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Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - The Final Battle
Silence hung over the table. The muted sounds of the bar reached them, but the two looked at each other with disbelief.
“That’s the only thing that fits. The glow, the audible acceptance of the oath, it’s all in here.” Taking her wand out of the book, she nodded as she slowly closed it with a thud, sending a small cloud of dust onto the table. Closing her eyes, she tried to parse out all of the possibilities.
“Now do you see why I left?” Smiling sadly, he placed his hand on top of hers.
Eyes still closed, she turned her had and gently squeezed his. “Neville, it’s even worse than you thought.” Opening her eyes, she shook her head sadly. “Those two stubborn idiots are soul bound and don’t even realize it, consciously. They know it here,” touching her free hand to her chest, “but not here.” Tapping herself on the temple, she grimaced. “And they’re both getting married to someone else.” Shaking her head, she squeezed his hand affectionately. “I’m so glad that things were much simpler for us. You were simply mumble-shy, not totally, obliviously, and stubbornly unaware like these two.”
Looking a bit taken aback, Neville smiled slowly. “Thanks luv, I think. I was pretty shy, but at least I did know that I fancied you, I just couldn’t figure out how to tell you.” Smiling at his bride, he sighed. “Do you want to hear the rest?”
Sighing wearily, she nodded. “In for a knut. It’ll do you good to talk about it. I’m guessing it’s stranger than the rest, though.” Seeing him nod in return, she sighed. “Since they were gone seventh year, it must have happened during our sixth?” Watching him shake his head, she frowned.
“Remember, they were back one night during seventh year.” Raising an eyebrow he looked at her.
“The Battle?” Looking taken aback, she sat back in her seat and stared in disbelief. “Isn’t that when Hermione finally kissed Ron for the first time?”
Nodding, he took another sip of cider. “That was earlier in the night. This happened during Voldemort’s ‘cease-fire’ while we were down in the Great Hall….”
The Great Hall was a mass of chaos. Students and teachers alike were running around trying to sort out the wounded from the dying and the dead. Members of the DA had taken charge, getting those that needed help to those who knew enough to heal them while the obviously serious cases were taken to the ever growing queue around Poppy Pomfrey. Along the walls, an ever growing number of bodies were being placed, with small knots of friends and family gathering to briefly grieve before they resumed their preparations. Near the door, a pair of Gryffindors worked feverishly to check those coming in and sort them in the correct queue.
Looking up, Hermione could see Ginny carrying the limp body of a young student in her arms, staggering under the dead weight of her burden. Touching Neville on the arm, she nodded in her direction. “Neville, take over for Ginny. If the poor girl is gone, take her over to the east wall and let the ones over there sort her out. I can see the wounds from here, if she’s still hanging on, take her to Poppy for all the good it will do.” Looking around in frustration, Hermione seemed to be searching for someone.
“Right.” Trying to decide what to do, Neville sighed and looked Hermione in the eyes. “He’s not in here. He’s out there, somewhere.”
Fear flashing in her eyes, she gripped his arm tight enough to bruise. “Neville, what are you saying.”
Swallowing, he shrugged. “Harry was outside, with his cloak. He told me that if I did nothing else, I was to kill that snake of Voldemort’s . In case he was busy or elsewhere. Then he put the cloak back on, I could hear him heading away from the castle and towards the forest.” Cringing at the look in Hermione’s eyes, he nodded towards the approaching Ginny. “I’ll just sort that young girl out and I’ll be right back,” Pulling his arm back from her grip, he shook his hand trying to get the circulation back into it. Leaning over, he whispered, “He’ll be ok, remember he’s Harry and he’s always ok in the end.” Patting her awkwardly on the shoulder, he moved to intercept Ginny and gently took her bloody burden from her. Gently closing the girl’s eyes, he nodded towards Hermione and went walking slowly towards the east wall. Ginny hurried over to her best friend, unnoticed by Hermione as she approached. Touching Hermione softly on the arm, she was finally noticed.
