some might still have excused him, but the very public proof of the theft saw his reputation forever shattered.
Of course, had he realized just how far his support had waned, he would likely have never shown up for the trial. Dumbledore was nothing if not deluded as to his own fallibility. He assumed that his reputation — and his many fanatical supporters — would carry him through, and he was so very, very wrong.
The charge of Grand Theft was paramount, of course, but in the interest of expediency, they also piled on various charges surrounding the Tournament. One of those charges — based on the newly discovered original rules — was that of attempted murder of the last remaining Heir of the Potter family. Oh, he tried to talk his way out of it, but without the blinders that so many of his supporters had once worn, his excuses fell on deaf ears.
He was convicted on all counts.
The Wizengamot also then held a second trial, closed to the public, and he found himself charged with Treason, just as Harry had inadvertently suggested. And he was convicted, too, for exactly the reason Harry specified. That he received another long sentence was largely redundant given the first trial, but Amelia Bones was annoyed and wanted everything on the record, so to speak.
It was this trial that had the Wizengamot up in arms. After swearing everyone to magically-enforced Oaths of secrecy, they proceeded to dose the old man (who was not, after all, a pureblood) with Veritaserum. Then they questioned him on his activities surrounding Voldemort and the Prophecy.
Sometime during the war, old Albus had become enamored of the idea of going down in history as the first Wizard to ever defeat two certified Dark Lords. And then the Prophecy was dropped in his lap, and not wanting to give up that dream, he immediately set about working around it. He felt that, Prophecy or no, he was easily qualified to deal with Tom, and that once the Prophecy was out of play, he would be able to do so.
Seeing to the failure of Fate's Chosen was little more than a necessary inconvenience.
He wasn't worried about how long it took, however, because he also believed that he swindled the Flamels out of their precious Philosopher's Stone back in Harry's first year — all part of the plan. He never considered that, at six hundred plus, the Flamels might actually be smarter than him simply by dint of massive amounts of life experience. They played along and gave him a fake, warning that the first time it was used would put him out of commission for at least a year.
And that last part, at least, was even true.
Rather than make the elixir of life, the stone they gave him would produce something similar to the Draught of Living Death. Unfortunately, he never tried it, much to their disappointment — but one enterprising Wizengamot member, who managed to purloin it a few months after the trial, ended up falling victim to it. But that was a different story entirely.
As for Harry Potter, he was disgusted by the old man's motives. It would have been one thing if he had genuinely thought he was protecting the world or something of that nature, but he wasn't. Albus Dumbledore was only out for Albus Dumbledore, and that was that.
The old man spent the rest of his life in Azkaban, and claimed to his dying day (only a few years later) that Harry Potter had to die to destroy Voldemort. Thankfully his reputation had been so thoroughly ruined that nobody believed a single word that came out of the man's mouth, especially with the Department of Mysteries having openly refuted that assertion during the trial.
And thanks to the secrecy Oaths, the existence of the Prophecy was never made public.
While it took some time – there was a lot to do – the departure of Albus Dumbledore as Headmaster saw Hogwarts swiftly regain the prominence it had once held in Magical education. The aging Headmaster had been holding it back significantly, and in more ways than anyone knew. As Harry and Hermione also quickly discovered, the international standards were far higher than those that Hogwarts taught to.
Dumbledore also had his fingers in the Wizarding Examination Authority pie. His interference ensured that the standards were kept low enough that pureblood children could continue to pass the tests in spite of the declining magical power of the old inbred families. The education on offer at Hogwarts was tuned to match wherever he could get away with it.
Upon discovering this, McGonagall urged the board to correct it, and correct it they did. The Professors were suddenly required to teach to international standards — which McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout already had been, but nobody else was — and more importantly, the students had to prove themselves capable of casting the relevant spells. The number of pureblood students that failed their NEWTs spiked dramatically in the wake of the change.
