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Thunderous applause again filled the students ears. All three were blushing furiously at this. "Please ... we haven't done anything to deserve this" one of them meekly said.
"Not done anything? My friends you have just rid the world of a great evil! I assure you that indeed you have earned all this, and more !!" stated their former Headmaster.
"But it wasn't only us. Many more were involved" the bushy haired girl replied. She felt a warm hand squeeze hers tightly, grateful for her saying this.
"Everyone played their part. But it was the sacrifices you three made which brought this to an end" the picture in the painting replied.
"Well for one I am just glad it's all over" the red haired boy responded. He leaned over to kiss the bushy haired girl on the cheek, causing her to blush again.
"Ron. Stop it please" she whispered.
"Can't my best mate kiss his girlfriend?" the other student wondered. He had thick black hair which if straight would have hung onto his shoulders. As it was most of it went every which way. He tried yet again to run his fingers through it, but he knew it was no use.
"Mate you should try tying it in back like my brother Bill does" his best mate Ron told him.
"Thanks. Maybe I will" he grinned. Harry watched as Hermione finally gave in and leaned to her right to kiss her boyfriend of less than 12 hours.
"There that wasn't so bad was it" she heard Harry reply. It made him very happy to see his two best friends finally realize and accept their feelings for each other.
Hermione broke the kiss for a moment, turned to opposite way to stick her tongue out at Harry Potter, and return to her boyfriend Ron Weasley.
"Oii you two get a room" they heard another of the paintings tell them. They pulled apart but continued to hold hands as they stood in front of the Headmaster's desk next to their best friend.
"Harry are you sure you are all right?" a very worried Hermione Granger asked. Her best friend had not looked well for weeks ( actually none of them for longer than they could remember ). Harry was leaning on the desk with both hands looking like he might pass out at any moment.
Ron waved his wand and three chairs slid over for them. "Let's rest for a few moments shall we? C'mon Harry. Between Hermione and I." He and his girlfriend helped Harry to sit in the overstuffed chair.
"Can you watch Harry? I'm off to find the loo" Hermione whispered into her boyfriend's ear. He nodded full of concern for his best friend. Yes Harry had defeated Lord Voldemort only a couple of hours ago, so he should be on top of the World right now. But he knew Harry better than that. All three had seen the bodies lined up in the Great Hall during the break in the action. Professor Lupin and his wife Nymphadora. Young Colin Creevy, who was underage but returned to fight after being evacuated. Ron suspected there were probably dozens more, but his heart was broken thinking about his brother Fred. He had died during the beginning stages of the Battle, and he was sure his parents were watching over his body now. A single tear began falling down his cheek, and he felt a pair of strong arms from behind.
"We'll get through this together" he heard his girlfriend whisper. She nodded for him to see Harry now fast asleep in the chair.
"Miss Granger. I believe if you find 'History of Magic' and tap it with your wand you will save yourself a very long walk" they heard the painting of Professor Dumbledore say. He gestured to the bookshelf next to where he was hanging. Hermione got up and began to study the titles of the books. She got so engrossed in one she found called 'Magical Maladies of Molgolia' that she forgot why she walked over there. She was startled when she heard Ron tap a book over her head and the bookshelf folded in revealing a private loo.
"Sorry" she mumbled handing him the book. She stole a quick kiss and stepped inside the white and black marble bathroom. Directly in front of her was a full length mirror and she was shocked to see how bad she looked. Her hair was matted and caked with dried blood. It was much longer than she used to keep it, but she decided to save cutting it until she got cleaned up first. 'Maybe Ron will like it this way?' she mused. She made quick work of her clothes (which turned out to be quite remarkable considering the condition they were in) and returned to find Ron reading the same book she was so engrossed in. Hermione placed her hands over his eyes and asked "Guess who?"
"The prettiest girl in the World" was Ron's reply as he turned in his chair to hug her. "I like your hair like this" he added.
"Thanks" she replied as she kissed him. "Now it's your turn." Grabbing both his hands she pulled him into the loo, and he surprised her by kicking the door closed behind them. "Ron what are you ... " was all she got out as she felt him pull her close. There in the Headmaster's loo they shared their most passionate kiss yet.
Harry's eyes snapped open when he heard the door close. He could hear their muffled conversation, and it made his heart feel good for them. But what about himself? After breaking up with Ron's sister Ginny just before Fleur's and Bill Weasley's wedding last year he felt horrible. He could see how hurt Ginny was when he told her she could not accompany them. 'It's too dangerous. I don't want anything to happen to you' he said at the time.
But he loved her. Nothing, not even Hermione and Ron, were as important to him. He would do anything in the World to insure her safety, including distancing himself both physically and emotionally.
"I must say Harry now that the other two are not here that I am both pleased and surprised you survived. I suspect you had a difficult decision to make out there" Professor Dumbledore kindly asked. He was peering over his half moon spectacles when he said this.
"Yes and no Professor. When I first headed towards the Forest and Riddle I knew I had no choice. Going past ... well ... going past her was by far the toughest thing. I think she felt me. I saw her hand reach out and I had to move quickly to avoid her. I couldn't have done it if I had paused, not even for a second.
Thankfully my parents, Sirius, and Professor Lupin stayed with me. They knew why I was there, and spoke about how proud they were. It gave me the courage to face Tom. My thoughts were about all of you when he did it."
"All of us Harry? No one specific person?" Albus gently chided.
"You know how much she means to me. I am never happier than when we are together. But I have botched it all up now. There is no way she will even look at me now" Harry sadly replied.
"Do not judge her too harshly. Like all three of you she has been through a lot this year. I suggest you let each other talk. If it is meant to be, then things will work themselves out."
"Thank you Professor. I'll try if she gives me the chance" Harry quietly replied as he heard the door open again. Hermione came out trying to straighten her clothes which appeared to be twisted sideways somehow.
"Don't even ... " she playfully threatened as she sat. "Ron will be out shortly. We just had a few things to ... errr ... discuss first."
"Oh so that is what they are calling it now" joked the Headmaster. "Back in my day we had another name for it. We called it spooning."
"I bet Ron would love that!! Anything to do with food and we know what happens" laughed Harry.
"Yes he can't seem to get enough" replied Hermione with a straight face. At least until she saw Harry trying not to laugh. Soon both had fallen out of their chairs, crying they were laughing so hard.
"OK what's so funny. Is it me? Yes I know I lost a lot of weight and my clothes are too big, and I got sunburn at Shell Cottage so my nose is still a little red, but that's no reason to be laughing at me " Ron crossly said as he returned.
"Mate it has nothing to do with you. Well actually it does. Headmaster could you explain it to him please?" wondered Harry as he helped pull Hermione to her feet. "I love you two. You know that right?" he asked as he pushed them together and stumbled to the open door.
"No. Harry needs to sort a few things out" Ron stated, preventing his girlfriend from following him.
"Are you sure Ron? Should we be leaving him alone right now?" Hermione whispered.
"You know Harry as well as I do. He needs to brood for a while before we go face everyone. When he feels up to it we can go."
"And by everyone I'm sure you mean Ginny."
Ron looked away, thinking more about his dead brother. "Yes. Her and George. We both know why he broke it off, but it still hurt her badly. The way she and Professor McGonagall screamed when we thought Harry had died sent chills down my spine. I swear we literally heard her heart break. And when she was fighting, she took a lot of risks. Like she was daring them to try and kill her."
"Ron I felt the same. If Harry was gone it didn't matter anymore. That's why we attacked Bellatrix Lestrange. She was making fun of Ginny. Luna and I had had enough. Together we were going to kill her for Harry."
"I'm glad Mom stepped in. If she hadn't then the old Witch may have hurt one of you before you got her. And I couldn't have lived with myself if that happened."
"I guess this is what Harry realized. He wanted to protect Ginny no matter what. Later I hope he tells us what he was referring to with the Headmaster" Hermione added, looking up hopefully at his portrait. Unfortunately for her he was asleep.
"I think he will. The four of us for sure, and maybe Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt. And in time maybe my parents too" said Ron.
* * *
When Harry Potter stumbled away from his friends, part of it was to use the loo for its intended purpose. Once he was done he stared at himself in the mirror for a long while. 'How can they look at me? Ron and Hermione? His brother Fred is lying in the Great Hall with Professor Lupin and Tonks! And Hermione you were cursed over and over by Bellatrix! You must hate me too!!
No this isn't going to work. I have to leave. Seeing me will be a reminder of all the pain they have suffered. How many did I cause to be hurt or killed? Dozens? Hundreds maybe??
And Ginny. I bet you can't stand the sight of me. You have every right to hex me too. Yes I will go downstairs with Hermione and Ron. His family deserves an apology if they can stand to be in the same room with me. Then when I get the chance I will leave. Anywhere it doesn't matter. None of them should be forced to look at me any longer than they have to. I can barely stand the sight of myself.' With that Harry hit the mirror in front of him as hard as he could, driving both fists into the wall behind it. The pain felt good as he felt both his hands break against the marble wall.
From somewhere behind him he heard Ron yelling but he could not make out the words. He looked at his hands, seeing the blood running down his arms and onto the white marble floor. He felt the door shaking like it was being hit repeatedly by a battering ram. The next thing he knew he was surrounded by his two best friends.
"Oh Harry" he thought he heard Hermione whisper through her hands.
* * *
Ron had convinced Hermione to sit down and let Harry have some time alone. "Hermione he must be sick of us by now. I bet he can't stand the sight of us" he tried to joke.
"Mr. Weasley I believe you are wrong. It was the love the three of you had for each other which kept you going, and now he needs Miss Weasley too. Harry is full of despair. Many, many times we talked about your journey, and he was very afraid for you. I had to convince him all three of you were needed or the plan would not work. He also felt very ashamed about his parents and Sirius, blaming himself for their deaths. There is a name for this. It is called ... "
Professor Dumbledore never got the chance to finish what he was saying because at that moment they heard a crash which sounded like glass breaking. Hermione jumped up from Ron's lap and ran to the door. It was locked from the inside. "Alohamora" she kept saying, unable to get the magical door to unlock itself.
"Here let me try" Ron stated as he pushed her aside. Crouching over he rammed his shoulder into the door, pretending like he was one of his favorite players on the Quidditch Team he adored the Chudley Cannons. Try as he might it would not budge.
"Miss Granger. Miss Weasley. I believe if you use 'Alohomora Optima' it will work" the former Headmaster asserted.
"Thanks" stated Hermione. She looked intently at her boyfriend who nodded he was OK and loudly said 'Alohomora Optima'. The bolts clicked and the door swung open. There standing blankly in front of them was Harry. Behind him the mirror was gone, and two fist shaped indentations were in the wall. All around his feet was broken glass.
"Oh Harry" Hermione muttered looking at her best friend. His hands and forearms were covered in blood, as well as the front of his shirt. She could see parts of the bones of his hands protruding out of his skin, but yet he wasn't in any pain as far as she could tell.
"I believe there is some ditany on the shelf to your right" Hermione heard the Headmaster tell her. Taking the only washcloth not covered in blood she poured some on it and placed it on Harry's bloodstained right hand which seemed to be the worse of the two.
"Ow" he replied, attempting to pull away. The pain had brought him out of his trance.
"Did you get into a fight with the mirror mate? It looks like you lost. Well no matter. 'Reparo' " Ron said pointing at the floor. The glass shards jumped up and reassembled themselves. Ron kept the mirror floating while he repaired the wall and used a permanent sticking charm to reattach it. "Scourgify" he said pointing at the floor again, cleaning up all Harry's blood. Slowly he moved his wand upwards and the most recent blood and glass particles disappeared from Harry's clothes too.
"Harry would you like to talk?" Hermione softly asked as she cleaned him up. She saw him barely shake his head no. "You know we are here for you right? All three of us? I know she wants to see you too."
Harry was now looking at the floor, ashamed of his actions. He felt Ron's big hand on his shoulder. "Harry we have all had bad hair days, although in your case it's been an issue since you were born" Ron teased. It had been a running joke of theirs over the years, how Ron's hair would lay nice and flat but Harry's stuck every which way.
"Thanks. You know I don't deserve you two, especially now" he quietly spoke.
"Harry James Potter you are the best friend we could ever hope for! While every relationship has its ups and downs, we have always been there for each other and always will" Hermione told him as she hugged him, trying not to squeeze his hands as she did so.
"Hermione's right Harry. I mean take the two of us. If I hadn't been so stupid for all these years I could have had the girl of my dreams sooner" Ron added.
"All these years? What do you mean Ron?" wondered Hermione.
"This goes back at least as far as the Yule Ball during the Tri Wizard Tournament. I saw how beautiful you were and I was very jealous of Victor. I wanted you for myself, but I didn't know what to say" Ron stated as he held Hermione.
"But what about Lavender" she asked looking him in the eye.
"She was a distraction. She liked me, so it was easy to get close to her. But every time I kissed her I felt bad, like I was using her. So I pretended to be kissing you instead. I wanted to break it off, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings. No the only one I want is you. So what I am wondering Miss Hermione Jean Granger is will you be my girlfriend?"
"Ronald Bilius Weasley I have loved you for a long time too. At least as long as the Yule Ball. Yes it would love to be your girlfriend" Hermione replied as she kissed him.
"Excuse me Professor but I was wondering if there was any plans for a final Ball for the year?" Harry asked.
"Mr. Potter I don't know. Perhaps if you ask Professor McGonagall she will have the answer. I suspect she will become Headmistress now" Albus replied.
"OK. I was just asking because I know how much Ron enjoyed the formal robes he wore to the Yule Ball during the Tri Wizard Tournament and I can tell he is wishing for another chance" Harry tries to calmly state. Out of the corner of his eye he could see both Ron and Hermione trying hard not to laugh. After a few more seconds they failed to contain themselves, pulling Harry into a hug with them. Their laughter soon changed to tears as they began to remember all those who they lost. Harry was especially loud, his cries echoing in the partially empty room.
"Yes we must remember them. Each of them gave their lives so the rest of us would live in peace. Now sit down please while we have a few more minutes to talk" suggested Albus.
The trio again settled into the very cushy chairs in front of the Headmasters desk. Harry thought for a moment and said softly "Kreacher."
With a 'pop' the older Elf appeared. "You called Master Harry? How can Kreacher be of assistance?"
"Firstly on behalf of Hogwarts we want to thank you for helping us earlier" Harry stated. He felt Hermione squeeze his hand, and he closed his eyes to help block out the pain.
"Is Master all right?" asked a worried Kreacher. He saw his Master close his eyes and grimace.
"Yes I am Kreacher thank you. If it isn't too much trouble could we bother you to bring us something to eat while we talk to the Headmaster?"
"Of course Master Harry." He snapped his fingers and two trays appeared. "Kreacher took the liberty of asking the other House Elves to prepare food for everyone." He snapped his fingers again and the trays floated over to the desk and plates and glasses appeared.
"Thank you Kreacher. Is there anything else?" Harry inquired. It seemed like Kreacher wanted to say more but was unsure if he could. "Kreacher we want you to know that anytime you wish to speak you may. We will not be mad at you for it."
"Thank you Master Harry. Kreacher does have some things to say. First he wants to apologize to you Master Weasley for calling you a blood traitor in Master's home. You are a good friend of Master Harry, and to the House Elves. We know it because we could hear you and your worries about us. It helped us to decide to fight not because we had to but because we wanted to.
Kreacher also wishes to apologize to you Mistress Granger. We should not have called you a mudblood. It is a term which should have stopped being used many years ago. We know that you too are our friend, and we all saw how much you love Master Harry.
Finally Master Harry we know how troubled you are. When you were at your home on Grimmauld Street you talked much in your sleep. Much of it had to do with all the ones you loved who are now gone, but Kreacher hopes you remember all the ones who love you because you are Harry, not the 'Chosen One' and all the other names people have given you. Downstairs in the Great Hall people are talking about all three of you. They are all very grateful for what you did. None of the House Elves have heard any bad words spoken about any of you. Yes there is much sadness at losing loved ones, but the blame rests on Voldemorts's shoulders not yours. If you can remember this then all will be well."
The Trio was stunned. Even Professor Dumbledore was surprised at Kreacher's frank words. "Kreacher on behalf of all of us I want to thank you for your honesty. I also hope one day to return to Grimmauld Place, maybe even to live there." Harry glanced at Hermione and Ron, and the same thought flashed between them. Yes they were probably could stay at the Burrow but it would feel weird after being on their own this last year. And their budding relationship would suffer with Molly and Arthur treating them like they were still 'first years' instead of being legal adults in the Wizarding World.
"Kreacher after we eat and rest we will come down there. Please keep it quiet about us for now. Do not lie, just don't volunteer anything" instructed Harry. He saw Kreacher nod and with another 'pop' vanished.
"Quite remarkable Harry. In all my years I have never seen a House Elf behave like that. You must have treated him very well" stated the Professor.
"To be totally honest with your Professor I'm not sure what I did" Harry replied.
"I think it's more like what you didn't do. Hermione preached about how we needed to treat the House Elves, and here in an example of how she is right just like always" Ron said seriously. "And who knows maybe in time this will catch on. With everyone except the pure bloods of course."
"Only time will tell Ron. But now onto other matters. Harry are you feeling better now?" inquired Albus.
"No Sir" was barely spoken by Harry.
"An excellent answer. I should think your action would not solve anything. Do you agree?"
"Yes Sir I do now." Harry was now looking up at the Headmaster.
"I am afraid what we are dealing with is what is called 'survivor's guilt'. Are any of you familiar with the term?"
"Ooh ooh ooh" they heard Hermione say as her hand shot up. "Sorry! Bad habit" she blushed, trying not to look at Harry and Ron who were trying not to laugh.
"As I'm sure our prize student could explain it occurs when people feel guilty after the loss of a loved one. Inevitably their thoughts go to 'Why wasn't it me?" or 'It should have been me!'. Oftentimes guilt sets in as they blame themselves for what they believe was their inaction or wrong choices" stated the Headmaster.
Harry didn't have to look at Ron or Hermione. He knew they were staring at him. He hung his head and felt his two best friends crouched on either side of him.
"I am feeling this right now too. Not just Harry. If I was quicker maybe my brother would be alive right now" said Ron as he laid his head in Harry's lap.
"For me it is Dobby. He lost his life saving us. If we could have escaped Malfoy Manor sooner, he might still be with us" added Hermione.
Harry placed his hands on the heads of his two best friends, gently stroking their hair. "My whole life has been like this. I never told you two about the nightmares I had when I was little. I used to wake up shaking and crying in my cupboard, but all that got me was my Uncle stomping on the stairs over me screaming to shut up and go to sleep."
Hermione leaned back to look up at Harry. As gentle as she could she held his right hand while Ron was doing the same with his left. "What were your nightmares about? Did it have to do with Tom Riddle?"
"At the time I didn't know. The same dream kept repeating itself. I was in my bed and I heard loud voices. There was a flash of light and I heard a thud. Then footsteps coming up the stairs. A shadow passed over me, there was another flash, and another thud. I saw a face get really close. Words came out of his mouth but I didn't understand. He pointed at me and I saw one more flash ... and then I would wake up crying. It wasn't until I got to Hogwarts and learned about my parents that I realized it was their deaths I was reliving."
"Harry how often did this happen?" wondered Ron. Even back in their first year he remembered times Harry would wake up screaming. Their roommates Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, and Dean Thomas wanted to tease Harry about it but Ron insisted they didn't.
"Several times a week. Less often when I got to Hogwarts, especially after the stuff started to happen with Voldemort" Harry responded.
"This my friends is what I was referring to. It is normal to wish your friends and family had not passed on, and to believe you were to blame. But what you must ask yourselves is are you really? It was Voldemort who killed your parents Harry not you. One thing I never told you is that on fateful night Voldemort had planned on visiting two houses. Yours and the Longbottom's."
"Really Professor? Does Neville know?" asked Hermione.
"I don't believe so. His plans were to take care of you and your parents, then Neville and his. One by one he was going to hunt down every member of the Order of the Phoenix and kill their entire family. So you see that night you saved Neville and his family, and all the rest of us."
"That may be Professor but Harry lost his parents that night, and we know what happened to Neville's later. How can any of this be good?" angrily asked Ron.
Hermione reached across Harry's lap and took Ron's left hand in her right. "Sweetheart we may never know why things happen the way they do. And we can't go back and change things no matter how much we want to. We must live for the moment and be glad that we are alive and together. We can and will grieve for our lost ones and never forget them. But I know if Fred was standing here next to us he would want to move on and be happy. And maybe set off a stink bomb or two in the Slytherin Common Room."
Out in the Hallway at the top of the stairs, just beyond the door which was not closed completely a solitary figure stood. Tears were again running down her face as she listened to her 'big sister' trying to comfort her two best friends. A sad smile crossed her face as she continued to eavesdrop on their conversation.
"This is why I was afraid to have you come with me. And why I had to break things off with Ginny. I couldn't have this happen to you too" Harry cried as he held them.
"But now it's all over mate. Yes Fred is gone and many others. But he died with a smile on his face. He and George knew they might not make it, and I overheard them promise themselves to keep the store going and to make you proud. Do you know what they meant?" asked Ron.
"I gave the money I won for the Tri Wizard Tournament to them. With it they opened the shop, and bought you the new dress robes. I think I still have your old ones somewhere if Hermione wants you to wear them for her" joked Harry.
Hermione pretended to consider the idea. "You can wear as much or as little as you want" she whispered in his ear.
Harry pretended not to hear what Hermione had said. She and Ron were kissing very passionately again, oblivious to leaning across him to do so. After a few minutes he tapped Ron on the shoulder and asked if he could cut in.
"Get your own mate. Only please be careful. She is my only sister you know."
"And you are snogging the girl who I love like she is my sister too. But I am promising you, in front of the Headmaster, that I will do whatever I have to do to love, to honor, and to protect her until the day I die. She means everything in the World to me" Harry said as honestly as he could.
Out in the Hall Ginny turned and walked away. Despite being mad at him for deserting her to go who knows where she could not help but admire all three of them. And to hear Harry's declaration of how much he loved her took away all her fears about his feelings for her. As quietly as she could she crept down the stairs past the broken statue of the gargoyle. "Thank you" she whispered to it.
Harry looked up to see the Headmaster nod. He guessed it was Ginny who was there listening, and he was as honest as he could be under the circumstances. Later, when he was sure they were alone he wanted to share everything with her. "Albus I think it's time we should be going."
"Perhaps. However I am guessing you have been up for how long now? A day at least? I suggest resting for a few hours first. Those in the Great Hall will wait, and I will ensure your uninterrupted sleep" Albus stated.
Harry yawned and said. "OK then. Please wake us by 4 please. I want to be back to the Great Hall by dark." He vaguely saw Hermione transfigure their chairs into beds, and he fell back into his falling asleep immediately. He guessed just before he fell asleep Hermione had combined the two chairs to make a bed big enough for her and Ron. It took them just long enough to cuddle up for both to be fast asleep too.
"Sleep well my friends. I have never been more proud of you than now" Albus stated as he too fell asleep.
Ginny Weasley's best friend Luna Lovegood was waiting when she reached the bottom of the second flight of stairs. "Is everything OK? Are they still up there?"
"Yes. But I bet they are more tired than we are. The Headmaster was asked to wake them up at 4, so I want to beat them back to the Great Hall" replied Ginny.
Luna took her best friend's hand and began to walk towards the hallway which led to Gryffindor House. "Could you hear anything? I hope they are all right? But then I guess none of us are all right are we?"
Ginny always wondered where Luna's insights came from. More often than not she was right. None of them were all right, and probably would not be for quite some time. Her brother Fred was probably still lying in the Great Hall, surrounded by the rest of her distraught family. When she had left them two hours ago, on the pretext she needed to lie down, her thoughts were torn between him and Harry. The first several months she alternated between cursing him and praying for him every night. As conditions worsened in the Castle she, along with Luna, Neville Longbottom, and her fellow DA members began a resistance movement. Their goal: to stay alive and to help as many of their fellow students as possible. As long as Harry, Ron, and Hermione were alive they had hope.
The next thing Ginny knew was they were in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, who guarded the entrance to Gryffindor House. "Are you sure you don't want to lie down Luna?"
"No thanks. The Grey Lady and I have a date" she replied, winking to Ginny as she left with the ghost of Ravenclaw House. She waved good bye and skipped along down the hallway.
Ginny looked up into the large round eyes on the portrait and realized she didn't know the password. Tears began to fall as she believed she was alone.
The portrait took pity on her and whispered. "Don't worry dear. I'm sure you will remember the new password. It's all anyone can say right now."
Ginny's tears stopped immediately as she spoke the words "Harry Potter". Silently the door swung open and she entered. Amazingly there was very little damage. A few personal items were scattered about which was not out of the ordinary. She hesitated at the foot of the stairs and decided to go up the boys side. Near the top was the boys sixth year room. Wordlessly she pushed the door open, cringing when it squeaked. She remembered Ron telling her he put a charm on it so it would do that unless it was Harry, Ron, Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, or Dean Thomas opening it. In a large circle were five four poster beds complete with canopies in Gryffindor's colors. She smiled thinking it was exactly like the girls side, except for the lack of mirrors and extra wardrobes. One by one she touched each bed, trying to figure out which belonged to Harry last year. As she ran her hand along each bedpost her finger caught on something. Pulling the maroon and gold canopy back she found something scratched in the underside of the frame which held the material up. Craning her neck to see it she fell over onto the bed. No one else was around so she flipped herself over and read:
Harry and Ginny
April 26, 1997
Ginny was puzzled until she realized it was the day of their first kiss. Harry had carved it by hand into the bed so he could see it every night. Underneath it was another date:
August 11, 1998
'What is so important to him that he did this? Yes he knows August 11 is my Birthday. But why will this particular one be so important? All it will be is when I turn ... '
Ginny sat straight up barely missing hitting her head on the canopy (actually her brother Ron had to keep remembering to turn as he sat up or he was in for another headache). Now fully awake she began to pace. 'OK so I will be 17. I'm and adult according to Wizarding law. I bet my parents will treat me like I am still 3 years old, not old enough to ... ' Ginny froze in her tracks. "Could that be it? He wants to propose to me on my Birthday? The day I can say yes without asking my parent's permission? Is that what Harry plans?"
There was a loud 'Pop' and Kreacher appeared next to her. "Yes Miss Weasley? You called Kreacher?"
"Ahhh yes Kreacher thank you for coming. Can you tell me please is this Harry's bed?" she asked. Her hands were trembling as she ran them through the canopy curtains, wishing Harry was there waiting for her. All she needed to do was to hop in and pull the curtains and ...
Her dream was stopped when Kreacher answered. "Yes Miss Weasley this is Master Harry's bed. Would you like me to tell him you are here?"
Ginny stopped herself from screaming yes. "Not right now thank you. I suspect he is very tired like I am."
"Then perhaps you should lie down Miss. I'm sure Master Harry won't mind." Kreacher snapped his fingers and the bed covers rolled themselves back.
"Well if you're sure Harry won't mind" she replied through eyes that threatened to close themselves even before they hit the pillow. "Kreacher please wake me before Harry? I want to look as good as I can."
As Ginny fell asleep, her dreams filled with the thought of cuddling up next to Harry, Kreacher began to talk. "Miss Weasley Master Harry loves you. At night when he stayed at #12 Grimmauld Place he would dream about you. Sometimes he blamed himself because of the danger he put you in, but most of the time they were happy ones. He talked about how much he loved you, and how terribly he missed you.
What helped keep his spirits up was a map his Father and Master Sirius made. Everyone at Hogwarts was represented and late at night he talked to your image. How much he loved and missed you. At times he regretted not asking you to accompany them, but deep down he knew if he had the risk was too great. Many times Kreacher heard him say he wanted to talk to your Father about you and him. About your future. But Kreacher talks too much. I will watch over you for Master Harry and wake you in plenty of time." Kreacher bent over and kissed Ginny's forehead much like her mother did at night.
"Good night Kreacher" she softly said, her smile getting brighter as she slept. Kreacher settled back into a chair next to her and allowed himself to doze also, setting his internal clock for 3:30.
* * *
For the first time in months Ginny's sleep was filled with dreams and hopes. Gone temporarily were the nightmares of what was happening to them. The Carrows used to tease the students with "Did you see today's Prophet? They found their bodies lying in a ditch" or "Lord Voldemort has captured them. As we speak they are being tortured for information about the Ministry and the School." While worried sick for them she knew nothing really bad had happened.
Still in her dream she felt the covers move and someone slide into bed. A pair of arms wrapped themselves around her and gently began to kiss her. She responded pulling the person closer, sliding her hands up his back as she kissed him more passionately. Her hands traveled further to reach for his unruly black hair (which she thought was too long when he reappeared in the Great Hall) when she froze. The hair she had hoped and dreamed to run her hands through forever was not there. Instead it was short and wiry. Her eyes snapped open to reveal the face of one of Harry's roommates Dean Thomas.
"Wow I was right you did miss me" he replied trying to kiss her again.
"GET AWAY FROM ME" she screamed. Both her hands hit him in the chest propelling him out of the bed and onto the floor.
"What did you do that for?" he asked as he got back up. He leaned over to kiss her again when she slapped him as hard as she could.
"I SAID GET AWAY!!" she yelled again. Now she had her wand in her hand and was about to use her famous 'Bat Bogey' hex when there was a loud 'pop'.
"Mistress Weasley it is time to wake up ... what is going on here?" asked Kreacher. He was startled to see her with her wand pointed at Dean Thomas, who had a nasty purple welt on the left side of his face.
"Nothing Kreacher. Mr. Thomas was just leaving" Ginny replied through gritted teeth.
"This isn't over" he responded as he stepped towards her. He found his feet were stuck to the floor.
"I believe Mr. Thomas Mistress Ginny said you were leaving" Kreacher darkly told him. He snapped his fingers and Dean Thomas disappeared.
"Kreacher that was horrible!" Ginny told him as she collapsed back onto the bed. "I was having a dream about Harry. We were on our honeymoon in Paris France. He had just gotten back into bed and started to kiss me. But when my hands touched his hair I realized it wasn't him! I woke up to see Dean's face not Harry's!!" Ginny put her face into her hands thinking she had betrayed him and his love.
"Mistress Ginny do not blame yourself for this! Mr. Thomas tried to take advantage of the situation. Together we will talk to the Headmistress" he gently said. "And now if I remember correctly you wished to arrive at the Great Hall before someone else did."
This helped to perk Ginny up. A quick trip to the loo and she was ready. Taking Kreacher's hand they apparated to near the entrance, avoiding the destruction littering the corridors where some of the fiercest fighting took place.
"I'm telling you she led me on! I went back to our old room from last year to find a few things and she was in my old bed waiting. She asked me to join her then pushed me away and gave me this!!" Ginny heard Dean Thomas say as she and Kreacher rounded the final corner.
"Mr. Thomas those are serious charges. What proof do you have?" asked Headmistress McGonagall.
"He doesn't have any because it isn't true" Ginny stated as she and Kreacher approached. "I had fallen asleep in Harry's bed not his. I don't know or care which one he used last year. I was asleep and he crawled in pretending to be Harry! When I woke up I pushed him out. He tried to kiss me again and I hit him."
"Kreacher arrived and sent him away Headmistress. He left these behind he was so ashamed of his actions." Kreacher snapped his fingers and the pair of trainers Dean had been wearing appeared. When Kreacher made him leave they remained stuck to the floor.
The Headmistress looked sternly at Dean. "What do you have to say for yourself Mr. Thomas?"
"That Kreacher wasn't there when this happened. He only saw me after I got hit" he smugly replied. During this last year he had tried to rekindle his relationship with Ginny. Yes they cried on each other's shoulders along with many others, but she refused his advances each time. "I love Harry" would be her response.
"Is this true Kreacher?"
"Yes Headmistress. But Kreacher believes Mistress Weasley's version not Mr. Thomas."
"That's because Harry Potter owns him! I bet he was ordered to lie on her behalf!" laughed Dean.
"Mr. Thomas Master Harry has given Kreacher permission to speak his mind whenever he wishes. And right now Kreacher has one word for you. It is LIAR!"
"Your opinion doesn't matter since you are a house elf. Headmistress I came to you with this. I want to see her punished!" Dean said his voice rising.
Newly appointed Headmistress Minerva McGonagall was in a pickle. She had two conflicting stories, either of which could be true. Or neither for that matter.
"You just want to get back at me because I wouldn't go out with you anymore!" Ginny yelled.
"Don't make me laugh! I can have whatever girl here I want. I don't need you!" he responded as his voice got louder too.
"Kreacher will not allow you to talk to Mistress Ginny that way!!" He was now standing in front of Ginny, and he appeared to want to hex him.
The Headmistress stepped between Dean and Ginny. By now people were coming out of the Great Hall to see why people were yelling. She waved her wand and closed the doors on them. "No one is going to be hurt further today. I am consulting the Aurors for how best to handle this" she firmly told both.
"Headmistress I believe I can help." Surprised they all turned to see the Gryffindor ghost Nearly Headless Nick float up. He too had a grim look on his face.
"Yes Sir Nicholas? What can you tell us?" Minerva asked.
"As you requested earlier I went into your office to check on the Trio. Professor Dumbledore informed me that he would wake them up by 4 so they could finish one final thing for him. He told me that Miss Weasley had overheard and asked me to make sure she made it to the Gryffindor Common Room safely" he stated.
"Oh and you are eavesdropping on private conversations too! Wait until I tell Ron, or better yet your parents. They will lock you up until you turn 30!!" Dean laughed.
Ginny put her head down for a moment. "Headmistress Sir Nicholas is right. I did go there wanting to talk to Harry. They were talking so I did not want to interrupt. I plan on apologizing to Professor Dumbledore later today."
"And what about me??" Dean gleefully asked. "Not that I would take you back anyway, but Headmistress she owes me an apology too!!"
Before the Headmistress got a chance to respond Sir Nicholas interrupted. "As I was saying I went to check on Miss Weasley. Kreacher was sitting in a chair next to her."
"Excuse me Sir Nicholas but where was the chair located again?" Minerva asked.
"It was under the window next to the bed. Kreacher asked me to remain while he went to check on Harry Potter. I moved to the opposite side of the room to inspect a picture hanging on the wall of a Wizard preparing to battle a dragon. While it does not move whoever drew it is very talented."
"I did! And I keep it hanging next to my bed to show people" Dean exclaimed. He didn't understand why Ginny and the Headmistress were smiling. They had no proof- it was her word against his, and since he brought it to the Headmistress's attention, he figured she would believe him.
"The door opened and Mr. Thomas entered. I heard him say 'at last she will be mine. 'Carpe Diem' is what I always say'. He approached Miss Weasley and pulled back the covers and got into bed with her. I overheard her ask 'Harry?'. He replied 'Yes' as he began kissing her. When she realized he was not Harry Potter she hit him harder than I thought she could. He flew through the air and landed on his back side 6 feet away. He came back to kiss her again when she hit his face with her right hand. Mr. Thomas staggered back and Kreacher reappeared. When Mr. Thomas refused to leave he was stuck to the floor so he was prevented from attacking Miss Weasley again. Kreacher sent him away, leaving the shoes you see him holding behind."
"Thank you Sir Nicholas. You may go." The ghost nodded his head to the Headmistress and left through the wall he had arrived from. "Well Mr. Thomas it seems we now know the truth. I want you out of my castle immediately." She waved her wand and the doors to the Great Hall reopened. Dozens of faces peered around the corner, anxious to see the conclusion to the argument.
When he heard the doors open Dean relaxed. He knew he was caught lying but he felt he could still cause Ginny and Harry problems as he left. Ever since he and Ginny had broken up during his fifth year he had wanted to get back with her. But she blocked every attempt, convinced she had a chance to finally be with Harry. Even after they 'broke up' she had a special place in her heart for him . One that no one else could possibly fill. She was prepared to wait as long as necessary for him to return. She felt she owed him that, knowing he, Ron, and Hermione were trying to discover how to kill Voldemort and make their World a safer place. 'How can I not wait for him?' she asked herself on those days and weeks when it seemed like her World was crumbling around her.
Dean spied another of his roommates Seamus Finnigan and was about to give his version of the story when he saw the look the Headmistress was giving him. Slowly she walked up to him and said "Mr. Thomas you have been caught lying to the Headmistress and for indiscretions with another student. You will leave immediately and never return. I will be making a full report to the new Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt. If I hear you discussing this with anyone, or if I see anything in the Daily Prophet concerning this, I will be the one pressing charges against you not Miss Weasley. Are we clear?"
"Yes Headmistress" he meekly replied. He turned to leave when he felt something being pressed into his hand. It was the painting he had made, which ironically was titled 'Carpe Diem' or seize the day. He kept his head down as he quickly walked out the front door of the school and down the path to the main gates, where he knew he could apparate from.
"Headmistress I am really sorry for the trouble I have caused. If you wish I will leave too" Ginny told the Headmistress. She dreaded telling her parents about what had happened. Like Dean joked she probably would be locked in the Burrow until she turned 25 at least, maybe even 30.
"Miss Weasley you are a victim here. I am very proud of you not only today but for how you inspired your school mates. In fact you remind me very much of someone right now."
"Really Headmistress? Who is it?" she honestly asked. In her mind it was Hagrid, because he is so brave and strong. Or one of the founders, who each had special skills. Together the four of them opened Hogwarts 1000 years ago.
"I suspect if you think about it you will know who I am thinking of" she whispered into her ear as she passed by.
Ginny had a blank look on her face which quickly turned a bright shade of red. She ran back up to the Headmistress and gave her a big hug not unlike the ones her Mother was famous for.
Harry woke up to the sound of moaning. Worried his friends were in danger again he fumbled for his glasses and wand and fell out of bed.
"Sorry Harry did we wake you?" Ron innocently asked. Hermione had the sheets pulled over her head. Only her right ear was sticking out which appeared to be a bright shade of red.
"S'OK" he mumbled still partly asleep. He got up and went into the loo to give Hermione a chance to get over her embarrassment. Waiting for him was a set of clean clothes. "Kreacher?" he softly said.
"Yes Master Harry?" Harry could see the old Elf was mad about something but he didn't want to intrude.
"Kreacher are these things for me? Thank you if they are."
"Kreacher brought some of your things from Grimmauld Place. He also has Master Weasley's and Mistress Granger's."
"Fantastic Kreacher. Please let them know this and I will be out shortly. Oh and Kreacher you may wish to knock first just so you don't surprise them."
Kreacher got a big smile on his face. "Of course Master Harry. Kreacher does not wish to embarrass them." With a 'pop' he disappeared and Harry thought he heard a knock on the Headmaster's door. Footsteps went past and he heard Ron's voice. "C'mon in Kreacher ... "
Harry washed up and did the charm to shave with his wand. He put his old clothes back on which he had not worn in months. The Weasley jumper and pants were at least a size too big, but at least they were clean and free of holes. His previous set was in tatters, especially across his chest where the killing curse had struck him again. Thankfully he had a t-shirt on so Hermione and Ron didn't see his matching lightning bolt scar which was now in the center of his chest. He tucked his mole skin bag inside his jumper, making sure The Elder Wand was still there. It did chafe him over his new scar but he blocked out the pain from that and his assorted bruises received during the months on the road. He intentionally fumbled with the door handle to create some extra noise and stepped out.
"Are you feeling better now mate?" Ron inquired. The beds were transformed back into chairs and Hermione and Ron were sitting with piles of clothes in their laps. "I see Kreacher took care of you too. Hermione would you like to go next?"
Hermione blushed as she got up. She lightly kissed Ron on the cheek and went in, grateful for his thoughtfulness. 'He's changed so much this last year. I had hoped he'd grow up at some point. I can't ask for more'. Silently she got ready too, pleased Kreacher provided last year's jumper for her. She shyly smiled in the mirror at herself, thinking it was the same color as Ron's eyes. Did his Mom know something back then? Probably. Everyone else too. 'We were too close to be objective' she analytically decided. She walked out, thinking she didn't have to jiggle the handle like Harry did for them. Many times she and Ron remarked on Harry's selflessness and concern for others.
"Sweetheart are you all right?" Ron asked when she came out. He saw her eyes getting red again.
"Now I am. I just missed you" she replied wrapping her arms around his waist. Ron was close to a foot taller, so her head fit comfortably in his chest.
"Good. I was worried about you. And Dinner" he playfully added. This got him a punch in the shoulder.
"Get your bum in there" she said pretending to be angry as she pushed him towards the door. He tried to pull her in behind him but missed. "Maybe later if you're good" she whispered. As soon as the door closed Hermione approached Harry. "Now how are you really feeling?"
"Fine" he replied.
"Yeah right. Well I don't believe you Harry. Something happened out there. Why did Voldemort think you were dead? And why did you let us think you were?" she tearfully asked.
"I'm sorry about that. It was the only way to get back to the Castle after what happened" he cryptically answered.
"But why Harry? What happened? We were in the Great Hall and you disappeared on us!"
"Professor Snape had given me some memories. I went into the Headmaster's Office to use his pensive. It cleared up a lot of things Hermione. Everything made sense after that."
"Harry what made sense? And where did you go after seeing them?" Hermione asked hoping she was wrong. She and Ron speculated on what happened to Harry. Why was Hagrid carrying him?
"Hermione it's because I ... " Harry did not get the chance to finish what he was saying. Ron came out of the loo also dressed in his Christmas jumper, and he jumped when a ghost entered the room.
"Good Afternoon Mr. Weasley! How are you three doing after your nap?" Sir Nicholas inquired. "The Headmistress sent me to check on you earlier. I reported back that you were all sleeping soundly."