“What?” Shuddering, Hermione looked wildly around. “Ginny, Harry told you to go back to the Room of Requirement. What are you doing out here, he’s going to have a fit.” Tears began streaming from her eyes, as Ginny stared at her friend in disbelief.
“Hermione, what’s wrong? Everything will be ok as soon as Harry turns up and puts whatever mad plan you two have come up into effect. “Awkwardly hugging her friend, Hermione remained as stiff as a statue in her embrace. Whispering in her ear, she asked. “Did you three find what you were looking for in there?” Feeling her nod, she tightened her embrace. “Where’s Harry? I can do this if you need to go help him.”
Hermione broke the embrace and looked at Ginny, “He’s out there, somewhere. And it’s not one of my plans. I fear he’s doing what Harry always does, he’s going to do what he has to to keep everyone else safe.” Nodding at the look in Gin’s eyes, she tried to stop the tears from flowing from her own. “He’ll be fine; this is the moment that Dumbledore prepared him for. Everything has worked so far, this will too.” Nodding over towards the contingent of redheads gathered near the east wall she smiled a faint smile. “Go be with your family, I’ll send Harry round as soon as he comes back in.”
Glancing over at her family, huddled along the wall, she shook her head. “I can’t. If I go over there, it’ll be real and I can’t deal with that.” Shaking her head, she stiffened up and stood there clinching her fists.
Putting her hand gently on the younger girl’s shoulder, Hermione whispered. “Go to your mum and Ron, they both need to know you’re ok. Tell them I’ll send Harry as soon as he pops up.” Nodding encouragingly to Gin, she gently pushed her in the direction of her family.
Leaning against the doorframe, Hermione sagged and bowed her head. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to find that connection that was always there between her and Harry. Hearing Neville’s returning footsteps, she spoke quietly aloud. “He’s afraid Neville, so afraid. It’s dark, he’s cold and he’s afraid.” Tears slowly trickled from her eyes. “That bloody fool wouldn’t let anyone go with him; he’s going to do it. Damn Dumbledore to the darkest corner of Hell, he knew this was the only way and he goes and dies so he doesn’t have to face this.” Opening her eyes she saw Neville was staring at her. “He’s in the forest; he’s reached Voldemort’s camp.” Gulping to keep her voice working she shook her head. “Neville he’s going to do it, he’s just going to stand there.” Losing control, she crashed to her knees, her hands clasped in front of her. As Neville started to move towards her, a scream of anguish and pain, like none he had ever heard, ripped from Hermione’s throat and she sobbed uncontrollably. Kneeling beside her, he wrapped his arms around her. All she could whisper was, “He’s gone.” over and over.
A crowd began to gather around the two. Neville looked up and caught Professor McGonagall’s eye, motioning to her to get the others away. As she chivvied the crowd away, Neville became aware of a great roar from outside. Whispering in Hermione’s ear, he tried to comfort his friend in her grief. Seconds rolled by and suddenly her body stiffened and her sobbing stopped.
Looking up at him, with a light in her eyes that made him fear for her sanity, she broke in to a grin. “He’s back. He’s come back to me. I’m going to kill him as soon as I see him, but he’s back. “Struggling to stand, she used Neville to push herself to her feet.
“Hermione? Who’s back?” Looking at her warily, he saw that she was gathering herself together they both looked up as the sounds of cheers of triumph started ringing out from the forest.