In previous years, they had been given a pass based on theoretical knowledge even if they couldn't cast the spells, but that was no longer true.
When the new educational standards were combined with McGonagall's hardline stance on bullying, the result was astonishing. Hogwarts was once more a school that Britain could truly be proud of. It only took four years to fully achieve, too; hardly the impossibility that Dumbledore would have claimed, had he known.
And Cuthbert Binns never taught another class, ever again.
On the wider front, Magical Britain was shocked senseless by the abrupt departure of their most celebrated citizen. That Harry Potter would abandon them was a bitter pill to swallow. It wasn't until a series of articles came out decrying his choices when he failed to return after graduation, however, that the general public abruptly learned just how badly they had failed their supposed savior.
On the advice of his father-in-law, Harry Potter wrote a personal letter to the people of Magical Britain, and ensured that it was published verbatim in the Daily Prophet.
The letter was blunt and brutally honest, and while Harry laid most of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Albus Dumbledore, there was still more than enough to go around. If he was such an important icon to Magical Britain, why did nobody else notice what Dumbledore was up to? Why did nobody else check on him when he was a child? Why were so many allowed to profit from his name when he never saw a knut of that profit? They were questions that nobody could answer — and perhaps that nobody wanted to answer.
In the end, Harry got what he wanted: Magical Britain moved on without him, too ashamed to do anything but finally leave him alone.
It helped that the rising standards at Hogwarts were starting to cause a ruckus around the same time due to so many pureblood children failing their NEWTs. They couldn't keep the lid on that story for very long at all.
Several pureblood families tried to pass laws to reverse the educational trend, but they failed spectacularly. It was a little known fact in Magical Britain that the hardliner purebloods were actually in the minority, and only had any power due to the efforts of people like Lucius Malfoy. Had it been otherwise, Voldemort would never have had to start a war in the first place.
And the fall of Lucius Malfoy had an unexpected side effect.
It was well known that those hardliner purebloods were all, for whatever reason, of a Dark persuasion. With Malfoy's crimes having come fully to light, everyone now suspected the other Dark families of having similar proclivities – and nobody wanted them back in power. Even those on the dark gray side wanted nothing to do with those families whose heads were former Death Eaters.
After several failures at reversing the trends in education and society at large, there was a brief uprising by those same Dark families.
Unfortunately for them, Amelia Bones was not Albus Dumbledore.
The perpetrators, who attempted to torture and murder their opposition, were killed nearly to a one, and in very short order. This nearly wiped out the Dark families, and those few that remained would never again regain the prominence they once held. Between the educational reforms and the rather anticlimactic fall of those families, Magical Britain slowly turned around and began to make its way into the modern era.
But as far as anyone knew, Harry Potter never returned.
Speaking of Lucius Malfoy, he lasted just shy of twelve years in Azkaban before his mind snapped. He spent most of those twelve years alternating between unquenchable rage at Harry Potter for ruining his life, and gibbering terror whenever the Dementors were near. He held out hope of his Master returning for the first month or so — but then his Dark Mark vanished. That only made him hate Harry Potter all the more.
After his mind snapped, he lasted for another twenty-five years before finally passing on. He was buried in an unmarked grave and forgotten. Nobody would truly miss him — not even his wife or son.
Draco, on the other hand, somehow managed to make it through his ten year sentence.
Those years in Azkaban were probably the best things that ever happened to the blonde ponce, from a certain point of view. Like his father, he suffered gibbering terror whenever the Dementors were near. Unlike his father, however, he was young enough that he was actually capable of changing, at least to some small degree.
And the consequences of his actions were not to his liking.
He did, of course, blame Harry Potter for quite a while. The constant exposure to the Dementors, however, changed his tune by the end of the second year. They continually showed him that not only was Harry Potter actually better than him, but also that Harry Potter didn't care one way or another about Draco Malfoy. To Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy was a non-entity — and so was Lucius.