"Thank you Sir Nicholas. Do you know where the Headmistress is currently?" asked Hermione.
"She and the new Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt are in the Great Hall. They asked me to guide you since not all the passageways are useable."
"Thank you Sir Nicholas" Ron replied. He knew Harry was due to start blaming himself yet again. "I believe we are ready." Ron held the door for Hermione and Harry and they descended the spiral staircase which led to the Headmaster's Office. At the bottom the gargoyle was still lying on his side. But not for long as two House Elves were occupied with lifting him back onto the pedestal he usually occupied. They waved saying 'thank you !' to the trio as they passed. At the bottom of the second flight of stairs three more ghosts awaited them: The Grey Lady who was the ghost of Ravenclaw House, the Fat Friar who had the Hufflepuffs, and amazingly the Bloody Baron who haunted the Slytherin Common Room.
"I I don't know what to say" Harry stammered. He and the rest of the school (even the Slytherins) were terrified of The Bloody Baron.
"My friends you have nothing to fear. Yes normally I am mad at everyone but today is a day of celebration! Never in all my years did I think I would congratulate a member of another House. What you three have done is quite remarkable. You have made all of us proud to say we are the ghosts of Hogwarts" the Bloody Baron calmly said.
"Thank you Sir" was all Ron could think of to say.
"We are here to escort you. Please watch your step" the Fat Friar added as he and Sir Nicholas drifted off. Hermione, Harry, and Ron moved quickly to catch up. At least Harry and Hermione did. Ron's long legs allowed him to cover ground much faster leaving Harry and Hermione to run after him. Harry wished he was tall like Ron instead of 5 and a half feet tall. Fortunately Ginny didn't seem to mind. On her tip toes she was eye level with Harry.
Floor by floor they descended. The ghosts were instructed to bring them along the routes with the least damage which unfortunately meant the passageway Ron's brother Fred died in. Hermione and Harry paused with Ron to say a prayer for him before continuing on.
"Do you think they are all still there?" Hermione whispered to Harry.
"No Miss Granger" the Grey Lady answered before Harry got the opportunity. "Most have been collected by their families. The rest including Fred Weasley are in a side chamber. I believe the Weasley's are waiting for your return before departing with his body."
Ron said something to Harry. When he didn't respond he turned to see he wasn't there. About a hundred feet back he was standing with his back against the wall. His chest was heaving as he tried to unsuccessfully keep his composure. Hermione followed her boyfriend alarmed at Harry's state. Together they wrapped their arms around him, comforting him the best they could.
After a few minutes Harry had the courage to continue. He knew in less than five minutes he would be at the entrance, and he grew more afraid with each step. Scenes flashed before his eyes of all the assembled people pointing their fingers at him. "Your fault! It's all your fault they're all dead!!" they each screamed. He would sink into the middle of the floor and became surrounded. "Your fault!! Your fault!!"
Harry felt Ron's arm go across one shoulder and then Hermione's. "We'll do this together" she told him.
"Just like always" Ron added. He was very concerned about their reception too, but he was more worried about his best mate. Harry was insecure. He had been since the day he and Ron first met getting ready to ride the Hogwarts Express almost seven years ago.
The massive doors to the Great Hall slowly opened. It was a subdued group of Faculty, students, and their families seated in groups around the tables. Along the left hand wall near the front they could see the Weasley's clustered together. Ron tried to guide Hermione and Harry in their direction but was stopped by the ones who realized the Trio had finally made it down there. Applause began which grew louder the further they progressed. Ron felt Harry tensing up more so he kept his arm protectively around him, squeezing him tighter the closer they got.
The new Headmistress and Minister were at the Head table. Like the others they too were cheering them. Harry nodded to them, then turned to the Weasleys. Ron had stopped them 10 feet away to give Harry a chance to breathe before talking.
"How are you three now? Did you enjoy your rest?" Mr. Weasley kindly asked.
"We're all better now thank you Mr. Weasley" Hermione responded.
"Please. It's Molly and Arthur from now on" Mrs. Weasley replied. One by one she hugged all three. Normally her hugs were quite strong, but this time she felt they needed kinder gentler ones. Plus after the Battle they may be hurt so she did not want to make things worse.
"Mrs. Weasley. Mr. Weasley I'm so sorry about Fred. We should have found a way to stop them from coming. He, Tonks, Professor Lupin and all the others would still be with us" Harry tried to say. Unfortunately only partial words came out as he struggled with his emotions.
"And what would you have done Harry? Stopped several hundred Death Eaters yourselves? No I'm afraid this was inevitable. Voldemort had plans to attack both the School and the Ministry. It was just a matter of time until he did this" Mr. Weasley answered.
"But ... but Sir you don't understand. The reason he was here was because of us. I mean me" Harry stammered.
"Harry how old was Voldemort when he died?" interrupted Molly.
"What? ... Well ... it was five years ago when the Chamber of Secrets was opened ... " he began.
"And you saved my life" Ginny interjected. Harry looked at her for the first time since the Battle ended. She was smiling at him which made him feel good. He was deathly afraid she would want nothing to do with him.
"Molly like I said five years ago. The image of Riddle was 16 at the time and he mentioned it was 50 years since the Chamber was opened, so 5 plus 16 plus 50 equals 71 I guess" Harry stated.
Arthur smiled at him. Earlier before Ginny returned from her 'nap' the Weasleys were discussing how to deal with them when they came to the Great Hall. George was the most vocal, loudly blaming them (Harry especially) for his twin's death. At the moment he was on the other side of the Hall being consoled by his and Fred's best friends Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, and Oliver Wood. Bill disagreed too but not as loudly. His wife Fleur admonished him. "Our point exactly Harry. Tom Riddle's goal of controlling the Wizarding World began long ago. Take a look around you. We were all born during Tom's rise to power. It is because of the three of you that he is no longer a threat. Over the next weeks and months the Ministry will be searching for his supporters. It may take a while but we are confident we will prevail."
The Trio surveyed the Hall. People were still waving to them trying to get their attention. "Harry what do you see?" Molly gently asked.
"I see a lot of people. All different ages. Many are waving at us. But Arthur why are they happy? Look at all the ones hurt or killed! They should be mad at us. Ready to have us arrested for not doing enough to prevent this" Harry said as he began to break down again.
Ron put his arm protectively around Harry. He mouthed 'Not yet' to his sister who he knew wanted to do the same.
"Harry if that were true then we would all be guilty. Twenty years ago we had the chance to join the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort was getting stronger and we were afraid. I was pregnant with Fred and George, and Bill, Charlie, and Percy were babies. We decided we couldn't take the chance. The McKinnons were wiped out as a warning to anyone who joined the Order" Molly stated.
"A short time later we lost Molly's brothers Fabian and Gideon Prewett. This made us even more afraid. Then we learned about your parents Harry. They were several years behind us at Hogwarts. It broke our hearts then, and we blamed ourselves afterwards. Then the Lestragne's attacked the Longbottom's and that was the last straw. We contacted Professor Dumbledore and told him we could not sit by any longer. We helped him and the rest of the Order round up whatever Death Eaters we could find. I helped Kingsley and Minerva capture Bellatrix and her husband Rudolphus. It made us feel good at the time, but we spent many nights afterwards asking ourselves why we waited to help. So you see Harry we are also to blame for your parents, Sirius, and our own son's death" Arthur ended with.
The Weasley children were shocked to hear this from their parents. They avoided any talk about the First Wizarding War and clearly this was why. Harry looked around to see all of them with their heads down, wondering what might have been changed or altered if their decisions were different.
"Molly? Arthur?" Harry asked. Both the elder Weasley's looked at him. "Please don't feel that way! This wasn't your fault! All of these were circumstances beyond your control ... " Harry stopped himself when he saw they were smiling at him. He stepped away from Ron and pulled them into a hug, crying with them over the losses of their loved ones. Harry heard a sniffle behind Molly and he saw over her shoulder Ginny trying very hard not to cry. He held out his right arm that he had put around Molly and Ginny accepted his invitation sliding between him and her mother, wrapping her arms around him for the first time in almost a year.
Harry kissed Ginny on the forehead and said "Do you realize how long your daughter and my two best friends have been trying to tell me this?" he asked as he held her close.
"Too long mate. Talk about thick" Ron joked.
"Don't you tell me about being thick" Harry countered. He felt the back of his neck get warm from the blushing he knew Hermione and Ron were doing. Plus the grin on Ginny's face.
Harry could not take his eyes off Ginny. She had her arms wrapped around him which hurt from all that had happened in the last 24 hours but he didn't want her to stop. "Ginny I have one final thing to do for Professor Dumbledore and I need your help. Would you like to come with us?"
Ginny was ecstatic. So much went through her mind while they were gone, from Harry not really loving her, to thinking she was still a kid, to her not being powerful enough. Then the guessing of did he find someone else? Or did he fall out of love with her? A year is a long time for two people to be separated. We both have changed ... She heard herself asking her parents if she could go. Hermione stated it would be all four of them.
Arthur looked long and hard at his daughter. Clearly their feelings for each other had not stopped, but he knew how hurt his daughter was the last year. Was she setting herself up for another disappointment? In three months she would be of age and from then on he could not stop them from seeing each other. He decided it was time to let her go. "Well I guess if we can't trust you with the three people who took down Voldemort then who can we trust?"
"Try not to be gone too long dears" Molly told them. Both had heard the question within the question.
"Thanks Mom" all four replied. Molly saw them leave the Great Hall, pausing here and there on the way. "Arthur did you see Harry wince when Ginny hugged him? I think he is hurt but doesn't want us to know."
"Knowing our daughter she will insist he see Poppy when they get back. Actually she told me earlier she wanted the three of them to do that as soon as they got here. Harry side tracked her asking her to help" Arthur said.
"I'm so glad his feelings haven't changed. I think he loves her just as much as before. Possibly more" Molly added. Behind her husband she saw her two oldest Bill and Charlie whispering. Seeing they were being watched they got up, nodded, and left the Great Hall too.
"I guess we don't have to worry now" Arthur stated, guessing they were making sure nothing would happen to the kids.
* * *
Ginny waited patiently for Harry to say something after they got away from people. Seeing him unable or unwilling she decided to talk. "While you three were gone before you missed Andromeda Tonks. She let me hold Teddy while she went to ... to talk with Kingsley and Professor McGonagall. You should see him Harry he is so cute! His hair is kind of thin and wispy but it is already changing colors. He opened his eyes and saw me but instead of crying his hair color changed from pink to red. I fell in love with him Harry!"
"Ginny I think you will be a good Mother one day. You sound like you are a natural" Harry told her.
"And one day I think you would make a great Dad. The way you put everyone else ahead of you, the way you care. How could you not be?" replied Ginny. "Did you know you are his Godfather?"
"Yes. Remus came to us last fall. We were staying at Grimmauld Place trying to figure out what to do. He was very worried that his child would become a werewolf too! He wanted to come with us but I refused. His place was with his wife not running around the countryside."
Ginny heard Ron cough behind them so she knew not to ask Harry anymore about it. Hopefully when he could tell her more he could explain why he did this.
"Anyway she said I could babysit him whenever I wanted."
"That's great Ginny. Maybe we can go there soon and you can introduce me to our Godson" Harry wryly added.
It took her a moment to catch on but when she did she reached up and kissed him on the cheek, silently thanking him not only for wanting to do this for Teddy but for wanting her back into his life.
They continued in silence for a little longer. "Ginny thank you for coming. I really do need you" Harry said after they escaped the last of the well wishers.
"Really Harry?" Ginny asked. Was this a slip of the tongue or was Harry hinting at something else?
"Sorry I didn't mean to say it that way ... well actually I guess I did. I want to apologize to you for the way I ended things with us. I have had a lot of time to think about this, and I realized everyone knew we were together so it didn't help much did it?"
"Harry the whole school knew about us. Whether we were officially together or not it didn't matter. I was a target as was Neville, Luna, and the rest of the DA."
"That's what we were afraid of. It's why we blamed ourselves for all the bad things that happened. But now I want to tell you all of it. I just don't know where to start" Harry said as they left the Castle.
"Harry I can't expect you to condense 9 months into 20 minutes" Ginny replied. She put her hand into the crook of his arm as they walked, hoping this would help him to relax.
"There were so many things that happened to us. Most of them were bad. One of the worst was at Christmas. Remember how I told you we had to try and find things and destroy them? Well we were getting very frustrated and I thought a trip to Godric's Hollow would help. Hermione disagreed but came with me."
"What about Ron? What did he think?" Ginny wondered. Something told her it was a sore point before she finished saying it.
"Ron was gone for a short time. But anyway it turned out to be Christmas Eve. We went to the Cemetery and saw my parents graves. Did you know the Dumbledore's and the Peverell's are buried there? Anyway we saw someone who we thought was Bathilda Bagshot. We followed her into her home and it was a trap. Nagini had killed her and was living inside her body! We escaped but my wand was broken in the process."
"But Harry whose wand did you use this morning?" Ginny wondered.
"Draco Malfoy's. I disarmed him as we tried to escape Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix thought she had us but we were rescued by Dobby. He was killed by Bellatrix as the last of us escaped to Shell Cottage. Didn't Bill tell you?"
"I didn't see Fleur or Bill until the Battle started. Who else was with you?"
"Dobby saved the three of us, a goblin named Griphook, Mr. Olivander, Luna, and Dean Thomas. Is he here?"
Ginny nodded not wanting to say why he wasn't. Fortunately Harry was engrossed in his story so he didn't notice her flinch. She heard Hermione cough behind her so she knew there was a problem. Ginny waved her other hand behind her back promising to 'tell' Hermione later. "Harry I see you have your wand now. I thought a broken wand can't be fixed."
"That's what Hermione thought too. I was able to fix it with this." Harry began to struggle with the front of his jumper, trying to get out his mole skin pouch. Seeing he was getting frustrated Ginny tried to help.
"Harry what happened to your hands? They weren't like that this morning! And what is this scar on your chest all about?" she demanded as she handed him his pouch.
"Dark magic. Very Dark magic. All three of us have one now. Do you remember the book how it used to burn when you held it sometimes? This was a hundred times worse" he replied. Harry stopped to fumble with the contents, finally drawing out the Elder wand.
"Is that the wand Voldemort was using?" Ginny whispered, afraid this was Dark magic too.
"Yes. But it was not his. This belonged to Professor Dumbledore. Tom broke open his grave and stole it to use. His was broken the night I left #4 Privit Drive for the last time. He thought it would give him the advantage over me, but he was wrong."
"Harry we didn't know anything about this. Quidditch was cancelled and we weren't allowed outside the Castle except to serve detention with Hagrid. Snape would sent us there and we would help Hagrid with his garden and drink tea" Ginny laughed. "But Harry James Potter are you going to tell me what happened?" she asked. "Hold out your hands so I can see them better."
Harry meekly obliged, knowing he was on shaky ground right now. The Elder wand was in his left hand and his Phoenix and Holly one was in his right. He held both hands out palm down, still holding both wands. Ginny held her left hand under both of Harry's as she waved her wand over them with her right. "I got into an argument."
"With who Harry? Not my Brother" she menacingly stated, looking over his shoulder at Ron.
"Hey don't blame me! I had nothing to do with it" he replied holding his hands up.
"Ron's right Ginny. He and Hermione had nothing to do with it other than to try and fix me up afterwards. No I got into an argument with myself."
While Harry was talking Ginny was mumbling various spells to heal him and ease the pain. The knuckles on both hands were broken and his hands had dozens of tiny scratches. It reminded her of the times students were cut by flying glass in potions class. Didn't Harry say he was in an argument with himself???
"So I take it the mirror you broke was the one in the Headmaster's Office?" she softly told him.
"Ginny you know me better than I know myself! Yes it was. I was very, very mad blaming myself for everything that happened. But I am promising you Ginevra Molly Weasley, here in front of our two best friends who are also our family that I will never lie or keep things from you again. I love you."
"Then Harry James Potter I accept your apology. I also promise in front of our friends and family that I will never lie to you or keep things from you. I love you too." Ginny leaned forward to kiss Harry and as she did the tip of her wand touched both Harry's and the Elder wand. There was a flash by all three wands but the couple didn't seem to notice. What they did see was Harry smile as the pain and redness went away. He saw the skin grow back over the many cuts and scratches on his hands.
Hermione turned to Ron and raised her eyebrows. He shrugged his shoulders, thinking nothing surprised him about Harry anymore. He knew that very soon a trip to the library with his girlfriend would be taking place.
"Are you two coming?" he heard Ginny ask him. They had passed by the tree she and Harry used to sit at by the Black Lake and were now almost up to the Headmaster's tomb. He and Hermione ran to catch up. They stood alongside Harry and peered inside. Albus Dumbledore was magically preserved and looked like he was fast asleep, just like in his portrait when he didn't wish to talk.
"Are you sure he is really gone?" Harry heard Ginny whisper.
"Trust me. He is dead. He told me so last night" Harry replied, causing his friends to wonder what really happened when he disappeared during the break in the Battle. When they saw Hagrid carrying him he appeared to be dead, and Voldemort and his army thought so too.
Harry began to talk to prevent the questions he knew all three had. He mentally promised to take them aside and explain why he had to go into the forest and what took place there. "Well Professor we did it. Tom is gone but the price we had to pay makes me wonder if it was all worth it. We lost you, my parents, Sirius, Fred, and I'm sure many others. There are dozens and dozens injured too. You were right last night. I finally understand that it is more important to do what is right than what is easy. I am giving you back your wand that Riddle stole. I hope both you and it can rest here." Harry held both wands up and began to softly talk. For several minutes he spoke, then slid the Elder wand back into the Professor's warm hands. He went to touch the huge marble slab which had been split when Ginny stopped him. She leaned forward and placed her hand on his chest in the same spot Harry did.
"Professor I'm sorry I was so mad at you. Every day I cursed you for taking Harry away from me. I had to learn that it was not all about me. These three were out who knows where trying to find a way to kill Tom Riddle and I was only concerned with my own happiness. It helped when I found your painting stored in one of the dungeons. I knew you couldn't tell me everything I wanted to hear but it was enough knowing why they were out there. Thank you for sharing that with me." Ginny stepped back with Hermione and Ron as Harry touched the tomb with his phoenix wand. All three wands flashed again. Grinding was heard as the two huge marble slabs and all the smaller pieces slid back into place.
But the magic did not stop there. On the top of the pure white marble tomb there now existed the symbol of a phoenix. And along the side closest to the castle was a picture of Fawkes with her plumage flaming behind her. It wrapped around the far side of the monument, giving the impression of movement.
"Harry it's so beautiful" Ginny said as she stepped forward resting her hand on top. She bent her head to say a silent prayer for him, in part thanking him for bringing Harry back to her. When that was done she tried to stand and realized something was wrong. She was frozen in place and helpless.
Great sobs filled Percy Weasley's ears. Sitting across from him was his younger brother George. He was asleep with his head in Angelina's Johnson's lap. Percy had been sent away by the Witches who were preparing his brother Fred's body for burial and he was mad about that as well as blaming himself for Fred's death.
"Hannah Abbott tells me it reminded her of a blasting curse. We're lucky we didn't lose you, George, and her too" she whispered as she bent over to kiss George's forehead.
"Funny I don't feel very lucky right now. Do you know what I was doing the last three years at the Ministry? Whatever they wanted! I worshipped Fudge, wishing I could be like him. Then Scrimigor came in. He didn't last long. He made too many enemies. I always did what I was told. The perfect employee. Then Pius Thickness took over. People were arrested right and left and what did I do? NOTHING!! How many were sent to Azkaban because of me?"
"Percy what you are guilty of was not thinking. You took everything at face value, blindly believing what you were told. Did you use the Imperious Curse on anyone, or force them to do things?" asked Angelina.
"No but I watched them do it!! I am just as guilty as any Death Eater!!! I have to turn myself in" Percy stated.
"Percy you must do what you think is right. Good luck" Angelina added as she watched him approach the head table.
Kingsley nudged Minerva as he saw Percy Weasley come up. "Here comes another one" she whispered.
"Excuse me Minister. Headmistress. Am I intruding?" he fearfully asked.
"Not at all Mr. Weasley. How can we help you?" Kingsley wondered. Several members of the Ministry had come up in the last hour to resign. He took it as a sign that they genuinely felt bad and persuaded each to stay.
"Sir I wish to tender my resignation and to turn myself in to the Aurors. Are you still the Head of that Department Sir?"
"Mr. Weasley right now I am the Head of almost every Department. But tell us please why are you resigning? Are you asking me to send you to Azkaban?" Kingsley gently asked.
"No Sir I am not. But I think you will find when you investigate that I deserve to be sent there" he replied. "I have stood aside and watched so many things happen that I did nothing to stop."
"Then if that is the case we are all going. Did you talk to your sister about what it was like here last year?" Minerva asked.
"No Headmistress I did not. I hope she is willing to tell the family about it when they return" he answered.
"We have all heard the stories about Harry. All the hardships he has faced, and the blame he shoulders as he loses friends and family. This last year I have finally understood him. Voldemort sent two Death Eaters here to teach and we were powerless. Students disappeared never to be seen again. Your sister led a resistance movement along with Neville, Luna, and others. They helped whenever they could but eventually had to hide themselves. You should be very proud of her."
"Thank you Headmistress. I know the family is."
Kingsley looked at Percy. Smart, knowledgeable, dependable. "Percy I experienced the same thing. I chose to go into hiding instead of staying at the Ministry. So I am to blame too because I was not there to try and stop it. Each of us is partially responsible, but it will be our actions going forward that we will be judged by. Please do the Headmistress and I a favor. We need to convene a meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. The faculty too?" Kingsley asked Minerva who nodded yes " in 20 minutes. Your parents can help you identify the Order members. Also we need to have someone in charge out here while we are in the conference room."
"Perhaps Aberforth Dumbledore Sir? He was a very capable fighter" Percy responded, thinking he was being asked his opinion.
"Actually Percy Aberforth is a member and has been for many years. No I am thinking about someone else who can take charge if necessary. Augusta Longbottom might do it" replied Minerva. Kingsley nodded in agreement.
"Oh and Percy we want you to be there also" Kingsley stated.
"Me Sir? But why after all I said?" a startled Percy asked.
"Because I want my new Assistant to be there too." Kingsley waited a moment for this to sink in before continuing. "Percy I need people who I can trust, like you and your Father. As you said you have been there during all this so I will need your help discovering who of Voldemort's puppets remain. You can tell since you knew most of these people before who has had the imperious Curse on them, and who had their own agenda."
"Then Sir please start with Delores Umbridge. She hates all who are not pure bloods and sentenced many to Azkaban needlessly!!" Percy replied.
"Trust us Mr. Weasley Delores Umbridge was the first one apprehended after Voldemort died. Naturally she insisted she did nothing wrong, then Voldemort made her do it, and so on" Minerva laughed. "But do you want to know why you were chosen?" she asked as she leaned forward.
Percy shook his head no, still puzzled at his luck. "It's because you are a Weasley, that's why" she said as she leaned back. Again he was perplexed until it dawned on him. Even though he turned his back on them, his parents still treated him as family no matter what. He felt Minerva's arms, almost as strong as his Mother's wrap around him. "Now go tell your parents the good news!"
"Thank you both for this. I won't let you down." Percy strode away to the table his parents were now alone sitting at. Uncertain at his reception he waited until they noticed him, but his worries were gone as soon as his Mother and Father embraced him.
Minerva was smiling while she watched the Weasley Family reunion. She saw Molly overjoyed and Arthur clapping his hand on his son's back. Arthur waved indicating he would follow Kingsley's orders.
Next Percy located Neville's Gran. It wasn't hard to find her with the 'unique' hat she wore. It has taken quite a beating as everyone else had. "Mrs. Longbottom could I have a word with you please?"
"Of course Mr. Weasley. It's Percy isn't it? I must say I enjoyed seeing what you did to the former Minister. A stroke of genius turning him into a sea urchin! So tell me what can I do for you?" Augusta Longbottom wondered.
"The Minister and The Headmistress are about to go into a closed door meeting with the Order of the Phoenix and the Hogwarts staff. They are asking you to be here in charge in case anything unexpected happens" he requested.
"Percy please call me Augusta." She leaned around him and waved to the head table. "Please tell them there won't be any problems."
"Thank you Augusta. And Neville you should be proud too. I have never seen or heard anyone other than Harry stand up to Voldemort like that" Percy added.
Neville stood and shook Percy's hand unable to speak. Voldemort that night had brought his Army to the Castle with Hagrid forced to carry what he thought was Harry's dead body. Neville stood up to him refusing to change sides. Voldemort tried to set him on fire to kill him but Neville broke free and using the Sword of Gryffindor beheaded the snake Nagini, unknowingly helping to bring about Voldemort's eventual death.
"Percy we are all proud of my Grandson too. Now off you go to your meeting" Augusta replied as she hugged her Grandson yet again.
"Gran let me go check on my friends." Neville stepped away from his Grandmother and approached a table with Luna Lovegood, Hannah Abbott, and several other students. He motioned them to follow and they went further down to an empty table. Pulling out his enchanted DA coin he rubbed it, summoning all the other DA members. One by one they appeared joining their friends.
As they were arriving Luna waved her wand silently casting the 'mufallato' charm.
"Luna when did you start doing spells wordlessly?" Parvati Patil asked.
"Just before the Battle. I sat and thought about it a lot when I was captured" she replied.
"We knew they had you. Where was it?" Parvati's twin sister Padma wondered.
"Malfoy Manor. I was taken so my Father would stop publishing positive things about Harry. Mr. Olivander was there too. Voldemort would torture him to learn how to make wands."
"Who else was there?" Susan Bones asked.
"Just Mr. Olivander and I to start with. A couple of weeks ago Dean Thomas and a goblin named Griphook were brought in. Shortly after Harry and Ron were brought down into the dungeon. We could hear Hermione screaming upstairs. Bellatrix Lestrange was torturing her about something. Dobby the Elf helped us to escape but Bellatrix stabbed him in the back as he left with Harry and Ron." Luna's face, which normally didn't show much emotion grew hard. "It was because of that and seeing Harry's body that Hermione and I attacked Bellatrix. I have never been so mad in my life! Ginny came up next to us. You should have seen her face. It had no emotion at all!! She kept firing curse after curse at the witch. Hermione and I had all we could do to defend her. Fortunately her Mom stepped in before Ginny got seriously hurt."
"Speaking of Dean has anyone seen him?" Seamus Finnigan inquired. Dean was his best friend.
"Not since earlier. We heard a loud argument out there" Michael Corner said gesturing over his shoulder "when the Headmistress told us to mind our own business. I saw Ginny come in and Dean leave."
Each of them speculated what happened. Dean and Ginny had dated previously, and some feared he tried to restart their relationship when Ginny didn't want to. Most if not all could see she and Harry were meant to be together.
"If I see him I will ask. Lavender is at St. Mungo's Hospital. Poppy said it is OK for me to apparate now so I am leaving if you don't need me" Seamus stated.
"When you get the chance please let us know how she is and that we are thinking about her" Hannah Abbott told him as he left. She was sitting next to Neville and subconsciously slid closer to him. Lavender had been attacked by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback and was saved by Professor Trewany and Hermione.
"Thanks I will" Seamus responded.
"All right then. I see Dennis Creevy isn't here. Has anyone seen him?" asked Neville, taking charge of the impromptu Meeting.
"He left with his family and Colin's body" said Ernie McMillan quietly.
"We shouldn't disturb George either. Right now he is with Angelina. Alicia, Lee, and Oliver promised Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to stay with him" Anthony Goldstein added.
"So how is everyone else feeling? Do any of you need to go and see Poppy?" asked Neville. Each shook their head no.
"Neville what about you?" Hannah asked. Sitting next to him she could see the burns around his neck he was hiding with his Gryffindor scarf.
"This just stings a little bit" he said gesturing to the scorch marks on the back of his head where his hair used to be. "Poppy told me it will eventually grow back. Actually it is feeling better right now."
As he spoke Neville was looking down and didn't notice Hannah waving her wand over his head. Cho Chang, Terry Boot, and others were smiling seeing how taken Hannah was with him. Hannah had left for part of this year because of the stress, but returned to fight with many others when notified by her special DA coin.
"Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron went for a walk. They promised to be back soon. While we are waiting we can be helping here. Does anyone have to leave right away or do you have a little time?" he wondered.
The DA members whispered amongst themselves. "Neville I know we all want to check on our families soon. What did you have in mind?" Cho Chang wondered.
"Until the Order Meeting ends I think we can help out here. My first concern is with the students. Make sure things are fine in here. My Gran was asked to keep an eye on things so we can go to her with any questions. Also I want to check the surrounding hallways and classrooms. I can see some sneaking away to hide by themselves" he replied. "But we won't wander too far. Right Gran?"
Augusta and Kreacher had walked up behind him as he was talking. Across from him was Susan Bones was looking over his head at something else so he guessed it was her. "Neville I like your ideas. Keep everyone together, especially because we don't know what happened to the last of Voldemort's Army. Every rock will need to be turned over to search for them."
Kreacher levitated several trays of sandwiches and pumpkin juice to their table. "The Headmistress requested all to eat. After that Kreacher will ask the House Elves to also search for students. Some may be injured or as Master Longbottom said wish to be alone in their grief. Unfortunately we cannot allow them the luxury of this. As Mistress Longbottom said Voldemort had an unknown number of allies who could be anywhere. I believe the term 'constant vigilance' is still in effect." He and Augusta moved off to the next table.
* * *
"Everyone thank you for coming. We hope to make this brief. I know that everyone is tired. Kingsley do you have a final list of casualties?" Minerva asked.
"Yes. 50 dead on our side. Over two hundred wounded. Most of which were treated here. Several dozen of the most serious were taken to St. Mungo's. Nearly a hundred of Voldemort's army dead, including the Giants and the acromantulas. The dementors are gone. Another 60 to 70 captured and are being held in the dungeons. Unfortunately Voldemort did not leave a list of who was here so we have no way of knowing how many escaped after Harry killed him" replied Kingsley.
"Speaking of Harry where did they go?" inquired Professor Flitwick.
"He, my daughter, Hermione, and my son Ron had something to do. 'One final thing' I believe is what he said" responded Arthur Weasley.
"I wish I knew where they were all that time! I was so scared for them" added Molly Weasley.
"I do not know all the details myself" they heard a voice say. Headmaster Dumbledore was visiting his portrait kept in the Conference Room.
"Now that this is over Albus can you tell us what they were doing and why?" his brother Aberforth asked.
Albus Dumbledore regarded his brother's question. It was the first time in decades they had spoken. Not since their sister Ariana's death. He pondered what to say without revealing too much. "All of you know they were on a mission. I began this several years ago and I came across some very disturbing things. I knew in order to defeat Tom we had to destroy a number of magical items. The problem was we did not know where they were, or for that matter what they even were. Yes I had my suspicions but I knew this would be difficult."
"Then Albus why were those three involved if this was so hard? Why didn't you do it yourself?" demanded Molly. She was still mad at him for sending 'her' kids out there.
"For several reasons. First I was dying. One of these objects had cursed me and only with Severus' help did I gain a few more months. Another was the prophesy concerning Harry. It foretold him being the one to defeat Tom Riddle" replied Albus.
"But they are children Albus not grown adults!" Molly railed.
"Did you see what your 'children' were doing in the Great Hall Molly? Arthur? Some of Tom's strongest Death Eaters were taken out by them! The DA, who were trained by Harry, Ron, and Hermione accounted for themselves better than most of the Aurors" responded Albus. "That was the key to this. Harry alone could not do it. He needed the help of all three to succeed."
"All three? Do you mean my daughter too?" Arthur wondered.
"Yes. Absolutely. Harry needed his best friends with him to avoid the pitfalls and to help solve the problems as they arose. But he also needed your daughter. He knew she could not go and he agonized over it. No he needed her here and safe. She was his lifeline. The one worth fighting for, the one worth coming back to. I am afraid had she gone along and something happened to her we would have lost him. And the mission. None of us would be here right now."
The Order and the Hogwarts Staff wondered what else Albus was not saying. He always loved to say things without revealing anything. "When they return do you believe they will share what happened?" asked Professor Slughorn.
"With time yes. As curious as we all are we must not push them too hard. I can only guess the horrors they witnessed this year. I suspect they will share it in pieces with the understanding that it not be put in any report or discussed with anyone else" Albus commanded. He remembered Harry bursting into his old Office and using the pensieve in the middle of the night. When it was over he saw Albus staring down at him. Harry opened his mouth to say something but decided not to. Instead he nodded and left leaving Albus to silence the other portraits and swear them to secrecy, promising to tell no one about Harry's visit.
"All right then. I agree Albus. When they wish to talk we will listen. One final note Arthur I know Grimmauld Place was compromised. I tried to go there myself. Are you taking Harry and Hermione in or should we make other arrangements?" Kingsley asked.
"They are Family. We wouldn't want them to go anywhere else" replied Arthur.
At that moment Kreacher appeared. "Excuse me for interrupting but Mistress Longbottom has asked the House Elves to prepare some food. Would you like Kreacher to deliver some?" He saw the Headmistress nod so he snapped his fingers and platters appeared with the identical food being served outside.
"Thank you Kreacher. And thank you too for what you, the centaurs, and all the friends and families who arrived did" replied Kingsley.
"Minister it was because of Mistress Granger and Master Weasley. We had retreated into the kitchens in fear. However when Master Weasley expressed his concerns for us we realized Master Harry was not alone in his caring and respect. This helped us to overcome our fears and do the right thing, as Master Harry says."
"Fantastic! One question before you return to help Augusta. When was the last time you were at #12 Grimmauld Place?"
"Minister it was shortly after they left. The Death Eater Yaxley was accidentally let in. I forced him to leave but could not prevent him from returning" responded Kreacher who looked for something to hurt himself with.
"Kreacher would Harry want you to hurt yourself right now?" gently asked Minerva.
"Headmistress Kreacher does not believe Master Harry or Mistress Ginny would wish that."
Arthur caught the sidelong look from his wife but chose not to acknowledge it. 'Mistress Ginny? Does Kreacher know something we don't? The House Elves have ways of seeing things that we can't.'
"Kreacher not today but when you have time please go back there and see what damage there is. If you feel you need help please ask for it. I went there myself this winter but was attacked and barely escaped. No offense Molly but I believe at some point Harry will want to go there and maybe eventually live in it" Kingsley requested.
"I'm sorry Kingsley but I cannot allow Harry to move there! It's too dangerous!! yelled Molly.
"Harry, Hermione, and Ron are of age now" Arthur told her as gently as he could. "And soon Ginny will be too. The four of them have matured since the wedding. In my mind much too early but we have to accept this has happened. I'm sure they will gratefully accept our invitation to come to the Burrow but sooner than we want they will move out. No it's better to have this happen on good terms with us supporting them."
"I know Arthur. I remember our parents telling us we were too young to be getting married too. But living together at their age I cannot and will not allow!!" she stated getting madder as her husband tried to calm her down.
"Mistress Weasley no one likes to be told what to do. And Kreacher will not do this now. But if Master Harry decides to move back along with whoever he chooses since it is his home then Kreacher will welcome them and care for them too. Remember it is a very large house." He waited for a moment locking eyes with the Weasley Family matriarch and disappeared.
"Talk about devoted Molly! No I think you have nothing to fear if and when they move in" Minerva added as she grabbed a sandwich. "Kingsley I can't remember just how big is that house."
"Three floors plus the basement kitchen. A half a dozen bedrooms, so an Army could move in" he replied. Arthur nodded grateful for Molly being reminded they would each have their own bedroom.
"Have the Mortuary Witches finished their tasks?" asked Professor Trewany. It was the first time she had spoke since the Battle. Seeing one of her favorite students attacked had caused her to retreat into herself. "Do I need to help them get the dead prepared for their final journey?"
Everyone stopped eating as they thought about their friends and loved ones lost. "Sibyl I believe we can leave them to their jobs. The Death Eaters and Voldemort's sympathizers were transported away to an undisclosed location for cremation and burial. Kingsley and I disposed of Voldemort's body, and only a few remain to be taken home" responded Minerva. She placed her hand over Molly's who was sitting next to her, mourning her son Fred's loss. "Do you have a date set up yet?" she gently asked.
"Four days from now. We will owl you with the time" Arthur woodenly replied.
"Then let us finish things here. As you may suspect the Castle is in shambles. Hogwarts has the ability to repair herself, but this may be beyond her. Anyone who has some spare time would be appreciated" replied Minerva.
"Many students will help especially if the DA is involved" replied Professor Flitwick.
"Filius if I know Augusta's son they probably already are" laughed Minerva. "Arthur you should have seen him, your daughter, and the others. I have never been prouder of my students. Every chance they got they disrupted the Carrows and Voldemort's 'disciples' as they called themselves."
"When Ginny came home for the Holidays she didn't talk much. We guessed at the time it had to do with her missing Harry. All three of them actually. She did not want to talk about school so we let her be" Arthur stated.
"I know very little myself. The Headmaster showed very little emotion. The Carrows on the other hand were constantly mad. Very few escaped detention unless you were a Slytherin" said Minerva.
"Time and again I discussed this with them. I even suggested they cannot serve Lord Voldemort if they are hurt or worse! They laughed and told me the ones they were singling out would never surrender so the only use for them was as curse practice for the 'disciples'. No matter if they did not survive! And it was to instill fear in the rest to behave" Professor Slughorn quietly told everyone.
"You see Kingsley this is why they cannot move out! They need the safety of the Burrow!!" Molly said as she started in again. She was determined 'her children' remain in their home until it was safe, which in her case meant for years. "You don't know what it is like to lose a child!!"
Arthur flinched trying not to yell at his wife. Hestia Jones, who was sitting across from him, saw his face contort trying to compose himself. "Molly we need to accept they are growing up. Also Harry and Hermione even though we love them technically aren't ours so we cannot force them to do anything."
"Arthur Septimus Weasley IF I FORBID THEM FROM LEAVING THEN THAT IS THE WAY IT IS!!! DON'T YOU DARE TRY TO TELL ME I CAN'T" Molly screamed.
Kingsley was both shocked and saddened at the fight taking place before him. He knew Arthur was aware of his family and the circumstances of why they were in America not here.
"Kingsley how are Darius and Bonnie now? What year are they at Salem? Fifth or Sixth?" wondered Minerva.
"Sixth Minerva" he replied grateful for Minerva's attempt to change the subject. "I didn't tell you but when I first fled the Ministry I made a port key and went to see them. Just to make sure they were all right. Arthur I guess I should turn myself in first thing Monday morning for making an unlicensed port key."
"Boss we can do that right now if you like. Now if I could just find my quill." Arthur began to check his pockets for a quill when he knew he had one right in front of him. All but Molly laughed at this. The reminder that Kingsley did indeed have children went right over her head she was so focused on her anger.
"Kingsley are they coming to visit this summer? I haven't seen them in what, three years?"
"Four Pomona. Their Mother didn't want them to travel and I couldn't blame her. Fortunately Bonnie has her Mother's good looks not her old man's" he joked. He waited to continue to give Molly a chance to speak but she was totally oblivious to the conversation. "You should see how tall they are! Apparently they passed up their Mother sometime last year."
"If I remember the last time I saw them Bonnie wanted to teach Charms. She is very gifted in that. But Darius is too full of mischief like his old man" Professor Flitwick added.
"Sounds like a perfect Auror Kingsley!" chuckled Arthur.
"In America they offer a class explaining their Ministry. It lasts for 1/2 year with an overview and then the second half being more specialized. Darius took the class one year early to get a jump start on a Ministry job. He didn't tell his Mother he applied for an internship position at there. I hope to convince him now that Voldemort's gone to transfer here."
"Good luck with that!! I remember how stubborn Jeanne can be." 25 years ago Kingsley Shacklebolt first met Jeanne Craig in Minerva's Transfiguration class. They hit it off immediately and were married a few years after graduation. Why Molly didn't remember attending her cousin's Wedding she did not know. "But now back to business. Let's summon the four house ghosts." She along with Professor Slughorn who was the head of Slytherin House, Professor Sprout who led Hufflepuff House, and Professor Flitwick who headed Ravenclaw House stood and tapped their chests three times with their wands. Moments later Sir Nicholas appeared in front of Minerva, the Fat Friar with Pomona, the Grey Lady with Filius, and the Bloody Baron with Horace.
"On behalf of Hogwarts we want to thank you for marshalling the rest of the ghosts to help defend Hogwarts. And for escorting the Trio safely here" Minerva told them once they arrived.
"Headmistress we were glad to help. Hogwarts is our home too" the Bloody Baron replied.
"How may we assist you?" the Grey Lady inquired.
"Lady we must search the Castle to find any wayward students. Some might still be in hiding not knowing the fighting is over. Plus the Death Eaters may have sabotaged the Castle to prevent Hogwarts from repairing herself" Filius responded.
"The House Elves will also be participating in the search. Between all of you we hope to cover the entire Castle today. As you look please examine the building also. The Giants made huge holes to let the acromantulas in. Sadly I saw many destructive curses used. We don't want anyone to get hurt simply by walking down a corridor" stated Horace.
"We will assemble the other ghosts to make sure none get missed. Should we send the uninjured students here and the rest to the infirmary?" asked the Fat Friar.
"Please" responded Minerva. "We will let Poppy know she may receive more injured students. Does she still have help or have they all returned to St. Mungo's?"
"Minerva I believe several remained so she could rest. This had to be extremely difficult for her having all these wounded. I know she valiantly saved those she could" Filius said.
