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Chapter 41: Epilogue
For the final time, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.
The young blonde woman walked down the long corridor leading toward the Great Hall, nervously twirling a piece of hair around her finger. It was early; most of the castle was still sleeping. The first light of morning was peeking through the windows, illuminating the old tapestries that hung along the opposite wall. She shielded her eyes against the glare radiating from a polished suit of armor and then resumed her walk at a faster pace. In every respect save one, the morning was no different from any other at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
She turned the corner and met an auburn-haired girl that she recognized from her Transfiguration lessons, also heading to breakfast. The two acknowledged one another with solemn nods. It was not a morning for cheerful greetings.
“Have you heard?”
“Yes. There was a notice in the common room.”
They walked in silence until they reached the grand staircase leading down to the ground floor.
“Who do you think will take his place?”
The blonde girl shook her head. “I don’t see how anybody can take his place. He’s been Headmaster for nearly sixty years. My grandparents studied under him. How do you replace somebody like that?”
“I didn’t realize he’d been here that long. My parents are muggles, though. Most of what I know about him I learned in History of Magic.”
“That’s one more thing we should thank him for. Did you know that before he was Headmaster, students spent three whole years studying ancient history like the goblin rebellions and the wars with the giants?”
The auburn-haired girl pulled a face. “Really? Why were the goblins rebelling?”
“Well, goblins weren’t allowed to carry wands until the late 2070’s, right? The Headmaster didn’t convince the Ministry to open Hogwarts to goblins and centaurs until 2075.”
The auburn-haired girl inclined her head slightly. “Oh, I didn’t realize. Tornack told me once in Potions that his grandparents still don’t approve of him attending school with humans. Maybe they’re old enough to remember the rebellions?”
“I doubt it, that all happened hundreds of years ago.”
The two girls turned the corner into the Great Hall. It was still largely deserted due to the early hour, but several teachers were talking quietly near the entrance. The blonde girl approached them uncertainly, with the auburn-haired girl close behind.
“Good morning, Professors. Is it... is it true?”
The teachers stared at one another for a moment. Finally the head of Gryffindor nodded to the others, who walked away toward the head table. She turned to face the two students, looking weary and solemn. “Yes. He called the school nurse to his quarters late last night. He hadn’t been feeling well for a while.”
The three witches shared a few moments of grim silence before the blonde girl spoke again. “Did he fall ill? One hundred and twenty-four isn’t very old for a wizard.”
“As I’m sure you remember from your lessons, Headmaster Potter served as an Auror for over forty years in addition to being struck three times by the Killing Curse. I think it’s safe to say that those things took a toll on his body.”
“Will he be buried here at Hogwarts, like Headmaster Dumbledore?”
“No. We’ve already been in contact with his children. He made it clear that he wished to be buried next to his wife on the family estate.”
“I never knew that he was married,” the auburn-haired girl said quietly.
“His wife died many years ago,” the professor replied. “Many of his contemporaries, in fact, are no longer with us. Like him, they did not lead easy lives. They were all heroes of the Second Wizarding War and the Pureblood Civil War.” She stared at the wispy clouds drifting lazily across the ceiling of the Great Hall. “As much as he enjoyed the time he spent with the students here, he sometimes seemed rather lonely.”
“Will there be a memorial service?” the blonde girl asked. “I know that a lot of people in my family will want to pay their respects.”
The Professor sighed heavily. “The Ministry is already planning to organize an event in his honor at the War Memorial in Godric’s Hollow. It will be a complete circus, of course.” A small grin crossed her lips. “He would have hated it.”
The auburn-haired girl nodded in agreement. “He was such a quiet man. If I didn’t know who he was, I don’t think I ever would have guessed that he’d done such amazing things.”
“I believe that’s how he wanted it,” the teacher replied wistfully. “I always had the impression that he’d seen more than enough excitement in his life.”
The sun was nearly touching the horizon as Ginny Potter yawned and stretched her arms and legs. She had spent the entire day watching other passengers come and go, although it was clear that time had no particular meaning inside this version of King’s Cross Station. After she had lunch with the Trainman on the bench outside of his office, she began to see more and more people that she knew passing through the station on their way to Hogsmeade.
Her father had arrived shortly after lunch. He didn’t seem to be aware of the true nature of his circumstances and she decided that there was no point in burdening him with the knowledge. They chatted pleasantly for a while, and he regaled her with a story about tracking down a witch who had been enchanting the mirrors inside muggle health clubs to make the viewer appear ten pounds heavier. Then her mother showed up and wrapped her in the most wonderful hug she could remember. After a few more minutes together, Ginny watched them board the train to Hogsmeade, blissfully unaware of the particulars. She hoped that they couldn’t see the tears in her eyes as she waved to them.
The rest of her friends and family came and went in a similar fashion. Charlie arrived first, followed by Bill and then Percy.
George looked almost giddy when he arrived at the station. “Freddy’s waiting in Hogsmeade. I feel like I haven’t seen him in ages,” he beamed, rubbing his hands together. “Strange. I reckon I must have just seen the git day before yesterday or...” George seemed to be thinking very hard. Ginny held her breath. Then he shook his head and gave her a big smile. “Anyway, it’s been too long.” After he hugged her and boarded his train, Ginny sat down and cried for what felt like a long time.