Harry Potter would not bother going to the effort of throwing a non-entity into Azkaban, which meant that it couldn't be Harry Potter's fault.
That what he was being shown was the invention of his addled mind as a result of the Dementor exposure was irrelevant. He couldn't help but see it as reality once he was presented with it. And some subconscious part of him decided that it was true.
This did not, of course, make him like Harry Potter. Nor did it magically make him a good or nice person. It did, however, redirect his murderous rage toward his father, who had been dumb enough to get caught for the stupidest of reasons. And much more importantly, it taught him that his actions actually had consequences.
Draco Malfoy would never again even attempt to cast Dark magic; it simply wasn't worth the risk for a short-lived rush of power.
He was a wreck when he left Azkaban ten years later. On top of that, without having completed his basic magical education, he had no wand rights. And most maddening, he discovered that his mother had sold Malfoy Manor and absconded with what little was left of the family fortune, leaving her son totally destitute. It was all legal thanks to the rather lopsided marriage contract that the Blacks had insisted on.
Malfoy Manor was now a Muggle children's home. He was appalled!
He managed to earn a few Galleons working at the Leaky Cauldron, but after having to clean up after a drunken Ron Weasley one too many times, he quit after less than a month. He had just enough saved for an international Portkey, and caught the next one that he could afford, landing himself in Australia. He eventually managed to obtain wand rights there, and worked as a clerk in an apothecary for many years thereafter.
Had anyone from Hogwarts ever run into him, his expression and attitude would have made them wonder if he was being possessed by Severus Snape.
Ron Weasley remained a pariah for the rest of his Hogwarts career, even after Harry and Hermione left the school. Rather than realize his mistakes, he blamed Harry Potter for every ill that befell him. The fact was, however, that nobody wanted to listen to him bitch about three of their favorite people, and they made it clear early on that he could either "shape up or ship out" so to speak.
That Headmistress McGonagall agreed with her students was a shock to Ron's system. He blamed Harry Potter for turning her against him.
His grades in his fourth year were abysmal, and unlike Dumbledore, McGonagall would not ignore that fact and simply pass him on. Truth be told, he should have been held back in all three prior years as well, but Dumbledore passed him, probably because he was a useful boat anchor around the neck of one Harry Potter. This year, he was held back as he should have been.
Ron's response? He blamed Harry Potter for taking Hermione Granger away from him. If she were there, he reasoned, he would have passed his classes!
When he moaned to his fellow students about it, they explained in great detail that he was responsible for his own grades, and that Harry Potter had nothing to do with it – and nor did Hermione Granger. Then they told him to shut up and study, because they didn't want to hear it.
That fourth year students were telling him off when he was supposed to be a fifth year incensed him. His response? He blamed Harry Potter for turning the other students against him. Then he picked up another Quidditch magazine to read.
Ron did do one truly impressive thing — from a certain point of view — that that his brothers never managed: he set the record for the number of years spent at Hogwarts prior to receiving his OWLs. He repeated the fourth year twice more, and then repeated the fifth year twice. Ronald still hadn't even sat his OWLs when Harry and Hermione took their NEWTs. Ronald Weasley refused to understand that he had to do the work, and that Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were not responsible for doing it for him.
By the time he finally achieved his OWLs, even Molly was disgusted with him, and she was well known for ignoring the faults of her children.
Molly and Arthur had sacrificed quite a lot of their plans to force Ron through to his OWLs, and they flatly refused to pay for his NEWTs, telling him that he could get a job and pay his own way if he wanted to continue at Hogwarts. Ron's response was predictable; he didn't care about school anyway.
For the next six months he lazed around the Burrow, eating his parents' food, reading about Quidditch, and occasionally flying his broom in the paddock. Finally having had enough, his mother told him he had to go get a job. Ron complained that if not for Harry Potter turning the Quidditch team against him, he would be flying for the Chudley Cannons.
Molly, tired of his idiocy, kicked him out of the house.