Arthur and Molly looked at their half eaten plates. Poppy gave it her best trying to save Fred. Unfortunately the Dark Magic used combined with the wall collapsing on him made saving him impossible. After Harry Fred was her favorite student. He along with his brother George and Harry had beds the students had transfigured to have permanent plaques attached to them saying:
'Harry Potter was healed here ...
At least once a week'
* * *
Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott left the Great Hall together to begin the search in the area around them. Several other teams were made and the rest remained to help the students who had not left with their families yet. The places nearest the entrance were the most damaged and they walked quietly past them, unwilling to discuss where particular classmates battled. They chose to go up one level thinking some students might have done so either to hide or escape the ferocity of the hexes and curses which flew around them. Their first stop was the History of Magic classroom. Hannah suppressed a laugh when she saw Professor Binns at his desk waiting for that day's students to arrive.
"Professor you may wish to consult with the Headmistress. Classes are cancelled for the foreseeable future" Neville told him.
"Very well" he replied. He disappeared through the floor, which was the shortest route to the Great Hall. If you were a ghost that is.
That room had no other occupants so the next stop would be Muggle Studies across the hall.
"Hannah do you smell something?" Neville whispered.
"Yes. Like a potion got burned. Good thing Seamus is gone or I swear he was here" she replied.
Neville laughed to himself. One of his roommates was Seamus Finnigan and he was well known for burning or setting things on fire unintentionally. Wordlessly he cast a silencing charm and entered followed by Hannah. In the far corner nearest the desk was a trash bin with smoke coming out of it. Slowly they approached knowing it unlikely a fire would start itself. When they got about halfway the smoldering fire burst into flames, threatening to catch the desk on fire. He coughed indicating this was probably a trap. "Boy does that stink!! It smells like one of the dung bombs Fred and George used to sell us!"
Hannah wildly waved her wand pretending to try to blow the smell away while she held her nose. "Those two sweethearts sure caused a lot of trouble over the years!!! I wonder what they will think of next?"
Neville laughed at Hannah's ingenuity. As she waved her wand she must have cast the charm 'Homenium Revelio'. She then 'told' him 2 people were there. "We better put this fire out before the School burns down! This morning I told Harry about how we were treated. He wants to come up here himself to see what those damned Carrow's did." On the wall in the DADA classroom there was a chart showing the places on a person's body to hit them so it would hurt the most.
Standing about 15 feet away on either side were Alecto and Amycus Carrow. The two Death Eaters had been sent by Voldemort to 'teach' that year. Alecto taught in that classroom 'Muggle Studies'. It was modified by her to show how much better Wizards were than cows, pigs, and people who had no magic. Her brother Amycus was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Again he changed it showing how not only to curse your enemy but to do it in such a way they won't be killed. At least not right away.
Both were smiling. Grinning actually at their luck. During the beginning stages of the Battle they were stunned and captured in the Ravenclaw Common Room by Professor McGonagall and Harry Potter. A net had been placed around them and she disarmed both. Fortunately for them when they revived later Amycus found his knife still embedded in his boot so he was able to free both himself and his sister. Conversations were overheard as they snuck down the hallways in an attempt to leave. It was clear to them that the Battle was lost and Lord Voldemort was dead.
Near a spot where there was a pile of rubble they found a wand and decided to try and ambush some of the defenders to take revenge for their leader. Alecto got the idea of setting a fire to draw people in, and who should they snare but two of the chief troublemakers for them. Alecto had used the found wand to disillusion them, and Amycus had his knife.
'I can't believe how stupid these kids are' she thought as they got closer. Because the wand was not hers it didn't work as well as it should. Any curse like the 'Avada' one or others requiring a lot of emotion was out of the question. No her hope was to disarm of incapacitate them and her brother could steal their wands and hopefully kill them.
"Darn it!" they heard Neville say. "I could never get the hang of this one. Can you do any better?" He had tried to cast the spell 'Aquamente' to extinguish the flames. Instead of a jet of water coming out of his wand it sputtered and sprayed with very little actually hitting the fire which by now had caused the side of the desk to smolder.
"Ginny was always the best at this one. I may have to go find her if we can't do this ourselves." Hannah pointed her wand at the fire but like Neville's attempt it failed. In her case the water came out but it created a puddle which spread progressively wider and wider.
"Hannah I think now might be a good time for you to go find Ginny. I'll wait here to keep any other students out" Neville stated, trying to make himself sound as scared as possible.
"OK" Hannah replied. She pretended to turn and leave when she and Neville pivoted and shouted 'Aquamente Maxima'. Two jets of water as powerful as fire hoses erupted out of their wands knocking the two Death Eaters backwards. Alecto felt her wand leave her hand before being knocked unconscious when she hit the wall. Hannah had her wand and followed with 'Incarcerus' binding her with thick black ropes.
Amycus was slightly more fortunate. He was always quicker on the uptake than his sister and had taken a half step as Neville's spell hit him. It spun him around but he managed to stay on his feet. He lunged for Neville thinking he could kill him and finish the job his cousins the Lestranges started almost 20 years ago. But because he and his sister had slept for over 15 hours they missed virtually everything that took place. Specifically concerning Neville and Nagini.
Neville could see Amycus Carrow leaping on him. He grimly smiled thinking he could end this just like Nagini. The Sword of Gryffindor was hanging at his side and in one swift motion he drew it. As he swung it he changed his mind at the last second, turning his wrist so the flat side of the blade would strike. A loud 'thud' was heard as Amycus hit the floor his head still intact. Black cords as thick as his wrist wrapped themselves around the fallen Death Eater.
"Neville are you all right?" he heard Hannah ask as she approached.
""Fantastic. Are you OK? You were incredible" he replied as he hugged her. "That was brilliant distracting them."
"Thanks. We worked well together didn't we?" she asked looking into his eyes.
For Neville this was like an epiphany. Only six inches away were the bluest eyes he had ever seen. He saw Hannah pull him tighter and tilt her head back closing her eyes. 'I guess she wants me to kiss her' he thought as he too leaned forward pressing his lips against hers. Their kiss could have lasted seconds, minutes, or hours. To this day they could not answer that question. He broke the kiss asking her "Where have you been hiding all these years?"
"Right under your nose" she whispered as she reached up to kiss him again. They first met seven years ago during the sorting ceremony. The hat selected her to go to Hufflepuff and Neville to Gryffindor. Over the years they had classes together. One term it was Charms another it was Potions. They became friends fifth year when Dumbledore's Army was formed. Both she and Neville had some difficulties in the beginning but as they became more focused their confidence grew. Her feeling for him got stronger during sixth year but unfortunately he was too engrossed on his studies to notice her.
In Neville's case scene after scene flashed before his eyes too. Very early memories resurfaced of the times he went with his Gran to visit his parents. He was too young to understand why they did not come home. Only that they had to remain there in the big smelly white walled rooms. As he got older he learned why this was. It made him more determined to be successful so one day he could track down the ones responsible. When he entered Hogwarts all his insecurities began again. His four room mates were his best friends and helped him build his confidence. But it was the DA which gave him the opportunity to blossom both as a person and as a Wizard. He remembered spending time with all of them learning as much as Harry and the others could teach them. Hannah was there too, but he did not look at her the same way. Definitely not like right now.
Their romantic moment was broken by the sound of struggling. Alecto Carrow was awake and attempting to wriggle her way loose. "May I?" Neville asked.
"Please" Hannah replied after kissing him again. He pointed his wand and said 'Incarcerus'. Very thick black ropes, thicker even than the ones on her brother exploded out of his wand, wrapping her head to toe. The only thing showing was her nose and mouth.
"You bastards! As soon as I get free my brother and I are going to kill you!! And we will start with your Grandmother Longbottom!!!" she screeched.
Furious Hannah pointed her wand at the Death Eater. "Petrificus Totalis' she stated, causing Alecto to freeze solid. "Don't you dare talk to him that way! Neither of you are going to threaten our families ever again."
"Wow" said Neville as he pulled her close again. She was shaking she was so upset. "Hannah what is wrong? Are you mad about something? Did I do something wrong?"
Hannah responded by holding him as tightly as she could. "Neville I have wanted you to notice me for a long time" she told him, putting her head on his shoulder. He was only a couple inched taller, so they fit together perfectly. "There is nowhere else that I would rather be right now. To hear that bitch say she was going to hurt you or your family just reminded me of my Mother. You knew about that didn't you?"
"Yes. I am sorry to hear about her. When we have time I want to tell you about my parents" he replied.
"But Neville I thought you lost your parents. Isn't that what you say to everyone when they ask?"
"Yes. In some ways I have lost them. But there is more. Much more to say. But not here, and not in front of these two. I suspect Gran will be worried by now. We should get back." Neville waved his wand and the unconscious Death Eaters rose off the floor.
Hannah waved her wand and the mess was cleaned up including the water from 'putting out the fire'. The huge amount they shot at their enemies had extinguished it. She walked by the window and noticed the sun setting in the distance. "Yes it is getting late. The sun is going down. I am anxious to see Ginny and the rest of them. I can't wait to tell them the news."
"News? What news?" he asked.
"This news" she responded as she kissed him again. And again, causing Neville to run their prisoners headfirst into the wall.
"Oops" he said, not caring a bit about them. He was too busy doing things far more important. When he and Hannah were finished (temporarily they both hoped) he noticed the opening for the door and all four left.
Harry Potter leaned over next to his girlfriend. Like her he paused to say a prayer and remember the Headmaster. Many times this last year the Trio grew frustrated as their search took longer and longer. And when Ron left them after being brainwashed by the locket they had to wear so not to lose it was the worst time of all. In the end they prevailed with all four returning safe and sound.
Harry waited a few extra minutes for Ginny to finish with what she was doing. When she didn't move or say anything further he asked her "Ginny? Are you OK?"
"NO SHE IS NOT OK! NONE OF US ARE!!" he heard a voice behind him yell. Harry spun around, leaving his wand on the top of the white marble tomb. He had set it down to reach out to Ginny when he saw she wasn't moving. Not three feet away were Ginny's and Ron's older brothers Bill and Charlie. Bill worked at Gringotts Bank as a curse breaker and was married to Fleur Delacour who competed in the Tri Wizard tournament with Harry. Charlie trained dragons in Romania.
Bill opened his hand and Harry's wand flew across to him. "Well, well what do we have here? The great Harry Potter! Our savior!! But not all of us were saved were we?" he snarled as he leaned over him. Bill was almost a foot taller than Harry and quite a bit heavier. Years as a curse breaker had taken their toll, plus the scars on his face from the attack by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback made him very intimidating.
"Let's see just how strong you are without this!" his brother Charlie stated. He took Harry's wand from Bill and threw it as far as he could. Harry heard a faint plop telling him it landed somewhere in the Black Lake. He saw Charlie pull the wands belonging to Hermione, Ron, and Ginny from their pockets and place them in an inside pocket of his dragon hide coat. "They're in no position to be using these now. Maybe later we can give them back." Like Bill he towered over Harry every bit as much as Ron did, but with the 8 years of muscle packed on. His hands and arms were covered with burn marks and lacerations from the dragons he worked with on a daily basis.
"So tell us Harry just what were you doing all that time? Do you know how badly you hurt our sister when you dumped her?" Charlie hissed, his breath puffing out of him like the dragons he trained.
"But Charlie I had to do it! Voldemort would have killed her if he knew about us" Harry tried to explain.
"Knew what about you?" Bill asked as he lifted Harry off his feet with one hand. He was holding the front of his Weasley jumper and it ripped from Harry's weight, which wasn't much at this time. After spending a summer at the Burrow he 'blossomed' to maybe 140 pounds. Molly thought he was still too thin, but to Ginny he weighed exactly the right amount. But the months of inadequate food caused all three to lose probably close to 100 pounds, putting Harry at 120 if he just got out of the shower. With his clothes on.
"Now look what you did! You ruined the jumper our sister made for you!" yelled Bill.
"Bill he doesn't deserve this anyway!!" spit out Charlie. Savagely they ripped the jumper off Harry, throwing it onto the tomb next to their sister.
Ginny was beside herself listening to her brothers. Ever since she was born they were very protective of her. Time and again she had to prove herself tough enough to survive a house full of six brothers. Only at Quidditch did they treat her as an equal, and that was only in the last couple of years.
"Well would you look at that! Our hero's bleeding!" Bill joked noticing the blood stains on the shirt he had on under his Weasley jumper. The center of his chest had one long mark from dried blood which ran from his waist to his neck, and a second dessert-sized spot right in the center which was fresh.
The jumper which had almost hit Ginny's face lay just within reach. Her face was frozen looking down so she was forced to stare at the blood stains. She endlessly speculated what they were from. She knew they had changed clothes before returning to the Great Hall so they could only be from Harry. Part seemed still wet, meaning they were recent. With a shock she realized when he reached out to hug her she may have hurt him or reopened old wounds. A single tear ran slowly down her cheek.
"How can we expect you to be able to take care of our sister when you can't even stand up straight?" Charlie roared. Harry was partially leaning against him as waves of pain went through him from both wounds on his chest now being open. He felt himself picked up again and tossed to Bill who roughly caught him.
"Charlie I don't think he deserves her" he joked throwing Harry back in Bill's direction.
"Potter you are pathetic you know that!" Charlie responded as he stopped Harry's progress with one meaty hand.
Harry felt himself hanging in the air again. As each moment passed he felt weaker and weaker. For his size he was strong, but part of what made him such an excellent seeker was his diminutive size. Both he and his Father were short and thin with small bones. They excelled at being quick and maneuverable, especially on a broom. But in a fist fight, against grown men twice his size he was as helpless as a baby. Again he felt himself fly through the air only this time to land against something soft which gave way as he hit it.
"NOW LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID!!! YOU HURT OUR SISTER!!!" Charlie bellowed. Bill had moved so Harry would hit the ground. Instead he had collided with Ginny's frozen body, knocking her over onto one of the small phoenix statues he created when he repaired the Headmaster's tomb. She landed now on her side facing the Castle.
Ginny was horror struck at the scene before her. She initially faced away from everything so she had no idea how bad Harry was. He was lying in front of her, facing the sky. The front of his shirt was in tatters and she could now clearly see the blood her brothers were referring to. His face was badly bruised and his glasses were missing.
Maybe 15 feet away were Ron and Hermione. They too were not moving, their arms outstretched. Ginny guessed they were about to hug each other. Both of them seemed to be red faced, indicating attempting to try to break whatever curse was on them. She began to focus too, knowing that earlier Neville had broke free of Tom Riddle's attempt to burn him alive. Charlie leaned over her to grab Harry again, flipping him over to push his face near hers.
"DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU DID TO HER??? HER HEAD IS BLEEDING!!! THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU ARE GOING TO HURT HER!!!" Charlie roared. Ginny saw him grab Harry by the throat and hurl him away from her. She saw him land against Ron's legs, causing him to fall into Hermione.
"Did baby brother fall down?" teased Charlie as he reached for Harry's body again.
"It's not decent the way you are lying on top of her like that. Imagine what Mom would say" joked Bill as he pulled Ron off Hermione.
If this had not been so serious a situation Hermione might have laughed. Many, many times she fantasized about her and Ron wondering what it would be like to be with him. In this case it was anything but sexual. Her best friend Harry was helpless. She felt his blood hit her from one of the times he was thrown like a rag doll.
For Ron it was just as bad. Maybe worse knowing it was his family committing these heinous acts. In the walk up to the Headmaster's Office and every one since then Harry had moved slowly. Normally he was very quick and agile, so Ron knew he was in pain. They did not push him (at least he didn't yet) for what happened when he disappeared, and why he looked dead that morning. No, something bad had happened. And the beating he was taking at the hands of his brothers was making things worse. If he could not find a way to stop this they might accidentally kill him.
* * *
Hagrid the Half Giant slowly walked around the Castle. Hogwarts was his home, and had been for 60 years. He kicked a stone about the size of a small boulder, causing it to fly 100 feet and land near the greenhouses. The stampeding Giants had walked right through them, destroying most of the precious plants. Fire consumed the remainder causing him to shudder. Several students died here, and he smelled their charred flesh as he went past. In the distance he saw what was left of his home. It too had been set on fire and little remained.
Something big was moving near it and he quickened his pace. 'It must be Grawpy' he thought. Grawp was Hagrid's half Brother. He was a Giant, but at 16 feet tall he was dwarfed by regular sized ones. He was battered and beaten by them and left for dead. But he knew himself the recuperative powers all Giants had, so he was not surprised that Grawp was up and moving.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement near the Headmaster's marble tomb. Not knowing who it was he thought someone else might be desecrating the Headmaster's body. He changed direction to see who this might be, balling up one fist as he hastened. Then Professor Dumbledore had taken him in when Tom Riddle accused him of opening the Chamber of Secrets close to 60 years ago when they were both students. They broke his wand but not his spirit. He was hired to be the groundskeeper allowing him to remain. Secretly he continued his studies but was not allowed to take any tests to prove the skills and knowledge he had learned.
As he grew closer what he saw puzzled him. Two men appeared to be arguing with a child. Roughly he was passed between them, at one point violently thrown knocking several others over. "Death Eaters! It has to be Death Eaters!! And they have a student they must have captured! I bet he's a first year, look how little he is!!" Hagrid began to run now, forgetting that his 'big brother', who was actually only half his age but almost twice his size, was nearby to help.
Hagrid slowed a little trying to catch his breath. He was a very large and heavy man and never very good at long distance running. Normally his long strides caused whoever was with him to have to run to keep up. Less than a day ago when he was forced to walk carrying Harry's body he had to almost be dragged forward he was so reluctant.
"Oi!! Stop what you're doing there!!" he attempted to yell but only whispers came out. He was closer now but maybe 50 yards away and they didn't seem to be aware of him. He decided not to say anything again and try to surprise them.
Ginny felt blood trickling over her nose from where her forehead had struck the small statue. A piece of it was lying near her left hand and she saw her blood on it. 'They always told me I had a hard head' she thought to herself. In the distance she thought she saw someone coming. 'Finally they sent someone to check up on us! But why were her brothers here? To make sure nothing happened, or to hurt Harry?' Before going to look for him she heard George crying, blaming Harry not Voldemort for Fred's death. Angelina Johnson And Fleur Weasley stood up for Harry but her other brothers did not. Much whispering took place after that and she was too tired to try and listen. 'Oh my God they must have planned this!! Wait until we are alone then attack Harry!!! Do they want to kill him, or beat him up so bad he will leave us??? I couldn't live with myself if that happened!!!!' Ginny began to struggle harder to break free. She felt her hand close around the piece of the statue.
Ron and Hermione now lay side by side facing the sky. Both their faces were contorted in their attempt to break whatever curse was used. 'I bet this is from Bill. Something he learned in Egypt' Ron wondered. The feeling was returning to his body, but not enough for him to get up and help Harry.
Hermione speculated too on who's curse it was. She guessed Charlie thinking it was a modified spell used to keep dragons quiet for travel. She focused on that, and felt her hand move. Ron's was nearby and she slowly slid it until she could touch him. She held his hand as tightly as she could and was relieved to feel him squeeze her hand in reply.
Hagrid was now almost on top of the action. He saw the two large men pick up the child but the wrists and ankles and fling him in the direction of the tomb. "Let's toss him on top. When they find his body it will be here with his Teacher" one of them said in a voice Hagrid thought he knew but because their backs were to him he couldn't be sure. The small body flew through the air but because of the blood on their hands it slipped causing it instead to strike a corner. The sickly sound on bones breaking was heard. It seemed to echo across the lake and the nearby forest.
"Oii!! What's going on here??" Hagrid bellowed. Startled the two attackers turned to see a huffing Hagrid two steps away. "Bill Weasley? Charlie?? What are you two doing picking on poor defenseless students??"
"Keep out of this Hagrid if you know what's good for you" Bill menacingly responded.
"We are having a family discussion" Charlie added trying to block Hagrid's view. But it was too late. Since he was taller Hagrid could see everything. Ron and Hermione lying face up not moving. Ginny near the Headmaster's tomb with blood running down her face. And Harry. His body was wrapped around the end of the white tomb at an impossible angle. Hagrid's face turned purple he was so mad. He struck Charlie first, hitting him in the chest so hard he was knocked off his feet. Bill was next and was knocked in the opposite direction.
Energy surged through Ron as he sat up. He helped pull Hermione to her feet and then launched himself at Charlie who was trying to get up. They rolled over and over in the grass, down the slope near the water. They broke apart and stood, their chests heaving. Charlie now had a huge bruise on his chest from where Hagrid had struck him, and his face also had bruises from Ron's punches.
Ron too was bleeding. Quickly he pulled the Weasley jumper off, thinking it would only be in his way. They began to circle each other, looking for an opportunity. "Not too bad little brother. Can you take it as well as you can dish it out?" Charlie asked Ron as he rubbed his chin.
"Bring it" Ron said stepping closer. He had no idea what came over his brothers but he was determined to stop them. He staggered back after Charlie hit him quickly with his right, connecting with Ron's nose.
"Not too bad yourself" Ron replied. He smiled at his brother as he wiped the blood on his sleeve. He swung his left fist as hard as possible, hitting Charlie in the nose. He felt the cartilage snap as Charlie's head snapped back.
Hermione was leaning against a small tree watching her boyfriend and his brother battle. They were the same height but Charlie had the advantage of weight and experience. Plus all the infrequent meals resulted in Ron not being as strong as he might. Ron was trading blow for blow but he was losing ground. Each time he was hit he stepped back a little further. Hermione knew it was just a question of time before Ron ran out of energy. Charlie's stamina would help him win the day. He was smiling as he hit Ron again and again. She pushed herself away from the tree and stumbled forward. The curse was still affecting her some as she felt herself wobble from side to side. She leaped at Charlie trying to distract him. The sand beneath her feet shifted and she fell at his feet, so she tried to hold onto his leg.
"What the Hell!! So this is how your girl helps?" Charlie wondered. He continued to move dragging Hermione who refused to release him. "OWWW!!!" he screamed as he felt her bite him through his jeans. This made him stop his assault on Ron. He bent down and began to punch her so she would let go.
Hermione felt bones breaking in her right arm and shoulder but she refused to give up. Charlie began striking her head and she felt her cheek and nose break. The pain became so intense she crumbled onto the sand curling up into a ball. Charlie kicked her one final time before turning to face Ron. "LET'S FINISH THIS" he yelled. Those were the last words he remembered speaking for a while as Ron, infuriated at his girlfriend being battered by his brother, hit Charlie in the forehead as hard as he could. Charlie Weasley left his feet and landed flat on his back unconscious. Ron reached into his brother's coat pocket and grabbed the three wands. He held his and Hermione's in his unbroken hand and yelled "INCARCERUS". Red and brown ropes came out of both their wands binding Charlie securely.
"Hermione?" he whispered as he fell to his knees next to her, too exhausted to stand. She had saved him distracting Charlie long enough for Ron to catch his breath. Hermione Granger was lying on her right side. The left half of her face was turning purple under all the blood. Her left arm hung limp with bones peeking through the now ripped Weasley jumper. "Please don't let me mess this up" he said through the tears. He waved his and her wands over her muttering the same spells she used after he was splinched escaping from the Ministry. Her eyes fluttered open and one side of her mouth moved. Ron leaned over placing his ear against her lips. "Love you" she barely spoke before her eyes rolled back into her head and she passed out again.
Ron did not know what else to do. Sounds of fighting drifted towards him but he could not abandon Hermione. His jumper was within reach so he covered her up and as gently as he could he slid his arms under her and lifted. She moaned but managed to slide her good hand inside the rip in the front of his shirt. He felt her grip the material tightly, her nails digging into his chest. He ignored the pain as he carefully climbed the embankment with his brother's body floating alongside.
* * *
From Ginny's position lying against the tomb she could see some of the fighting. Ron and Charlie were rolling over and over attempting to hit each other. They disappeared as the ground dropped near the water. Hermione half walked/half crawled after them, using a tree to pull herself up. Ginny saw her fall towards the water too. Momentarily the noises stopped until she heard "What the Hell!! So this is how your girl helps?" Ginny saw a huge fist superimposed against the clear water of the lake and then fall. Over and over her brother did this. Hermione's screams sent chills down her spine. This last year unfortunately she heard bones being broken in 'Defense' class, so she knew Hermione was in terrible pain.
A surge of energy swept through her as she managed to sit up. To her right were Harry's legs but the rest of him was wrapped around the other side of the marble tomb. "Oh my God his back has to be broken" she muttered as she slid herself towards him. Her progress was halted by her brother Bill. Hagrid had hit him causing him to fall backwards onto her but he kept getting up for more, making the back of her head smack the tomb causing her to see stars. When Ginny was able to see again she saw somehow Bill had knocked Hagrid off his feet and was sitting on his chest pounding mercilessly on his face. Ginny stood picking up the head of the statue which had broken and brought it down on Bill as hard as she could. "I'm sorry Fleur" she said as he collapsed onto Hagrid. Ginny kicked him out of the way to get a better look at Hagrid. His face and neck was yellow and purple from Bill's blows but at least he was breathing.
"Hagrid we have to help Harry. Can you stand?" hoped Ginny. She knew Hagrid would have no trouble carrying Harry back to the Castle. Not even 12 hours ago he had done this. At the time they all thought Harry was dead in his arms.
"Give me a minute" he replied as he tried to sit up. He slumped back his face turning white.
Ginny crawled past him to look at Harry. Once she made her way to the other side of the Headmaster's tomb she stopped. The top half of his body was facing up, seeming to be looking at the full moon which was now rising above the Castle. But his lower half was on his side wedged against the remains of the phoenix statue. With all her strength Ginny pushed the statue aside, allowing the rest of Harry's body to lay right. As gently as she could she straightened him so both halves lay flat. She tried to brush his long black hair out of his eyes. "Harry? Harry can you hear me??" she called. He did not respond but she saw his chest slowly rising and falling indicating he was breathing and alive. Tears ran down her cheeks hitting his face. His unseeing eyes moved to find Ginny's. "Oh Harry!! Can you talk?"
"U OK?" barely came out of his mouth.
"Sweetheart don't worry about me right now. Can you feel anything?" she wondered. His clothes were covered in blood and the front of his shirt was still wet, so she knew the bleeding had not stopped.
"Shouldn't have come back. It was peaceful there" she heard him say.
"What Harry? But if you wouldn't have come back then Riddle would have won. We'd all be dead right now" Ginny replied.
"No Ginny" he answered his voice getting cleared but weaker. "I had to make a choice. You wouldn't be hurt if I had left and not come back."
"But Harry you killed Tom. Yes we lost Fred, and Remus, Tonks, and many others but you stopped him." Ginny felt a shadow pass over and looked up. Ron was holding Hermione in his arms. Like Harry they were both covered in blood.
"Ginny's right Harry. We are all going to get fixed up and celebrate Tom's gone. Then both you and I are going to take our girls 'out on the town' as the muggles say. How does that sound mate?" Ron asked.
Harry attempted to smile but what came out was a grimace instead. Horror struck his friends listened to what he thought were his final words. "Ginny I am sorry I got you hurt. All of you. It wasn't supposed to be this way. It should have been me. Just me and Tom. I got all of you involved and I was wrong. Ron please look after both our girls for me. Ginny I love you ... " Harry's breathing stopped and his head fell to the side.
"No !!!!!!" Ginny screamed, thinking she had lost him for the second time in less than a day. "CAN SOMEBODY HELP US???" she wailed as she leaned on the white marble tomb for support. Her hand brushed against the image emblazoned on the side and with a flash Fawkes appeared. She began to sing, her voice sounding like a hundred member choir. But the three she was trying to help continued to look down at Harry's body. She leaned over and let her tears fall. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight times she did this letting them land on Harry's scar. Time seemed to stand still until Harry began coughing.
"OH HARRY YOU'RE BACK. FAWKES THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!" yelled Ginny. "Harry can you hear me? Harry???" Ginny asked afraid to touch him. He just laid there looking out, like he was there but he wasn't.
"I'm sorry Hermione what?" Ron wondered. She was trying to talk but couldn't get the right words out.
"Fawkes take Harry" came out clearer before her body slumped in Ron's arms again.
"I am so stupid !! Ginny remember the Chamber? Fawkes carried all of us to safety! " Ron exclaimed. Before he could ask Fawkes began to sing again. The first song was designed to comfort them, but this one was the same but different.
"Thank you" Ginny told her. Fawkes jumped down from the top of the tomb she was using for her perch and landed on Ginny's shoulder, nestling against Ginny's neck. Ginny touched Harry's pant leg in the only spot not covered in blood with one hand and placed her other on Ron's shoe. He looked like he was about to fall over so this would have to do. "Hagrid we will send Fawkes back as quickly as we can."
"You kids don't worry" he replied. He was standing in between Ginny's bound brothers holding the broken statue in his massive hand. "They won't be any trouble. Get yourselves taken care of first."
"Thanks Hagrid. For everything" Ron responded before he felt himself apparate.
Things were beginning to quiet down in the Hospital wing of Hogwarts. Only a small number of patients remained. Any well enough to travel had left with their Families. This meant maybe a dozen or so had one or two more nights left. Sitting at her desk Madam 'Poppy' Pomprey had a view of the Black Lake and the Headmaster's tomb. It was a cruel joke they played on her having to stare at the monument to him every day. She could not have saved him - he was dead before his body hit the ground from the killing curse.
In the distance she saw flashes of light and thought no more about it. The sunlight reflected off the white marble this time of day. She did not notice this time the white was followed by a multi colored flash. She left her office one final time to double check her patients before turning in herself. In her pocket she felt the calming draught she had prescribed for herself which she planned on taking as soon as she reached her quarters. An extra bed was kept shrunken inside her desk in case she didn't have the energy to return to her room, and early this morning she made use of it.
Finishing her walk to check on her patients (she found four of them improved more than she thought and authorized releasing them) she headed back into her Office for the book she began reading last week before going to bed. She thought she heard voices but when she entered she saw no one. Just as she went to leave she heard them again.
"Ginny do you have any idea where we are?"
"No I don't Ron. Fawkes would not have brought us here if this wasn't the right place."
"Ginny? Ginny Weasley is that you?" she asked in the direction of the space between her two windows.
"Poppy?? Oh thank GOD. Where are you? We need your help!" Ginny replied.
"Keep talking and I will try to find you." Poppy began inching her way past her desk in the direction of the windows. She wondered if someone had transfigured her Office, taking out a wall so she would fall out if she stepped too far.
"Oh Poppy it was horrible!! We were attacked at the Headmaster's tomb! Harry had just repaired it and now he is badly hurt!!"
"Madam Pomprey Hermione is too. Please help her!!" Ron added.
"I'm sorry but I can't find you" she stated now wondering if this was a Weasley prank. Their older brothers Fred and George used to pull all sorts of things before they left school, making a name for themselves before doing so.
"Ron what can we do? I can't leave Harry!!"
"Poppy keep talking if you can. We are in a large room which looks like the Hospital but it is empty" Ron instructed.
"Very well" she said, growing more unsure as time passed. She knew every square inch of this place having been here for over 40 years. There was no other room they could be in. Her Office was only big enough for 8 unless a room extension charm had been used ... "As you all know the Battle ended in the morning. Harry Potter killed Voldemort and most of his Death Eaters were captured. A few have fled, but Minister Shacklebolt is confident they will be caught. Any unauthorized port keys can be traced. A few of the dead are waiting to be claimed. Your Brother Fred will be taken by your parents when all of you can travel together."
"Poppy I am not going anywhere with anyone named Weasley right now" she heard Ron firmly reply.
"Why not?? What happened?" she asked as she thought she saw something. A door was slowly appearing in the space between the two windows, which was ridiculous because it was a wall between two windows. Silently it open inwards and Poppy was shocked at what she saw. Ron Weasley was covered in blood much like the night before. This time he was holding Hermione Granger who was wrapped in what looked like one of the jumpers Molly Weasley used to make.
"Ron can you set her down somewhere so I can look at her?' Poppy requested, now ashamed for doubting them. Behind Ron a bed appeared which he laid her down in.
"No. Harry first" Poppy heard her whisper.
"I don't think so young lady. I will be the judge of who goes first. And you Mr. Weasley will follow her" Poppy insisted. She got easily offended in her Infirmary when patients tried to tell her how to do her job.
"No Poppy. Hermione's right. Harry needs your help first" Ron firmly told her placing his hand on her wand preventing her from examining Hermione.
"Poppy?? Over here please?" she heard a voice ask. From her experience she knew it was someone who was on the verge of tears, fighting not to lose control.
"All right, all right. Now what has our Mr. Potter gotten himself into this time?" she asked as she stepped around Ron. Inside the room were two beds with a curtain in between. "Miss Weasley if you could please tell me what ... ?" was all Poppy got out as she stepped around the partition. Ginny was kneeling on the floor facing her, her face covered in dried blood. Poppy surmised her head was hurt in at least two places. All down the front of her clothes were blood stains.
Lying on the bed in front of her was Harry. His face was different shades of purple, green, and yellow. His glasses were gone and round cuts circled his eyes. His shirt was solid red from all the blood he had lost, and his pants were half ripped off him. Every bit of skin she could see either had fresh blood or that which was dried on. Poppy did something she had never done before. She fainted.
Seconds later Poppy awoke to more voices. They were talking wondering where else to go. "Sorry. I've never seen so much death and destruction" she said as she sat up. Surrounding her were Ginny, Ron (who was back to holding Hermione again) and Hagrid. Some ways behind him she saw two more bodies lying on the floor.
"Prisoners. Don't worry about them Poppy. Mr. Potter and Miss Granger need our help now" Hagrid stated. He too had looked better but she knew how quickly Giants healed.
Poppy nodded and began to wave her wand over Harry. In the back of her mind she could hear Ginny and Ron explaining what had happened to Harry, but most of it was lost on her as she focused her magic trying to decide where to start. At least half his bones were broken including his back in three places. He had lost a lot of blood also. Her wand told her he had malnourished, but that was obvious. "A few weeks at the Burrow will be good. Molly will fatten him up."
"No Poppy. We do not want anyone to know about this, especially our parents" Ron firmly instructed.
"But Ron they are your parents" she tried to reason as she began to mutter spells.
"Poppy we need you to promise" she heard Hermione say.
"When I am finished with Mr. Potter we can talk" she responded. Her magic didn't seem to be affecting him. It was almost like he was refusing her help.
"Ginny did you do anything to try and help him?" Poppy questioned. She was getting very frustrated feeling his life slipping away.
"No Poppy I didn't. My wand was taken from me. Ron gave it back about 10 minutes ago. Why?" Ginny asked, afraid of the answer.
"Because your Harry Potter isn't allowing it!! Somehow he is blocking my spells, preventing me helping him" she stated.
Ginny realized what Harry was doing. She waved her wand over him and a white glow appeared. "He has raised a shield around himself. Kind of like the 'Protego' Charm. But this one is draining his life. If we can't break through to him we will lose him! Harry? Harry you must listen to me!! We are at Hogwarts in a special Room, kind of like the Room of Requirement. Fawkes has brought us here. Madam Pomprey wants to help you but you have to let her. Please Harry" she said as she brushed his hair aside again. The white glow spread up her arm and covered her body now too. She described it later as a 'warm, fuzzy feeling. Like when you are with the one you love'. "Poppy try it now."
The Healer's wand was waved again, this time with better results. The next two hours were spent with Poppy using spell after spell on Harry. Since he was unconscious she could not give him Skelegrow or other potions to help heal him, so she was forced to use various spells and Charms.
Finally Poppy took a break. A large chair appeared for her which she settled into. "Now if you please I need to know more about what happened and why you insist your parents not be told" she said.
Ginny thought hard about what to say. And for that matter who to say it too. She knew she and Ron needed help but were unsure who to trust. She let go of Harry for a minute and was pleased to see his color better. It was difficult to tell when they were touching. Everything looked different. She went over to find Ron sitting next to Hermione's bed holding her good hand in his. "Ron we need to trust someone. Hagrid will keep this quiet but I don't know who else we can confide in."
"Kingsley and Minerva" he responded. "We were talking a minute ago. They have to investigate this. We can't since it is our Family, and we don't know if they are all involved at this point. Better to keep them all away until we know it's safe."
"I agree. And three others. Neville and Luna. They can use the DA to keep unwanted people away. And lastly Kreacher" Ginny added.
Hearing his name the old Elf appeared. "Yes Mistress Ginny you ... " Kreacher stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of them.
"Kreacher the four of us were attacked. We caught the ones who did this but don't know who else might be involved. Can you help us please?" Ginny asked.
"Please tell Kreacher what needs to be done" he replied.
"We are in a special room inside Hogwarts. Fawkes the phoenix brought us here. There is a doorway from Madam Pomprey's Office. We are going to have to guard this to make sure no one enters without permission. Hermione, Ginny, Hagrid, and I are the only ones allowed in unescorted. And Madam Pomprey of course.
Please bring the Minister and the Headmistress up here, along with Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood. Only tell them they are needed here. Do not tell anyone else, especially our parents. Right now we do not know who to trust. When you return with those four we will explain as well as we can what happened and you will understand why we are saying this" Ron instructed.
"Please Kreacher" he heard Hermione try to whisper.
"Mistress Granger Kreacher will do as you ask. But where is Master Harry?"
Ginny nodded to Hermione and Ron and left holding Kreacher's hand. She felt his hand grip hers tighter than she thought he could as he looked at Harry. Much of the dried blood had been cleaned up but he still looked terrible. Ginny felt Kreacher kiss her hand and say "Kreacher will return as quickly as he can." With a faint 'pop' he was gone.
"And now Ginny we need to continue, then I will spend some time with Miss Granger" Poppy said. The chair had transfigured itself so it allowed her to float above Harry saving her strength. Ginny placed her hand on Harry's this time and the white glow spread across her again.
* * *
"The 'short' meeting lasted much longer than anticipated. Once the frustration on Molly Weasley's part was dealt with they continued to discuss things involving the Castle and the Ministry. It was unclear how well Hogwarts was at this much Dark Magic having been used against her and the students, so much help might be required.
The Ministry was a different story. Once Pius Thickness became Minister he brought in many people to replace the existing staff. Some were sent to Azkaban Prison and others left. Most of the Aurors who were loyal to Kingsley were killed leaving very few. Percy Weasley promised to work diligently beside the Minister and his Father who was promoted to the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Arthur had the basic training many years ago just as every Ministry employee did, but his sense of right and wrong was more important now. The same for Percy. They would be there for Kingsley.
Molly agreed to help supervise the clean up and repair of the Castle. As a Mom she knew how to clean up after a 'tornado' came through, which is the way she used to joke about her Family sometimes. Especially when Harry and Hermione were staying there too and everyone was there for Sunday Night Dinners.
The feeling of dread which Molly felt at the start of the Meeting did not go away during it. Patiently she waited for the Meeting to end confident that her two oldest, who she had seen leaving the Great Hall shortly after the 'kids' left would keep an eye on them. Since she did not wear a watch and felt it would be impolite to keep asking Arthur for his as she waited. 'I'm sure the kids will want to help here. And to be with their friends. This way I can look after them, and at night we will return to the Burrow. They can bunk just like old times, with Harry and Ron in his room and Ginny and Hermione in hers'. In Molly's eyes they were still children, and since she did not know what each had gone through this last year she did not realize how much all four had matured. Especially in their relationships which she felt they were too young to have.
Finally the Meeting ended with a toast to all those lost. A memorial of some kind will be constructed that summer listing all those gone. Both Wizarding Wars would be included. Arthur Weasley wondered how Harry might react to it. Earlier he and Molly had convinced him to stop blaming himself for the decades long struggle against Tom Riddle. Arthur hoped this would not be a setback.
Minerva waved her wand and the Conference Room door unsealed itself. The sound of hundreds of people talking at once was heard. "I guess Augusta must have given them something to discuss" she said as she opened the door. Everyone was clustered in the center of the room which grew quieter when they approached.
"Minerva! Glad to see your Meeting is over. Well we have a surprise for you" Augusta told them. The crowd parted and standing in the center were Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott holding hands. At their feet were two bound figures. Both were encased in thick black ropes. One of them had a Gryffindor scarf wrapped around its face preventing it from speaking and the other had a similar one only in Hufflepuff's colors.
"Err umm while you were talking we began searching the halls and rooms nearest the Great Hall" Neville began stammering. He felt Hannah squeeze his hand tighter.
"We smelled something coming out of the 'Defense' classroom so we went in to investigate. A magical fire was burning which of course didn't start itself so we knew someone else was in there" Hannah stated.
"Hannah was fantastic! She figured out where both of them had disillusioned themselves. It only took a moment to capture them" Neville replied.
"Neville you were amazing too! Just like outside with Nagini" Hannah said as she kissed him again.
"Not to interrupt, but can you please tell us who you have here?" Kingsley wondered. He had waved his wand but it didn't reveal anything more than they were Death Eaters.
"Sorry" Neville mumbled as they both blushed much to everyone's amusement. They waved their wands and the two scarves unwrapped themselves revealing Alecto and Amycus Carrow who immediately began cursing again.
"Now you see why we did this" Hannah replied making both scarves stuff themselves into their mouths this time.
"But how did they escape? We left them in the Ravenclaw Common Room bound and inside a net" replied Minerva.
"With this." Neville handed her a wicked looking blade. "He must of had this on himself somewhere. He attacked me with it but I stopped him." Neville had his hand on the Sword of Gryffindor as he spoke.