It was nearly dinner time when Hermione strolled into the station, looking purposeful in the slacks and woolen sweater that always seemed too old for her. Ginny pulled her into the longest, tightest hug of her life, so much so that Hermione looked rather amused by it when Ginny finally let her go. It was all Ginny could do to not share the truth with her dearest friend. She felt sure that Hermione knew that something was bothering her, but the two witches chatted happily until Ron finally arrived. Ginny felt her heart melt as she watched the goofy, irrepressible smiles appear on both of their faces and they tried hard not to look like they were rushing to embrace one another. Ron pulled Ginny into a hug and planted a kiss on top of her head. She had to pretend to be annoyed, even though it felt wonderful. A few minutes later they boarded the train and Ginny was alone again.
As evening faded into twilight, Ginny began to feel more and more anxious. On one hand, she knew that the long delay in Harry’s appearance was a good thing. It meant that he had taken her parting words to heart and found a way to live his life. But she missed him terribly. Seeing most of her family and friends pass through the station had left her acutely aware of his absence. Something told her that the impending sunset signaled her time to move on, as well.
Suddenly, she heard rapid footsteps approaching the platform. Ginny stood up and faced the magical barrier that led to the rest of the station. As the footsteps grew louder, all other sounds seemed to fade away. She realized that she was holding her breath. A familiar face appeared, wearing round eyeglasses and adorned with a mop of unruly, black hair. She started to run toward him. He spotted her and began to run as well. She skidded to a stop several feet short of him, causing him to pause just before they touched. Ginny forced herself to look at his brilliant, green eyes rather than lose herself in them.
“Harry, is it for real this time?”
She felt her heart leap for joy as the crooked smile she loved so much settled onto his lips. “Yes, Ginny. It’s time. And I’m never, ever leaving you again.”
Ginny closed her eyes and melted into Harry’s embrace as he pulled her off of her feet. She felt his lips pressing against hers as the tears rolled down her cheeks. The world faded away around them and they knew nothing but one another. This time, there was no horrible revelation, no awful moment of reckoning. Only Harry and the love that bound them together.
After a kiss that could have lasted moments or perhaps days, they were both startled by the Trainman clearing his throat. “Sorry to bother you, Mr. and Mrs. Potter, but I assume that you’ll be taking this train?”
The great, scarlet engine suddenly appeared in the distance, steaming toward the station. Harry saw it and a huge smile filled his face. He looked at her and she smiled back at him and nodded. “Yes, sir. We will be.”
The Trainman tilted his head in acknowledgment and returned Harry’s smile. “Very good, then. Your train will be arriving shortly. Have a pleasant trip.”
He started to turn and walk away, but Harry managed to catch his attention. “Sir, I’m afraid we don’t have tickets. Where should we go to get them?”
The Trainman tutted and shook his head. “The two of you don’t need tickets. You’ve paid your fare many times over. And Harry?” His gaunt face softened into a warm smile. “Sir is no way to address an old friend.”
Ginny felt Harry’s arm tighten around her as the emaciated old man walked away. She wrapped her arm around his waist and they both shielded their faces as the train engine roared into the station. The train slowed until the door to one of the passenger cars came to a stop directly in front of them.
Harry took a deep breath and then he turned to face her. The expression on his face was the happiest she could ever remember, and it filled her heart with joy.
“Come on, Gin. We’re going home.”
Ginevra Weasley Potter
August 11, 1981
September 27, 2041
Fly fast, chaser girl
Harry James Potter
July 31, 1980
September 26, 2104
Death is but the next great adventure
** The epitaph on Harry’s tombstone is taken from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, pp. 297. It seemed fitting to end with a quote from the beginning.
Oh, my, where to begin...
There are so many people that I want to thank for their assistance, support and kind words. I’m sure that I’m going to forget somebody, no matter how hard I try. It’s inevitable. Please forgive me.
First off, my undying gratitude to my beta reader, sophie_hatter. I don’t have the words to explain how much your insights, ideas, advice and encouragement have added to Conspiracy of Blood. Without you, this story wouldn’t have turned out anywhere near as well as it did. Part coach and part guardian angel, you’ve inspired me to push my own limits and saved me from myself more times than I can count. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
Seriously, folks, if you haven’t read her story, Evolution (M), what are you waiting on?
To Beeezie, Deeds, Elenia, Izzy, Jami, pix, Roots in Water and Rosie: my dedicated readers, my confidants, my PM chat buddies, my friends... Thank you all for being there. Throughout this amazing experience, your support and enthusiasm have kept me motivated. You’re all wonderful, warm, funny, incredibly talented individuals and I feel so lucky to have met you all. Some people say that the Harry Potter books bring people together because they inspire crowds to dress up and stand in long lines at bookstores and movie theaters. They don’t know the half of it.
To Occlument: I’m not sure whether you’re even still reading this story, or active in the Archives at all, but if you are, I wanted to say thanks. You may not remember, but you gave me a really valuable piece of advice at a very early stage of the story. You told me to slow down and not try to fill every chapter with crazy revelations and bombs going off. It made an impression on me, and it wound up making a big difference. Thank you.
Lastly, to everyone who has read Conspiracy of Blood and especially those who’ve taken some time to leave a review along the way: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. There’s simply no motivation like seeing the chapter read counter tick upward or finding an unexpected review.
A number of people have been asking what’s next for me. As it happens -- and no, it’s not really a coincidence ;) -- I’ve already posted the first chapter of my next project: Marked (M). It follows Draco Malfoy through the aftermath of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, when his father goes to prison and he’s ordered by Voldemort to kill Dumbledore. Please check it out!
--Cambangst - 8 August 2012