The Twins took pity on him — for all of a month. They, too, quickly got sick and tired of hearing him bitch about Harry Potter, who by now had left Britain almost seven years prior. On top of that, he refused to actually work, expecting that they would hand him a fat bag of galleons simply because he existed. Then he overheard that Harry and Fleur had helped fund their joke shop and exploded, complaining that Harry Potter and his whore never gave him any money.
Needless to say, he was out of a job, and out of a place to stay. The Twins were close friends of the Potters, and their dedication to family only went so far.
It was nearly a year later, after living on the streets, reduced to eating scraps out of trash cans – blaming Harry Potter the whole time – that he finally sucked it up and got a low paying job at the ministry in magical maintenance. He would keep that job until his death at the age of 102, and while he more or less reconciled with his family, he never did stop blaming Harry Potter.
Ron Weasley, needless to say, never married, and never amounted to much of anything.
Bill, on the other hand, kept in touch with the Potters, and was considered a good family friend. Two years after the Tournament, he was injured when a fellow curse breaker did something stupid (which said curse breaker did not survive). He woke to find himself stuck in a bed at the very same hospital in Paris where he had once removed a horcrux from Harry Potter's forehead, and quickly learned that he wasn't getting out any time soon.
When he was released four months later (whole and hale, thankfully), he took Naomi Parks on vacation to her country of origin, and they got married in Las Vegas, neatly avoiding what might have happened had Molly learned of it ahead of time. They would go on to have several children together, and both were very happy. Naomi would have been less so if not for the fact that Bill was now relegated to managing curse breakers, rather than breaking curses himself, due to his injuries.
Fleur teased the pair incessantly whenever she saw them, and they remained good family friends for a long, long time.
Harry was always happy to play with their children.
Fred and George Weasley likewise kept in frequent touch with the Potters – and with Padfoot and occasionally Moony – with the sole exception of a certain month where they tried to do right by their brother. The Potters didn't blame them for that incident though; they pitied them instead.
Their joke shop was a major success in both Britain and France, and it wasn't long before they expanded to the Americas. They insisted on the Potters retaining partial ownership in accordance with their investment, and all of them made out like bandits. The business would remain in their respective families long after they had all passed on.
While Fred and George never officially married, neither did Angelina or Katie, and the children of those two women had hair that was a rather specific shade of red. All of said children (and there were quite a few) called Fred and George Dad — interchangeably. While Alicia occasionally visited, she was much smarter and married a Quidditch player that hadn't attended Hogwarts.
Harry and Fleur rarely saw the rest of the Weasley family after the Tournament. Molly never really recovered from the embarrassment of having inappropriately tried to claim Harry as family. It was too bad really, since he never actually held it against her. He was far more annoyed with Dumbledore for prompting it.
They did see them on rare occasion, but only coincidentally. It didn't help that Ron lived with them on and off over the years, and neither Fleur nor Harry wanted anything to do with him.
Ginny, on the other hand, was friendly but distant. While she had long since realized that it wasn't Fleur's fault, it didn't change the fact that her heart was well and truly broken by Harry's marriage to another witch. While she moved on, she would never truly get over it.
Harry often wondered over the years if Dumbledore might have had a hand in her obsession, but unfortunately he passed away before anyone thought to ask.
She had a successful career as a chaser with the Holyhead Harpies, and eventually married a young Frenchman she met while on the circuit. She was fortunate to find him; he was an understanding sort, and knew very well how she felt about her long time hero. He himself respected Harry greatly, and understood the full nature of the story.
They saw the Potters once every six months or so, but that was about it; anything more was just too painful for Ginny.
Luckily, the rest of her life was happy, and she positively doted on her only daughter. Said daughter graduated from Beauxbatons rather than Hogwarts, though that was mostly down to her father; Ginny was ambivalent as long as she was happy and well educated.
As it happened, Harriet Devereux was one of Harry Potter's favorite students.