"And his sister had this" Hannah added holding out a wand. "I'm not sure but I think it's .. "
"Fred's." Everyone turned to see George Weasley approach. He took the wand from Hannah and gave her a hug then walked back away with Angelina Johnson.
"Good work you two. I can see two Aurors in the making" Kingsley half seriously said as applause erupted. Hannah and Neville were blushing again.
Kreacher apparated into the Conference Room from the special room near the Hospital. He found the meeting had concluded, which gave him a minute to determine how to approach the four he was asked to talk to. He hoped to avoid the Weasleys since he was instructed not to say anything. His attention was drawn to the hall when he heard applauding and congratulating happening. He wandered up to the group and asked "Are we having a Party? What would you like the House Elves to serve?"
"Only a small party Kreacher. My Grandson and his girlfriend just captured 2 Death Eaters" Augusta Longbottom proudly proclaimed. The crowd began to move back to their respective tables and Kreacher was able to see two bound figures like he saw upstairs.
"Kreacher is impressed Master Longbottom and Mistress Abbott. Those two hurt many, many students this year." Thinking fast he got an idea. "Minister it is important we send every Death Eater to Azkaban Prison. If you and the Headmistress have a few minutes he would like to discuss what he has seen. Kreacher also asks Master Longbottom and Mistress Lovegood to be present."
"Neville you go ahead. I'll watch our 'playmates' until you get back" Hannah told him.
"I'll try not to be gone too long" he replied as he kissed her. They ignored all the comments made by their fellow students.
"Don't listen to them. They are just jealous" Kreacher told the astounded couple. "Headmistress is your Conference Room available? Kreacher wishes to discuss this in private before he forgets."
"Of course" replied the Headmistress. She was flabbergasted by Kreacher's behavior. While he was still answering to people it was like he was giving orders too. "Kingsley and I will join you shortly." They took Augusta Longbottom aside to inquire about the current state of things, and to say that the House Elf's actions made them curious what he really wanted to talk about. And that he did not feel uncomfortable expressing himself.
Luna was observing Kreacher as they waited. "I can tell something is bothering you. Have you found any stray nargles?"
"Mistress Lovegood Kreacher wishes it was as simple as that. He is very worried right now" he replied.
Neville grew concerned at Kreacher's reply. Before he could question him further Kingsley and Minerva arrived. "Let's all sit shall we? Kreacher what is troubling you?" Minerva asked.
"Headmistress Kreacher was told to bring the four of you to another place in the Castle" he responded.
"Very well" replied Kingsley as he took the House Elf's outstretched hand along with Minerva, Luna, and Neville. With a 'pop' they disappeared only to find themselves in a very large windowless white room. In the foreground was a round table with 10 chairs. Hagrid was seated in one of them. Directly behind him was a curtained off area. The voice of Poppy could be heard uttering spells.
"Kreacher where are we? This looks like the Room of Requirement" wondered Neville.
"Master Longbottom you are partially right. Kreacher is not sure how Hogwarts created another room similar to the Room of Requirement. In this case it is located just off Madam Pomprey's Office and is designed to be another Hospital. But one with very restricted access."
"Kreacher who is this for? And why was it necessary to do this?" Kingsley asked.
"Because we asked for help and were brought here. Please sit down and we will be with you shortly" they heard Ginny reply from the other side of the white curtains.
Minerva studied Hagrid as she sat. His face and neck were covered in bruises and the tunic he liked to wear was torn and blood splattered. She guessed it was quite recent since she knew how fast giants healed. His calm demeanor contrasted with Kreacher who was alongside. His chair was raised to be more even with the others just like Hagrid's was modified for his size. The biggest difference was how he was having trouble controlling his emotions. As his face kept changing she realized he was punching his leg to punish himself. 'Was it something he did? Or failed to do?' she pondered.
"Kreacher thank you for bringing us here. I know this must be difficult for you under the circumstances" Luna told him. She had placed her hand over his to prevent him from striking himself further.
"Mistress Lovegood Kreacher has to punish himself. We would not be sitting in this room if he had done his job!" he wailed.
"No Kreacher. Don't let anyone ever tell you it's wrong to care and to be worried" they heard Ron say. Everyone gulped when they saw him. He had refused Poppy's help until Harry and Hermione were taken care of. The bruises he received from his brother Charlie were darkening and one eye had closed from all the swelling. A mixture of blood, grass, and sand covered both sides of his clothes. His left hand was swelled twice its normal size and he winced as he sat. They were too stunned to ask what happened.
"Kreacher I need you to promise me never to injure yourself ever again! We have enough people hurt already." This time it was Ginny coming out from behind the other curtain. Dried blood was on her face and in her hair. Dirt and grass stains covered her clothes and her hands were blood stained. A white shimmer covered her which gradually faded as she sat next to Ron.
"But Mistress Ginny ... "
"No Kreacher. Please listen to us. If you are hurt you can't help us" Ron added.
Ginny waited for Kreacher to calm himself. "As you all know several hours ago the four of us left together. Harry needed to do one final thing for the Headmaster. Tom Riddle had stolen his wand and Harry promised to return it."
"Is that whose it was? We didn't understand hardly anything said. Almost nothing from Voldemort and Harry would change between English and Parselmouth" said Neville.
"Yes Voldemort was afraid of the Headmaster. Maybe he thought if he took his wand it might help him beat Harry?" speculated Minerva.
"Good thing we will never know. Once Harry put it back he sealed the tomb. We stopped to thank the Professor for everything but when we tried to move we couldn't. Someone had cursed us" Ron told them.
"I could not see anything as I was facing his tomb. Behind me I heard them beating Harry. I was knocked over and they shoved him in my face! He looked horrible!!" Ginny bent over putting her face in her hands. Luna put her hand on her shoulder but she pulled it back when she saw Ginny flinch and pull away.
"Hermione and I were several feet away and facing each other. As Harry was thrown back and forth between them we could get a glimpse of him. My best mate was being beaten to Death and we couldn't stop it!!!" Ron yelled.
"I was headed to my house, or what was left of it when I saw something. I got there as quickly as I possible. I think I broke both my hands on their hard heads" Hagrid added.
"On whose head Hagrid? Did you catch them?" questioned Kingsley. In their meeting they had expressed concerns some Death Eaters were nearby.
Ron ignored the question as he continued. "Hagrid broke their concentration so Hermione and I got free. I jumped on one of them and we fought. Hermione saw I was losing and tried to help. She is lying in the bed behind me badly hurt."
"And Harry? What about him?" whispered Luna. She, Ginny, and Hermione had attacked Bellatrix Lestrange after she taunted Ginny about how Harry was dead.
"The other one I fought. He was getting the better of me until Miss Ginny interrupted. Didn't know you were so strong. That statue must have weighed 100 pounds" Hagrid stated.
"Harry is very badly hurt too. Because of what happened to us and who did it we need you to promise to keep this quiet. To be honest we don't know who to trust" Ginny said as she looked one by one at each of them.
"I think I can promise for everyone we will not discuss this. You say you caught them? Are they here?" Kingsley asked.
"Yes. We want you to question them. Did they act alone or are more involved in my biggest worry" Ron explained. "But first we want you to see what they have done." Ron rose to lead them around the white curtain.
* * *
Molly Weasley was pacing. The sun was almost gone and still no signs of 'her kids'. "Arthur I think this has something to do with Dumbledore. I am going there to look for them. I can't wait any longer. Something says horrible things have happened."
"Very well Molly. Percy can you come with us please?" he asked his third oldest Son. He reluctantly followed his parents after being assured by Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson they would remain with his brother George. It took about 15 minutes to make their way out of the Castle and around all the debris.
"Careful Dad. Something bad has happened here" Percy said as he saw what looked like blood.
"As quick as you can get back to the Castle Percy. Try to find Kingsley or some Aurors" his Father commanded. His son took off to run back to the Great Hall.
"Molly stay here. We don't want to mess up anything" he told her as he held her back from charging up there.
"ARTHUR WEASLEY LET ME GO !!! " she bellowed.
"Molly we don't know if this has anything to do with them. For all we know they may be in the Gryffindor Common Room drinking hot cocoa right now" he firmly told his struggling wife. He thought he heard the sound of wind rushing and thankfully he saw on broomsticks Percy and Hestia Jones, who was an Auror. Percy landed by his parents and Hestia continued on, flying slowly back and forth over the scene. After about 5 minutes she returned to them and landed.
"Several fights took place here within the last few hours. One took place on the beach involving three people. A second one was near us. Two people one of which was very large. Hagrid maybe? The third one was at the far end of the tomb. The most blood was spilled there. I did find one piece of clothing. Can any of you identify this?"
In Hestia's hand was a piece of a woven garment. Arthur recognized it as one his wife probably made. Molly knew this too, and who it belonged too. There was no mistaking the love and caring put into how well this was made. Her daughter had done this for the boy she loved.
Arthur caught Molly as she fainted. He handed her to Percy who was already astride his broom and he hopped on behind Hestia as they took off. Their first stop was going to be the infirmary. Percy did not fly as fast as he wanted to but it was much quicker than running. The entered through the Main Doors and shot past people who were waving at them wondering what happened. He landed in the Hospital wing and gently laid his Mother in an unoccupied bed. His Father was already there since they could move much quicker. Hestia had left in search of Kingsley.
"I'll see if Poppy is in her Office" Percy told his Father as he ran to the far end. To his surprise Poppy was not there. He thought he heard voices but since he didn't see anyone he believed it must be the echoes from the people in the beds.
"Father she isn't here" he told his anxious Father.
"I believe she left earlier for the day. She took a very powerful sleeping draught too" another healer stated. "I work in St. Mungos. Poppy is my older sister. You can call me Daisy. Our parents didn't have much imagination" she joked. "Now please tell me what happened. Did she fall and hurt herself?"
"No. My wife fainted. Has anyone been brought in say in the last two or three hours?" Arthur wondered.
"Just a couple of students. First years who hid before the fighting started. Are you looking for anyone specific?" she asked.
"No. Well actually our kids Ginny and Ron. Have you seen them?" he asked afraid of the answer.
"Not a Weasley to be seen except for you two" she laughed. "I bet they are hiding out somewhere. A bit of privacy you know" she attempted to joke.
"Please keep an eye on her. I need to look for them" he responded too worried to laugh at her humor. He hastened out to search the entire Castle if necessary.
Daisy felt bad at trying to joke at a time like that. She checked Molly and found her to be near exhaustion so she guessed it would be at least a couple of hours before she awoke. Daisy settled down with a book to read while the remaining patients slept.
* * *
Ron held his hand up indicating for them to wait before following him. He tip toed around the white curtain and then waved for them to come. What they saw was Hermione lying on her back in bed. Her left side was covered with a pink salve from her face to her ankle. Both eyes had swelled shut. "Ron is that you" she whispered.
"Yes sweetheart it is" he replied. He took a glass with a straw and held it to her lips letting her try to sip on it. She took a small amount and asked "Did Kreacher find them?"
"Mistress Granger Kreacher did. All are here for you and Master Harry."
"We are trusting you to do the right thing" Hermione said as her breathing deepened again.
"Sleeping draughts. Poppy doesn't want her moving. Her arm, shoulder and face have broken bones. Her side and leg has bruises so this will help her to recover quicker" Ron told them.
"How long?" was all a shocked Minister could ask.
"Until she gets out? Three days give or take" he replied.
"And what about you Ron? That has to hurt" Neville inquired.
Ron shrugged his shoulders. Yes every part of him hurt but it was nothing compared to the damage Hermione and Harry had suffered. He looked to his sister who nodded. She took a deep breath and walked away.
"Now Ron" he heard her say. Silently they left Hermione's side and traveled around her curtained off area to the opposite side. Nothing in their wildest nightmares could have prepared them for what they saw. Lying in bed facing up was Harry Potter. He appeared to have shrunk in size he had lost so much weight. He still had his blood stained clothing on which was torn and ripped in dozens of places.
"Ginny we need to get his clothes off so I can see better. I can't do much else until we do" Poppy instructed. She was in a large chair positioned alongside him and her face was almost as white as Harry's.
"Poppy you need to eat something" Minerva gently told her friend.
Kreacher snapped his fingers and a table appeared next to the chair filled with sandwiches and glasses. "Please Madam Pomprey so you can help Master Harry better."
Reluctantly she agreed and began to eat. The others refused her invitation to join her mainly because they all lost any appetite they had after seeing Harry. His head had expanded from all the swelling and was now a sickly green. His arms had bruises which looked like handprints. 'Whoever these men were they must be incredibly strong. Probably on par with Charlie Weasley' thought Kingsley.
"Ron can you help me?" Ginny softly asked. She had been kneeling holding Harry's right hand. Ron joined her on the opposite side and said "I'm here for you now mate. We are getting these nasty clothes off you for some nice clean ones." Ron nodded now covered in the same white glow.
Ginny took her wand and traced the top of Harry's pant legs. The material seemed to disintegrate as it disappeared leaving him in his boxers. They were not as bad but his legs had scars from the treatment Voldemort gave him last night. She looked at Poppy who nodded for her to continue.
Ginny touched Harry's neck as gently as she could and slowly slid the wand down. The oval shaped scar became visible, looking like it had partially healed before the scab being torn off. She started to take the wand lower but stopped.
"Ginny what is it?" Poppy asked, wondering why she hesitated. Her hand was trembling and she kept mouthing the word 'no'.
"We have no choice Miss Weasley. Whatever it is Madam Pomprey cannot help Harry unless she knows what is under there."
Reluctantly Ginny continued. She heard the Headmistress' sharp intake of breath as the second scar was revealed. When she got to his boxers she used the wand to pull his shirt open further, showing a larger version of the scar he was famous for. Only this time it was centered over his heart.
"Harry James Potter what did you do?" she whispered. Her hand was trembling holding his. With a flash Fawkes appeared on her shoulder again. He leaned forward letting his tears fall. Eight times they hit the new scar, and each time it sent ripples through the white aura like drops of water hitting a pond. Harry struggled a little as he was doing that, but seemed more relaxed after the last one struck.
Wordlessly their friends left and went back to the table. Pitchers of pumpkin juice and glasses were there. Each wished for something stronger. "Now I need to show you who did this" Hagrid told them as he led them further into the room. Behind another set of curtains they found two tightly bound figures. One had two sets of heavy ropes one red and one brown. The other had black chains.
Kingsley gave a low whistle. "Albus was the only one I knew strong enough to do this. Did someone else help you?"
"No. Ron used his wand and Hermione's on one, and Ginny did the other. Without her wand I might add" Hagrid told them proudly.
"Remind me never to get her mad" Neville commented. Ginny was very powerful. He remembered her at the DA Meetings. The 'Reducto' charm she was exceptionally good at, destroying almost anything put in front of her.
"Minister these men look just like Ginny and Ron. Well I guess if they weren't all beat up" Luna observed.
"Miss Lovegood that is because they are. The one in chains is their brother Bill, and the other is Charlie. Hagrid are you sure it was these two?" Kingsley asked. He was very troubled at this. Both were trusted members of the Order of the Phoenix.
"Absolutely. It was Charlie who Ron fought with and hurt Hermione, and do you see this" he said lifting Bill's head. "This is where Ginny hit him. Poppy cast a spell over them to make them sleep for a while, so don't you worry about them going anywhere. Not for quite a while."
'If this is true the only place they are headed is Azkaban, and that will be for a very long time' thought Minerva.
"Now I understand why they asked for us. Their parents can't be told until we know all the facts. Did they put them up to this? George was really upset with Harry. Did he ask them to do this? Or what about Mr. or Mrs. Weasley? Do they blame Harry for Fred's death? Kingsley who do we trust?" Neville asked. All of them were very confused and hurt to think any others might be involved.
"As an Auror we investigate. The facts will lead us to the truth" Kingsley replied. His head was spinning. Arthur was now the Head of the DMLE. Percy was Kingsley's assistant and soon to be responsible for ferreting out Voldemort's supporters hiding in the Ministry. Are they covert Death Eaters, or is this a Family dispute? Either way assault and attempted murder are serious charges.
"Now you can see how bad this is" they heard Ron say behind them. He and Ginny were standing side by side.
"Will you help us find out the truth?" she asked.
"Let's work out a plan Mistress Ginny" Kreacher responded. He took their hands and led them back to the table.
Molly Weasley was dreaming. She was at Kings Cross Train Station and was there to send her Son Ron off to Hogwarts for the first time. A tiny boy overheard them talking and asked for help getting through the barrier. They showed him how to get to Platform 9 3/4 and soon all were there. She noticed a girl with bushy brown hair leaning out of one of the cars, waving to what Molly guessed were her parents. 'Odd I don't remember her then. I guess my mind was on other matters.'
Neville and Luna passed by Molly on their way to another meeting. Minutes ago he had used the enchanted galleon again to summon the DA members. He asked them to meet in the Room of Requirement at 9. They stopped their whispering until they had safely passed out of the Hospital Wing. As they climbed the stairs to the seventh floor they began to talk again.
"Neville how much can we say to them? We need to tell them something" Luna asked.
"Luna we promised not to reveal too much. They trust us not to. In their position I'm not sure what I would say to who" he replied. He walked three times past the hidden entrance which magically appeared and opened for them. It was laid out like for their DA meetings with soft cushions spread around the room. Voices were heard coming and soon their friends arrived.
"Uh oh" Luna said. Mixed into the middle were Angelina Johnson and George Weasley.
"We both felt the summons. I thought this might help him" she whispered to Neville as they passed.
"Now what do we do?" Neville asked Luna.
"We go with the plan. He has to find out sometime" she replied. "Thank you everyone for coming. How are things downstairs?"
"Good. Our little friends were taken to the dungeon" Hannah replied. She was sitting next to Neville and wondered why he was so quiet. 'Did he regret kissing me? Does he like Luna better?'
Sensing she was thinking about him Neville reached out and put his arm around her. She snuggled closer grateful his feelings had not changed in so short a time.
"Something terrible has happened and we need your help. But before we say what it is we want to remind everyone about our rules. DA business stays DA business no matter what. Agreed?" Neville asked each. He looked from person to person. Even George was now listening intently wondering what else might have happened.
"As all of you know Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron went for a walk earlier. Something needed to be finished. Does everyone remember the wand Harry caught when he killed Voldemort?" Luna asked. "That was the Headmaster's. Harry put it back and fixed the white marble tomb which was broken into to steal it."
"After it was done they were attacked. All four of them are badly hurt and are in the Hospital Wing as we speak" Neville added.
"How badly?" George asked. He hoped what he was thinking was wrong, that his brothers were responsible.
"Each are hurt differently. We were asked not to discuss any more. There are two things we are asking of you. First we will be responsible for their security. We will make up four teams to guard where they currently are. Second the rest will stay and help the Headmistress with the Castle. With all the Dark Magic being tossed about a little extra help may be needed" replied Luna.
"I want to see them" George quietly said.
"No one is being allowed in until they are better. The Minister and the Headmistress are aware of everything and are investigating personally. Once they are finished we will know more" Neville cryptically answered. He saw George want to say more but decided against it. He guessed his family was involved in which case there was no way they would let him in.
"Neville where will you be?" Hannah asked as she squeezed his hand tighter.
"If you want Neville you can take the guard details and I can handle the Castle cleanup?" asked Luna. She could see how Hannah and Neville should be together. And that he would need her to lean on.
"Good idea. Could maybe Justin, Tony, Susan, Ernie, Terry, and Padma help us? The rest get with the Headmistress. If Seamus or Dennis come back let them help too" Neville asked. "Can you take the first watch with me?"
"Absolutely" Hannah replied pulling him closer. 'This has to be tearing him up inside. They are best friends. How badly are they hurt that they aren't here to tell us?'
With a flash Kreacher apparated into the Room of Requirement, interrupting George's attempts for more information. With him were four other House Elves. "Good evening students. Thank you all for coming and for your help. I will be assisting those who will be the ones guarding. Winky will be assisting Mistress Lovegood, the Headmistress, and Mrs. Weasley with repairing the Castle. Before we set out for our assignments do any of you have any questions? Yes Miss Chang?"
Cho Chang had her hand raised. "Yes. I would like to help guarding them. Can I do that instead?"
"Perhaps later Miss Chang. To start with can we go with the groups as they are set up?" He did not want to hurt her feelings by telling her Ginny did not want any ex's after what happened with Dean. And she remembered last night how Cho wanted to be the one to guide Harry to the Ravenclaw Common Room. Fortunately Ginny was quicker suggesting Luna be the one. Kreacher saw Cho nod so he continued. "This is a very difficult situation we are all facing. We must keep this secret until they tell us otherwise."
"Kreacher can you give us any more information about how they are?" asked Angelina Johnson for George.
"Mistress Johnson Kreacher has promised all four of them not to" he replied. He heard sighs of relief with them interpreting all four wished this, or in other words all four were alive. He saw Neville glance quickly at Luna, knowing Harry was in no position to talk.
The DA separated into two groups with Luna and Winky discussing how best to help the Headmistress. It was decided to head for the Great Hall and find either Minerva or Augusta Longbottom and offer their services.
Neville outlined what he wished also. They decided to work in six hour shifts with two DA members and one House Elf forming a team. He, Hannah, and Kreacher would start immediately. The next group consisting of Susan Bones, Ernie McMillan, and another House Elf would meet them at 5am.
Angelina took George aside as the two groups were formed. She saw how white his face turned and thought he was going to pass out. The Room provided a couch for them to sit on and she cast the 'Muffalato' charm so they could talk.
"Angie I think I brought this on" George shaking told her.
"But how George? You don't know what happened!"
"Then where are Bill and Charlie? Fleur asked me to watch for them and I am afraid it was them" he said as he began to sob.
"George Weasley we have known each other for how long? No one in their right mind would have attacked them. No it has to be Death Eaters" she tried to convince him. Or maybe herself because deep down inside she agreed with him. Except for Mr. Weasley all of them flew off the handle very easily. Did an argument start which escalated into a fight? That seemed more possible then an attack from behind. "I think we should help too. That is if you are up to it." George nodded and they went up to Luna to ask.
After the 'Castle Crew' left Neville explained where they needed to go. Silently they made their way down from the seventh floor, and eventually into the Hospital. Their group moved quietly between the beds and entered Poppy's Office. Ron and Ginny were waiting. Kreacher had brought them fresh clothes (he had gone to the Burrow and removed everything of theirs, Hermione's, and Harry's) and Poppy had spent a few minutes on each to begin the healing process. In Ginny's case she looked almost normal, but Ron clearly was not. His face and left hand was still badly swelled and he was dozing he was so tired. As they entered he leaped to his feet, wand drawn. Ginny did the same.
"You have nothing to fear Mistress Ginny or Master Weasley" Kreacher told them as he stepped in front.
"Thanks for coming. And helping" Ron said as he slumped back into his chair.
"Ron you get some sleep. We are here to help" Terry Boot told him.
"We're about to go lie down now. We wanted to be here to thank you" Ginny stated. Her eyes were closing as she spoke.
"Neville, Kreacher, and I have the first shift. At 5 Susan and Terry will be here. So please go rest. Harry and Hermione need you at your best" Hannah replied.
"Thanks Hannah" Ginny said as she tried to smile thinking about how cute they looked together. She made a mental note to tell Hermione that tomorrow.
"The entrance is charmed so only specific people can enter without permission. If you can make sure no others do or try to we can focus on making them better" Ron added as he and Ginny apparated into the special Room. While waiting they decided it was better for them not to know there is a direct entrance.
Hannah, Neville, and Kreacher said goodnight as the others headed to bed. "Neville don't worry I won't push you to tell me more" Hannah said as she settled into the couch next to him.
Neville looked at her and realized in the future it would be impossible to keep secrets from her. "Hannah I wish I could."
"Mistress Long ... err Abbott Kreacher wishes he was allowed to say more. He trusts you as Master Longbottom does. You are very worried about them and that is for good reason."
Both Neville and Hannah blushed at Kreacher's slip of the tongue. 'Does he see us together in the future?' they both thought as they looked at each other and blushed even more. The night flew by as they shared stories about the last seven years. Just before 5 they heard voices as Susan and Terry came in.
* * *
Molly awoke and saw it was still dark. Snoring in the adjacent bed was her husband. 'How long have I been out?' she wondered. Percy was in the bed on the opposite side and she carefully slipped out the pocket watch from his vest pocket. "Almost 5am? No wonder Arthur's sleeping so well" she whispered. At the opposite side of the room she heard people softly talking. She tried to ignore them and go back to sleep.
"Terry did you think of anything last night?"
"No Susan I didn't. Ernie and I sat up trying to figure this out. As the saying goes they were minding their own business when they were attacked."
"I'm glad Hagrid saw it happen. Imagine Terry if he hadn't" Susan said as she passed in between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. In the almost total darkness she did not know it was them.
Molly was holding her breath pretending to be asleep. Her hands were clenched under the covers as she tried to contain herself.
"Susan I'm glad they trust us" Ernie replied as the voices grew fainter as they walked away. Molly's eyes were now open and she observed them enter Poppy's Office. Cautiously she crept up and pressed her ear to the door, silently wishing for one of the twin's extendable ears.
"Terry you look tired" she heard a muffled voice say.
"Not as tired as you two. How did things go after we left?" wondered Terry.
"Great. It was really quiet. Ginny and Ron didn't come out. So I hope they are still asleep. They need it" Hannah answered.
Upon hearing her children's names Molly burst in. For a fraction of a second she considered waking up Arthur and Percy but she chose not to. "WHERE ARE THEY?? WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN???" she bellowed as the door crashed open.
"Not here" Neville responded making her stop in her tracks. He, Hannah, Susan, and Terry stood shoulder to shoulder preventing her from going any further.
"DON'T YOU DARE LIE TO ME NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM!!! MY CHILDREN ARE IN HERE SOMEWHERE!!" she continued to yell.
"Do you see anyone else here?" Hannah asked refusing to budge.
"NO BUT I KNOW THEY ARE HERE!!!" she kept screaming.
"Molly what is it? Are the kids in here?" a bleary eyed Arthur wondered. He was startled from a dead sleep by his wife.
"Mother I can't see them" Percy added. He was taller so he could look around the small space very easily.
"I HEARD THEM!! THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT GINNY AND RON BEING HURT!!!" Molly yelled again.
Kreacher had gone into the secret room to check on his charges. As the voices got louder he apparated into the Office hoping the yelling did not wake them. He snapped his fingers and the wands the three Weasley's held appeared in his hand. "This is a Hospital not a schoolyard" he calmly said trying to defuse the situation.
"Why are they here?" Arthur questioned of the DA. Molly had shouted herself hoarse. He knew the Office was small too but maybe this was an apparition point?
With a flash another House Elf appeared. She talked to Kreacher in their language who promptly disappeared. Moments later he reappeared, this time behind the four Witches and Wizards. Holding his hands were Ginny and Ron.
"My babies" Molly croaked as she tried to go to them.
"NO" Neville firmly stated. He kept his wand trained on the parents of some of his best friends.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO??" Arthur demanded.
"Because that's what we asked them to do. Anyone uninvited or unwelcome is to be turned away" Ginny replied stone faced. She was extremely upset with her parents feeling like they were either behind this directly or did nothing to prevent it.
"Ginevra what do you mean?" Percy asked seeing both his parents unable to speak.
"She means your sons damn near killed all of us!!!" Ron yelled. He towered over the four in front of him so his parents and brother could see the bruises and scars on him.
"Son we don't understand." Arthur wondered.
Ginny mumbled something to Ron. "Are you sure????????" he asked his sister. She nodded and bent over to whisper to Kreacher. He too looked at her questioning what she wanted. "They need to know." She and Ron stepped forward and Kreacher snapped his fingers. Their appearances slowly changed. Susan, Terry, and Hannah who did not see them when they first arrived gasped.
"This is what your children did to us" Ron flatly stated. He gave them another minute to take it all in before squeezing Kreacher's hand. That was the signal to leave. Kreacher apparated them back into the room away from their parents. He returned them to 'normal' and they went back to Hermione's and Harry's bedsides.
Molly was demanding to know where they went when Kreacher returned. "Kreacher suggests you find the Headmistress or the Minister immediately. They have many questions to ask."
"Not until you tell us where you have taken them and where Bill and Charlie are" Molly responded.
"That is not Kreacher's decision to make" he answered in a monotone.
"We are not leaving until you give us some answers" Arthur replied. He was just as upset as his wife but better at keeping his composure.
Kreacher considered the situation. He did not want to hurt the Weasley's but they needed to go. Neville passed him a note and left with Hannah. They quickly ran to the Headmistress' Office and saw Minerva approaching. She was updated quickly and sent her patronus to Kingsley. He responded that he agreed so she sent hers to Kreacher. With a flash Molly, Arthur, and Percy appeared in her Office.
"Minerva they have my babies!!" she said pointing at Hannah and Neville.
"No they don't. You three please sit down. The others will join us shortly. Tea?" she calmly asked. She had known Molly since her school days and did not want to think the worst of her or her family, but she knew how impulsive they were.
The fireplace roared green flames and Kingsley stepped in. He looked down avoiding eye contact and poured himself a cup of tea. This spoke volumes to Arthur. It was going to get very messy.
There was a knock at the door and George, Angelina, and Fleur appeared. Each came in and sat refusing tea. Their stomachs were not up to it. Especially before 7am.
"Thank you all for coming. While I'm sure you wish me to get right to the point we need to cover some ground first. But to answer your questions yes all four are alive, and wish to be left alone until this sordid mess is straightened out. As the facts unfold I'm sure you will see why they feel this way."
Step by step Kingsley walked them through the Battle starting with seeing Hagrid holding Harry's body. Each took their turn saying who fought who, and things they saw. Their reminiscences ended with Voldemort's death.
"So George you say you and Miss Johnson were seated and did not see much of that?" Minerva wondered.
"Yes Headmistress. And what little we heard we didn't understand. Most of it was parselmouth" Angelina replied.
"Yes. I thought it was interesting Tom Riddle switched to that. I wonder if Harry realized it?' speculated Minerva.
"Probably not. Sometimes he used to speak in that when he was having nightmares" Neville added.
"George what happened after Voldemort died? How did you feel?" Kingsley asked.
"Mad. Very mad. Especially at Harry. I used every four letter word I could think of" he responded.
"He was yelling things like 'what took you so long!' Angelina stated. She chose not to repeat the worst, among them 'It should have been you not Fred !!'
"So Voldemort was dead. I saw Hermione, Ron, and Harry leave. I believe they went to visit with the Headmaster?" wondered Kingsley.
"Yes they did. We had a nice chat" Albus replied from his portrait. "I congratulated them and said how proud I was."
"I think we all share in that" Arthur added, wondering why his wife wasn't saying much.
"Harry showed me my wand and asked to return it. I told him it would be wise to do so" Albus continued. "To put it on display in the Trophy Room with some of the others would invite trouble. No putting it back and fixing the mess Tom made was best. And I was getting wet whenever it rained anyway."
Neville laughed at the Headmaster's joke in spite of himself. He felt Hannah squeeze his hand tighter that she agreed.
"Albus this is not getting me any closer to getting my children back" Molly growled.
"Molly I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation" he responded. "I can assure you they are safe. Far safer and in better shape than they were just a few hours ago."
"Now while they were up here I believe all of you were speculating on where they were all this time" Minerva prompted.
"Speculating? More like worrying" Molly heatedly responded. "Were they safe? Were they even alive?" she began, her voice rising.
"I can help you some. Two weeks ago they showed up at Shell Cottage. Hermione was badly hurt having been tortured for information. Luna Lovegood, Dean Johnson, Mr. Olivander, and a goblin named Griphook were with him. The Elf Dobby brought them but was killed as he did so. Harry buried him there. We helped them to plan to enter Gringotts. Something had to be retrieved from Bellatrix Lestrange's vault."
"Please wait a moment. Kreacher?" asked Minerva.
"Yes Headmistress?" he asked as he appeared.
"Fleur can you repeat yourself?" Kingsley asked.
After Fleur did she went on. "Bill and I both cautioned them on dealing with goblins. To be very careful. Griphook and the three of them left after two weeks staying with us."
"Kreacher the Goblins are quite upset. I do not know all the details but they are demanding a Meeting" The Minister told him. "Can you pass this on?"
"Kreacher will do so, and will help when the time comes. Over the centuries we have our own relationship with them" he replied.
"Thank you Fleur. Now I know the whole Family was sitting together around Fred's body. How was Bill doing?" questioned Kingsley.
"He was very mad. He had lost his brother. Everybody was at fault, including Harry. He blamed himself for not stopping them from going to Gringotts, thinking this brought Voldemort here" Fleur stated trying not to look at Molly.
"Snape told us at an Order Meeting he was coming it was just a matter of time. What else was everyone saying? Percy?" asked Minerva.
"We were all mad. Everyone was clustered around Harry congratulating him but my brother was dead! Why were they so happy?" he demanded.
"Happy that it was over! That they were alive, and their children had a future" Albus quietly answered. "No one was mocking the dead, or forgetting about them. No they were glad they themselves were alive."
"Minerva and I are attempting to learn not only what happened but why. Yes to answer your question Bill and Charlie are involved but how? To do this we are going to collect your memories from that night, starting with you Fleur. Could you, Neville, and Hannah remain please? Everyone else thank you for coming. Arthur you will let us know when?" Kingsley asked.
"Absolutely" he replied as he pulled Molly to her feet. She wanted to remain and was none too happy as Arthur pulled her to the door.
Once the Weasley Family left her office Headmistress Minerva McGonagall opened the alcove to get out the pensieve. She saw the liquid was swirling around indicating memories were still in it.
"Those belong to Harry. Or actually Severus gave them to him as he died. Perhaps Kreacher should take this to him?" Albus asked.
As the old Elf left he took the pensieve with him. Minerva took a second one out and set it on her desk for Fleur who proceeded to draw out her memory. She duplicated it and gave one to Kingsley and placed the other in the pensieve.
"While we are waiting you two come with me" Minerva instructed Hannah and Neville. They followed her into her private Office and found a breakfast laid out for them. "Go ahead. We may be a while" she suggested with a smile. Hannah and Neville both hugged her and gratefully sat and ate. When they were finished they saw two couches along the walls. Each had a set of clothes with a note instructing them to get some sleep and theirs would be cleaned.
"Hannah you go first" Neville told her. She entered the loo and changed into the pajamas wondering what Neville would think of how she looked as she changed, if their relationship ever went that far.
When Neville came out he saw she had moved the couches so they were now side by side. "How am I supposed to get in?" he wondered. He felt himself leave his feet as she levitated him onto the couch next to her.
"Good night" she mumbled as they fell asleep with their wands in their hands .
The door had not completely closed and Minerva motioned Fleur over. "Amor. Cie Manifique" she whispered. She waved her wand over them causing tiny stars to fall. Both now had smiles on their faces as their hands found each other's.
"Veela magic?" wondered Kingsley who observed over Minerva's shoulder.
"Perhaps" Fleur replied with a wink. "Now come let us see what I saw." She took Minerva's and Kingsley's hands and they dipped their faces into the swirling water.
* * *
Neville awoke feeling very warm, and it was dark in the room. He didn't remember closing the curtains so he thought it must be getting late. As he tried to move he realized why he was so warm. Hannah had slid closer and was sharing the couch with him. Her head was resting now on his bare chest and her hand was slid inside pulling him closer. Gently he brushed the long blonde hair over and kissed her forehead.
"Good Morning. You were tossing a lot and I didn't know what else to do" she replied as she turned her head up to kiss him.
"I was? I don't remember" he replied as he too pulled her closer. "I wish I could wake up like this every morning" he thought he was saying to himself.
"You do? Me too" she replied as she kissed him again.
After a few minutes of serious snogging he pulled back a little. "As much as I don't want to we need to stop. This feels so right, you know? The Headmistress trusts us. And we need to see how our friends are" he stated as he felt her pull him even tighter. With a flick of his wrist his patronus, which was a lion, leaped forth and exited the room.
"Are you sending that to the Headmistress?" she wondered. "Or to Ron?"
"Neither. It was to my Gran so she doesn't worry" he replied.
"You did that so fast. It usually takes me a minute to focus. Do you mind me asking which happy memory you chose?"
"It was this one" he said as he kissed her again.
Hannah felt herself melting in his arms. This man who she had cared for, who didn't even notice her or think of her in that way now didn't care about anything else, other than family and friends. She waved her wand and the other couch slid aside so she could get up. Neville inhaled sharply when she did. "What happened? Did I hurt you?" she asked her face full of concern.
Neville took three more deep breaths. How could he not have seen what she was wearing last night? When he came out she was under the covers.
Hannah blushed slightly as she leaned over to kiss him again, letting him enjoy the view even more. She had transfigured the sleeping clothes to give her a plunging neckline which she threatened to fall out of the longer she stayed like that.
"If you keep standing over me like that we will never leave" he finally told her as he now focused his eyes on hers.
"And that would be a bad thing?" she whispered.
"If we were anywhere else I would say no. As it stands I can barely keep my hands to myself" he replied.
"Good answer" she smiled as she straightened up. She smiled again and went back into the loo to change. She saw him lean back continuing to take deep breaths knowing that he was hers. When she came out she saw how he had straightened things and put away the extra bedding.
"All this and you can clean? Can you cook too?" she asked amazed more and more.
"Actually I can. Since it is only Gran and I she taught me how to do everything. Just in case anything happened to her" he quietly replied.
Hannah held him gently as he cried. Last night he shared what happened to his parents. 'I wonder if he was there when it happened like Harry was' she wondered as she held him. "Don't worry Neville. I promise you that you will never ever be alone as long as I am alive."
"Thank you" he replied. He picked her up and sat on the couch cradling her in his arms. With the flick of his wrist he produced a red rose. He pulled the hair back behind her left ear and slid it there. "I have always wanted to do that for someone. I just never got the chance."
Hannah wondered if he understood the significance of where he placed it. On the right meant available, but on the left showed her heart belonged to someone. "I have never been close to anyone before either. Most guys chased after me, especially for these" she replied patting her chest. "So as I got older I dressed so they were less obvious."
"Well they were pretty obvious a few minutes ago" he wryly replied.
Playfully she punched him in the shoulder. As she wanted he stared, but then brought his eyes up without being told to. And as he said he kept his hands to himself as she teased him. No, he liked her before he knew what she was concealing. "You're right Gran is waiting. Let's go find her and make sure she is OK. Maybe we can take a nap later before we start?"
Neville blushed wondering what she would wear the next time. It couldn't be much less ...
* * *
"Good Morning? And how are we all today?" Kreacher asked as he returned to the special room that morning.
"Better thank you" Hermione replied. Much of the swelling had gone down in her face but Poppy had charmed her eyes to stay closed for at least another day yet. "Too much nerve damage" she told a worried Ron. This bothered Hermione more than a few broken bones. Reading and the Library were her life. At least until she and Ron got serious. Finally.
"Mistress Granger would you like anything special to eat today?" wondered Kreacher.
"No thank you. Whatever you bring will be fine" she answered. Her pet project was explaining to everyone how the House Elves were being mistreated and overworked.
"Hermione what did you just ask me for? Kreacher she told me when she was little and was sick her Mother used to make her chicken noodle soup. And chocolate chip cookies" Ron said.
"Then you are in luck today." He vanished and returned with three steaming bowls and a plate full of chocolate chip cookies. And three huge mugs of hot cocoa.
"Ron that smells like ... " Ginny said as she came around the corner. "Oh it is!!" she smiled as she bit into a cookie. "Mmmm still warm." With Ron's help Hermione enjoyed her snack. Towards the end they noticed the pensieve sitting on the big table. Seeing it Kreacher told them it contained the memories Professor Snape had given Harry as he died.
"You two go. Tell me everything afterwards" Hermione told Ron after kissing him. "You taste way better now. Ginny today we both had our morning Skelegrow."
Together Ron and Ginny dipped their faces into the swirling water. The scenes from Professor Snape's life played themselves out, culminating in the final one revealing Headmaster Dumbledore's realization of what must be done to defeat Voldemort. "This explains everything" Ron said to his sister.
"No Ron it doesn't. Are these horcruxes what you were chasing?" Ginny asked.
Ron gave her a condensed version, including that the book which possessed her was one too. Harry and Hermione understood this better so they can give you more of the details. They separated with Ginny returning to Harry's bedside, wondering what else happened and why Harry felt he had to do this. "There had to be another way" she said aloud to him as she tucked the sheet around him tighter. Ron went back to Hermione and began softly talking, explaining each memory.
"OK now I understand. And the nightmares too. A part of Voldemort was inside him" Hermione added.
"Mistress Ginny we have a visitor" Kreacher said from behind the curtain. Wiping her eyes (again) she got up to find Fleur waiting. "The Headmistress and the Minister thought Mrs. Weasley might be of some help."
Ginny looked at Fleur. In the beginning she called her 'Phlem' because of her minimal English, and questioned her motives about Bill. But after Fleur stayed at Bill's side after the werewolf attack she won Ginny over.
"This morning the Family met with Minerva and Kingsley. We discussed things from the Battle trying to understand what led to this. I want to learn what happened so I can get Bill the help he needs" Fleur told her.
Ginny stared at her for a few minutes trying to decide what to say. Words seemed inadequate so she led Fleur first to Hermione's bed. Ron was asleep in a chair holding her hand, their good hands intertwined. Hermione still had the pink salve covering her right arm, shoulder, and neck. Her face was bandaged from the nose up, with the hair on her left side of her head was now gone. On her left side and left leg the potion had turned green, indicating to Fleur healing was occurring. "That is a good sign" she whispered to Ginny who had forgotten Fleur was a healer as they walked away.