“It’s Harry, he’s back and we’re going to win this if I have to drag that monster down to Hell myself” Taking her wand and pointing it to her throat, she began to speak to the crowd in the Great Hall. “Everyone, outside. The time has come to end this nightmare.” Turning on her heel, she strode from the Great Hall towards the front doors as if she was possessed. Neville followed along. Suddenly, Voldemort’s voice rang out, proclaiming Harry’s death and asking them to surrender. What Hermione’s appeal couldn’t do, Voldermort’s did and the Great Hall emptied. They could see Voldemort’s hoards gathered at the edge of the forest. Foremost was Hagrid holding the body of Harry. Echoing Hermione’s earlier scream, Minerva McGonagall gave voice to grief that was too intense to have come from one person. An echoing laugh from the other side, revealed Bellatrix LeStrange’s presence. Hermione grabbed Ginny to keep her from rushing out into the night, shouting “No” trying to counter her grief. Whispering in the younger witch’s ear, she struggled to restrain her. Looking up at Neville, she pleaded. “You hold her, I’ve got to go out there and give him a distraction. If Voldemort’s concentrating on me, he won’t see Harry coming. “Ginny’s sobs of “He’s dead” almost broke both of their hearts.
Shaking his head, Neville looked grimly at her. “This is what Harry left for me to do. To stop Voldemort, we need to kill the snake.” Nodding at Hermione, he readied his wand. “I’m a pureblood, he won’t kill me right off. You stay here and when it all breaks loose, you find Harry and help him finish this.” Yelling like a madman Neville broke through the crowd and rushed the awaiting horde.
“.. and that’s how I ended up pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of a burning Sorting Hat and killing Nagini.” Shaking his head he smiled at Hannah, who was looking at him in awe.
“Neville Longbottom, you’ve known this all this time and never told anyone, have you?” Shaking her head, she leaned over and kissed her husband on the lips. “Have you and Hermione ever talked about what happened that night?”
Blushing, he lowered his eyes from hers. “Later that day, she came to find me and thanked me for helping her in the Great Hall. Then she kissed me on the cheek and ran off to the tower because Harry was waking up” Looking up at her, he noticed the grin on her face. “Stop that. It wasn’t that often that pretty girls kissed me in those days.” Smiling back at her, he caressed her cheek, “It’s not like now when I have a beautiful woman to kiss every day.”
Sighing, she smiled back. “Well luv, it’s certainly going to be an interesting wedding tomorrow. But I do know one thing.” Giving her husband a serious look she tapped her wand on the table twice. “If you even look like you’re going to say anything when the question ‘Does anyone here know of any reason why this witch and wizard shouldn’t be joined together?’ is asked, I don’t know who will hex you first, Hermione or me.”
“Shouldn’t someone say something? They belong together.” Shaking his head he looked at his wife with bemused affection. “I’d certainly hope that someone would say something if you were marrying the wrong bloke.”
“Neville, I don’t know how, but they’ve gone and fallen in love with two different people. Soul bonds don’t always end up married to each other, but they’re always together in some way.” Smiling, she reached over and squeezed her hand.
“How can they not know how the other feels?” Puzzled, Neville looked around, as if there was an answer somewhere in the Cauldron.
Laughing, Hannah leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “That’s part of the problem; they do know how the other feels. They’re both really in love with Ginny and Ron, and they know it on a level that I can’t understand. They love each other even more, and they just instinctively want the other to be happy.” Shaking her head, she closed her eyes and began reciting, “Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy or boast. Love isn’t proud or rude; it doesn’t seek to advance itself over the other. Love isn’t easily angered, nor does it keep track of wrongs. It abhors evil and seeks the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and it always endures.*” Opening her eyes, she gazed fondly at her husband and smiled. “You know both Harry and Hermione; they won’t do anything to hurt Ginny or Ron. They’ll always be there for each other, but you said it yourself. They’re so much in love with the ones they’re marrying that it will never occur to them to do anything about their own relationship.” Gazing off, a bit of the Sight touched her. “One day she’ll be Minister of Magic and he’ll be Chief of Aurors. They’ll have loving families and they’ll still have each other. They’ll be fine.” Dispelling the spell around their table, she stood up and took his hand. “But for tonight, we’re going upstairs and you’re going to tell me again how the Hero of Gryffindor killed that bloody snake.” Giggling at his expression, she grabbed his hand, took the book under her arm and headed towards the stairs. Nodding to Tom, the young couple disappeared up the steps.
A/N * Paraphrase of 1st Corinthians, 13:4-7 (various translations)