Vernon and Petunia Dursley ended up in prison before the Third Task ever took place. The Prime Minister somehow learned of the matter, and was absolutely appalled. And then the Queen learned of it, and ordered him to deal with it with all due haste. Harry Potter was, after all, considered a hero of the first Voldemort war, and the Queen was well aware of that fact.
The trial was fair and impartial, but no less damning for it. They were each sentenced to fifty years in prison. Their son was given over to a home for troubled children in the hope that he could be reformed.
It took almost six years of heavy counseling (the last few of which were actually voluntary, surprisingly enough) to fully break the boy from his parents' conditioning. Once he finally understood the magnitude of their crimes, he was horrified. On top of which, by some strange coincidence, his counselor just so happened to know about the magical world, and filled him in on who his cousin truly was.
Dudley never sent an apology even by post, but not because he wasn't sorry. He simply felt that it would do more harm than good, and that Harry was better off forgetting all about them. He went on to find a decent job and a lovely wife, and treated his children far better than Vernon and Petunia had ever managed — and not by spoiling them, either.
Unlike his son, however, Vernon was irredeemable. And even had it been otherwise, he never would have seen freedom anyway. The man's belligerence was so ingrained that he simply couldn't keep his mouth shut. He was beaten to death two years into his sentence after mouthing off to the wrong person one too many times. Nobody ever learned who was responsible.
Petunia was smarter, and managed to achieve parole after only fifteen years. She attempted to contact Dudley in the hope of reconnecting, but was soundly rebuffed; her own son wanted nothing more to do with her. She ended up alone and bitter for the rest of her life, and much like Ronald Weasley, she never stopped blaming Harry Potter.
Sirius Black remained in France near the Potters and Dealcours, to absolutely nobody's surprise. His friends in school (even James and Lily) would have been shocked at just how dedicated he was to his Godson, though. It took some effort, but he somehow managed to find that perfect balance, spending just enough time with Harry that he was happy, but not enough that he felt crowded.
And watching Harry and Fleur's relationship grow and blossom was really quite the joy to the old dog.
Oddly enough, he did eventually find love for himself — and James would have been impressed that he actually managed to land a Veela. After Sirius married her, he bought a thermometer and a set of snowshoes and laid them on Lily's grave in Godric's Hollow. She had once told him that Hell would freeze over before a Veela ever gave him the time of day.
Strangely, it wasn't through the Delacours or Potters that Sirius met Sylvie. He actually found her drowning her sorrows in a backwater bar in magical Paris. For years she had been constantly and horribly bullied about her looks. Her peers at the colony she lived in apparently considered her ugly.
Sirius thought she was beautiful.
While she was much younger than him at only twenty-two, he was a big kid anyway, so it didn't really matter. He somehow talked her into going dancing that night, and it continued from there. Four months later, he invited her to a family gathering, and she said yes. Her shock at learning who she was meeting, was priceless.
She was from one of the more isolated Veela colonies, and had no idea who Sirius actually was. She did, however, know who the Potters were; they were big news — or big gossip, rather — in Veela circles, not that they cared. That they wanted to meet her had her nearly fainting in shock.
And luckily for her, the Delacours and Potters — and most other Veela for that matter — had a very different definition of beauty. Upon learning of her plight, Arienne told her point blank that her peers were simply bullies who were intimidated because she was so much better looking than them. She moved out of the colony, and in with Sirius, two weeks later. They were married two months after that.
On their first anniversary, young Sylvie used some of the massive Black fortune to purchase Malfoy Manor and gifted it to Sirius, along with the already-in-progress contract to convert it to Muggle use as an orphanage. It was one of the best anniversary gifts he could have imagined.
They had two little girls, whom the entire family doted upon.
Sirius didn't give even a single damn that the Black family name died with him.
Hermione Granger graduated Beauxbatons with top marks — which was impressive given the lackluster nature of the education on offer at Hogwarts. From there on out she was sought after by potential employers all over Europe. That she held the Order of Merlin didn't hurt any.