Now she took her to Harry's side. The sharp intake of breath she heard told Ginny how surprised Fleur was. Harry was now covered in a white sheet from his chin down. Ginny moved his long hair aside again and the white shimmer he was projecting intensified. His face was still so badly bruised he was unrecognizable, and in some places blood seeped through the sheets. Ginny picked up a fresh one and moved the other aside, causing Fleur to gasp again. The scar from the horcrux/locket had begun to heal but not the one from the killing curse. She took a damp cloth and dabbed his chest to remove the excess blood, then another to wipe down his arms and legs which were covered in sweat. None of the dozens of cuts and bruises were bleeding, most having formed scars. Fleur helped to cover him up, gently tucking in the sheet along both sides.
"His back is broken in three places. He may never walk again" she told Fleur as they walked away.
"Ginny I don't know what to say. There are no words in English, French, or any other language I can say to express how badly I feel" Fleur replied.
"Fleur I am so scared" Ginny began. Her bottom lip began to quiver as she felt Fleur's arms envelop her. It seemed like hours they stood there, Ginny finally letting out all the emotions kept inside about Harry and Fred. "I'm sorry Fleur. Crying like a baby like that" she said after a while.
"Don't be" the older woman replied. "After Bill was attacked your Mother and I cried for days. She really loves you."
"I know. But now you can see why I can't let her around Harry, or any other Weasley for that matter" Ginny responded. "You, Ron, and Hermione are all I have now."
"You forgot Auntie Muriel" Fleur said with a straight face. This caused both women to begin to giggle then fall into chairs that appeared.
"Even Voldemort wasn't that bad! But now you should get to see them both. Kingsley put a charm on them so they would sleep and Poppy's sister has started healing them." Ginny took Fleur to the other end. Both brothers were still bound in their beds. Ginny explained what happened, which made Fleur shake her head. "I did not think the madness would take him. And it was a full moon too. But Charlie?"
"Fleur we don't know either. But until we know why this happened, and who else is involved we won't risk it. Kingsley and Minerva will be here shortly to interview them separately. Please don't tell them or anyone else what you have seen."
"I promise Ginny. Are you coming to the funerals? Remus and Tonks are in two days and Fred's is the day after."
"I can't leave Harry. I have to be here or he won't let Poppy treat him. Her magic seems to bounce off if Ron or I aren't here. He isn't trusting anyone either. You have to understand Fleur he died out there!! It was a miracle Fawkes came when he did. Harry had stopped breathing !!!"
"Then we will all pray for another miracle. But I hear Kingsley's voice. Perhaps I can see Bill after they talk?"
"I'll ask for you. Oh and thank you for helping out at Gringotts. As soon as Hermione can go they will be there" she said as the Minister appeared.
* * *
Hand in hand Neville and Hannah returned to the Great Hall searching for his Gran. They found her with Susan Bones and Terry Boot. "Neville can we go somewhere and talk?" asked Terry as he looked at the floor.
"You three go ahead. I wanted to get a chance to talk to Hannah" Augusta Longbottom stated.
Neville winked at his Gran and kissed Hannah. "Don't worry her bark is worse than her bite" he whispered in her ear.
"Thanks. She loves you" Hannah replied as she walked away.
"Neville we want to apologize. We are resigning from the DA and leaving" Susan told him.
He quickly cast the 'Muffalato' Charm. "No one knew the Weasley's were in there. That is the problem with trying to keep a secret. Not enough communication. I hoped it would work, but maybe it's better this way. Now they know in general what happened, but not why. That's the worst part. We may never know what brought it on."
"You should have heard them after Voldemort died. Screaming at Harry, wishing he was dead too" Terry added.
"Kingsley and Minerva are collecting the memories of everyone. As soon as you see them let them know. But don't tell anyone else about this. It is still DA business, and no you are not resigning. Tonight I am going to ask Ron if he still wants us or will it be better to help Minerva. Either way we need you."
"Are you sure Neville? We really messed up" Susan responded.
"Absolutely. Now let's go find Luna and see how things are doing" he replied.
* * *
Augusta and Hannah took a walk outside to get away from everyone. They made small talk until they had passed the greenhouses. "Neville really cares for you" Augusta stated.
"I feel the same. It's that we have known each other for a long time, but not as individuals" Hannah replied.
"Neville has had a hard life. I have tried to prepare him for what is out there, to make him able to stand on his own two feet should anything happen to me. Did he tell you about his parents?"
"Just a little last night. He goes to see them right?"
"Yes. St. Mungos has a special wing for those with similar problems. As often as he can he does this. Harry, Ron, and Hermione ran into him there during your fifth year. It was awkward for him, but it helped him to realize he is not alone. It helped him to focus more."
"I remember seeing the change in him. We had started the DA, and he was so quiet and shy. We took turns working together and many times we were partners. I'm afraid he didn't really notice me. You know as a girl."
"Well it's no wonder the way you dress. With those baggy robes" Augusta teased.
"I see you have the same problem" Hannah laughed.
"You will find as you grow up there are times to show what GOD gave you, and other times to keep them to yourself. I was very self conscious growing up, and dressed much like you do. Most boys were only curious to see what I was hiding so I became a recluse. It wasn't until seventh year that I met Neville's Grandfather. Together we had a Son we named Frank, then shortly after I lost him and never remarried."
"What were his parents like?"
"Two very focused, very driven people. Members of the Order of the Phoenix just like yours were. And extremely proud of their Son. One night I decided to give them a chance for a romantic evening. We flooed over to Minerva's and spent some time there. It was almost midnight when we went back."
"I wanted to say hello so I went back too" Minerva added. She was sitting on a bench outside enjoying the cool evening air. "When we got there a catastrophe had happened. Frank and Alice Longbottom were tied to chairs and Bellatrix and Rudolphus Lestrange were torturing them!!"
"I took baby Neville and pushed him into Minerva's arms and shoved her back into the fireplace" Augusta stated.
"And I spun around several times before coming out in the Headmaster's Office. As soon as I could speak I told Albus what happened. We flooed straight back to find Alice and Frank lying on the floor" Minerva replied.
"I was so mad!! Bellatrix was laughing at me, saying 'she wished the brat was here so she could kill him in front of me'. I blasted her and her husband through the wall and cut my Family loose."
"When Albus and I returned we saw a hole the size of the Castle doors" Minerva proudly said of her best friend. "Albus took Alice and Frank to St. Mungo's but it was too late. Their memories were destroyed, leaving them with only scattered images. For example they know who Neville is, but not that he is their Son. On his Fifth Birthday he promised Augusta to find who did this to his Mommy and Daddy."
Hannah was now sitting in between Augusta and Minerva, holding their hands. "And my parents. Did you know them?"
"Yes. Your Dad was an Auror. He died on an assignment many years ago. Kingsley was his partner" Minerva replied.
"I don't remember him" Hannah answered, trying hard to picture him.
"Your Mom was a member too, but stayed behind the scenes. Not on the front line like Harry's parents. Did they ever say who killed her?" asked Augusta.
"No, just some Death Eaters. I was devastated and went to live with Susan Bones parents. They were Mom's best friends. I think that is what caused me to fall apart here" Hannah replied. "And now I don't know what I will do. I can't expect Susan's parents to just take me in. I am old enough now to get a job and earn my own way. My uncle is Tom who has The Leaky Cauldron. Maybe I can get a job there?"
Augusta looked past Hannah to Minerva and winked. "You know I know of someone who has room. Lots of room actually."
"You do? Who?" asked Hannah wide eyed.
"My house. We have 10 bedrooms so you can have your pick" Augusta replied.
"Really??? Thank you" she replied, hugging her almost as well as Molly Weasley. She turned to hug Minerva, then gave another one to Augusta. "Thanks Gran. Now I have one question. Did your Grandson put you up to this?"
"In his patronus I could feel how much he cares for you. He mentioned about your Mother which I already knew about. He left the decision up to me."
"Then let's go find him and tell him the good news" she responded, grinning from ear to ear. The three Witches walked arm in arm up into the Castle. The sound of clinking plates told them dinner was being served. Hannah looked first to see if Neville was sitting at the Gryffindor table but he was not. A large group of students, mainly girls, were clustered around him near the Headmistress' table peppering him with questions.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"If you do then where is she?"
"I bet I'm prettier!"
"Is she a good kisser? I think I'm better!!!"
Neville was stuck. He didn't want to hurt the girls, especially since many of them had parents here.
"What do you think? Should we save him?" wondered Minerva.
"No. If he is a true Gryffindor he can take care of this himself" Hannah replied. She waited and watched as the crowd grew bigger, and wondered if she needed to step in.
Then Neville noticed her. His frown changed immediately into a smile. "Ladies" his voice boomed. "Would you like to see some real magic?''
The girls all stopped talking at once. "There are four very special women in my life. Three are in this room." He paused to let them speculate which of them he was talking about.
"First the one who has inspired me." He waved his wand and a bouquet of yellow roses appeared. It drifted across the hall and into the hands of Professor McGonagall.
"Second for the one who raised me." This time a bouquet of white roses appeared and drifted over the girls heads again. A few tried to jump up and grab them but missed. These came to a stop in the hands of his Gran.
"And last, and most importantly, to the one who has captured my heart." He looked from face to face as he waved his wand again, this time producing two dozen of the largest, fullest red roses any of them had ever seen. After taking one final look at them he levitated himself over them and gracefully landed next to Hannah. All eyes were turned to them as he presented the flowers to her. Many had wondered about the one she had in her hair and now they all knew. She smiled as she accepted them and kissed him as passionately as she could. At least with his Gran standing next to her.
"Very impressive Mr. Longbottom" she replied as they walked up to the head table to sit with Minerva and Augusta. She smiled as nicely as she could at all the girls who were still standing there, hoping this was a joke and the hero was still available.
"What can I say? All three of you really do inspire me" he replied as he kissed each of the other two women on the cheek as he pulled out a chair for them.
When he pulled out the chair for Hannah she leaned against him and said "Gran asked me. I said yes."
Neville blushed, wondering if in the future he would have another question to ask her involving yes and no. Hannah, almost like reading his mind, blushed and kissed him again. This time on the raised platform so the entire crowd could see.
It was 5 am in the Burrow. Molly Weasley was holding her now very cold cup of tea in the semi darkness. Late last night she arrived with what was left of her Family. Upstairs she could hear her husband of 30 years snoring peacefully, thanks to a sleeping draught she slipped into his tea when he wasn't looking.
Her two oldest, Bill and Charlie, were being held in the Dark Tower under guard at Hogwarts. They were being held on suspicion of assault and the attempted murder of Harry Potter, and of badly beating Hermione Granger. Her two youngest Ron and Ginny were also injured and taking care of their respective partners and wanted nothing to do with the Family.
Their third oldest Percy, estranged for several years, was sleeping in his old room. Getting him back was the only shining light in this situation.
Her next oldest George was sleeping on the swing on the front porch. His best friend Angelina Johnson was with him. His twin brother Fred's body lay in Arthur's workshop waiting to be buried at 6 pm tomorrow.
Bill's wife Fleur was due for tea this morning. Initially Molly disliked her, believing she did not really love her oldest. But she stayed with him after he was disfigured by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. Last summer they were married at the Burrow.
Molly heard a distant 'pop' and saw the silhouette of her daughter in law slowly walking towards the house. 'I wonder how she is handling this? Her husband, not even married for a year, is accused of attempted murder and assault'. She heard two voices softly speaking, the sounds carrying in the open window.
"Did you get to see him? How is he?"
"Yes. Ginny asked for me. He does not remember much, which is a side effect of the potion they gave him to keep him calm. His memories are intact and he willingly shared them with Kingsley. After what I saw earlier I could not view them! Minerva and Kingsley did, and I thought she was going to hex him!!"
"How are Ginny and Ron? We keep forgetting about them."
"How can we forget with Molly continually yelling about 'her babies!' I don't think she realizes how badly hurt Hermione and Harry are. No, she is too focused on her two youngest. Not once have I heard her mention Charlie's or Bill's names!! They will be fortunate to not spend the rest of their lives in Azkaban."
"Fleur what can we do to help them?"
"I don't know. They were apprehended while they were doing these horrific things. Their memories and ours will be taken into account, along with Hermione's, Ginny's, and Ron's."
"But what about Harry? What did he say?"
"Angelina I have never seen anyone so badly beaten and still be alive. Something is keeping him here. I'm sure it is his love for Ginny. And Ron and Hermione, and all the Family. That is what has to be hurting him the most. The people he trusted have betrayed him. Again. So much of his life has been one heartbreak after another. And we haven't helped, putting pressure on him. His destiny, The Chosen One, and all that. If he lives I would not be surprised if the four of them leave and never speak to any of us again. Maybe America? They could change their names and blend in."
"I hope not. Molly would be devastated. First Fred, then them too."
Leaning on the sink barely breathing Molly Weasley thought she was going to pass out. Her mind had been focused on getting her kids back, not understanding how bad things really were. "I am too selfish" she quietly said.
"Selfish maybe, but you love them" she heard her husband say. Their bedroom was directly above the conversation and he heard every word. "Now we know better what we are facing. This must be why Kingsley and Minerva are coming this morning. He told me Winky will be bringing breakfast."
"What will you do Fleur? If they actually are responsible?" Angelina asked.
"Stand by him. He is my husband. No something else brought this on. Maybe Professor Dumbledore can help. But what about you?"
"I have loved these two idiots for as long as I can remember. Their Family is my Family too. George needs all our support, especially tomorrow. Do you think they will come?"
"I don't see how. I asked, but I will be very surprised. Ginny cannot leave Harry. It is like he is living on her love. I touched him, and it was like he pulled a part of me into himself. He has lost his trust in everyone except for a very few." Fleur left Angelina to try and wake up George. The Weasleys were notoriously difficult to get moving. But not today.
"I wouldn't blame you if you left us too. We don't deserve you or Fleur" George said with his eyes still closed once Fleur went inside.
"You heard? I meant what I said. Fleur does too. And I don't think you caused this to happen. It was Voldemort, just like your parents told Harry."
"How bad do you think he is? Both Bill and Charlie are so much bigger than him. It wouldn't take much, especially as bad as he looked."
"A little or a lot, it's not the point. He winced when Ginny hugged him. All three of them looked worn out. And I think Fleur is right this does not make sense. While all of you are hot headed, none are prone to violence. No, there has to be more to it."
"Maybe. All of us were really mad. Only you and Fleur said not to blame him. And Mom and Dad just sat there, not saying anything. Do you think that was interpreted to mean they agreed with what we were saying?"
"I hope not. I'm sure it was Fred on their minds. Your parents are not like that. Yes your Mom yells at all of us. But it's because she cares, not because she is mean spirited."
"The sun is coming up. Our company will be here soon. We need to spend the time together while we can."
* * *
Molly and Arthur were seated at the table waiting for Fleur to enter. Their faces lit up when she did, which was a far cry from how she was treated not too long ago. She loved Bill and tolerated the stares and barely under the breath comments. Today they seemed genuinely happy to see her. Both rose to embrace her, again a major change.
"Good Morning. Tea?" Molly asked, grateful the Death Eaters didn't drink tea. Everything else was either stolen or destroyed. The house was in shambles-it took all evening to get the main floor and the bedrooms they needed useable. Ron and Ginny's were especially tore apart, some of which was Kreacher's doing when he hastily retrieved their possessions.
"Merci. Thank you" Fleur replied gratefully. She hoped the caffeine would help keep her awake. The nightmares she had when she returned home to Shell Cottage were horrible.
"I know I don't say this enough, but we are very glad you and Bill got married. A lesser person would have broke it off after he was attacked. It showed us the kind of woman you really are" Molly told her.
"And we want to thank you for taking such good care of him when it happened" Arthur added. "How did you manage?"
"Amor. It was the love we have for each other. We will need it more than ever if we are to survive this" she answered.
"Did Kingsley let you see him? How is he? And what about you? How are you feeling with all this?" asked Arthur.
Fleur was floored. This was the very first time they showed concern for her, and she found it difficult not to break down. "I feel terrible. For all of us. This sweet man who I love with all my heart has done things so brutal they cannot be described. When you saw Ginny and Ron it was nothing compared to how Hermione and Harry are. My first thought was he suffered from the attack, but it would have showed up before now. And Charlie acted the same horrific way, so it can't be that. I am determined to help them both, but I need to talk to some people first. Something about this seems familiar, but I can't think from where."
"Would you like to stay here tonight? You know we have plenty of room" Molly asked as she placed her hand on Fleur's.
"Maybe. I might feel better not being alone. Do you have any message for Bill if I get to see him again? Ginny arranged it for me yesterday."
"That we love him and they are in our prayers. And that we will stand behind them no matter what" Arthur answered for both of them.
"You can give him one of these for us" Molly said as he hugged her daughter in law.
"Thank you" she replied as she heard the floo activate.
* * *
Hermione impatiently tapped the rail on the right hand side of the bed. Today the bandages would come off her face, and she hoped her vision was not impaired. Ron took her right hand in his. "Sorry" she told him.
"It's OK. I know how important this is. That's why I am promising you if you have any problems I will read to you" he replied.
"Really? You would do that?" she replied. Ron hated to read. With a passion.
"Absolutely. You may have to help me with some of the words though. After all I do have the emotional range of a teaspoon you know" he attempted to say with a straight face.
"Maybe. But you're my teaspoon" she answered as she tried to kiss his hand. He reached over and pulled her face to his instead.
"Hey you two get a room" Poppy joked. "Are you ready?"
"As I will ever be" Hermione answered. "Ron will you stay here with me?"
"Forever Miss Hermione Jean Granger." He nodded to Poppy who waved her wand causing the lights to dim. She touched the side of Hermione's face and the bandages began to unravel. It seemed like it took forever but in a matter of moments they were off.
"The charm is still on to keep your eyes closed. Give me another minute." Poppy continued to wave her wand around Hermione's head and nodded to Ron.
"Sweetheart you can open your eyes now" he told Hermione.
Very, very slowly Hermione opened her eyes. Everything was fuzzy and she blinked repeatedly. Gradually the lights got brighter and she turned in Ron's direction, bursting into tears as she hugged him. "I was afraid I never could see you again" she said into his now extremely wet shirt.
"I wasn't worried at all. Poppy is the best" he answered, silently thanking the healer.
On the other side of the curtained wall Ginny was glad for Hermione. "And what about you Harry Potter? Will I ever be able to look into those emerald green eyes again?" She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Kreacher trying to comfort her.
"Mistress Ginny this is Master Harry's decision to make. Kreacher thinks he is here now because of his love for us, but a part of him has not yet returned. When he does we will need to ask him where he has been all this time."
Then she felt a hand on her other shoulder. It was Hermione, standing for the first time. "Ginny how is he?" she whispered.
"I don't really know. Outwardly he looks better. It's only the big spot that still bleeds sometimes" she replied. In the center of his chest the white sheet had a blood colored stain. Ginny glanced up at Ron who shook his head no, telling her she didn't know.
Ginny got up so Hermione could sit and took the sheet off Harry. Hermione gasped and turned white upon seeing the lightning bolt shaped scar in the center of his chest. The sheet was quickly changed and replaced so Hermione didn't have to stare at it any longer.
"Ginny we have so much to tell you. If Harry was able to I know he would help. He wants you to know everything, but first can I ask a favor? I really need to take a shower and ... "
"And I said I would wash her back for her but she refused" Ron interjected as Hermione playfully punched him in the shoulder, followed by Ginny hitting the other one.
"Let's go. I haven't had one either since we got here. Ron can you sit with Harry?"
"Of course. You two go make yourselves look pretty. Not that you aren't already" he hastily added.
Ron sat in Ginny's chair after getting hit two more times. By each of them. He took Harry's hand in his and said "Mate I know you're in there somewhere. If I didn't know better I thought you smiled at my predicament just now. Harry I was so scared when they brought you in. I thought I was losing my best friend. And Hermione, she means the world to me. What took me so long to understand this I don't know. But I love her. The only thing stopping me from busting in to the girls loo and proposing, besides Ginny hitting me with one of her bat bogey hexes, is that you aren't here to share this with us. Wherever you are try to get back soon. Please?"
Ron did not notice the door to the girl's loo close. They were going to come back to ask Ron something and heard Ron's heartfelt statements. As softly as possible the door closed behind them. Ginny cast the 'Muffalato' charm and both girls cried their eyes out at what Ron just said. And how both were very afraid for Harry.
"Poppy doesn't know what else to do Hermione" Ginny said as she helped her into the shower. "But your bruises don't seem as bad now."
"It's mainly my arm and shoulder" Hermione replied as the warm water hit her. Seeing she was steady Ginny climbed into the adjacent one.
"Boy this feels good. Did I hear you right earlier telling Ron you want to go to the funeral today?"
"Yes. I feel we owe it to them. I know you can't go, so we will for you."
"Thanks. I wish I could think of something to bring Harry out of it."
"Well you could ask Ron to wheel him in here. If that wouldn't do it nothing would."
Ginny blushed at the thought of standing naked in front of Harry. Not that she hadn't dreamed about that, it wasn't here in the loo at the Hospital. "I'm sure we will have time for that later. Just like you and my overly protective brother."
"I don't think that is an issue anymore. Especially after what happened. And if anyone says anything they have the both of us to deal with."
"Agreed. Now let's get back out there. Something is happening" Ginny replied. Hastily they dressed, both not caring their hair was still wet. When they came out it seemed the light was brighter at the far end where the beds were. As they approached they saw a doorway had appeared. Ron and Harry were out there in a courtyard in the sun. A gentle breeze was blowing, making Harry's hair fluff up even more.
"Ron how did you do this?" Hermione asked.
He wrapped his arms around her and said "I tried to think of the things Harry loved. Besides you" he stated looking at Ginny who didn't even blush. Not a bit. "Flying is the next best thing. So I thought it would be nice if we could get outside and feel the wind blowing through our hair so to speak."
"I don't care what anybody says you really are smart" Ginny said as she hugged him. On Harry's face was the faintest of smiles. She came back and took his hand again, feeling the connection to be stronger. For the first time since this happened she kissed him, afraid before of what might happen. His lips were warm but he did not respond. 'That's OK. One step at a time. He's been through so much. All of us have'.
"Hermione are you sure you're up to this? We don't have to go" a worried Ron told her.
"Yes. The shower helped. And the special meal. But now it's time for dessert."
"I can call ... " was all he got out before Hermione pulled his head down to hers again. She would never tell him she and Ginny heard what he told Harry. That he wanted to propose when Harry was there to be a part of it, just like everything else they had experienced the last seven years.
"Can I have this for breakfast to?" he asked when they were finished.
"Morning, noon, and night" she replied, fantasizing about waking up next to him.
"So Romeo how do you and your blushing Juliet plan on getting to the funeral? Just wave your wand and go?" teased Ginny.
"Sure. Both you close your eyes" he replied. Just to make him happy they did so and heard a rustle of wings. They opened them to see Buckbeak the hippogriff land on the patio along with Hannah, Neville, and Luna on thestrals. Neville slid off and helped Hannah who was behind him.
"You really are incredible" Hermione said as she squeezed Ron tighter.
"Luna and I are escorting you, and to pay our respects" Neville told them.
"And I'm staying to keep you company if that's OK" Hannah added.
"Yes it is. Thanks" Ginny gratefully told her.
Buckbeak approached Harry. He bowed, waiting for Harry's response. Not getting one he came closer, gently touching his arm with his beak.
"I know you love flying with him. One day I know you will" Ginny replied as she stroked his neck which now lay in her lap. She saw the tears in his eyes as he saw the pain both were in.
"I asked Buckbeak if he could help us today. He came back with two of the thestrals we rode to the Ministry" Luna stated.
"I'll tell you all about it while they are gone" Ginny answered seeing Hannah didn't know what they were talking about. She saw Ron climb on Buckbeak's back and Neville helped Hermione to sit in front.
"Just go slow please?" she begged. Hermione had never enjoyed the freedom of flying, but she had rode on Buckbeak before with Harry after rescuing Sirius.
"Absolutely. We are leaving way early. Just lean back against me" Ron replied as Buckbeak began to walk and then rose gently into the air.
Hermione felt Ron's strong arms around her as they rose in circles above the castle. They were disillusioned so she had no fears of being spotted. Below them the devastation from the Battle was still visible, the worst being the greenhouses. She heard Neville swear at that.
Soon they were travelling south. Ron chose a path along the shoreline. Neville watched closely the route Ron was taking. Last time in the rush to get to the Ministry the thestrals went as fast as they could, taking less than an hour to go hundreds of miles. On one side Luna was weaving back and forth chatting with hers. On the other side Ron was holding tightly onto Hermione who was now relaxed. He grew envious wishing it was him and Hannah floating gently across the countryside.
Ginny was sitting holding Harry's hand watching the winged animals leave. She was very jealous, whishing she and Harry could go with them. Part of that was because he was Teddy's Godfather and in fact he asked her to share the duties with him. What these are she had no idea, it was the principal of him wanting to include her.
"Jealous? I know from Quidditch how much you two love to fly" Hannah observed.
"Very. It's something we both love. Besides each other" she grinned.
"What happened to his broom? I remember in the Tri Wizard Tournament how fast he was on it."
"I don't know. Maybe it is here in the Castle?"
"Why don't you try to summon it? It might make a difference."
"I guess it can't hurt. Here, take his hand while I try." Hannah reached out for Harry and sparks flew when she came in contact with the white shimmer which surrounded him.
"Oww that smarts!" she replied rubbing her fingers.
"Hannah I'm so sorry!! Harry you remember Hannah Abbott don't you? From the DA? She and Neville are dating now." Ginny took Hannah's hand in her other one and the white light spread up her arm. "Go ahead. He'll let you touch him now."
Hesitantly Hannah reached for Harry's other hand. This time he did not resist, and she felt the warmth of him spread through her. "You remind me so much of Neville. Both of you are strong, courageous men. And the love I feel is amazing. Ginny you are quite fortunate."
Smiling Ginny got up and stood near the outside wall. She held up her wand and said: "Acacio Harry Potter's Firebolt." She returned to the other side to wait for a response. "Speaking of jealous Hannah I bet every girl here hates you right now! All but two."
"What? But why?" Hannah asked dumbfounded until a smile crept across her face.
"Minerva told me last night. And that you are moving in with him."
"Don't make it sound like that! It's not like we are sleeping together" she said as she got redder.
"Hannah you two didn't ... "
"No. It was the morning after you came back. Minerva told us to go into her private Office. We ate and changed into the clothes the House Elves provided us and fell asleep on the couches. While we were asleep Neville began thrashing around."
"Harry used to do it all the time at the Burrow. If I held him the nightmares went away."
"That's what I did. I awoke with my head on his chest. He was awake staring at me, like he was looking at me for the first time. Then I teased him a little."
"Hannah Abbott what did you do?"
"I transfigured what I was wearing." Knowing they were alone she traced her wand across her chest, showing Ginny the barely on shirt she slept in.
Ginny whistled then covered Harry's eyes. 'I don't want to give him a heart attack. I can't compete with her, but I bet he will love what I have when the time comes'. "Trust me Hannah he has noticed you."
"Really? How do you know?"
"We were in the Room of Requirement. He kept pacing saying "THAT BASTARD!" I asked him why and he said it had to do with you and Dean."
"I remember that day. We were study partners in the Library for a History of Magic paper we had to write. Dean kept trying to feel up my leg. I kept pushing him away but he wouldn't stop. There was a loud crash-Neville had dropped a stack of books and was glaring at Dean who moved away and we got the paper done.
The next day I was back to study for our O W L S. I could see Neville wanted to talk to me but that bitch Pansy Parkinson was there, rubbing herself against him. I saw her press a note into his hand and kiss him on the cheek not three feet away!! I got up and ran out saying I had a headache. That night I heard about my Mom and left school."
"Then you don't know the rest of the story. He went back to Gryffindor House and went straight into the Seventh Year boys loo. He burned the note and all the clothes he was wearing. He asked his Room Mate Seamus Finnigan to use 'Scourgify' over and over on him! Then he spent the next hour in the shower 'trying to clean all the filth off'. He showed me his hands the next day and they were all wrinkled."
"I HATE THAT GIRL!!!"
"Don't worry I got her back for you and all us girls. I charmed the back of her cloak to read 'I charge by the hour'. She didn't understand why guys kept walking up to her asking her how much. Even the Slytherins didn't tell her. After a couple of weeks Millicent Bullstrode felt sorry for her and did tell her. She made a big deal about it insisting Snape expel whoever was responsible."
"Thanks Ginny. When you were talking I noticed you frowned when you mentioned Dean's name. Did you have a problem too? I thought you two dated."
"We did. I knew Harry was seeing Cho Chang, and I thought I had no hope. I dated Michael Corner first, then Dean. We broke it off and then Harry and I got together. He was definitely worth the wait. Anyway the morning after the Battle I went looking for Harry. Yes I saw him but minutes before I thought he was dead. I guess I wanted to make sure it wasn't a dream. He, Ron, and Hermione were in the Headmaster's Office. I left and went back to Gryffindor House to get some sleep. I figured out which bed was his and I asked Kreacher to make sure and fell asleep. Sometime later I felt someone crawl in next to me. I asked if it was Harry and he said yes." Ginny slid her hand through his long tangled hair again. "When I realized it was Dean I threw him out. He tried to come back but Kreacher made him leave. Hannah I feel like I cheated on Harry!!!"
Neither girl noticed the wind begin to pick up, or how Harry's face became contorted. "Ginny you didn't ask for him to do that! To lie to you trying to impersonate Harry!! Now we know why Minerva sent him away. We heard some of that before she closed the doors on us. Last year he tried to seduce every girl he could!!"
"I bet Pansy wouldn't have charged him much" Ginny tried to joke. Her hand was gripping Harry's tighter, so she didn't notice he was doing the same. She tried to let go and stand when she realized this. Tears were running down his face.
"HARRY? Harry can you hear me?" she pleaded. "I know you Harry James Potter. Right now you are blaming yourself for this!! But like Hannah just told me it wasn't my fault. And what happened to us wasn't any of ours fault. Hermione is better. She and Ron went to the funerals for Remus and Tonks. Neville and Luna are with them so nothing else happens. Please come back to me Harry! I love you!!!"
"Ginny I think Harry is bleeding" Hannah softly said, gesturing to the sheet covering him.
"Harry I need to change this" she said as she stood. She felt his hand relax and saw the tears stop. The bed now had wheels and they pushed him back into the curtained off area. A stack of fresh sheets were there and she pulled off the soiled one. A gasp from Hannah brought her back to reality. The horcrux scar was bleeding now too, in addition to the one from the killing curse. With Hannah's help his wounds were cleaned and she was about to cover him up when Poppy arrived for her afternoon visit.
"So how are our patients today? Good to see you Miss Abbott. It's very nice of you and the DA helping so much. And for keeping Ginny and Harry company" she said.
"Poppy I don't think I was too much help today. Ginny and I were talking and I said some things which got Harry upset. He's more hurt now because of it" Hannah reluctantly said.
"Nonsense! These wounds were created by Dark Magic which heals differently. This special lotion I have here was invented by then Professor Dumbledore during the first War." In her hand was a container full of purple cream which smelled familiar after it was rubbed on Harry's chest.
"Treacle Tart. It's like Amortensia isn't it? Whenever I smell it I think of Harry."
"It smells like roses to me" Hannah replied thinking about Neville as she fingered the rose still in her hair.
"Yes it does smell different to each individual. And it does work very effectively. By tomorrow morning we should see a lot of improvement" Poppy stated, wishing for this to be true. In Harry's case because these were so severe she wasn't as confident as she normally was.
* * *
Hermione almost didn't notice Buckbeak getting closer to the ground. They were following Luna on her thestral over a forest. In a clearing ahead she could see a farmhouse with a small pavilion erected next to it. With four more lazy loops Buckbeak gracefully landed near Kingsley. "Miss Granger it's good to see you up. How are you feeling?" he asked as Ron removed the sticking charm so Kingsley might help her down.
"Much better thanks. Kingsley was it smart of us to come? I don't want to cause any trouble" she replied.
"We are paying our respects, nothing more. I have disillusioned Aurors stationed around us. Nothing will happen" he responded to a worried Hermione.
"Actually it's me they should be worried about" she replied. Her wand was in her hand and Kingsley could see no one had better mess with her, Ron, or anyone else today.
Especially Ron. He took a look around, checking for problems. Specifically anyone whose name started with the letter W. In the distance he saw a group of people wildly waving at him. "Great. The press" he mumbled.
"This was publicized in the Prophet. For tomorrow too. Kingsley couldn't stop it" Hestia Jones said. She was one of the Aurors here today.
"Vultures is what they are. Especially that Rita Skeeter. She's in front, waving like we are old friends" Ron replied. "She thinks she's everybody's friend. Until she gets her story, or in her case whatever version she wishes" Ron added. At Bill and Fleur's Wedding her book 'The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore' had just been released. Harry got a copy and was flabbergasted at what she wrote.
"She's bragging about writing a book with Harry. Can you imagine the nerve?" Hermione stated. She was now standing beside Ron glaring at Rita.
"Ron? Hermione?" a small voice said from behind them. Standing dressed all in black was Andromeda Tonks. She was cradling Teddy, whose hair was now bright red.
"Andy we are so sorry. Remus inspired Harry, who in turn inspired us. We owe it all to him. And Tonks. Her joy filled the room. She was like a big sister to us, especially Ginny and I" Hermione told the grieving woman.
"Kingsley told me she and Harry couldn't come. Are they all right? I've heard rumors ... " Andromeda told them.
"The Battles have us all worn out" Ron partially lied. "Harry is trying to rest and build up his strength. He told both of us he wanted to be part of Teddy's life from the moment Remus asked. And Ginny wants to also."
"We do too. No one should have to grow up the way Harry had to. If there is anything you need we will help you" Hermione added.
"Can I quote you on that Miss Granger? And where exactly is Harry Potter? Is he shacked up somewhere with Miss Weasley, too busy to come to the funeral?" Rita Skeeter asked. Her quick quotes quill was poised ready for a response.
Ron was livid. He balled up his fist ready to punch the reporter's face into next week but Hermione stopped him. She smiled and waved her wand. Rita felt herself floating in the air and landing near the group of reporters who were now stampeding towards them. They came to a screeching halt, acting like they had run into something. A few tried to apparate but that didn't work either.
"Minister I believe Mrs. Tonks wishes to press charges for trespassing" Hermione calmly told Kingsley who came running up. He had stopped the Weasleys as soon as they had arrived and was trying to distract them until Ron and Hermione left.
"Certainly. Each of you were told to stay off private property. Obviously you haven't" he replied.
"That's OK we have our story" one of them smugly said holding up his camera. Suddenly all cameras and note taking equipment left their hands landing at Neville's feet.
"Minister I believe you will need this as evidence" he replied, much to the reporters chagrin.
"Absolutely! And with the Ministry being so short handed it might be weeks or months until I get the chance to examine all on these" Kingsley gestured. Luna was now examining the cameras, taking pictures of the butterflies.
"Can't we reach a compromise?" another asked.
"If you agree to publish the truth, then I will not have you arrested. But if I see anything else, I will hold every one of you accountable. Do we understand each other?" Andromeda Tonks asked.
The reporters were all staring at Rita. She knew she could not embellish her story like normal or face the wrath of the Ministry and all the other reporters. "I agree too" she smiled. With her other plans in the works she didn't need this story. Or the one tomorrow at the Weasleys.
Luna finished taking her pictures. She distributed them to the reporters, keeping all the others they had taken. The anti apparition charm was lifted and all departed including Rita.
"We haven't seen the last of her" Ron sagely added as she left.
Neville had moved away after the reporters were 'captured'. When he heard Kingsley mention the Weasleys he stationed himself between his friends and the house. He guessed they had arrived by floo, and he was right. Molly, Arthur, Percy, George and Angelina came out, followed a few moments later by Fleur. Molly wanted to rush forward when she saw Neville, thinking correctly her children were here. Fleur placed a hand on her arm, and she grudgingly walked back into the home with her Family.
"Neville how are you? I haven't seen you since the Battle. How badly did Voldemort hurt you?" she wondered.
"I'm healing. My hair is almost grown back, thanks to Hannah" he replied.
"I've heard about that. Congratulations. And how are Harry and Ginny?"
"She is almost healed, but Harry is not even close. Hannah is with Ginny right now while we are all here. But what about you? I can't imagine what you are going through."
"I have been better. Thanks to Ginny Kingsley let me see both Bill and Charlie this morning. They are puzzled why they are being held, and don't believe me why. Kingsley has their memories of what happened and I am concerned what will happen when they can see for themselves what they did."
"It's all so tragic" Luna added as she came up. "Friends fighting like this. It's almost like the imperious curse where they had no will of their own."
"Mon Dieu. Luna you are a genius" Fleur said as she hugged the smaller girl. Now she remembered what she read about while at school in Paris. "Please tell Hermione and Ron I will stop and visit later. And I will keep the Weasleys occupied until you leave."
Neville shrugged his shoulders and returned to Hermione and Ron. For a moment he considered sending his patronus to Hannah asking her to floo here so they could ride back together but that wouldn't be fair to Ginny. They were waiting ready to leave not wanting to be a further distraction. And they wished to avoid Ron's Parents who were sure to come back out at any moment. He filled them in on his conversation with Fleur and they rose back into the sky, disillusioned again just in case any stray reporters were still there.
* * *
"What do you think Ginny? About what Fleur said last night?" wondered Hermione.
"I don't know. What she described sounds like what happened, but I can't be sure. The memories Minerva and Kingsley are collecting will tell us a lot. Until then we cannot afford a repeat of last time" Ginny said as she and Hermione ate breakfast. Ron was spending some 'man time' alone with Harry while they finished their meal.
"What did you decide about today? You really should go you know" Hermione insisted. Ginny was torn between staying with Harry and attending Fred's funeral. "I am happy to stay with Harry. Hannah volunteered to keep me company so Neville and Luna can come with you and Ron. I think this reminds her of her Mother's funeral, so I can see why she stays behind."
Ginny spent the morning explaining to Hermione what she was doing to help Harry. In the early afternoon they heard voices coming from the terraced area and were surprised to see Hagrid. "If you and Ron don't mind I'm coming too. How's Harry today?"
"I think he's getting better. Sometimes he'll squeeze my hand or smiles a little" Ginny sadly replied.
"At least he's improving. Try to keep your spirits up. We can leave as soon as you want" answered Hagrid.
Ginny gave Hannah a hug and watched her take a seat across from Hermione, grasping Harry's other hand. She went outside and was surprised to see not only Buckbeak but six thestrals. "Ginny these are the ones we rode to the Ministry. They all wanted to come, and Hagrid is taking Buckbeak" Luna told her from astride hers, which she had nicknamed 'Spot'. Ginny leaped easily onto her mount's back and they climbed into the sky.
* * *
Headmistress Minerva McGonagall anxiously paced along the barrier at the Burrow. The funeral was about to start and she was worried something had happened to Ginny, Ron, and the rest. Arthur and Molly had promised her not to interfere when they arrived, but that was like asking a leopard to change its spots. She glanced behind her to see Fleur Weasley standing between her husband Bill and his brother Charlie. Both men stood with their shoulders slumped, seeming half their actual size. 'I wonder what's going through their heads right now? Burying their brother Fred, or what they apparently did to their Family?' She had yet to show them or any other member of the Family their memories, and Molly was resenting that. "Minerva until I can see these for myself they are innocent!! Only a Death Eater could do what they are accused of!!" she insisted.
A gong sounded indicating the Ceremony was about to start. She hastened back, taking her seat alongside Kingsley. Both were to speak today, remembering the antics of the twins. To her right the western side of the tent was open, and near the base of the old oak tree was Fred's coffin.
Directly in front were the Weasleys. They sat in order from left to right, starting with Arthur, Molly, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy, an empty space, George, and Angelina. Two more chairs were there in the hope Ron and Ginny would sit with them, but that hope was slim at best.
Minerva returned to her seat, not remembering even speaking. The sun was setting and she thought she saw something. She felt Kingsley tug on her sleeve and she watched as winged figures appeared, like they flew right out of the sun. Ginny was the first to land and dismount, and the way the light was around her she looked like the phoenix Fawkes when she appeared. Ron was next and he landed alongside his sister. Hagrid, Luna, Neville, and the other two rider less thestrals floated down between them and the crowd which had begun to get out of their seats.
Hagrid sat in the center on Buckbeak with Luna on his left and Neville on his right. The intensity in their eyes convinced people to stay away. Two thestrals flanked either side, effectively blocking anyone from viewing what was taking place. They could not see Ron and Ginny kneel next to Fred's casket, hugging it as they cried. Those sounds alone drifted to the ears of those in attendance who had returned to their seats. A frustrated Molly and Arthur did so too, wishing all their children could be united to grieve together.
As the sun set they rose back into the sky, Ginny and Ron both wondering if they would ever set foot in their Family home again.
True to her word Fleur had made arrangements with the head of Gringotts. Hermione, Ron, and Kingsley used a floo which appeared in the special room to travel to the Bank. Kreacher was waiting with Griphook who had been promoted to Assistant Manager. "Hello. Shall we begin?" he said gruffly leading them into a small windowless room.
"Good Morning Griphook. Are you feeling better after what happened?" Hermione asked in her kindest manner. Plus she wanted to remind him he was alive because of their actions.
"Griphook was doing better. I had received a promotion for returning with the Sword of Gryffindor but when it disappeared I was demoted" he angrily replied.
"We are very sorry to hear that. Never the less we are grateful for the way you and your people helped in the defeat of Voldemort, as well as yours also Kreacher" Ron told them.
"Kingsley Griphook's help was instrumental. We want to sit with both you and Minerva when Harry is up to it" Hermione added.
"Speaking of Harry Potter why is he not here?" Griphook angrily demanded.
"His healers have not OK'ed him for travel yet. Griphook you saw him when you stayed at my home. All three were exhausted as you were" Fleur explained.
"And I do not see Miss Weasley. We have nothing to discuss either if she not here" Griphook responded, getting up and storming out.
"The Goblins see things differently as we do" Kreacher said after the door closed. "I will return with her momentarily." He returned less than a minute later with a very miffed Ginny.
"Kingsley it's a good thing Neville was there too or I would have told the Goblins what they can do with their Bank" she replied as she plopped down next to Ron. Fleur left and was followed back in by Griphook and another Goblin who wheeled in a table with a tea set and cookies. Wordlessly he left.
Griphook now looked more apprehensive than angry. He could literally see the steam rising off Ginny as she sat there with both hands clenched on her wand trying very hard not to hex him. "Miss Weasley thank you for coming. It is because of your relationship with Mr. Potter that we needed you here. I am sorry for the inconvenience."
Ginny thought she heard Ron's jaw hit the table he was so surprised. The Goblins were never civil with the Witches and Wizards. They were barely on speaking terms.
"Thank you Griphook for that. As you can see Ginny is very concerned for Harry and wishes to return as soon as possible. We all do" Hermione replied with a small smile crossing her face. 'This can't be what I think it is?' she thought, barely keeping herself from jumping up and hugging Ginny.
"I understand Miss Granger. I believe you were trying to tell me how I helped" Griphook responded, now much kinder.
"Yes. Ginny we had just escaped Malfoy Manor. Dobby died and we buried him on a hill overlooking the sea. Hermione and Griphook had been tortured by Bellatrix for information about her vault. That told us we had to go there as quickly as possible" Ron said.
"Once we had a plan and were strong enough the three of us and Griphook went to Gringotts. I had Bellatrix's wand so I impersonated her. We went down into the vault and managed to enter. The burns you saw on us were caused by curses in the vault. We came directly to Hogwarts and the Battle started. Kingsley" Hermione said turning now to him "I know I can trust Griphook to keep these things we did quiet, but we need to make a public statement of some kind. I suspect you have been inundated by requests from reporters."
"Miss Granger I have. What do you think we should say?" Kingsley wondered, trying very hard not to smile himself. Obviously much more had happened or the Goblins would not be screaming mad.
"Just what my girlfriend said. Griphook on behalf of the Goblins understood the importance of the mission we were on. Behind the scenes they helped us and deserve credit for it" Ron replied as he put his arm around Hermione.
"And don't forget the House Elves" Ginny chimed in. Like Kingsley it was apparent much more occurred.
"If you could do that we would be very grateful" a much happier Griphook answered. No mention was made of how he had betrayed them, or about the dragon imprisoned.
"Some reporters are saying people saw a dragon escape" Kingsley commented.
"I don't remember anything about a dragon. Do you Ron?" Hermione asked as she snuggled up closer to him.
"Sorry" he replied much to Griphook's relief.
"Thank you. Now there is another matter. The sword you left with me. Are you aware it disappeared?" Griphook asked, attempting not to get mad again. "My superiors were quite upset when that took place."
"I suspect they are. Does it have anything to do with a question of ownership?" Ron asked.
"Indeed it does Mr. Weasley. A thousand years ago we Goblins made this for Godric Gryffindor. Obviously he is long since passed, so the rights to it return to us" he smugly answered.
"It might not be that easy" Ginny said. "In my first year I was possessed by Dark Magic. I was near death when the sword appeared for Harry who slew the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, saving both my life and ending Tom Riddle's hope at the time to return to life." She shuddered at the memories this brought up, including seeing Harry's life leaving him until Fawkes intervened.
Hermione pulled out her beaded bag and withdrew a sword from it. "Here is the replica which had been made. The workmanship is incredible, all the details your people placed on it. When you were holding it did you look at the opposite side?" She flipped the blade over, opposite where Godric Gryffindor's name was. Runes were there which she translated. "This was a spell cast by Godric Gryffindor once he received the sword. It says: In time of need this will appear to a true son of Gryffindor. This is why it came both for Harry and for Neville when he needed it."
"At the time Harry and I were puzzled. The Headmaster had told him what this said, and we wondered if it had a double meaning. But there was no way to prove it" Ron replied.
"Prove what?" Ginny wondered herself, getting lost in the conversation.
"That Harry is a true son of Gryffindor. Or more specifically a descendant of Godric Gryffindor. In which case Neville must be too" Hermione stated.
"Miss Weasley by this appearing for them proves to us Goblins Mr. Potter and Mr. Longbottom are directly descended from one of the Founders of Hogwarts" responded Griphook. He looked wryly at the sword, admiring it for what he thought was for the last time.
"Griphook for now why not keep it on display here in the Lobby? Everyone who comes in will see it showing the skills your people have. It might also remind them about the War in years to come" Fleur recommended.
"Mrs. Weasley that is an excellent suggestion! I will pass it on to my superiors" replied Griphook. "Lastly we need to discuss the matter of Mr. Potter's vaults."
"Vaults? What do you mean vaults?" Ron wondered. He had accompanied Harry years ago on a trip to his vault. Harry tried to stand blocking Ron's view of its contents, knowing how sensitive Ron and the rest of the Weasleys were about money.
"Miss Weasley owing to your ... relationship ... with Mr. Potter that is why we insisted on your being here. As soon as possible there are papers he needs to sign regarding them" Griphook asked as he slid a stack towards her.
Ginny was puzzled. Yes she was Harry's girlfriend. It's not like they were married or even engaged. "Griphook I would be glad to take these to Harry. Unfortunately I cannot promise you when I can return with them."
"Not to worry Miss Weasley. By accepting custody of these you have agreed to keep the accounts outstanding" Griphook replied as he smiled.
"And what would have happened if she had not?" Hermione asked.
"Mr. Potter had turned 17 or reached the age of maturity. If he did nothing by the age of 18 he risked losing them. Additionally if anything happen to Mr. Potter the contents of his vaults would become the property of Gringotts" the Goblin replied. "These vaults have not been used in quite some time. Can we please contact you once we finish inventorying the contents?"
"Please. I will notify Harry today. I'm sure as soon as he can he will wish to inspect them himself" Ginny replied, wondering what else could be in there. Each summer they went to Gringotts to get money before school shopping. Very little was there, but her Mother had learned to make the most of it. She heard Kingsley thank Griphook for his time and Fleur hug her.
"Ginny before we say anything we need to research this. Then we can surprise Harry, Neville, and Hannah" Hermione said before they entered the floo.
Ginny's head was spinning before she even left Gringotts. Harry had Vaults. 'I'm sure he doesn't know about them' she guessed as she returned to the special room. Hannah and Neville reported things were fine with Harry.
"Ginny he seemed to know me! I didn't have the problems Hannah had" Neville stated referring to Hannah's touch being rejected by Harry some days earlier.
It was difficult for Ginny not to mention anything specific about the meeting other than Harry had papers to sign. "I will too when I turn 18" Neville commented.
"When is that?" Hannah asked not knowing when his Birthday was.
"On July 30th, the day before Harry's" he answered.
"Neville that's one day after mine" Hannah joyfully replied as she hugged him.
"Then we can have a bigger Party than usual. Our four Birthdays get celebrated together. You two are welcome to join us" Ginny replied.
"How about at our house this time?" Hannah asked.
"If Harry is up to it" Ginny ended with, looking down at him. His smile seemed bigger than yesterday as he held her hand.
"Mistress Weasley can you please tell Kreacher when Master Weasley and Mistress Granger return?" With a 'pop' he left, smiling all the way.
It was late when Hermione and Ron returned from the Library. No other students were there so they had free run of the place. Neither could find records back far enough to substantiate Griphook's belief about Harry and Neville. "As long as they believe it that's what counts" Ron told Hermione. Two meals ( or snacks as he called them ) brought by Winky got him through the marathon search. He suspected Hermione would keep at it until she got answers. Which was fine with him because it gave them a chance to spend more time together in the one place in the World she was happiest.
Hermione and Ron awoke early the next day. They had decided to enlarge a bed on the other side of the curtain to sleep together easier. Both their backs were sore attempting to fit onto a single bed. He quietly got up to check on his sister and Harry and was mildly shocked to see her in bed with him, her head resting on his shoulder. Her left hand was placed in between the two scars, like she wasn't sure if it might hurt him putting it directly on one.
Ron felt the back of his pajama collar being pulled as he turned to see Hermione trying to drag him away. "But they aren't married" he hissed once they got back onto their side.
"Neither are you two" he heard Ginny say from her side.
"Exactly. And it's not like Harry is in any condition to do anything. Hannah told us how Neville had nightmares the first night after the Battle and it helped calm both of them down."
"Yes Hermione I know but ... "
"But nothing Ronald Weasley unless you want both Ginny and I to bat bogey you!!!" Hermione told her boyfriend as she kissed him. She pushed him back to apologize.
"Ginny I'm sorry I over reacted. I guess I still see you as my little sister" Ron sheepishly told her.
"Ron Harry and I love each other. You both heard us say it" she said still in bed with Harry. She pushed his now longer black hair (it was a side effect of the potion Professor Dumbledore invented). "Good Morning Sweetheart" she said as she kissed Harry. During the night he had put his arm protectively around her, pulling her closer.
"Good Morning!! How did we all sleep?" Kreacher asked as he arrived with trays full of food.
"Much better Kreacher" Ginny replied. "I think Harry did too." She gestured to his arm around her.
"That's excellent Mistress Ginny. Please remind Kreacher later to thank Mistress Abbott."
"I thought Kreacher it was Mistress Longbottom" Hermione teased.
"Kreacher sees them together one day, as he does with all four of you" he replied. "Today Kreacher asks for your help. Could Mistress Ginny and Mistress Granger please come with Kreacher this morning? I promise it will not take long."
"Ginny I can stay with Harry. It's my turn and we need to catch up" Ron stated. He remained with Harry while the girls got ready. "Mate I want to apologize. I shouldn't be giving you and Ginny a hard time. Doing that makes me no better than my Family. Coming from me it's worse because I should know better. You have stood by me and Hermione, patiently waiting for us to realize our feelings for each other. I am going to ask one favor. I know you love Hermione as much as I do. If I ever get stupid or too thick to appreciate her I give you permission to hex me. But not too bad or she will never speak to either of us again." Ron felt Harry's grip tighten for a moment then release, like they shook hands. "Thanks mate. Come back soon. We all miss you."
When the girls came out of the loo Kreacher was waiting. "Mistresses thank you for humoring Kreacher. As I said I need your help." He waited while the girls ate and kissed their guys goodbye (Ginny kissed Ron too thanking him for staying), took Kreacher's hand and disappeared.
"Kreacher can we open our eyes now?" Ginny asked as she felt her feet land on a hard surface.
"Yes Mistress you may" he replied. His hands were trembling, hoping they would be happy with him. The two gasps he heard answered that question.
"This is gorgeous!!! Kreacher where are we?" Ginny whispered. One hand was still holding Kreacher's tightly and the other was touching a black countertop which shone like glass. She was in a kitchen, but not just any kitchen. It was the perfect blend of coziness and sophistication. The jet black counter (remarkably similar to Harry's hair color) rested on white cabinets which covered two walls. In the center of the longer wall was a farmhouse sink, the front inlaid with the symbols of all four Houses of Hogwarts. A chrome gooseneck faucet arched over it, matching the handles on the cabinet doors and drawers. Above it was a window with white lace curtains. It was open and a gentle breeze caused them to be softly blown inwards. On either side of the window were more white cabinets, these ones having glass doors. They were illuminated from the inside, the soft white light reflecting off the assortment of cups, plates, and saucers of various sizes. Each bore the four part seal of Hogwarts. She leaned back thinking she might pass out when her hand struck something. She turned to see a center island containing an eight burner stove which had two double ovens built in below it. It was surrounded by a white marble top which had black and grey veins running through it. Above it was a pot rack with over a dozen copper pots and pans of assorted sizes, and more were stored inside the open cabinets which flanked the stove. The counter was raised on the other side, allowing room for four bar stools, each with white legs and polished oak seats.
"I bet that is where we will find Ron sitting with a fork in each hand" Hermione joked of her boyfriend. She visualized him sitting there testing each pot and pan 'to make sure it was good enough for everyone to eat'.
Just past the island was a farmhouse style table, similar to the old one. This one had a polished wood top matching the medium oak seats and the floor, with sturdy white legs. Ginny walked along, tracing a finger along the smooth finish. "It has a version of the room extension charm, as does many other parts" she heard Kreacher say. Her eyes were drawn to the next wall which had a series of tall narrow doors. "Go ahead" they heard Kreacher say.
Hermione opened the one on the far right and was amazed to see a Butler Pantry. It extended another 20 feet and had shelves full of extra plates, cups, etc. Also the larger pots and serving platters. Ginny opened the adjacent one to find an equally large food pantry. "We could feed Ron for a week with all this" she said dumbfounded. In the Burrow they did not starve, but food was watched closely.
Two more doors were left. They each opened one to find a refrigerator and a freezer, fully stocked. Like it was waiting for them to move in.
"Kreacher I don't know what to say" Ginny told him. His big smile told her there was still more. The final wall appeared to be four large windows but when she approached them she realized they were two sets of sliding French doors with floor length billowy white lace curtains. She and Hermione grasped a handle each and slid them aside, revealing a dining area with glass walls and ceiling. It had a black wrought iron table with four chairs in the center, and several couches and comfy chairs for guests to sit on. A small fireplace (not connected to the floo network) was in one corner to warm it on cold winter nights.
"Mistress please wave your wand and say 'Recedo' " Kreacher asked.
Numbly Ginny did so, becoming more shocked with each passing moment. "Recedo" she commanded, and the glass walls and ceiling for the 30 by 30 foot disappeared. They were now outside enjoying the beautiful summer day.
"Mistresses you may choose how you wish the room to be based on your mood or the weather" he replied. " 'Reverto' will bring the ceiling and walls back. Also if it is too sunny you may change the color of the ceiling just like at Hogwarts."
Hermione and Ginny sat at the table too astonished for words. Rustling sounds were heard around them and they saw they were surrounded by dozens of House Elves. "Here Mistresses" Winky told them, sliding a tray of tall glasses of ice cold lemonade and gingerbread cookies towards them.
"Did all of you do this?" Ginny finally asked.
"Yes Mistress. Kreacher came to us the first night after ... after it happened. He said the Minister wanted him to go to Grimmauld Place and prepare it for Harry Potter's return. It was terrible what the Death Eaters had done Mistress. Graffiti on the Walls, curses every other step. Dark traps everywhere. Two days ago we finished removing all of them, and work began. Once Harry Potter finishes his travelling we believe he will wish to come here, so we want this to be ready" Winky replied.
"His travelling? What do you mean Winky?" wondered Ginny. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Kreacher scowl at Winky.
"Kreacher can you duplicate these so everyone can enjoy them?" Hermione asked in an attempt to distract him.
"Yes Mistress" he replied. He snapped his fingers and enough glasses appeared for all the Elves, and extra pitchers. "Mistresses 'travelling' is probably not the best word to use. Master Harry is on a journey." He closed his eyes for a minute and the other House Elves quietly left. Sounds of activity could now be heard in other portions of the house.
"We House Elves know our lot in life, to serve our Masters. Now Mistress Granger before you say anything you and Master Weasley have given us many things to think about. As did Master Harry. The way he has treated Kreacher, who had nothing but evil and wicked things to say to him when we first met, has caused us to look at things differently. When you cried for Dobby, burying him like one of your own, it did much for both ourselves and the Goblins. That was why Griphook was willing to help you. Not because of your relationship to Godric Gryffindor.
As I said, Master Harry is both here and not here. A part of him remains in another place. It is up to him to decide where he wishes to be. It is Kreacher's hope, along with the hopes of all the House Elves, that he chooses to return."
"Kreacher this journey he is on, do you know where that is? Can we go there and help him find his way back?" Hermione fearfully asked.
"No Mistress. Each human goes through this at some point in their lives. A search for themselves, and their place in this World. Master Harry has succeeded in his mission, and he wonders what happens next? We believe if we can give him reasons to came back he will. That is why we are here, preparing this for you."
"Ginny wasn't that on your mind last night? Sleeping next to Harry?" Hermione wondered.
"Yes. I thought if I held him, or if he felt me with him it might help him snap out of it. Hermione this is much more involved than we thought. Maybe we should ask Professor Dumbledore what to do?"
"It can't hurt Ginny. Before we go back can we see what else has been accomplished here? Kreacher the work all of you have done is phenomenal" Hermione told him.
"Thank you Mistress Granger. And we do need your help for two things. First is money. Kreacher has used his access at Gringotts to get at the money Master Sirius had for household expenses which is now gone. If Mistress Ginny could please return there when the Goblins ask things will go better. Second we need help with decorating decisions" he said smiling at the two girls. "Let's start with the other rooms completed and move on to the bedrooms."
The walls were restored to the Indoor/Outdoor Dining Room, and learned there was a loo behind the last door they did not open. They next saw the Formal one. A massive oak table and chairs were in the center, and a hutch at the far end filled with crystal and china emblazoned with the House of Potter emblem. The next room was the old tapestry room, which had been cleaned and restored. The Potters, Weasleys, and other Wizarding Families and their relationships were represented, including the Longbottom's. The front parlor was enlarged, now holding several sets of comfortable leather furniture. The fireplace had been refinished in a darker oak than the floor to match the formal Dining Room furniture.
The front staircase had previously been at the back of the hallway. It was the most damaged so it was relocated to the front and enlarged to make it a flying grand staircase. What made it unique was no visible means of support other than contact with the wall. It traveled back and forth up the four flights to all the bedrooms.
Half of the Elves were busy working on the second floor. "Mistress Ginny we are glad you could come! We have many questions about what colors to paint the walls, how you want to arrange the room, ... " the Elf asked. She was peppered with dozens of questions much to Hermione's amusement.
"Mistress Granger could you come with us please?" another asked, leading Hermione up the next flight. Very little had been done so far, other than cleaning. "Mistress how large do you want the room? And how many windows? Where should we place the loo? Do you have a lot of clothes? What about Master Weasley?" she heard, getting as overwhelmed as Ginny.
"Excuse me? Can you give us a second?" Ginny asked from the soon to be entrance to the bedroom.
"Help?!?" Hermione stated looking shell shocked. "For the first time in my life I have no clue what to do."
"Let's talk to the guys and sleep on it. Maybe tomorrow you bring Ron and discuss your rooms. Maybe Hannah and I will come later in the day to look at ours. Maybe the fourth floor too. Let her help with that, in case she and Neville come they will have a nice place to stay" Ginny told Hermione.
"So that's the plan, to move in here?" Hermione quietly asked.
"This is our House, and neither my parents or anyone else are going to stop us" Ginny firmly answered. Hermione almost crushed her, squeezing her as tight as she could.
Kreacher returned them to Hogwarts, and found Neville and Hannah visiting with Harry and Ron. The two ladies gushed praise of what the Elves had done (it was mutually agreed to call them Elves from now on ) that they accepted Kreacher's suggestion to return that afternoon. All but Ginny went, grateful for the chance to talk to Harry alone about their House. She crawled in beside him again, talking softly about the changes made and her dreams of one day sharing it with him and starting a Family. She fell asleep not noticing the tears of joy streaming from him as he hugged her tighter than he had ever done before.
Ron asked the others not to interrupt them when they returned, hearing the sounds of Ginny sleeping soundly. "It's the best I've heard from her since ..." he whispered to the others. A note was left for them asking to meet in the morning concerning the attack, so they postponed their morning return visit.
* * *
At 8am The Headmistress, The Minister, Hannah, Neville, Luna, and Fleur arrived. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron were up much earlier, anxious for the news. Kreacher arrived with breakfast which they shared al fresco clustered in chairs around Harry's bedside.
"Minister we want to thank you for asking Kreacher to begin the project at #12 Grimmauld Place" Ginny told him. " And it is Ginny please. I am no longer using my last name" she replied. "No offense Fleur."
"Miss Weasley it was my pleasure to help you" the Minister answered.
"I don't know if your parents are going to like that" Minerva sadly replied. "Your Mother was very adamant about you returning to the Burrow and to School next Fall. She was also extremely upset that Harry, Hermione, and Ron might move out."
"It's almost the end of May. In less than three months I will be of age anyway. If they can't trust me with Harry, than I don't know what they think. Minister I believe you wished to discuss where things stand?" Ginny asked.
"It's Kingsley please Ginny. First it appears Harry is improving. Do you agree?"
"We do" Ron answered. "He still has a way to go, but progress is taking place."
"I can see that. So you no longer need to be touching him to be a part of him?" Fleur asked, noticing the three closest (Ginny, Ron, and Hermione) were covered in the same white glow Harry was even though they were several feet away.
"Yes. That started yesterday after we returned with Kreacher. Harry is now more aware of us, so as long as we are close and he knows we are safe he is fine. It's like he needed the direct contact before to satisfy him" Hermione added.
"That is a good word to use Miss Granger" the portrait of Albus Dumbledore said. He magically appeared floating next to Harry. "I see Hogwarts felt I should attend this meeting also. Unfortunately I will have to return to my former Office at some point, where I was entertaining Arthur and Molly Weasley."
"I'm sorry who?" Ron asked deadpanned.
"Whatever happens Ron and Ginny, they are still your parents. Minerva I understand you wished to update our friends with what progress you have made investigating this?" Albus asked.
Minerva waved her wand sending her tabby cat patronus. "I will update Molly and Arthur later. So far we have collected dozens of memories and have not come to a definite conclusion yet. Cleary something influenced them, but what? What we propose, with your permission, is to put them to use while we are investigating. Not all repairs can be done magically. We wish to assign them to two separate teams to help repair the Castle. Aurors will be with them constantly, overseeing them and reporting daily. At night they will go to the Burrow. If they make any attempt to contact Ginny, Harry, Hermione, or Ron they will be immediately taken to Azkaban. If all of you are in agreement I will discuss this with them. How does everyone feel about this?"
"What about their magic? How do we prevent them from using it and escaping?" wondered Neville.
"As an Auror there are spells used on prisoners. Their magic has been bound, and will be until we decide otherwise" Kingsley replied.
"Minister I am worried they would overpower whoever is watching them and escape" Ginny asked, thinking about anyone the size of Hestia Jones or Luna.
"We will put the trace on them. If they were to do that we could track them and send them to Azkaban while waiting for us to continue our investigation" Minerva stated. "I will do this personally, and take it as an admission of guilt."
"Ginny it's perfect!! They treated you like a little kid, so this is payback" Hermione replied. "Fleur how do you feel?"
"They are in no position to disagree. They could easily be in Azkaban right now while this process is happening. Thank you for not doing that" Fleur gratefully said.
"It's because they have no past record of anything close to this, and because Harry and all of you survived" Kingsley softly said.
"Headmaster when you get the chance could you please come back?" asked Ginny.
"Miss Weasley I shall." Albus was studying both her and Harry as everyone was speaking. He was smiling, which surprised Hermione greatly.
"Then if there are no other concerns we will go. Fleur please come with us. If they agree with the terms of this they can start immediately" Kingsley said.
"I will speak to the DA. If any are interested in having them help, or for that matter do not wish to work with them I will tell you" Neville promised.
"Maybe noon in the Room of Requirement?" wondered Luna.
"Lunchtime. It will be a nice break for everyone" Hannah told them.
"The Elves will help too. We can use our magic to keep them here, and have an extra person guarding" Kreacher said, still mistrusting the brothers.
"Molly will not be happy with this arrangement. She refuses to believe her children were involved" Fleur stated.
"We can't be concerned with that. This is bigger than any one person. Other than Fleur or maybe Angelina I refuse to have anything to do with any of them" Ginny firmly said.
"I agree. Yes of course our parents love us, but that isn't the point. If, and I do say if, it can be proved Charlie and Bill acted alone, without any influence of any other member of my Family then we will look at things differently. But that is only me speaking. Ginny, Hermione, and Harry have to make their own decisions" Ron spoke.
"Ron I will leave the choice up to you. If you feel comfortable then I do also" Hermione stated.
"It will take a long time until that happens. Until Harry and I can discuss this I will not allow anyone near him without my permission" Ginny firmly stated.
As she was speaking Albus noticed the white shimmer around her and Harry get brighter. And stronger. He saw the determination in Harry's face too. "No one will force any of you to see your Family until you are all ready. I promise you all that. Now I must return to my guests." With a flash his picture left.
"Thanks Kingsley" Ron said to the Minister as he shook hands, leaving a note inside the Minister's palm.
"Not a problem Ron. We will inform you of how they react" he replied, slipping the note into his pants pocket. As an Auror he was used to receiving messages covertly. He exited with Minerva and Fleur to see Bill and Charlie first, then Molly and Arthur.
"Luna now that they left how does this sound?" Hannah wondered. "Either one is bigger than you and I put together."
"We have to be careful. But with at least two with us, plus an Elf, it can work" she replied.
* * *
As expected Molly was hopping mad with Kingsley's idea. "Arthur Weasley you better tell him he can't do that to our children" she angrily said.
"Normally Molly they are taken to Azkaban. You know that. He is doing them and us a favor. You have no right to be mad, except at our children" Arthur stated.
"I should say so!! Ignoring us like this, avoiding our help and advice!" she yelled.
"Molly we are talking about Bill and Charlie. The others are fine" Minerva stated trying to calm her down.
"No offense Minerva but until I can see them they are not fine!!" Molly's voice began to rise, much like the tea in a kettle coming to a boil.
"All but you have agreed to this. If you do not wish them in your home, in light of what they did, I can understand. Personally I would not feel safe having someone sleeping nearby" Kingsley said.
"OF COURSE I WANT THEM THERE!!! I WANT ALL MY CHILDREN TO COME HOME!!!" she screamed.
"Molly if we can't explain how and why this happened none of them are" Fleur told them.
The next week flew by. Having her two oldest at home again did a lot to placate Molly, but the half empty table reminded her every meal who was missing. She began sending owls to both Kingsley and Minerva asking for answers.
Work continued at #12 Grimmauld Place. Waiting for the Goblins was not as bad as they thought, since many other decisions had to be made first. The second floor (also known as Harry and Ginny's floor) was redesigned to have a additional bedroom alongside for Teddy whenever he visited. Another smaller bedroom was added with a loo for 'permanent guests' as Ron described them whenever the topic came up and he got tired of putting his hands over his ears at the thought of his baby sister and Harry 'doing it'.
The Third floor had three bedrooms too. A Master one for Ron and Hermione, another smaller one in case any 'permanent guests' came along, which for some strange reason he didn't mind discussing with anyone who happened by, and a third which doubled as a Library. It had the room extension charm on it, and the plan was to have bookshelves line the walls floor to ceiling along with comfortable chairs to read in. Two desks were in the center you could make notes at, and a large window seat was placed in a bay window. This overlooked the Park across the street.
The fourth floor was added to not disrupt the attic/storage area. Four more bedrooms were there including two more master suites for guests. Luna was brought by and her quirkiness paid off with her knack for choosing paint colors later.
The top floor was now the fifth floor. Over half was used for storage, since until Harry could help they did not want to throw anything away. With the redesign of the kitchen Kreacher's bedroom/cabinet was lost. Ginny insisted they create a separate room for him (big enough for him and a guest) as Ginny and Hermione teased. Extra closets were built for storing seasonal clothes, holiday decorations, etc.
The Headmaster finally got back with Ginny after he deliberated. With a flash he appeared one day as Ginny and Hermione returned from a 'shopping trip'. They disillusioned themselves as blondes and made themselves taller and no one recognized them. They had bags full of sample literature to show, wishing Ron would express his opinion. About anything other than "I know where my chair is" meaning his personal chair in front of the stove, which the Elves transfigured to have his name on it.
"How are we all doing today? I can see you've been busy" he replied to their packages.
"Albus this is going to be fantastic! Harry will love it !!" Ginny excitedly told him.
"Ginny I'm sure it will. I am holding you to your promise to bring me over for a visit when it is completed" he replied. She began to blush, remembering the other promise she made him in the dungeons deep below the Castle.
"Professor have you thought any more about Harry?" asked Hermione. She was very worried he had not come out of this yet. Yes he was improving, but she was getting impatient.
"Yes I have. But before we get to that you need to understand something. The night after the Battle after Harry saw Severus' memories he had a difficult decision to make. I suspected the inadvertent Horcrux Tom created would mean he might never die as long as Harry lived. Harry came to the same conclusion, which is why he went out there. While none of us were there, I believe we can piece together what happened next.
In Godric's Hollow Lily Potter did not resist Voldemort's killing curse. This cost her her own life, but in turn saved her son's. I am guessing Harry did the same, in the hope not that he would survive but that all of us might share in his sacrifice. He fully expected to die when this happened."
"But what saved him then?" Ron wondered.
"It was love. When his Mother and his Father died for him it was their love that saved him, protecting him with magic so powerful not even Voldemort could break through. When Harry stood there in that clearing in the forest, the love that was in his heart and the love all of you have for him, saved him that day. That was what we both thought that night."
"That night? What do you mean that night? Do you mean to say that ... " Ginny could not get another word out.
"Harry and I met ... somewhere. In his mind he created the scenery. All I know is that he and I were together. We discussed many things that night including what came next."
"And what was that?" Hermione asked, holding her breath.
"That Harry had a choice. We all do in life. Every day is full of decisions. What to wear, what to eat. Do I turn right or left at the next corner? In Harry's case it was much more important. He had to choose what path to take for the rest of his life. It boiled down to doing what was right, or what was easy. Or in other words to come back and continue to fight or to pass on. Fortunately he made the right choice, ending Tom Riddle's reign of terror."
"But Albus what made him return? After all he had been through, wouldn't the right decision have been to pass on? His job was almost finished" a puzzled Ron said.
"You just said it. Almost finished. The mission was not done, and he knew what would happen next. Tom would come here and kill everyone, no longer afraid of Harry or dying himself. His Death Eaters would have been merciless killing on sight. No he had to be stopped. But there was another reason. Someone he could not bear to leave. The one person who meant more to him than life itself" he said looking at Ginny.
"That night I was in front of the Castle. I felt Harry go by, but something kept me from following him. I would have died with him out there" she bitterly told them.
"And fortunately you did not. It was you and the love you and Harry share especially now which brought him back. It gave him the courage to return, and to face Tom the final time."
"Albus what do you mean by 'especially now'? Did we miss something?" wondered Hermione.
"In a manner of speaking yes. Can you recall what Harry said to Ginny as you walked to my crypt?"
"Not the exact words no" Hermione answered after a while. She turned to Ginny who was deep in thought, stroking Harry's now very long hair.
"Perhaps the pensieve? I can see it is still here." Albus gestured to the large glass bowl filled with clear water.
"Yes Kreacher left it in case we needed it" Ron said.
Hermione drew out her wand and pulled out her memory of that portion of the day. Taking Ginny's and Ron's hands they dipped their faces into the grey swirling water. They had just gone outside and Harry was attempting to get out his mole skin pouch. Ginny assisted him and he tried to explain what happened to his hands which she was now healing.
"Ginny you know me better than I know myself! Yes it was. I was very, very mad blaming myself for everything that happened. But I am promising you Ginevra Molly Weasley, here in front of our two best friends who are also our family that I will never lie or keep things from you again. I love you."
"Then Harry James Potter I accept your apology. I also promise in front of our friends and family that I will never lie to you or keep things from you. I love you too." Ginny leaned forward to kiss Harry and as she did the tip of her wand touched both Harry's and the Elder wand. There was a flash by all three wands but the couple didn't seem to notice. What they did see was Harry smile as the pain and redness went away. He saw the skin grow back over the many cuts and scratches on his hands.
The memory ended and all three rose up to look at The Headmaster. "OK so Ginny healed him. They said they loved each other" Ron said, looking perplexed.
"It was the words he used wasn't it?" Ginny asked. When this happened she felt different somehow. There wasn't the time to discuss it with Harry.
"Yes Ginny. I have been spending the last several weeks discussing this with the previous headmasters. While we are not in agreement of what this exactly means, all feel it was very powerful magic used. As strong as the blood magic Harry's Mother used to save him, and what he tried to do for all of us."
"So Headmaster are you telling me that Ginny and Harry are ... " Ron mumbled.
"Yes . It is either one of two things. They are engaged or they are ... "
"Married" Ginny finished for him. She continued to stroke Harry's long hair. "All my life I have wished for this day. To have Harry get on one knee and propose. I even considered asking him myself, but I was only 12 at the time. Harry I don't know if you understood what was happening then. Probably not judging by how surprised you were too. I waited this last year for you, and I can wait now for you to wake up and do it properly. On the other hand" she said as she slowly got up. "HARRY AND I ARE ENGAGED!!! OR WE'RE MARRIED!! AND I DON'T CARE WHICH ONE!!!" she screamed as she hugged Hermione.
Ron shook his head and looked at Harry. He had this huge smile on his face as the girls celebrated. "Mate now would be a great time to wake up." Nothing else happened, so he got up to congratulate his sister.
"Ahem" they heard the Headmaster say. "I suggest keeping this quiet, at least until you become of age. Our best guesses about this predate our current laws, but why give your parents something else to be mad about?"
Ginny did some quick math. It was now mid June. Less than two months until her 17th Birthday. Six weeks until Harry turned 18. "Albus didn't people get married at a younger age long ago?"
"Yes. The life expectancy was much shorter. But with more knowledge we all lived longer, so this rule was enacted."
"So is this a rule or a law?" Hermione asked.
"Unfortunately it is a law voted on by the Wizengamot in 1887. As a result they may not officially accept this as a marriage."
"So you can do it again after you are 17" Hermione excitedly told her. "And we can have it at Grimmauld Place."
"Not unless we can get some money. Albus is this why the Goblins wanted Ginny there? Do they recognize their whatever they have?" asked Ron.
"Yes they do. So you will have access to everything Harry has. I suggest you do not act surprised or press the issue. Pretend you knew about this all along, and maybe get impatient with them for how long this has taken."
"Kreacher?" Ginny called. "You knew didn't you?" she wondered after he appeared.
"Yes Mistress. We do not go by the Wizengamot especially in matters like this. To us Elves, and to the Goblins, you and Master Harry are married."
"Thank you Kreacher. Could you please contact Griphook and schedule a meeting for later today at his convenience? Our goal is to get access to the vaults to continue our project. I will be asking for whatever lists they have regarding the contents, and want you to accompany me visiting each" Ginny asked.
"Of course Mistress. And Kreacher also recommends this be kept quiet. This is the business of Master and Mistress only" he replied as he disappeared.
"Since nothing official has been filed at the Ministry I believe that is possible" Albus concluded.
"All right then. Not even Luna, Neville, or Hannah. Since the Wizarding World won't recognize it, why bring it up. Only people like Rita Skeeter would exploit it anyway" Ginny added.
* * *
Accompanied by Kreacher Ginny visited Gringotts that afternoon. This time Griphook was much friendlier, although he did seem a bit nervous.
"Miss Weasley thank you for coming back today. I apologize for any inconvenience this delay may have caused" he told her as they sat down in his Office, which was substantially larger and nicer than the tiny one used for their last meeting. "Tea?"
"Please." Ginny waited for him to pour three cups.
"Thank you" replied Kreacher as he sipped his.
"Griphook from now on you may use my married name when we are discussing our financial matters" she instructed.
"Certainly Mrs. Potter. Shall these be used on all our records too?"
"Only the private ones. As you may know Harry has avoided the press his whole life, but somehow they seem to find ways around his desire to keep his business his own."
"Mrs. Potter you may rest assured we keep everything confidential here."
"Thank you Griphook. That is what we hoped you'd say." Ginny paused pretending to collect her thoughts. "As I said Harry is a very private person. He chose not to come today fearing the spectacle it might create. Today I wish to inspect our vaults, and to collect all the lists you have of their contents."
"Yes of course Mrs. Potter" he began to stammer.
"I also want you to give Kreacher access to all these vaults. You are aware of the project he is doing?"
"Yes Mrs. Potter. Kreacher shared that with me on his last visit."
"Good. Please make sure he can get whatever he wishes."
"Anything Mrs. Potter?" he asked greatly surprised.
"Absolutely. Is there a problem with that?"
"No Mrs. Potter. I will see to it personally. If you could please sign here for me indicating your wishes."
Ginny read through the short paper, indicating allowing Kreacher unlimited access. "Thank you Griphook this will do nicely. You will give me a copy of this?"
"Yes Mrs. Potter. And here are copies of what we have collected to date. As you can see it is quite an extensive list. That is why I did not get back with you sooner. I wished this to be complete." Griphook pushed an 8 inch tall stack of papers towards her.
She flipped through the top sets of pages, scanning for names she recognized. "Kreacher do we have time to look through all of this today?"
"Kreacher suggests returning with these for your solicitor. Our time might be better spent downstairs." He crammed the pile of papers into a briefcase he had brought. It originally belonged to Master Regulus. Hermione had transfigured the R. A. B. to read Mrs. Ginny Potter. She was ecstatic at finally having something with the name on it she had wished for.
Griphook escorted them to the vehicle used to transport people going to their vaults. It felt like she was on a broom the way it bounced around like being hit by gusts of wind. "Griphook how do I go about setting up a vault for somebody?" she asked as they came to a stop.
"The procedure is simple Mrs. Potter. We check our records first to see if they do not already have one, and if not one is assigned based on the contents."
"Can you check for me when we get back? What I am interested in is creating one for our Godson Teddy Lupin."
"Mrs. Potter he has inherited the one from his parents. His is located on the first level, directly across from your parents."
Ginny nodded, grateful for the implied message concerning the location and value of Teddy's vault. "Griphook how accurate is the top sheet you gave me? What I mean is was this as of today, last week, or last month?"
"Mrs. Weasley those numbers are based on the combination of multiple vaults, plus estimates for the values of businesses and property. The cash value is as of this morning, not including several other vaults owned by Tom Riddle. Many curses were placed there so it has been a slow process."
"Griphook I don't want to see any of your people get hurt" she replied, placing her hand on his. "There is no rush please."
The Goblin was moved by her concern. "Mrs. Potter we are moving slowly for that reason. Here we are on level three which has the vault your husband's Family established when he was born. Sirius Black added to it when he was released, and Mr. Potter has not visited since."
Griphook got out and unlocked the door allowing Ginny inside. Kreacher stepped in first in case there were any problems. She was amazed to see a large pile of gold resting on a round wood table. 'This might look nice in the parlor' she thought. She looked around and did not see any other items, which made sense if there was a Family vault somewhere else.
"Griphook how much gold are we looking at?" Kreacher asked for her, fearing the reaction when she got into the bigger vaults.
"Including the amount Mr. Black added, 237,525 galleons."
Ginny was numb. Her parents had to scrape by, and Harry had this much money. And who knows how much more downstairs? She felt Kreacher pull her back into the cart and they whisked away, dropping several more levels. These vaults had higher numbers, and were spaced further apart. 'For security, or because everything wouldn't fit?' she pondered.
"Mrs. Potter the Black and Potter Family vaults are side by side. We can keep them separate or combine them if you prefer." He unlocked both doors and went back into the cart to wait, guessing they would be a while.
Kreacher pushed the Black Family Vault open first and stepped in. Sensing no Dark Magic nearby, he pushed it open further and moved aside for his Mistress. That wasn't necessary because Ginny couldn't move. She was frozen staring at the amount of wealth accumulated. Stacks and stacks of gold, paintings, furniture, and other fancy things were there. "How much ...?" Kreacher heard her whisper.
"Master Sirius sold many companies before he passed Mistress. He wished to have as much gold here as possible fearing Voldemort might win. He told Kreacher if things got really bad he would take Master Harry and flee, creating a new life for all three of you."
"He included me in that?" Ginny asked.
"Yes Mistress. He saw the feelings you have for Master Harry, and told Kreacher if Master 'could get his head out of his ... ' " Kreacher looked down, unwilling to finish the quote. He felt Ginny bend down and hug him, grateful Harry found a better place for his head. And his heart.
She now moved into the Potter Family Vault. There was nowhere near as much gold, but the papers she quickly glanced at told her much of their wealth was in property. That was the second page, a list of addresses. Scattered around the room were more paintings, which she hoped were enchanted ones of Harry's ancestors. Several beautiful pieces of furniture were there which she hoped would look good in their home. On one wall were bookshelves, chock full of books. Very old books. And manuscripts. On another looked like photo albums, which Ginny resisted opening until she and Harry could look at them together. "Griphook?"
"Yes Mr. Potter?" he replied as he stepped in.
"Griphook thank you for your patience. As you can tell I am very overwhelmed. You know my Family has very little money so this is a lot for me to take in. How much can I add to my Godson's vault before it has to be moved?"
"Based on its location, 100,000 galleons."
"Good. Then please transfer that amount and send a note to his Grandmother Andromeda Tonks, saying it is from his Godparents. She will understand.
On July 31 please add the same amount to my parents vault. Actually let's change that. Let's do it now, with a note it is from the estate of the Black Family. Like it was part of the will."
"Certainly Mrs. Potter. For Mr. Lupin is this money to be held in trust, or for immediate access? If that is the case then I need to place it in her vault, which is on the same floor."