Unfortunately for most of those employers, Hermione was content to remain close to home – which she now considered France to be. Her parents had moved there just before she graduated, and she was happy to remain. She had no friends from her muggle days anyway, but the Potters and Delacours?
They were practically family.
Most of her work was centered around blending magic with muggle technology. Unlike Magical Britain, France was rather progressive, and had no laws restricting such things. It was seen as furthering the Statute of Secrecy in fact. The more they could use their magic without being noticed by Muggles, the better off they were.
She was responsible for quite a large number of inventions over her lifetime, but the most notable was the magical version of a cellular telephone. That one invention ensured that her children's children would never want for anything.
She dated Neville from afar for another year after leaving Hogwarts, but they were just too different in the end, and parted as friends. She also dated three boys at Beauxbatons, but none of them for long. They just didn't hold a candle to the man that she couldn't help but compare everyone else to.
When the third of those boys tried to force her into more than she wanted to give, he learned that her Order of Merlin was not merely for show — and then found out the next day that Harry Potter's prowess in combat magic was, if anything, understated.
That started a decade-long dearth for the witch. She did go on a few dates, but nothing serious; nobody caught her fancy. It did not escape the attention of her friends and family that she also spent the vast majority of her time with Harry and Fleur – the latter of whom was just plain thrilled to have such a good female friend.
Nobody was foolish enough to comment when she gave birth to a daughter out of wedlock eleven years after she graduated – especially given that said daughter had green eyes and jet black hair.
So did her second and third.
For some reason, Arienne Delacour thought it was hilarious.
Hermione remained a fixture in the Potter family home right up through her death at the ripe old age of 210.
As far as Gabrielle Delacour was concerned, Harry Potter was the best brother-in-law that anyone could ever have. She loved him to bits, and he her. And he always had time for her, whether it was playing a childish game in her younger years, or listening to her romantic frustrations in her teens, or commiserating about her child's latest antics in her adult years.
In the end, her only vague regret was that she hadn't been older and in more danger when the incident occurred. She loved her husband very much, but Harry was special, and she couldn't deny that she envied her sister. It was a feeling that she would only ever admit to her husband, however; Harry and Fleur never learned of it.
She went on to have a successful career as a fashion model and then (to Fleur's surprise) decided to stay at home with her two children when she finally had them. She ended up living near Harry and Fleur, and Harry remained one of her favorite people for the rest of his life.
Her sister wasn't so bad either.
As for Harry and Fleur, the first few years after the Tournament were more difficult than either expected. It wasn't that life was hard, or that they had problems; neither of those things were true. It was that they had become quite used to being together most of the time, and now they were forcibly separated for most of the day.
It was only the fact that they could be together at night that made it bearable; the two had fallen far more deeply in love than anyone could ever have expected.
Merlin's Blessing, indeed.
Like Hermione, Harry graduated with top marks. The horcrux in his head had really done a number on him in his early years. He found it far easier to concentrate and far easier to study now, and thus was born the friendly academic rivalry between himself and the best friend he had next to his wife.
In the end he graduated in the number two spot, to Hermione's number one.
Even in France, every employer wanted a piece of the Boy Who Lived, especially given his marks, but Harry was ambivalent. He really didn't need to work (especially given that much of the Malfoy and Lestrange estates was now his on top of the Potter estate), but he also didn't want to be bored. He decided to wait until something interesting came up, and in the mean time spent his days inventing random joke products to send to the twins.
A year after he graduated, he was approached by the British Department of Mysteries, and ended up working as an Unspeakable under Croaker off and on for more than a century. Only Fleur and Hermione ever knew what he did for them; and that caveat was a condition of his employment. He would not take a job that he could not tell his best friends about. They also occasionally helped out, very much on the Department's payroll.
Nobody in Britain outside the Department ever knew they were there, which was just the way they liked it.