Ginny smiled again, thanking him for how he was helping. "Griphook Teddy's vault can be kept in trust until he starts school. For Andy, let's add 100,000 galleons immediately and the same amount each year until Harry or I say otherwise."
"Excellent Mrs. Potter" Griphook replied. 'Finally a Witch who understands how to share and to help others'.
"With our project we will be making a lot of purchases. How does that work exactly?"
"Kreacher can help you with that Mistress. Every store in Diagon Alley can send the bill to Gringotts and the money is subtracted from your vault. Or you can pay cash for it if you prefer."
"Then I want to take some gold with me. And I want to have some transferred into pounds to use outside Diagon Alley." Ginny had a plan, for her and Hermione to take Hannah clothes shopping to find her clothes that fit her properly, not the baggy ones she wore at Hogwarts. 'Boy will the guys be jealous when they see her and Neville then' she and Hermione used to laugh. And they wanted the excuse to get themselves some too.
"Griphook please have ready 100,000 in galleons and the same in pounds" she told him watching his reaction. He didn't flinch which was a good sign. "Finally some of these things we wish to take with us today, and some later." She pulled out Hermione's beaded bag and placed inside it all the books which looked like photo ones. Just past that she saw a small box covered in dust. Intrigued she opened it and nearly fainted. What had to be Harry's parents wedding rings were inside with a note:
If you are reading this then it is because we are gone. Here in this vault are things your Mother and I have, along with things passed down to us. Everything you see is now yours.
I hope you and Padfoot have gotten along together well. Despite his looks he really is a good man, and the best friend I ever had.
Mooney is a good man too. The three of us were inseparable. When you get the chance ask Minerva (that's Professor McGonagall to you) about the time we charmed the Black Lake. I won't say any more.
If you are reading this it is because your Father and I aren't with you. We chose Sirius Black to be your Godfather. I am so afraid you will be like him when you grow up. Good looking, well mannered, having all the ladies chasing around the school after you ...
Try to behave yourself for me. Our other best friend is Remus Lupin. He was just as much a marauder as your Father and Sirius but with brains, which made him even more dangerous. You can learn a lot from him. About school I mean, not to be a trouble maker. I suspect you will be quite good at that on your own. You were very inquisitive from the day you were born. Your first Christmas Sirius gave you a broom, and you should have seen how proud your Father was. You'll learn if you don't know already he was a seeker at Hogwarts. Sirius and Remus can explain all this to you if you haven't made it to Hogwarts yet. It's where we all met, and I fell in love with your Father.
Take care of yourself and know that we will always be with you.
One last thing I forgot to mention. Well actually two. First your Mother and I love you very much, and would be willing to stand in front of a killing curse for you.
Second thing are these rings. These belonged to your Mother and I. They have no special powers to help or guide you on your journey through life. Many generations ago they were made by the Goblins for us, who believed my Family was directly descended from Godric Gryffindor. We were never able to prove it (this was a thousand years ago) but it is nice to think it might be true.
By the way, every Potter woman over the last seven generations has been a redhead. I bet you will end up with one too. You cannot beat the fire which burns inside them, and the love in their hearts.
Ginny found herself sitting at the end of this. Griphook and Kreacher were on either side, concern in their eyes. She took one last look at the rings, tempted to put on hers now. "No. That can be on my Birthday, when we can make this official."
"Excellent idea Mistress" Kreacher told her.
"Mr. Potter has chosen well" Griphook commented.
"It was a joint decision" Ginny replied as she stared at her ring. She knew Lily Potter had red hair and green eyes from a picture Harry had shown her, but not about the past generations. The ring had a large round diamond (she knew nothing about carats, only that it was big). Set around it was a circle of rubies, and another of emeralds. Harry's ring was solid gold with alternating small emeralds and rubies. Except for a single diamond about 1/4 the size of hers in middle. Sighing she shut the box and put it into her bag to bring back.
Griphook handed her two bags of gold, which were charmed to eliminate the weight like Hermione's beaded bag. Kreacher accepted these, fitting them inside the briefcase. They returned upstairs and used the floo to return.
Ron could hear his Sister and Kreacher chatting when they returned from their trip to Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley.
"Tonight Kreacher Hermione and I can put a list together of what we talked about. Can you and Winky be here also?"
"Yes Mistress. Together we can assemble a list for Kreacher to get for you."
"Hi Ron. How's Harry?" Ginny wondered.
"Fantastic. Look at the smile he has now" he replied.
Ginny saw he had his biggest smile so for. 'Can he read my mind now, knowing how happy I am?' she wondered. As Ron stepped aside (he was sitting on the edge of the bed to partially block her view) she saw why. Firmly grasped in his left hand was his Firebolt, all shiny like it was brand new.
"Ron where did it come from? This isn't a new one is it?" she asked very shocked.
"About an hour ago it came sailing in through the window on its own like it was summoned. I had my cleaning kit in my trunk and polished it up for him. He can't stop smiling!"
Ginny laid down next to him on the opposite side. She started to pull his arm around her like she usually did, and found him pulling her close before she was even halfway. 'Another improvement' she thought. She began to whisper about the two vaults and did not notice Ron and Kreacher leave. It was hours later she heard Hermione come in, using their 'signal' to cough before walking in on something. "Any luck?"
"Not yet. Hannah and Neville wanted to come with me. We got back a couple hundred years, or 8 or so generations. The relationship between Harry and Neville Hannah discovered. In this case it is a brother who Harry is descended from, and his sister is Neville. So they are cousins on paper at least."
"And the Gryffindor part?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing!" Hermione complained. "We got back to that point and then everything else is gone. Vanished. Hang on a minute. The Prophesy! Now how did that go? 'THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL !!!' " she shouted. "Voldemort told Harry he was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Harry is his equal, because he is descended from Godric Gryffindor! Now it makes sense!!! Harry always wondered about that part, because he didn't think he was powerful enough to stop him."
"And he did. For all of us" Ginny said resting her head on his shoulder. "Can you wake me in an hour? Kreacher and Winky are coming tonight to talk about the project. Don't worry about the money. We have ... " Ginny's voice trailed off as she fell asleep. Hermione put a blanket over both and slipped away.
That hour Ginny had a strange dream. She was travelling somewhere. Where, or how she did not know.
* * *
Seeing how happy Harry was gave Ginny an idea. He barely let go of his broom except to hold her closer at night. She made arrangements for her surprise for him the following week.
That week and the next were filled with shopping trips and visits to Grimmauld Place. The floo was hooked up in the parlor, and Kreacher charmed it to connect only with the one in their special room. This gave them a chance to come and go whenever they pleased. "Now we don't have to wake up Kreacher at 3 in the morning" joked Ron. They hadn't done that yet, but came close the night before. Hermione had woke up with an idea and kept Ron awake until Ginny got up. After patiently waiting for Kreacher to arrive with breakfast they wolfed it down and left.
Friday morning was to be Harry's Early Birthday Surprise. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron awoke very early and took Harry out onto the patio. There waiting was Hagrid on Buckbeak along with three more thestrals. Luna, Hannah, and Neville soon joined them. After bowing Ginny got on Buckbeak and Hagrid lifted Harry so he was behind her. His arms were charmed to stay wrapped around her, which gave him another smile. They lifted off, followed by Hermione and Ron, Hannah and Neville, and Luna on Spot. Ginny took her time trying not to make any sharp turns to not lose Harry, but she didn't have to worry. He seemed to know before a turn began as she felt him lean in that direction. Buckbeak seemed to sense this so he spent most of the time gracefully floating on the updrafts. The wind gently pushed them over the Black Lake and Ginny got another idea. Hanging onto Harry with one hand she raised her other and holding her wand high she said "Acacio Harry Potter's wand".
Buckbeak glided the length of the Lake and banked to return. Not getting a response she tried again. "Acacio my husband's wand" she more firmly said. This time as she approached the center of the Lake the water began to churn. Something exploded out of the water and came hurtling towards them. Ginny banked hard to the right, trying to avoid whatever this was. Harry's legs were on either side of hers and she felt him lean in the opposite direction, guiding Buckbeak back the other way.
"NO HARRY STOP!" Ginny yelled, afraid of what was coming towards them. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ron speeding closer from her right, and Neville from her left. Buckbeak didn't seem to be listening to her. The two thestrals put on a burst of speed to intercept Ginny and Harry but it was obvious the object was moving faster. She felt herself tense up preparing for a mid air collision when she saw Harry's right hand shoot out and snatch the item from the air, just like he would a snitch ending a Quidditch Match.
Ron and Neville pulled up on either side and they all glided to the shoreline where Luna was waiting. "Wow Harry I forgot how fast your reflexes are" she said.
Now that they landed Ginny was able to look down. Harry was back to holding tightly to her with both hands, but now in his right hand was his wand. She felt the warmth of it pressed against her heart. The power of it and Harry's love flowed into her, filling her with excitement. She urged Buckbeak back into the air and he sped off, flying faster than he had ever done before. North they travelled mirroring the coastline until they reached the end of the British Isle. Buckbeak gracefully turned left and started back Southwest along the other coast. Ginny was exhilarated feeling the wind rushing through her hair, and how tightly Harry was holding on feeling his heart beating against her back. After another hour they curved more to the East, eventually finding their way back to Hogwarts. The rest of their friends had returned, confident Ginny and Harry would come back unscathed. Ginny felt Harry relax and Hagrid gently lifted him back onto the bed. She pushed him back inside and put several blankets on him fearing he might be chilled like she was. Neither were dressed for the speed Buckbeak made. Hermione encouraged her to crawl in beside him to warm up, and left to give them some time alone. With a flash from Harry's wand the blankets shifted to allow her to lie down, then covered her tightly. She put her head on his shoulder and fell asleep.
Ginny found herself dreaming about travelling again. Like before she could not tell in what, but this time there was a window to look out. All was dark except for an occasional light in the distance.
* * *
Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott were having breakfast with The Headmistress. The floo roared to life and out stepped Bill and Charlie Weasley. Their Mother Molly was just behind. She nodded to those eating breakfast and exited the Office.
"Bit of a snit this morning?" Neville wondered.
"This and every morning. Yesterday was the worst" Bill told them as he waited for them to finish. "An owl came from Gringotts saying the estate of Sirius Black left them 100,000 galleons. She and Dad went to Gringotts and found Fleur who checked for them. It showed this came from the Black Family Vault, just like the letter said."
"Mom thinks it was from Ginny or Ron. Or maybe Hermione or Harry. She knows we don't have that kind of money, or probably Hermione for that matter. She said, and I quote: "Arthur I think Harry is trying to buy our silence. Or worse buy himself a wife".
"To think that of Harry is just wrong!! Doesn't she realize he could have his pick of almost any witch he wants!!" Hannah exploded. She threw her napkin down and stormed out.
Minerva looked down at her tea. Neville squeezed her hand as he left to talk to Hannah. She raised her wand ready to send her patronus to Kingsley about Molly again when the door opened and Hannah and Neville returned. "Sorry" Hannah said to her as she sat back down.
"I don't know what your Mother's problem is but she is playing with fire" Neville menacingly told Charlie and Bill. Both men shrunk back from him, even though each outweighed him by at least 50 pounds.
"Neville we're sorry about how she is acting. To her what we did is impossible, so it had to be someone else" Charlie replied.
"I don't think seeing our memories would help either. We tried to watch them with Fleur but pulled out. Headmistress are you sure you want us here?" asked Bill.
"If I wasn't in such dire need of help believe me you would be rotting in Azkaban for what you did" she replied. "Your Mother should be grateful to the DA that they are willing to do this. None of the Aurors are available to babysit you."
"Percy told us that. Whenever I try and tell her she says it is all a lie to tear our Family apart" Charlie stated. "Hannah I'm sorry she said what she did, and I should not have repeated it."
"You know Harry better than I do. To think such a thing as that puts a black mark on your whole Family. What you did to Harry was more than to physically hurt him. You took away his life, the only one he has. He has nowhere else to go. He can't go back to his Aunt's and Uncle's, and Hogwarts is badly damaged." Hannah glared at the two men.
Neville was thinking as Hannah spoke. What did Kreacher say? 'He is on a journey'. And the Headmaster? 'We all go through periods in our lives of discovery.' Can that be what it is ??? "Hannah let's get this over with for today. Soon we need an emergency meeting of the DA. If Molly Weasley thinks we are wasting our time, perhaps she is right. There are things you and I have postponed to help, and what thanks do we get? Dirty looks from their Mother! Give me some Death Eaters, them I can understand."
"I agree Neville. Headmistress I do not know if any DA members will be available to help in this way in the future." Hannah turned to address Charlie and Bill. "When you have lunch with your Mother today please let her know we are grateful for the help she gave us. We are following her advice and rethinking what is right." Hannah motioned and Charlie and Bill left, followed by Neville.
Minerva was heartbroken thinking her World was falling apart. She spied a note left on the table: 'Don't worry we know Molly is acting like a baby. Dirty looks aren't going to keep us from helping. But she needs to understand the World does not revolve around her and her Family. I hope you can decide soon what to do with them, because we don't have forever to do this.' It was signed Hannah and Neville.
Minerva stuffed the note into her pocket, promising herself to show it to Augusta later.
* * *
Terry Boot and Anthony (Tony) Goldstein were about to have lunch with Hannah and Neville. The DA split their 'chore' each day to make the job easier. It was very stressful watching the two Weasleys, afraid they might be attacked themselves. The only girl who still did was Luna who didn't seem to be worried. "If they try they better not plan on having any children" she told them.
Hannah and Neville joined them and filled out the morning paperwork of their assignment. Kingsley asked them to do this in case any further evidence was needed.
"Neville should we put down what we discussed this morning?" Hannah asked.
"Why? What happened now?" wondered Tony.
"As usual Mrs. Weasley didn't look at us. She did have some nasty things to say before they came which Charlie made the mistake of telling us. We came close to sending them back to the Dark Tower, just like Kingsley said if there was trouble." Neville related the conversations and saw how upset his two friends were.
At the opposite end of the table Terry saw the three Weasleys sitting together. He flicked his wand casting the silencing charm over them since he could hear some of it from that far away.
"No Bill I will not apologize!! They have no right keeping Ginny and Ron locked away like that!!!" Molly yelled.
"But Mom ... " Tony silenced them after that. Molly began to pound her hand on the table and her face turned red.
Charlie leaned over to talk and they saw Molly now turn white. All three glanced in their direction and stopped talking. Several minutes later they approached the DA members. Tony adjusted his charm so it now covered all seven of them.
Molly stared at them for a moment. "Sorry" she said through gritted teeth and spun around to leave.
"SORRY? THAT'S IT?" Tony exploded, causing her to turn around. "You beat the hell out of them, and it's 'sorry?' You should be ashamed of yourself!!"
Terry cast a second spell, this time silencing Molly. "Growing up Tony and I didn't know your Family very well. We were from a different House, so yes we knew each other, but it was not until the DA that we had the chance to spend time together. I don't have any brothers or sisters, so I was jealous of the big Family and how close you were."
"And the way you treated Hermione and Harry like he was one of your own made us very envious. But now look at this. The Battle was over. Professor Lupin, Colin Creevy, Hannah's Mom were all casualties. Every one of us is hurting. Harry's parents. Neville's too" he said, gesturing to Neville who was looking down playing with his food. Hannah was sitting with her eyes closed quietly crying. "Are you so selfish that you don't see what this did to all of us!!!"
"Yes you Miss Fred. We got to know him and George better in the DA. Both are two brave men. And Ron and Ginny are too. If I needed someone to have my back, I would not hesitate to ask either one. You are too busy focusing on them that you missed the bigger picture. George and Percy, and to a lesser extent your other two sons here" Terry gestured, unwilling to use their names "blamed Harry not Voldemort for Fred's death. We were 10 feet away and heard every word. You did not tell them no they were wrong. Neither did Mr. Weasley. Only Bill's wife Fleur and Angelina Johnson did. So what do they do? Nothing except to follow them and pound them into the ground!! You didn't see Ron or Ginny when they first came in. Both were covered in blood. Ron could barely stand! And we did not see Hermione or Harry. I can only imagine the damage they had!!!" Terry stated.
"Speaking of Harry and Hermione how many times have you asked how they are? Twice a day? Once? We've all been talking. None of us have heard you ask, not even once. So much for 'treating them like one of your own' !! Terry we were wrong to wish we were a Weasley. I'm glad I'm not. Now it's time to go. You better be prepared to work hard, because I am very pissed right now" Tony ended with. Angrily he thrust his chair out from under him and pointed with his wand for the door. Charlie and Bill had their shoulders slumped as they walked ahead of him and Tony.
Molly Weasley was not used to a verbal tongue lashing. A part of her believed she deserved it, but the other still felt her children did not and could not have done this. She opened her mouth to say something about Harry and Hermione when she realized Hannah and Neville had left too. With her head down she exited the Great Hall to sit and think.
* * *
After Terry and Tony left with their 'charges' Hannah took Neville for a walk through the Castle, avoiding the places she knew Bill or Charlie might be. She waved at Seamus Finnigan who was paired with Luna. He was lifting blocks to replace a wall which had been blown apart by Dark Magic in the Hallway on the third floor above the Castle entrance. He replied to her questioning that his girlfriend Lavender Brown was improving, but it might take months for her to recover completely if she ever did. As she left him she felt him continuing to stare. This year she let her hair grow out, finally willing to let go of the pigtails everyone was accustomed to seeing. The clothes shopping trip had done a world of good too. Neville smiled every time he caught anyone staring at her, and usually followed it with a trip behind the nearest tapestry.
Consequently what should have taken at the most 30 minutes took over two hours to get to the Special Room. With no one else around Neville revealed the secret entrance from Poppy's Office. The big table was now near Harry's bed, and Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were clustered around it looking at pictures in magazines. On one of the shopping trips Hermione bought one of every magazine she could find showing home decorating and Ron (reluctantly) was helping. He was excited when he saw Hannah and Neville come in, thinking he and Neville could slip away unnoticed. It might have worked if Hermione had not caught him staring at Hannah. "Ouch" he said rubbing his shoulder where Ginny had punched him for Hermione.
"Can't a man look?" he said, inspecting Harry's sheets and blankets so they did not see him blushing.
"Ron let's take Harry out into the fresh air." Neville stated to save him. He winked at Hannah and together they wheeled Harry out into the sun. His smile grew bigger as he pulled his Firebolt closer.
"I know mate. One day soon" Ron told him. "Neville I'm sorry but I just can't help it with Hannah."
"It's OK Ron. At first I got jealous, but I realized out of all the guys out there she wants to be with me" he answered.
"I feel the same. I know Harry does too. I didn't really look at Hermione before. I mean yes, she is a girl. I get that part. Sometimes she intimidates me she's so smart. Usually I feel stupid around her."
"Ron I don't think she feels that way. She hangs on your every word. And she listens too, not just says 'OK' to everything you say. Ginny and Harry are the same. It's why they are so easy to talk to. You too."
"Thanks. I'll try not to stare as much in the future."
"Don't worry. I can't take my eyes off her. When she walks into the room it's like all the other girls aren't there.
"Same here. All three of us are very lucky Neville. I promised Harry if I ever mess up he has permission to straighten me out."
"All three of us. Deal?" Neville asked. He was on the one side of Harry and Ron was on the other. Neither saw Harry's wand flash as they said this.
* * *
"Hannah I want to apologize for my idiot of a boyfriend. I'm going to have a talk with him tonight" Hermione angrily said.
"It's OK. I'm trying to get used to it. The funny part is Neville. At first got mad, but now he uses it as a reason to find a place to snog whenever it happens" she replied.
"Life is more interesting now" Ginny giggled, causing the other two to laugh also. On the day all the magazines were bought the three of them stopped to look in the window of a shop called 'Bare Essentials'. They were shocked to see the almost naked mannequins posed with the sign 'If You've Got It Flaunt It'. A sales lady came over and invited them in, and the woman (who was old enough to be their Mother but didn't look it) explained how important support was, and how to tell if a bra fit properly. An hour later each left holding a bag full of lacy things which she assured them 'would knock their socks off'. Six stores later they had new wardrobes.
"Hannah which are you wearing today?" Ginny asked.
"Spearmint" she replied pulling the front of her top down even further to show it. For the summer they each decided to wear v-necks and tank tops, and the new undergarments had the desired effect. They tested them that day walking around London and were approached many, many times by guys who 'wanted their number'. Especially at lunch, where over a dozen guys (and two girls) gave them their napkins with a phone number on it. Hermione refused the drinks they sent, replying they were on a diet and each had boyfriends.
"So where do we stand?" Hermione asked looking at a picture of a pink children's bedroom set.
"We're not there yet" Hannah replied to the picture, making all three blush. "I have one more place to check. It's a Wizarding store near Diagon Alley. Susan told me about it. And guess what, Cho Chang was working in it! And guess who was hanging around? Dean Thomas !! She saw them at lunch later holding hands."
"Do you think we should warn her?" wondered Hermione.
"Cho's a big girl" Ginny responded. She didn't wish anything bad to happen, she wanted nothing to do with either. Especially since she and Harry had dated for a short time, and Ginny guessed she still had feelings for him. "I have our set picked out anyway." In an antique shop she found the perfect thing in mahogany to contrast with the oak floors which were chosen for the entire house. A king sized four poster bed 'Big enough to lay sideways in' which had two nightstands and an armoire. Four other pieces came with it: two long dressers with mirrors, a jewelry case to set on hers, and a lingerie chest. A building was used which they owned nearby to store anything they bought until it could be moved there.
"Can Ron and I come tomorrow too? I can't decide what to get" Hermione told Hannah. She was torn between buying a more traditional set like Ginny's or something more modern.
"Absolutely! We can double date" Hannah grinned. "By the way who will you be?"
"Brenda and Scott from America, just like last time." Three weeks ago they transfigured their appearance and went clothes shopping for Ron. He returned with a dozen pairs of jeans and khakis, various styles and colors of shirts, and a suit. The plan this time was to 'dress to impress' as another store window suggested. Both couples used the floo from Grimmauld Place to the private one in the Leaky Cauldron. Two empty rooms were used to change in, with both guys now in their new suits. They waited in the hallway and were stunned when the girls came out. Both had on short black leather skirts and high heels. Hannah had on a long sleeve blue top to match her eyes. A matching ribbon was tied in her long blonde hair, pulling it back to create a sophisticated look. Brenda (Hermione) wore a canary yellow top identical to Hannah's, with the ribbon containing her long straight black hair. Both girls had unbuttoned their tops as low as they dared, barely concealing what was underneath.
"Everyone smile" asked Tom, Hannah' Uncle who owned the bar. Hermione turned her collar up to hide the scar Bellatrix Lestrange gave her, and Hannah did the same. They posed for a picture as themselves then as Brenda and Scott. Three blocks away was the store Cho worked in. Hannah greeted her warmly (since she had nothing against her) and introduced Brenda and Scott as cousins of Neville's from America. Cho knew Hannah was to be living at Longbottom Manor "not living with Neville" she joked. Neville's Gran was springing for new furniture for both couples. In addition to the styles on display Cho showed them a book featuring many more. Just a few pages in Hermione found the one she wanted in a darker oak color to complement the floor. This did not have a canopy like she had slept in the last seven years, instead having an intricately carved Headboard as tall as 'Scott' was, with a shorter footboard. The size of the bed was a 'California King', specially designed for sports players who were tall. Different sizes of dressers were available and they chose several ones giving Scott the upper drawers. A full length oval mirror on a wood base could be placed in the corner.
Hannah fell in love with a set there. Like the others the bed was king sized with a 'pencil post' frame. That detail was repeated in the fronts of the matching pieces.
Cho also had a Company which made matching sheets, comforters, and curtains. The girls picked two sets of each (Hannah chose one in Hufflepuff's colors and one in Gryffindor's). Brenda/Hermione asked to duplicate both books for Scott's sister Gena who didn't come with them and loved this style of furniture. Arrangements were made to magically deliver everything to the warehouse next week, explaining renovations were happening and did not want to see these beautiful things damaged.
"Scott" blushed at his stomach grumbling. Cho laughed and said she recommended the restaurant next door which was also Family owned. Neville paid for everything which was just under 10,000 galleons. Ginny had arranged with Griphook that anything they bought would come out of her account not his or his Gran's.
They went next door to the place called the 'Train Station', in reference to the decor which reminded them of the Hogwarts Express. Booths were designed so it seemed like you were travelling and scenery was passing by.
"Good Evening folks. Welcome to the Train Station. How can I ... Hannah Abbott is that you?" the Maitre D' asked. All four were surprised to see Dean Thomas. He tried to move forward to hug her but bumped into Neville who 'happened to be in the way'.
"Hello Dean" Neville said sticking out his hand.
"Neville! Great to see you too" he replied, obviously disappointed she was not alone.
"Dean these are my cousin and his girlfriend from America, Scott Wallace and Brenda Anderson" Neville introduced making up their last names on the spot.
"Pleased to meet you" Scott/Ron replied giving him the wimpiest handshake he could. He wanted to crush Dean's hand but that would make him no better than his Brothers. Brenda/Hermione also shook hands. They were shown to a table along one wall with Dean's view of the girls being blocked by Ron as they bent over to sit. Dean pointed out the specials for the day, suggesting the lobster bisque as an appetizer. They went with his idea, believing his Family could not afford to injure or hex paying customers.
The soup was excellent. Ron and Neville excused themselves to go to the loo and missed Dean return with another basket of rolls. Seeing his chance he sat down next to 'Brenda' and began to chat about school, etc,. While doing this he placed his hand on Brenda's leg and began to slide it up her tightly crossed legs. Hannah knew Dean's trick but began to smile distracting him. He did not see 'Scott' standing directly behind him while this was happening until he felt a vice like grip on his right shoulder. His arm began to go numb as he tried to get up but he couldn't since Ron was leaning so hard on him.
"Catching up with an old friend?" Ron/Scott asked Hannah. She smiled even more, guessing the pain he must be in. Sweat was running down his face as he tried not to scream. His arm was numb to his fingers, which were stuck under Hermione's skirt. He saw Neville sit down and put his arm around Hannah, who snuggled against him.
"Ummm I think I hear the door. If you lovely ladies will excuse me" Dean said as Ron/Scott stepped back to let him leave.
"Sorry" Ron said to the three of them as he sat back down.
"Don't be. I'm not. He deserves more" Hermione said as she kissed him. "Where did you learn that?"
"Last year when I was gone." He looked at Neville and Hannah. "I deserted them for a while last year, Hermione and Harry. We had a row and I stormed off. When I came back they were gone. Some snatchers caught me and were discussing how to capture someone without a wand. First time I tried it."
"I'm proud of you. For not losing your temper, and not tearing his head off" Hermione told him. The topic was dropped and they went to discussing their futures. And wishing it was three couples there instead of just two.
Ginny looked at the calendar on her new desk. It read July 24th. "One week until Harry's Birthday. And 18 more days until I can put these on." She kept the ring box with her, just in case he woke up. "Winky how are we doing today?"
"Very good Mrs. Potter. With this new room you added things did not get slowed down much. The uppermost floors are almost complete in time for Harry Potter's Birthday" she said as she looked sadly around. "Now what will we do?" she quietly said to herself.
"I expect you will be very busy getting things ready for the students to return. Has the Headmistress set a date yet? Usually it is September first."
"No Mrs. Potter she has not. She is unable to since they cannot give her any straight answers."
"Who is not doing that? The Minister? Does this have to do with Bill and Charlie?"
"No Mrs. Potter. It is the Board of Governors. We have a crisis at Hogwarts" the Elf said wringing her hands.
"Winky come sit here in Harry's chair please. Now tell me what the problem is. Maybe I can help."
The Elf climbed up into Harry's chair and looked at Ginny. She glanced around the room first before speaking. Ginny had decided to add an Office onto their bedroom, so instead of starting over they took an unused closet and added the Room Extension Charm to it making it now 20' by 20'. His and hers desks faced each other and bookshelves lined the walls, all the wood giving it a rich feel. "Mrs. Potter it is the Board which is in disarray. Some fled the country, others died in the Battles. The Malfoys have their accounts frozen per the Minister while they are being investigated. Most people think they sat back and ran things, but that is not the case. These people are the ones who provided the money needed to operate the school. Without them there is no Hogwarts."
"Winky this is terrible! Does the Headmistress know?"
"Yes she does Mrs. Potter. She is praying for a miracle just like you are, but it appears hopeless. We may have repaired the school, but it will never reopen."
"Maybe we can do something about that. Winky I know this is asking something confidential, but how much money is needed to run the school?"
"The amount each year is based on any repairs needed, plus how many students are there. Two years ago when Professor Dumbledore was Headmaster they needed 750,000 galleons. I cannot say what was spent last year. Headmaster Snape did not share information freely."
"Winky we are going to Gringotts. Griphook and I have some business to attend to." Ginny locked the rings in her desk and grabbed her wand and her purse, which Hermione had charmed like her beaded bag.
"Mrs. Potter did you wish to take your private entrance or the floo downstairs?" Winky wondered.
"Which private entrance Winky? Did we put one in I forgot about?" A lot had gone on here. She would not have been surprised if this was done and she forgot.
"Please come with me Mrs. Potter" Winky replied. She walked up to the center bookshelf behind Ginny and snapped her fingers. The wall moved like a door opening inwards. She saw a corridor much like the one which connected the Hog's Head and the Room of Requirement. "This goes directly into Griphook's Office. You also have downstairs in the pantry a way to access the Black Family Vault which has been there since the house was built."
"Winky this is incredible. Today though I think we will use the regular entrance from the floo. We need Griphook's help on this, and I don't want to make him mad."
"Very wise Mrs. Potter." They went downstairs to take the floo after summoning Kreacher. He went there to setup an emergency Meeting with the Bank Manager.
* * *
Headmistress Minerva McGonagall slowly paced in her Office. "I guess this will be the shortest tenure in the history of the School."
"Don't give up hope Minerva. There has to be a way" she heard Professor Dumbledore say.
"Not this time Albus. The only governor left is Lucius Malfoy, and he is in Azkaban. It has been years since he was on the Board anyway. Some are in Europe, unwilling to return out of fear they may be linked to Voldemort. Others were killed by Death Eaters, and their heirs are either squabbling over the estates or don't care. No this is the end of Hogwarts. At least I can get Molly Weasley off my back. I will let Kingsley know tomorrow the work here is finished, and he can have his two prisoners."
"Do what you think you must. For me I have not given up. We did not think Harry would succeed and he did. I am sure tomorrow Hogwarts will still be standing tall, her battlements flying the flags of the four houses."
"I wish I had your faith Albus. Goodnight old friend" Minerva replied as she headed into her private Office, too tired to go to her quarters.
"So we need a miracle. I wonder ... " the Headmaster said.
* * *
Hermione and Ron were sitting with Harry discussing things Ron felt were important. As usual it had to do with food. "Don't get me wrong, but the kitchen is All Wrong. The stove needs to be bigger, and more room for keeping food. Too much space is being used for extra plates, cups, etc. We don't need 50 extra plates each for four people."
"Ron we also don't need to have enough food on hand to feed 100 people either. I think Kreacher and the Elves gave us a good compromise. We can have a big party for a lot of people and be able to cook for them."
Their conversation/argument was cut short when the Headmistress entered. She did not get much sleep last night, and they could tell.
"Headmistress we're sorry if we woke you. Hermione and I were discussing our new kitchen and we disagree on a few things."
"It wouldn't be right if you two didn't" she attempted to joke which fell flat.
"Minerva please sit down" Hermione told her now very worried. 'Was it about Bill and Charlie? Is she here to tell them there isn't enough evidence?' She looked at Harry sleeping with his Firebolt tucked under his arm like a teddy bear. Hermione began to cry looking at him when she noticed Minerva was too. The only other time this happened is when they thought Harry was dead.
"Hermione. Ron. I have some terrible news. I have reached a decision. Things have become here rather Untenable and I have to make some difficult choices. I hope you will understand."
"Yes Headmistress?" Ron asked now very afraid too.
"Every day I get letters from the press. 'Where is Harry? And where are all four of you? Why can't we find you?' is how they all began. Lately they have changed to 'We know they are hiding in there!' and 'Harry is gravely ill'. Coupled with the letters your Mother sends almost daily to myself or Kingsley this cannot go on. Do you understand?"
"Yes we do Headmistress. Thank you for coming to us yourself with this. We will pass this on to Ginny as soon as she returns" Hermione told the Headmistress as she clutched Ron's hand. Minerva nodded and left, headed she believed to the kitchens for one final time.
"Hermione what is it? You can tell me" Ron said as he cradled her as she broke down. He saw Harry was crying too, he just didn't understand why. Gently he rocked her holding her close.
On the patio he heard the wind rustle and Hannah and Neville came in followed by Luna. "So this time I think we get Buckbeak. Harry is doing so much better now I bet he and Ginny ... " Neville was saying until he felt Hannah stop. He heard Hermione crying and immediately looked at Harry, who was breathing but crying too.
Ron shook his head, indicating he didn't understand what was happening. His three friends sat down to wait until Hermione could speak.
* * *
"Griphook I am pleased you could come up with a solution so quickly" Ginny told the Bank Manager.
"Mrs. Potter we are aware of the problem at Hogwarts. I did not bring it to your attention because that was not my place" he replied.
"And the amount we are talking about. This will address the problem sufficiently?"
"Indeed it will Mrs. Potter. For at least 10 years, more than enough time to create a new Board of Governors. The funds should be transferred today?"
"Please. And send an owl to the Headmistress letting her know her problem is solved but not by who."
"Are you certain of this Mrs. Potter? I'm sure she would wish to thank you personally."
"No. Maybe we can include a note saying it was for seven years of rent we owed?"
"Very good Mistress. I'm sure she will appreciate your humor" Kreacher replied.
"Thank you. Now I wish to see my husband" she added as they left, confident the problem was resolved.
* * *
Ginny, Kreacher, and Winky apparated into Poppy's Office and walked in the enchanted door. "Now remember we will keep this quiet for now, at least until the Headmistress knows." Both Elves nodded, not noticing the eerie silence when they came in.
"Hi Ginny" Ron softly said. Hermione was still in his arms. The crying had stopped, but Ginny saw how it must have been happening for a while.
"RON WHAT'S WRONG? IS ???" she shouted as she rushed past him. She was relieved to see Harry lying there, his cheeks tear stained. She saw his right arm slowly come up and wipe them away before moving back to cradling his Firebolt.
"Oh Ginny!" Hermione sobbed as she hugged her, crying again on her best friends shoulder. "It was the Headmistress. She came here while you were gone, and all but asked us to leave."
"She what??" bellowed Neville now on his feet too.
"Yes. She explained all the letters she has been getting from the press about us, and the ones from your Mother. She said how this must stop so she has to make some difficult choices."
"I understand. So not only did my Family make things difficult for her, we have made them worse by being here. I'm afraid we have overstayed our welcome. It's time to go home. Winky can you collect everything here?"
"Yes Mrs. Potter."
"Thank you. Kreacher can we safely move Harry? It's past time he moved home."
"Yes Mistress. Your flying last week proved he can travel. We can leave whenever you wish."
"Ginny I'll send our friends away" Luna added as she walked onto the patio. She quickly returned. "They are disappointed but they understood. I told them to come to us on the morning of Harry's Birthday. Is that OK?"
"Fantastic Luna. I promised him I will take him flying, and I will not go back on that."
"We will come by later. The DA needs to know not only that we are gone, but why." Neville took out his enchanted galleon and rubbed it, summoning the DA to the Room of Requirement.
"Mister Longbottom the Elves will wish to be there also. Please wait a moment." Winky disappeared and less than a second later came back. "I will apparate you into the Room. When all have arrived we can discuss this."
Hannah gave Ginny a huge hug, promising to get back as quickly as possible. With a 'pop' she, Luna, Neville, and Winky left.
"Ginny where were you this morning?" Ron asked. He saw how happy she initially was until she saw Hermione crying.
"Gringotts. Filling out more paperwork." She brushed aside why, and Hermione and Ron were too distraught to notice. Kreacher was holding her briefcase which contained what belonged to them. "Thank you" Ginny to the Room. Each touched Harry and with a flash they left.
Slowly the things in the Room disappeared until all that was left was four blank walls.
* * *
When they arrived at #12 Grimmauld Place they discovered Ron was carrying Harry. The bed he had spent the last three months in had disappeared. Hermione and Ginny pulled the luxurious covers back and Ron gently laid him down. Ginny did not hesitate to climb in beside him and felt the covers being pulled over them. Her tears started before Ron got the chance to close the curtains hanging in each corner of the bed, which coordinated with the maroon with gold stitching in the comforter.
Wordlessly they unpacked Ginny's and Harry's trunks, figuring things could be rearranged later. Hermione smacked Ron's hand when he pulled open a drawer in the lingerie chest. "I have one of each" she whispered causing his face to flush deep red. As quiet as possible they left, the only sounds being Ginny crying. As the curtains were drawn earlier they saw Harry release his Firebolt, which left his hand to stand itself in a corner. Both his arms moved around his wife.
It was late afternoon when Ginny awoke. She heard the door open and the smell of food drifted in. "Let's leave this for her when she wakes up."
"Hannah? Is that you?"
"Ginny I'm sorry we woke you" she heard Hermione tell her.
"That's OK." The curtains parted and Ginny got up. They could see she had changed into her new bed clothes, this time red to match her hair. "That smells really good! Is that ... ?"
"Chicken noodle soup and cookies" Luna replied from the door. She was levitating a tray with four bowls. Hermione had the cookies with her and was placing them on the table from the Outdoor Dining Room.
"Thanks" Ginny replied as she sipped the soup. "This is great. Did you make it?"
"No. Neville did. He and Ron made dinner for us" Hermione told a surprised Ginny.
"So I guess they are worth keeping?" Ginny asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"Absolutely" both girls answered.
"Ron made the cookies. Two kinds: Peanut butter and chocolate chip" Luna added.
Ginny tasted one and she smiled. "These are excellent. Harry used to cook for us sometimes at the Burrow. Peanut butter was his specialty."
"I think Ron picked it up from him. Both did their share of cooking when we were on the road. We needed to be creative because we didn't have a lot to work with" Hermione stated.
"Well they can cook for us anytime" Ginny said as she smiled. The other three girls smiled too, glad that Ginny seemed happy at least.
"Thank you ladies" they heard Neville say. He and Ron were standing in the doorway. "Are you decent?"
"Yes come in" Ginny said as she got up. She hugged each one to thank them. "Did you like it too?"
"We didn't eat yet. We wanted to see if you wanted any more first" Ron replied. "Would you like us to bring you some more?"
"No just dessert" Hannah replied.
"Good because Ron made ... " was all he got out as Hannah pulled him into an embrace.
"I like that. Dessert first" he said after Hannah let him breathe.
"Can I have some dessert too?" wondered Ron.
"Maybe later if you're good" his girlfriend giggled.
"Then it is dinner first" Kreacher said as he entered. With him was a tray with soup for Ron and Neville, more cookies, and another with tall glasses of lemonade.
"Thanks Kreacher" Neville said as he sat down next to Hannah where Ginny was. She and Luna moved to the bed to sit next to Harry who was smiling broadly now.
"How is he?" wondered Luna.
"More relaxed. When we got here with him he was crying almost as much as I was. The nap we both took helped. How was the DA Meeting?" Ginny asked. When no one spoke she asked again. "That bad? What happened?" she wondered as she nibbled on Harry's favorite cookie. She broke off a tiny piece and put it inside his mouth. He began to chew, smiling even more if it was possible.
"Ginny it went from bad to worse. As soon as we got there we saw people rushing in, parents included. 'What happened? Is everyone OK?' they were asking. The Elves all arrived, even the ones supposed to be making lunch. Lastly was Seamus. He had 'babysitting' for the first time and Cho was supposed to be here with him, so his older sister Kathleen took her place. She was in your Brother Percy's year and remembered both Bill and Charlie, so she wasn't afraid. Anyway when Seamus got the summons he thought he should bring them instead of leaving. You should have seen the dirty looks they got! Fleur had followed them, thinking lunch was in a different part of the Castle because of repairs to the Great Hall" Luna said.
"And how are things coming?" Ron interrupted.
"Very well. Things are almost complete. By September it should be ready" Hannah replied. "Seamus felt horrible when everyone stared at him. I asked about Lavender to distract them, and he said she is getting better too."
"Fleur realized she, Bill, and Charlie were not invited so she took out her wand and escorted them out. I suggested she find Molly because we had major problems."
"Not Minerva? But why?" asked Ginny of Neville.
"Because of what she said" Luna told her. "When they left we closed the door and told them what had happened. 'Our friends have gone to an undisclosed location so the Headmistress will not have them creating any more problems than they already have' is what we said. They are suffering like we all are, plus they have injuries that need healing. St. Mungo's is out of the question for security reasons."
"Both Padma and Parvati asked if we needed help. I suggested everyone leave to spend time with their Families who I'm sure missed them" Hannah said as she clutched Neville's hand tightly.
"Their Families agreed, stressing it was time to move on too. We thanked them one by one, and they left the Castle. Only Hannah, Luna, and I were left" Neville said as he pulled her tightly against him. With his other arm he pulled Luna over too, thinking she was missing her Father.
"Thank you Neville" she replied as she kissed his cheek and winked at Hannah. "Seamus told me he saw my Father up and walking around. I am going there tonight to see him and Lavender. I want to take him home."