Fleur tried her hand at curse breaking with Gringotts, but while she was good at it, it wasn't her passion. She found her passion rather accidentally when Fred and George's first child was old enough to start learning.
Fleur absolutely loved to teach.
It wasn't long before she took a job at Beauxbatons, much to the surprise of everyone who knew her. Harry supported her fully, and even took a job there teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. That it made for a nice cover for their work with the Department in Britain was just a bonus; he liked teaching almost as much as his wife did.
The only cloud on the horizon was Hermione's lack of luck in the romance department. The incident with the last boy she seriously dated had dented her trust significantly, and she found it hard to get close to anyone. On top of that, in spite of what she told Arienne years prior, she did not see Harry as a brother at all, and knew nobody else who compared to him even a little.
They spent so much time with her that it was hard not to notice her increasing depression, though she tried very hard to keep it from them. It was Fleur who finally broke through and forced her to confess that she was madly, deeply, and irrevocably in love with Harry. She then swore up one side and down the other that she would never even dream of coming between them.
Fleur shut her up via the simple expedient of snogging her senseless.
She slept in their bed every night thereafter.
As it happened, Harry and Fleur had discussed their feelings for Hermione off and on starting shortly after they left Hogwarts. It started out that they were both extremely grateful for her friendship – Harry because he had never had friends before her and Ron, and of the two only she had been true, and Fleur because she had a hard time making friends period, even today.
Six months after they left Hogwarts, Fleur admitted in a random conversation that Hermione was the only woman that she had ever found sexually attractive.
Harry reluctantly admitted a year later that he found her attractive too, and had often wondered what she looked like naked.
A few years after that, after one too many drinks on their annual anniversary trip, they found themselves missing her presence dearly, and finally admitted to each other that they were both in love with Hermione Granger almost as much as they were in love with each other, and that they had no clue what to do about it.
Needless to say, when Fleur snogged her senseless, and then dragged her to Harry who promptly did the same, the poor woman was more than a little shocked and confused.
That didn't last long; her first daughter was born nine months later, only two days after Fleur's son.
Arienne had laughed and laughed and laughed. Hermione would never live down her little white lie before the Third Task.
Explaining the situation to the elder Grangers was a challenge, but Harry managed. He was simply honest with them about everything. When they realized just how difficult things had been for their daughter to that point, they finally decided that it was up to them to make it work, and not really any of their business.
Besides, whether provided by Hermione or Fleur, they absolutely doted on their grandkids, as did Sebastian and Arienne.
And it didn't really change much anyway.
They already did almost everything together anyway outside of the bedroom, so they simply continued on with their lives. They deliberately avoided the spotlight as a matter of course. Hermione was actually the most well known of the three in the end due to her inventions; Harry and Fleur were both more than happy to remain in the background and be her support.
Fleur had a son and two daughters, and Hermione had three daughters. Harry loved all of them immensely, and all of them would go on to be responsible members of the French magical community. It would be centuries, in fact, before the Potter family ever even considered returning to Britain, despite their roots.
Harry Potter passed on surrounded by his extensive family at the age of 209, barely a week after Hermione's passing. Fleur Potter followed only one day later.
All three considered their lives well spent.
Contrary to all rational expectations, Severus Snape actually survived his sentence at Azkaban – all 137 years of it – with his mental faculties more or less intact. Say what you would about him, he was gifted in the magical mental arts. And part of how he survived was by focusing all of his mental capacity on one single thing.
Plotting the demise of Harry James Potter and his Veela wife.
Upon his release he immediately started making inquiries. It wasn't long before he learned that Potter had fled to France (or at least, that was how Snape's biased mind interpreted his actions). Unlike Draco Malfoy, Snape still had some funds, and so quickly caught a portkey and started searching.
He eventually learned of a location that they visited regularly on the weekends, and found himself a nice spot atop an adjacent building. His plan was simple: he would wait until they appeared, and then use the most destructive curses available to him to erase the Potter family from existence. It would only be justice for what they did to him, as far as he was concerned.
Nobody ever said that Severus Snape knew the actual meaning of the term "justice".
And the Potters appeared, right on schedule, and there was that know-it-all Granger right there with them! And there were multiple Potter spawn! It was perfect! They might be old now, but revenge was a dish best served cold!
His mouth stretched into an evil smile, his blood pumping in anticipation as he stood and prepared to call upon his magic for a devastating blow. He couldn't help his excitement. Finally, he would have his revenge on that scum James Potter and his ill-begotten son!
He raised his wand, gathered his magic, and then—
—and then his heart seized up, the excitement just too much for a man of 168 years, and who spent most of that time in Azkaban prison.
Severus Snape would be found on that rooftop two weeks later and declared dead by natural causes. Nobody ever figured out why he was there. The Potters themselves never even learned of it.
Contrary to popular belief, Fate really does look after her Champions.
A/N: And that's a wrap, folks!
The epilogue just kept sprouting additional words until I finally had to tie it off. It probably means I should have written a few more ordinary chapters, but my muse refused and insisted that it be this way. The only thing I could have easily expanded on was Dumbledore's trial, I think, but every time I thought about writing it long-form, I drew a blank.
And to those of you who don't like how Hermione ended up: yeah, sorry about that. I did not intend for her to get sucked in, then or now, but it just fit when I wrote her bit. I write whatever comes to me (which is why I rewrite so often in my process), and that's just what popped out. Once it was there, I couldn't dislodge it. And I tried, because it was never intended to be that way; everything else I tried was dreadfully dull (for both her and the Potters).
It just worked too well. The Hermione-haters among you (and I know there are a few, for whatever reason) will just have to be satisfied that it was only at the end. Feel free to imagine (or even write!) your own replacement ending. =)
And for those who are wondering, no, their marriage vows would not consider it to be "coming between them". They both agree on it. They both love her. Hence it's just another part of their marriage, and their vows are okay with that, magically speaking. As to whether Hermione ever officially became a Potter... I'll leave that to your imaginations.
The missing section that was eluding me was Gabrielle's, by the way. Snape popped up out of nowhere at the same time, and completely unexpectedly.
But I digress.
In the end, I hope you all enjoyed my crazy little romp, I can only thank you all for sticking with me for all this time (especially those of you who have followed since the first chapter was posted so long ago). Completing this story feels like like an accomplishment, a relief - and also a disappointment, because I can't keep adding to it. Talk about mixed feelings!
The process has made me a better writer in certain ways, for which I am grateful (and for which I have a number of reviewers to thank). It has also been an adventure. I really did not expect the immense response this story received (then or now), and nor did I expect it to touch so many. It's been a rather fulfilling thing in spite of the occasional useless negativity of some reviewers.
So what's next?
I have a couple of older stories floating around that I might work on; the first is an HG bond-fic trilogy (contrary to what some negative reviewers who didn't bother to actually read it thought, Champions was NOT a bond fic, even remotely). It's probably the first thing I wrote, and I have two and a half books written, but it's not in any shape for publishing. That is the story that taught me to plan my stories better; half of the characters in it keep flip-flopping from good guy to bad guy and back again. I love the premise, but it would be a lot of work to make it a good story.
The second one (and frankly the one that's most likely to be my next published story) is a crossover between HP and Stargate: SG1. It's also, oddly enough, an HG bond fic. I absolutely adore that one for multiple reasons, but it's currently less than half finished and needs significant work. It also has the potential to lead to later sequels with various other crossovers. I may post a teaser for it in a week or two; we'll see.
I also have an immense number of other ideas floating around in the back of my head, so who knows. It also depends on how much time I have; finishing this one so quickly chewed up a lot of my free time, and I have a few things I need to go finish in real life.
Again, thank you for your support and kind words over the years, and hopefully I'll see you again soon in another story!