Ginny smiled knowing how she felt. Luna wasn't told the Elves were working on her Family's home too, restoring it the best they could. Hermione and Ron had used the pensieve to show their memories of the inside to give the Elves a starting point. "Luna you are always welcome in our home. When your Father is better I want to meet him."
"You do? That's wonderful Ginny. Everyone thinks Daddy and I are, well, a little different" she replied as she stirred her glass.
"Luna we are all different. That's why we get along so well" Ron said for them.
"You are the most unique person I know, and I love you for it" Hermione added as she hugged her causing both to start crying. Luna's life had been difficult too. Her Mother died when she was young experimenting on a new spell. She was raised by her Dad and developed his belief in many strange creatures. Unfortunately no one but her ever saw them, making people think she wasn't all there.
"Mistress Lovegood Kreacher would be happy to escort you to see your Father." He held out his hand and they disappeared.
"She is quite a character" Hannah stated.
"True but aren't we all?" Ginny commented. "So tell me what happened then? You left off with the DA and their Families leaving."
"Yes. The Elves looked lost. I'm sure they were wondering what to do until school begins" Hannah said as she shook her head. "We got up ourselves to leave when the Headmistress arrived."
"Where is everyone? I have wonderful news" she asked us.
"Gone. Just like we will be shortly" Neville told her. "And don't expect us back after what you said."
"What I said? Mr. Longbottom what are you referring to?"
"To what you said earlier to Hermione and Ron. 'The situation has become untenable. I hope you will understand' and 'I have been receiving letters from your parents and the press about you'. You made it very obvious you wanted them to leave, so they did" replied Hannah coldly. "And after all they did for us and the school you throw them out! Headmistress you should be ashamed of yourself!"
"No that's not what I meant ... "
"Yes it was. They were in the way, and you weren't happy about Bill and Charlie Weasley being here too. Well It is your problem now. All of us are leaving. We are the final ones. Goodbye Headmistress" Luna said for them. The three brushed past her, not giving her a chance to explain what she was talking about that morning.
"She was right. We should have left sooner, as soon as I got the money" Ginny sadly said.
"The money? Did they let you use Harry's money? We wondered about that" said Hannah.
"Yes. The Goblins see us together and Married one day, so I can get what I want. So I made sure Kreacher can get us money whenever we need and put some into Teddy's account. Which reminds me we need to bring him over here. Maybe it will help Harry" she concluded.
"It can't hurt. But now the bigger question. Any more dreams?" Hermione asked.
"Yes" Ginny said as they leaned closer. "I am still travelling. Occasionally I stop, but don't get up. We begin moving again and I continue looking out the window. Oh and I haven't seen anyone else" she added.
"Weird Ginny. You are going somewhere, but you will know it when you arrive? What kind of a dream is that? Now mine are about food or ... "
"Ronald we don't need to discuss your dreams. They usually start and end involving food of some kind" Hermione intervened.
"Yes they do. And they usually have dessert mixed in somewhere" he added.
Hermione stared at him until she got his joke. She grabbed the nearest pillow (which Ginny had waiting for her when it sunk in) and proceeded to pummel him with it. Even Harry was heard to laugh, bringing them back to reality.
Minerva McGonagall entered her Office, wishing this day was over. From the outside she heard the Weasleys arguing.
"Fleur I am saying they all disappeared."
"Bill the Elves don't just disappear. Yes they can, but there needs to be a reason for it. What do you think Charlie?"
"In Romania I deal with great big dragons the size of houses. We have no trouble finding them."
"Children if you would just listen to me we can ... "
"Mom how old are we? I'm 28 and Charlie is 26. None of us are babies anymore. If you don't stop treating us as ones you will drive us away too!!" Bill yelled.
"You see Molly ... " Fleur began but was interrupted by Minerva entering who wanted to get this over with.
"Not now" she said as she strode in, silencing them with a wave of her wand. She closed the door to her private Office behind her and pulled out a bottle of scotch whiskey she kept in her desk 'for medicinal reasons'.
"Another headache?" Albus asked her.
She nodded draining the glass she poured. A second one half full replaced it, but was left on the desktop as she paced. "So we have an unknown benefactor. Harry? No he is unconscious. The Weasleys? They are poorer than we. The Longbottom's? Augusta would have said something. Who is it?"
"Minerva I'm afraid I cannot help you" he replied in his normal cryptic manner which she missed she was so deep in thought.
"And the mess I made this morning!! Complaining about my problems made them feel they were behind them all. Now what can I do?"
"Try to contact them. If they wish to talk to you they will" he replied.
"Maybe. If I can convince Augusta to help ... . But what do I do with them?"
she said, gesturing to the door.
"That I may be of some help with. Mrs. Fleur Weasley came to me with an idea and I have been considering what she said. It is not an answer, but perhaps an explanation. If the Minister has some time ... "
* * *
Neville and Hannah returned to Longbottom Manor after making a stop at the warehouse. Both were disappointed to find the bedroom set ordered had not arrived, so the plan was to return to Cho's Family's shop first thing in the morning. His Gran was used as a sounding board, relating what happened since the attack.
"So you think she wanted them to leave? That is not the Minerva I know" his Gran replied.
"If you would have seen Hermione you would have thought Harry died that's how upset she was" Hannah told her.
"Tomorrow I will go see her and straighten this out" Augusta said to them.
"Gran thanks for trying" both Hannah and Neville responded.
Bright and early the next morning found them at the magical furniture store. An older lady greeted them, recognizing them from their pictures in the Prophet.
"I see you two are engaged" she said congratulating them.
"We are? That's news to me" Hannah replied, looking at her hand. Neville leaned over and whispered something which made her smile. "Several days ago we came in with Neville's cousins. We bought two bedroom sets, and the sheets and everything to go with it. Since they have not arrived we came to see why."
"Cho is my daughter and is not feeling well today. She did not tell me you came by or that we sold this much to one person. I see all the paperwork and would have recognized the name. I went to Hogwarts with your parents Neville. Good people." Leila Chang excused herself and went to Cho's desk searching for the paperwork. "I'm sorry it is not here. Can you remember what it was? I promise to get it here by this evening."
Hannah felt sorry for her seeing how badly Cho's Mother felt. She agreed to place the order a second time, grateful for Hermione writing everything down she wanted that night. Extra sets of bedding were added at no charge for the inconvenience.
"By the way I am sorry to hear about your friend. It is so sad to lose someone you care about, especially after they have accomplished so much" she said.
"Mrs. Chang we left this morning before the Prophet arrived. Can we see yours please?" Hannah asked. She turned white wondering who it might be.
"Here you are. Take it please" she told them, unfolding it. Staring at them was a picture of Harry with the caption:
'This reporter is saddened to learn that THE hero of the Wizarding World has died. My sources tell me that Mr. Potter has lived near death for several months since his confrontation with he-who-must-not-be-named. After heroic efforts to save him at Hogwarts, where he has been receiving medical treatment since the War ended, he is now gone. We will publish the details as they become available. Again Harry Potter is dead, just shy of his 18th Birthday.
"Mrs. Chang thank you. Your daughter has the information on my account" Neville said as they rushed out. They ran back to the Leaky Cauldron where Hannah's Uncle was there sobbing into his dirty napkin he was using to wiping down the tables before his usual morning crowd arrived.
"This is horrible!! I remember the times he stayed here! Such a nice, quiet boy."
"Yes Uncle. We have to go" Hannah shook herself free and leaped into the floo followed closely by Neville. They had to go to Neville's first, then to Grimmauld Place. His Gran insisted on coming along, which Neville felt if this was true it wouldn't matter anymore.
All three tumbled into Grimmauld Place startling Kreacher. "Master Longbottom what is wrong?"
"Harry? Where is he?" Hannah yelled.
"In his bed like always" he replied. They rushed past him and up the stairs taking two at a time. The article was being read aloud when they burst in.
"HARRY?" screamed Neville.
"He's right here. Don't worry" Ginny replied. "I'm so sorry guys we thought you knew he was fine and would laugh at Rita Skeeter."
Both Hannah and Neville sat on Harry's bed next to Ginny. "You had us terrified" Neville told them.
"Guys it's my fault. I told them this morning you knew how that woman lies, so they didn't send a patronus. Blame me not them" Ron said, standing up for his girls.
"It's all right now Ron. Gran you remember everyone don't you?" Hannah asked.
Augusta was staring at Harry the whole time the blaming/apologizing was happening. "Is he asleep?" she finally asked.
"We're not sure. He is aware of us, and can be happy or sad when we are. He hears us but doesn't respond much" Ginny replied.
"Like Frank and Alice" she muttered.
"No. This isn't like them at all. We think Harry is trying to find himself. After Voldemort died some terrible things happened causing him to withdraw inside. When he's ready we will come back. Mom and Dad can't" Neville stated, leaving the room followed closely by Hannah.
"I've forgotten about his parents. This has to be difficult for him" Hermione said. When Arthur Weasley was in St. Mungo's after the snake Nagini attacked him they ran into Neville and his Gran. He told them about his parents who were tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange and lost most their memories.
"It is. He used to cry himself to sleep at night wishing for Mommy and Daddy to come home. It's what drives him now, wanting to be a good, helpful person" Augusta answered.
"And you did a good job raising him. He is one of my best friends. I would pick either him or Harry to watch my back" Ron replied.
"And he has found a very compassionate woman in Hannah. She loves him dearly" Ginny added. "I see a bright future for them. Now here is what happened to Harry and us. We trust you ... " Ginny gave a synopsis of the events of the last few months, leading up to why they were in Grimmauld Place.
"Don't get me wrong this place is gorgeous! I came once when Walburga Black was alive for a Holiday Party. It gave me the creeps here. The work you did was outstanding. Can I hire the ones who did this?" Augusta wondered.
"Absolutely. Kreacher?" asked Hermione.
"Yes Mistress Granger. Hello Mrs. Longbottom it is good to see you again. How can Kreacher help you today? Breakfast perhaps?"
"No thank you. Am I to understand you were in charge of everything done here?"
"Yes Mrs. Longbottom Kreacher was. Did we do something wrong?"
"No Kreacher you did not. In fact it is so beautiful I wish to hire you to help me at my home. When it is convenient I want you to come over so we can discuss what I wish to do."
"Kreacher is honored Mrs. Longbottom. I would need to discuss this with my Mistress first, and the others who did much of the work."
"If you wish Kreacher you may go this afternoon to see what Mrs. Longbottom is thinking. Maybe taking Winky along might help. She would know how difficult the project might be, and how many Elves would be needed" Ginny recommended.
"Of course Mistress. Winky would be pleased too, since she is bored with the repairs at Hogwarts essentially finished." With a flash he vanished, anxious to tell his fellow Elves he had a job for them.
"We purchased everything and they did all the work. And all the demolition too. You would swear you were somewhere else. Can we show you around before you head home?" Ginny asked. Ron remained with Harry so the girls took Neville's Grandmother through the house, pointing out special features the Elves thoughtfully included. Their final stop was the parlor, where Hannah and Neville had settled.
"Gran I'm sorry I got so upset" he said to her.
"Neville I would be upset if you hadn't been. This has to be difficult for you, bringing up old memories. But I am proud of you. Especially for how you have helped your friends. Hannah I know your parents would have been proud of you too. I am, and I am very grateful you are part of my life and my Grandson's."
Both Hannah and Neville stood and embraced their Gran, who was crying with them. They left to look at their home to see what to discuss with Kreacher when he and Winky arrived later.
* * *
Molly Weasley anxiously paced back and forth, waiting for Minerva to come out of her private Office. Crumpled up in her hand was that morning's Daily Prophet with the banner headline:
Yesterday she and her sons had been sent home with no explanation other than to return tomorrow morning to meet with the Headmistress and the Minister. So she, Arthur, Bill, Fleur, and Charlie were waiting. The floo roared to life and the Minister ran in, clutching the paper. "You read?" he asked Arthur.
"We did this morning. Do you think this is true?" he wondered.
"With Rita Skeeter we know nothing is completely right or wrong" Minerva replied as she entered. "But we can easily find out. Kreacher?"
Nothing happened. "Winky?" Still nothing. She went through another dozen Elves names before she stopped. She waved her wand, sending her cat patronus. It returned minutes later, shaking her head. She sent it again, this time to Ginny. Again no response. "The Elves can prevent an owl or a patronus from being accepted can't they Kingsley?"
"Yes they can." He sent his lynx patronus, this time trying Neville. A golden lion appeared with a reply "No thank you."
"No thank you? What does that mean?" he wondered.
"I'm afraid he believes you are sending yours because they are refusing mine" Minerva replied. "I did something very stupid yesterday. Please sit down because we may be here a while." She summarized the prior two days events, showing how she did not include why she was so upset so they misinterpreted what she told them.
"In my place I would have drawn the same conclusion" Kingsley stated when she was finished. "But you said you had some good news?'
"Yes. An unknown person who wishes to remain anonymous has given the school enough money to last for years. The only note with it was saying it was for seven years rent. Thousands have come here over the years. How can we tell which one it might be?" she wondered.
"I think in time we may find out" Arthur said, trying to think of who might have that kind of money. "First though we need to find out the truth about Harry."
"Absolutely. Nothing is more important" Molly agreed. Seeing the article this morning shocked Molly. It brought her back to reality. All the ranting she was doing did nothing to help her children, who faced life in Azkaban for their acts. Especially so if Harry died which they did not know if it was true.
Motioning for them to follow Minerva headed to the Hospital wing. The halls were deathly silent in their travel culminating in the empty Infirmary. She knocked and entered Poppy's Office to find her reading a muggle medical journal. "I'm looking for a job" she bitterly told the Headmistress.
Stung by the comment Minerva walked into the special room. It still existed and she was disturbed to see it was now vacant, except for the large round table with the pensieve. The water was swirling at a rapid rate threatening to overflow. Slowly it rose into the air, then tipped to its side so the water now faced them. It grew larger and larger until it filled the space all around them and they realized they were now inside it. Memories appeared to them, taken during the final moments of Harry's confrontation with Tom Riddle. The elation everyone felt that he was indeed alive, and the tension mounted until Harry stood alone clutching both wands. Voices were heard all around, most being very excited and happy. Loudest were Ginny, Hermione, and Ron.
Then other voices were heard. George, wailing for his lost twin Fred. Bill and Charlie, who said he was right and Harry should be the one lying next to them not their Brother. Fleur and Angelina who soundly disagreed. And Arthur and Molly, who did not comment either way.
The scene shifted to show Harry returning to the Great Hall, with Ron and Hermione by his side. He expressed his sorrow at Fred's and the other's deaths, and the Weasleys repaid him with kindness showing him the fault was not his. And each shared in the deaths around them so any blame must be shared by all.
Behind Molly you could see not all Weasleys were in agreement. George was in the distance, continuing to mourn his Brother. Bill and Charlie who grumbled. Fleur who scolded them for it until they quieted down.
The quartet now left, walking to finish their final task. Seeing Harry's hands, Ginny forced the truth out for why they were injured. Her healing, and the flash of light.
"They have bonded" Albus told them. It was not his portrait but the Headmaster himself who stood beside them. The journey continued to his grave and then the attack began. Molly tried to place her hands over her face and turn away but she could not move. They were forced to see the fighting that happened, and vividly heard the sickening sounds of Harry's bones breaking when he was hurtled at the marble crypt.
Now they were in the special room, and Poppy arrived. It showed her fainting at seeing Harry. "Never in my life have I seen anything like this" they heard her say from behind as she joined them.
The scenes now moved more rapidly, showing how Ginny, Ron, and Hermione got better. How distraught each were after the funerals. But Harry changed more slowly. Because the Room had accelerated time the changes could be seen. His physical scars were healed, but his heart was not. Many times at night, with Ginny now sleeping at his side he would toss and turn, trying to avoid the beating he was reliving. She would comfort him, and both would return to sleep.
Finally the episode with the Headmistress and the decision made to leave.
With a flash they found themselves back in the Headmistress' Office. Each were seated too dumbstruck to speak having viewed the accumulated memories of hundreds of people. "Should we assume that is where they went, Grimmauld Place?" wondered Kingsley.
"Yes. They spent weeks redoing it. I was never invited other than to give my opinions. I must say they have excellent taste" replied Poppy.
"But how did they pay for it?" Molly asked knowing her Family's finances.
"The Goblins. They knew the relationship Harry and Ginny shared and gave her access to everything" Albus answered.
"I bet Minerva we know who gave you that money" Arthur suggested.
"And on the day they thought I asked them to leave! How horrible must I look to them. We have to straighten this out somehow. Does anyone have any suggestions?" the Headmistress asked.
"Try Augusta Longbottom. An owl will wait for her if she is with them, and maybe you can pass a message through her" suggested Bill. He and Charlie were still white faced, finally being forced to see what they did.
"Please also tell them we apologize on behalf of the entire Family, and are willing to accept whatever punishment the Ministry gives us" Charlie stated.
"I can't disagree any further. Minerva. Kingsley I apologize too. You never want to think bad of your child, and my not asking daily about Harry and Hermione only proves that I should not be part of their lives" Molly replied.
"Molly that will be their choice. We cannot force ourselves on them. But if they want us, all four will be welcomed back with open arms" Arthur added holding his wife's hand tightly.
* * *
Once the Weasleys left the discussion continued. "Albus what do you know about this? I have never hear of P W R " asked Minerva. Kingsley shrugged his broad shoulders.
"It's interesting how the mind works. Some things can cause major stress, while others simply bounce off like they never happened. In this case the issues truly were life and death. Their grief coupled with the situation as it unfolded contributed to this happening. In the muggle World it is not uncommon for those returning from war to suffer as they relive battles. That is not the case here but it underscores how easy it is to lose control. We all saw how this escalated once Ginny was unintentionally injured. Taking out their anger on a defenseless Harry did nothing to bring their Brother back."
"They are showing genuine remorse for their actions, and are willing to accept whatever punishment chosen. Molly and Arthur are unhappy about that, but now are forced to understand. For now I believe house arrest is best. Bill may return to work at Gringotts and Charlie can help George with his shop. But nowhere else, and no contact with the foursome. After I speak with them, especially Harry, we can decide what to do. If they want to press charges we will, but the choice will be theirs" Kingsley said.
"To do what is right, or what is easy" Albus muttered, thinking back to his conversations with Harry.
"I hope Augusta can talk to them. They have no reason to trust us now" Minerva said to Kingsley.
"Perhaps" he answered, thinking about the separate owl he has for Neville.
* * *
"What about this room Gran? Don't we have enough bedrooms?" Neville wondered. He, Hannah, and his Gran were on the third floor of their home discussing things before Kreacher's visit later. "If we take this wing, or these three bedrooms, we can turn them into something like Ginny and Harry have. One big bedroom, a study, and a loo."
"I like it. It will be like a house within a house. What do they call it, a suite?" his Gran replied.
"And what about a balcony? The view is beautiful! When the weather is nice we can sit outside" Hannah added.
Augusta smiled every time one of them said 'we'. Growing up her Grandson was shy and introverted. He began to mature when he attended Hogwarts developing self confidence. There was no doubt in her mind these two were meant to be together. "I love the idea."
In the next room they were surprised to see an owl waiting. "How did you get in here little one?" Hannah asked as it leaped onto her shoulder. Two letters could be seen, one bearing the seal of the Ministry and the other of Hogwarts. Hannah undid both, handing the Ministry letter to Neville and the Hogwarts one to Gran. "I'm sure I know what this is about" she dryly commented.
"Minerva wishes to see you. All of you. She thinks I can arrange this" Augusta told them after reading it. "What should I do? She did talk to me yesterday explaining what happened that day."
"You told us. I can see why Ginny reacted the way she did not knowing all the facts and Minerva's choice of words. Tomorrow we will talk to them and if they agree you can set up something" Neville replied.
"Thanks for not doing it without telling us" Hannah added as she hugged her Gran.
"I love all of you, and would not betray you" she responded as she left them to discuss Neville's letter.
"Neville what is your letter about? Is it a secret or ... "
"No Hannah it isn't. When Ron first saw Kingsley after the attack he passed him a note asking for help finding Hermione's parents in Australia. Kingsley believes they may have found them, but he needs to discuss it with them to make sure."
"Neville that's fantastic. I'll distract Hermione tomorrow so you can tell Ron, then it is up to him what to do."
* * *
"Good Morning" Hermione said to Ginny who was seated at her desk. She pulled out her pad of paper and asked "What else this morning do you remember?"
"Not much. Last night I started getting anxious, like I should be there by now or I should be there soon."
"What about the train? Do you think it is one?"
"Maybe. Possibly, but not the Hogwarts Express. It's too smooth, even on the turns. Remember all the times out trunks almost fell on us? I can feel I'm moving, but not the shaking back and forth."
"And where are you're going?" Ron asked a he came in and sat on the edge of the desk next to Hermione.
"I wish I knew Ron. Am I coming from somewhere, or headed someplace? Am I looking for Harry, or expecting him to join me on a trip?"
"Ginny you may be wishing to find Harry. Dreams are open to interpretation. By the way our bed is great. Thanks."
"No problem. I wonder how it got mixed up? I guess it doesn't matter now since you have everything. There are some beautiful things pictured in those books you brought home. I'll show Harry and we can get some of those too. The gold cashmere blanket looks heavenly."
"I thought so to Ginny. I bet Godric Gryffindor himself would be jealous" Hermione joked.
"Good Morning! Breakfast is ready" Kreacher informed them from the bedroom. A small dining room set (it was the table from Harry's vault all the gold was on plus the four matching chairs from his parent's) which now occupied a corner, allowing the wrought iron set to be returned to the Outdoor Dining Room downstairs. "I will be going to the Longbottom's shortly. Do you want me to get you anything else before I do?"
"No thank you Kreacher. How do you like their house?" asked Ginny.
"Mistress it is a beautiful home. Thank you Mistress Granger for helping Kreacher to talk with Mrs. Longbottom. He has no idea how to tell his Masters they should give him money."
"Kreacher it is my pleasure. I hope when more people see and hear about this they will wish for your services too" Hermione replied.
"Let us hope so Mistress. Do you plan on accepting Mrs. Longbottom's invitation to visit?"
"It depends on why she is asking. I believe she is trying to arrange a meeting between us and Minerva and Kingsley. When Hannah and Neville arrive later we will know more. I'm sure she means well but we will not be surprised or forced into anything" Ron responded.
* * *
Neville wanted to wait until Kreacher arrived before leaving to see if Kreacher had any questions before he and Hannah left. "You know where you can find us" she said as they used the floo to #12 Grimmauld Place. Ginny. Ron, and Hermione were playing exploding snap at the table when they came upstairs.
"Ouch" Ron yelled rubbing his singed fingers.
"Told you that you weren't quick enough. It's why Harry always won with you" Ginny chided.
"True but I have him at chess" replied Ron.
"Ron do you have a second to talk?" Neville asked as they entered the bedroom.
"Sure. My hands hurt" he answered following Neville upstairs to his and Hannah's room. Like the others it had a hardwood floor, with the bed sitting on an oval braided rug in Hufflepuff colors. He knew it and the bedding could change into Gryffindor colors whenever they wanted. "What's on your mind?"
"Well two things. First I need some relationship advice. I am seriously thinking about asking Hannah to move into my bedroom. She is across the Hall from me, but I want to wake up with her. Do you think it is too soon for me to ask?"
"Wow Neville. You two are so happy together I say why not ask. The worst thing she can say is to give her more time. Take it from me ..."
" ... that time is a precious thing not to be passed on" Hermione responded to Hannah's identical question.
"And you're not asking to do it because you want to ... " Ginny asked.
" ... you know" wondered Ron.
"No. It's not like I ... "
" ... like I don't want to. I really do but it's too soon. When ... ":
" ... the time is right we will both know" responded Neville.
" ... we will both know" responded Hannah at the same time.
"Then ask him" said Ginny and Hermione.
"Then ask her" said Ron. "Now what is the other thing?"
"Kingsley owled me. He thinks he may have found Hermione's parents, but he needs to talk to confirm it."
"Then we need to meet with him. I can't meet separate. And It's Hermione's parents. She deserves to know. Let's go back downstairs and tell her. Do you think he is telling us the truth?"
"Without seeing him you won't know" Neville replied.
* * *
"So you're going to ask him tonight?"
"Yes. No. I don't know ... " Hannah replied to Hermione. They heard footsteps approaching as she blushed. 'He's going to think the worst of me. That I'm after his money'.
"And You Mr. Potter now would not be the time to wake up and spoil it for them" Ginny said as she kissed him. Harry's arms went around her and held her like that until the kiss ended, when he relaxed and let her get up. "Yes a definite improvement."
* * *
"Are you ready? You're going to ask her tonight right?" wondered Ron.
"Yes. Well maybe ... " Neville stammered. 'What will she think of me? She is gorgeous! Is that our relationship, just because she is so beautiful I want her?' Neville stood straighter, and led Ron to the door. He knocked and they went in. His breath was taken away seeing Hannah looking at him. And all his fears disappeared. "Hannah can we let them talk? There is something I want to talk to you about."
"Guys we will be up in our room" she said not looking at them. Somehow Neville had grown in the last 20 minutes. The quiet, shy guy was gone and a man stood in his place. Silently hand in hand they walked upstairs and closed the door, opening another in their relationship.
"Hermione Neville wanted to talk to me about two things. The first one is between him and Hannah ... "
"Was it should they move in together?" asked Hermione.
"How did you know?" he asked surprised.
"Because she asked us the same. I told her time is precious. Make the most of it" Ginny replied as she tucked the blanket closer around her husband.
"So did I. I'm sure they both will want to. The other thing is I asked Kingsley to do something for us. Neville got an owl today saying he has some news about your parents" Ron said, waiting for Hermione's response.
"Ginny I miss them so much!! I've wanted to ask for help but I didn't know who to trust. Ron how did you know?" wondered Hermione as she gratefully hugged Ron.
"You told Harry and I a long time ago. Monica and Wendell Wilkins. Dentists in Australia. That's what I told him. Do you want to meet with him and see what he found out?" Ron asked.
"Do you mind if we go? I don't want to bring him here. Maybe the Leaky? We can get there early and use Harry's cloak. If he has your parents or anyone else we leave and do it ourselves" Hermione suggested.
"Good luck" Ginny said very happy for them both.
Hannah Abbott stood in the window looking out at the park across the street from Harry and Ginny's house. In it she saw people walking their dogs and pushing strollers. She wondered what it would be like to be doing that.
A pair of strong arms wrapped themselves around her. She leaned back, grateful for his warmth. She missed it when she got up to look outside wondering what all the noise was. He pulled her hair long blonde back and kissed her neck, sending shivers down her spine and back up again.
"Last night was magnificent" he whispered in her ear. It made her turn around and pull him close, kissing him again. He didn't have the tops of his pajamas on (she has confiscated them when she got up not seeing hers nearby) and held him as close as she could.
"Yes it was" she replied not wishing this moment to end. She felt him start to shake, like he was trying not to laugh. "What's so funny?"
"Us. When I talked to Ron I wanted to ask his opinion. I wanted you to move in with me but not to ... "
"Do what we just did" Hannah finished as she grinned too. "I asked Ginny and Hermione the same thing. I was worried you would think less of me if I asked the same thing. Some girls go after guys for their money, and I didn't want you to think that of me."
"I don't. And I was worried that now you are dressing the way you are, you would think I was only after you to get you in bed" he said.
"And now that you have?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him.
"And now Miss Hannah Marie Abbott I find that I am in love with you. I think I knew it before, but now I am certain of it."
"Neville Frank Longbottom you don't know how happy that makes me! I love you too, and I was so worried you would think less of me for what we just did. So many girls at Hogwarts talked about it, trying to sleep with someone so they would love them."
"Then I feel very sorry for them. That they would think so little of themselves that they would be forced to do that. No I thought you were special for a long time, and I knew you were beautiful even when you wore those clothes three sizes too big. I told Ron how fortunate I am that you would want to be with me. He feels the same way about Hermione, as does Harry with Ginny."
"Did Harry tell you that?"
"In a way yes. Ron and I were talking and made a pact to treat each of you the best we can, and to watch out for each other If we start to mess up. Harry squeezed our hands, showing us he agreed."
"That's incredible Neville! I can't wait to tell Ginny."
"Tell her what?"
"That I have found the man of my dreams, just like she and Hermione have" she replied as she pushed him back onto the bed.
* * *
Hermione and Ron stood in the far corner of the Leaky Cauldron, concealed under Harry's invisibility cloak, Because Ron was so tall he had to stay hunched over or his feet would be visible. Hermione kept rubbing his back to try and help, but she knew it still bothered him. "Are you all right?" she whispered.
"Yes" he answered, hoping Kingsley would be on time. Sure enough he was, walking into the room Tom had instructed him to use. Seeing no one following him they moved up to it. Hermione silently cast the 'Homeninum Revelio' charm to see if anyone disillusioned had slipped in, and when she was sure they didn't took off the cloak and stepped inside closing the door behind them.
"Kingsley" Ron said as he sat next to Hermione at the table across from him.
"Minister thank you for helping us" Hermione told him.
"It has been my pleasure. Where would you like to start?" he asked.
"I believe we only had one thing to discuss today" Ron replied in an attempt to show why they were here.
"Your parents Miss Granger. I have a picture here taken in Auckland. A Monica and Wendell Wilkins are dentists and the immigration records show them entering Australia at the time you would have sent them. Are these your parents?"
Hermione stared at the picture taken through a window. It showed her Mother with hair tinted from time in the sun, and the well tanned face of her Father. He had grown a moustache which was almost blonde, and his hair had streaks of grey in it now. 'I bet they were caused by me' she speculated. "Kingsley these are my parents. When can I see them?"
The Minister smiled for the first time. 'One job down' he thought. "Very soon. We will need to arrange for you to travel there and restore their memories, since you were the one who cast the memory charms since there are so many different combinations. Shall we say in a couple of weeks?"
"August 15th works for us" Ron replied. Hermione squeezed his hand under the table, grateful he was volunteering to go plus remembering his sister's Birthday.
"Excellent. Plenty of time to set up port keys and make travel arrangements to return" he replied.
"The second part should not be a problem. We may want to spend some time there before returning, and Hermione's parents may wish for some help with their practice" Ron replied. He politely told Kingsley they would return when they wished.
"Of course. Australia is a beautiful Country" the Minister replied. 'So they are still cautious. I would be too under the circumstances'. "I do have a request to make, and if you feel I am out of line when I am finished please say so and I promise I will not bring it up again." He saw Hermione nod, knowing he helped her so she should at least listen.
"The day you left Hogwarts was very traumatic for everyone, especially the Headmistress. She has been under a lot of strain for a reason you were not aware of. The Board of Governors, which administrates and funds the School, has essentially disappeared. Most are dead or gone fearing Voldemort has not really left. As a result there is a financial crisis. It appears the School will be forced to close its doors forever."
"Kingsley that's terrible!! What can we do to help?" Hermione asked.
He saw the concern and fear on their faces, and was convinced they knew nothing about this. "Fortunately the morning this misunderstanding happened a solution was found. An unknown person gave to the School 10 Million galleons, enough to run it for years."
"How much?" Ron asked his face now as white as snow. He knew Harry had inherited money but it can't have been this much.
"A lot. More than enough to meet the needs for years to come" he replied, convinced they were not aware of this either. "Minerva got the good news that morning as was looking for you to share it with when she found out you had just left, believing she wished you to go. Far from it. She has stood up for you, kept the press away, and even tolerated the incessant letters your Mother sent. To be honest you owe her an apology for the way you left, not even thanking her for staying there" he gently scolded them.
"Minister you are right. We were so hurt at the time we left without saying goodbye. Ron we have to tell Ginny this. I'm sure she will feel like we do about this."
"Absolutely. Please let her know how badly we feel, and will try to arrange a meeting as soon as possible" Ron stated. "And thank you for not trying to push the issue about our Family. This has been difficult for all of us."
"Speaking of that we have had some new developments we want to discuss with you. If we can do this at the same time it would be good, and then it will be up to you how much contact you want."
"Thank you Kingsley" Hermione replied as she hugged him.
* * *
The reunion turned out to be easier than expected. Kingsley, Minerva, and Augusta Longbottom (who was working behind the scenes to make this possible) were invited over. After much hugging, apologizing, crying, and more hugging the issues were resolved. Ginny acted surprised about the financial problems, and even more that someone helped.
"And now to what I mentioned last night. I wish Albus was here to help us understand it better" Kingsley told them.
Ginny got up and went into her office, returning with a desktop sized portrait. "I believed you asked for me?" Albus Dumbledore inquired.
"Where did you find this? It has been missing for over a year" a surprised Minerva asked.
"The dungeons at Hogwarts. I came across it last year while searching for another secret passage out. He helped me a lot, giving me someone to talk to while my ... Harry was gone" she replied, almost letting it slip about their true relationship.
"Hello. Sorry we're late" Hannah and Neville said as they entered the room, closely followed by Harry and Ginny. Harry walked over and turned on the wireless to hear a breathless Lee Jordan on his radio show.
"That's right folks! I am here to say that I saw Harry Potter with my own two eyes!! He, Ginny Weasley, Hannah Abbott, and Neville Longbottom were in the Leaky Cauldron having lunch celebrating their mutual Birthdays. Hannah's was yesterday, Neville is today's, and of course Harry's is tomorrow. Ginny's will be soon, on August 11th, but why not celebrate twice I suppose? I went there to get some lunch before work and saw them leaving through the floo headed I believe to the Longbottom's. I raced back with my recording equipment and this is what I captured."
"So when did they arrive? How long were they here? I am asking the owner of the Leaky Tom."
"Several hours ago. They wished for a private place to celebrate, and of course I provided it. He can sure laugh a lot for being dead" Tom said laughing himself. "Treacle tart is what they had to celebrate with. Everyone who comes today sets a free slice, in honor of the Prophet being wrong. But then what else is new? They said Voldemort really wasn't alive, then he wasn't dead. I'm cancelling my subscription as of today."
"So there you have it folks. Our hero Harry Potter is alive, having been seen by dozens of people. I will attempt to contact the Prophet for a response, specifically Rita Skeeter for her reaction. Please stay tuned for more information."
Dumbfounded and amazed people stared at Harry. Then at the Harry in the bed. Both had huge smiles on their faces. Both Ginny's went to kiss their Harry's when something happened. The pair who were standing slowly morphed into Kreacher and Winky who were now smiling and holding hands. The other couple was smiling equally well, but lying in the bed.
"Kreacher came to us with the idea of how to show everyone the truth. Well not the truth but to show them the Prophet was wrong. The Elves can transfigure themselves like we can but better" Hermione told them.
"I asked my Uncle to set up a private room to celebrate in, and that a surprise guest will be there. He began crying as soon as he saw Harry. He ran over and hugged him, happy that he really was alive" Hannah replied crying herself.
"So now we have given them something to talk about. And not to give up hope, or to believe everything you read. You would think people would know that by now" Ron added. "Hi Luna."
"Hi. Sorry I couldn't get here sooner. I wanted to be with Daddy when the wireless came on. He was so happy, saying he never believed it anyway. He is resting now so I have a few hours" she said.
"Excellent. You all did a magnificent job. I am very proud of all of you. Mrs. Fleur Weasley brought something to my attention last month as a possible cause of what happened and I have been spending a lot of time thinking and discussing this with the previous headmasters. In 1918 after the First World War ended some things happened to the returning soldiers. Most had recurring nightmares about the battles, reliving losing their comrades in arms. Still others experienced ones involving the guilt at killing their enemies, even though they knew it was situations of kill or be killed. We all know how this has affected all of us, Harry most of all."
Ginny looked at her husband who she could see was listening intently. She propped up his pillows and was surprised to see him want to sit up straighter, so she grabbed the others from her side for him. He reached out to take her hand as Albus continued.
"A small number of soldiers from both sides began acting differently. Fierce anger would take them and they began to act very aggressively. Fights and arguments broke out, oftentimes resulting in serious injury or even death. One common denominator was that they remembered little of their actions and were very surprised to discover what they did. Many took their own lives afterwards out of guilt. Years later a term was coined for it called P W R, or Post War Rage. While I am not certain of it, this may be the case here.
The special room at Hogwarts allowed us to see the collected memories of what took place. Kingsley and Minerva, along with Arthur, Molly, Bill, Fleur, and Charlie saw for the first time everything. Somehow I myself was allowed to also, and I was then able to share them with the other Headmasters. After viewing them most if not all agreed, remembering other wars during their tenures and hearing stories. I was alive during the First World War and remember them myself, so I can attest to it personally."
"Albus do you think this is the case here?" Augusta Longbottom wondered. "After the Second World War I remember seeing things in the London Daily Mail. Stories would be published that fights broke out in local pubs for unknown reasons. Usually at least one veteran was involved."
"At the time the governments did not want to use the term PWR, fearing a backlash against them or the soldiers who did nothing wrong themselves. Most were trying to build new lives for themselves, or returning to the loved ones they left behind."
Hermione was staring at Harry. 'Is this another form of guilt he has?' he saw Ginny shaking her head no at her, knowing this time it has nothing to do with Harry.
"While we cannot be certain this is a very distinct possibility. With no past record of violence, other than the Family tendency to lose their composure, we have an explanation which covers all the known facts. If we were meeting with the Wizengamot I would argue this to be what happened, recommending treatment and counseling not Azkaban."
Everyone turned to look at Ginny and Harry. "Headmaster I don't know. Yes I know you saw our memories, but to have been there is another thing entirely. They were happy when it was happening. You could see it on their faces, enjoying it as it took place. We need to think more on this before I can agree" Ginny replied.
"Of course. This is a lot to take in, and you need time to discuss it" Kingsley answered. He and Minerva left to give the Weasleys an update, and to give them time to talk. Hannah and Neville walked their Gran to the floo. "Gran we have something to discuss when we get home" Neville told her.
Augusta smiled at them. Both had sent their patronus to her when they went upstairs last night. "I'm so happy for you two" she said as she hugged them.
"You can tell?" Hannah asked surprised.
"Definitely. You can see it in your faces, and in your magic. When the patronuses arrived yours had changed into a lioness. Only very strong emotions can cause that to happen" she replied.
"Thanks Gran" they both said, grateful not only that she understood but she approved of the change in their relationship.
* * *
The conversation in the bedroom became very heated. "Yes those are our memories but that's not the same as being there" Ron emphatically said.
"Yes I know but if this is true then they weren't themselves. Isn't that right Headmaster?" wondered Hermione.
"I wish I could help you more in this. What you experienced is worse than the War. How can you look at them the same after this? No matter what you decide things have changed in your relationship with them" Albus answered.
"Ginny I think Harry is trying to say something." Luna was pointing at Harry. All were so involved in the conversation to notice Harry, whose lips were moving but nothing was coming out. His face grew contorted with the effort.
"Yes Harry?" Ginny asked as she leaned closer, putting her ear to his lips but no words came out.
Harry opened his hand and his wand flew to him from the nightstand. This made him relax and he touched his temple drawing out the silvery wisps of a memory. It swirled around like a smoke ring and floated next to him. Two more times he did this, and then touched each one with the tip of his wand to make two copies. One set drifted back into his head and disappeared. The second set moved to his chest and melted in.
He held his wand out and the third set landed on it, forming three smoky white rings. He smiled as he touched Ginny's forehead with it and saw them go in.
Ginny's eyes closed as she leaned against Harry, falling into a deep sleep. His memories began with him being at a Quidditch match. She saw herself flying through the air, capturing the snitch ensuring a victory over Ravenclaw and the House cup. She felt his excitement at the victory, and how proud he was of her. The celebration moved to Gryffindor House and their first kiss. His passion matched hers, grateful that this had finally happened.
The next scene was at the Burrow. They were in her room, and he was telling her that he wanted her to come but it was too dangerous. The anguish in his heart almost broke hers, realizing how deeply he felt about her and how badly he wished to protect her. Then the kiss, all too short due to her brother's untimely entrance. She felt his spirits lift, grateful for the motivation she gave him to return to her.
The following scene was a short one. She saw him staring at Voldemort who was grinning, thinking his battle with Harry was over. Images flashed through his mind as he remembered person after person, with the last and strongest being her and their first kiss. A green flash and all went blank.
The final memory was walking to the marble crypt. They paused for her to help him. The wands touched and the magic flowed into them, bonding their hearts as one.
Ginny was back to travelling again. More details surfaced. It definitely was a train. The shiny chrome luggage racks were overhead and a gentle swaying was felt. The darkness outside the window seemed to diminish and she got excited, knowing her stop was next. The train pulled to a stop and she got up, leaving behind the car she had spent the last several months in. She walked to the end of the car and stepped out onto the platform. Not another soul was in sight. "Where am I?"
"At a crossroad of sorts" she heard the Headmaster reply. He was standing next to her in his set of pale blue robes she thought he looked best in.
"Why are you here?" she asked him.
"Because you wanted me to be. I am here to guide you."
"Guide me where? To Harry?"
"Yes if that is what you want. He has been here waiting."
"Why? And why couldn't I come sooner if he has been waiting?"
"Because it is not only you he has been waiting for. Now come." Ginny took his hand as they walked through the empty building.
"Albus where is he?" she asked after walking for what seemed like hours.
"Waiting as I said. You are the last to arrive, so now he can decide."
"Decide what? If he still loves me? Is Cho here?"
"My dear you have no reason to worry. The love you two share is like no other, and it is what kept you going over this last year. I am sorry to be the one who kept you two apart."
"That's OK." Ginny started to hear voices and began to move faster.
"Patience. We need to talk first." A wrought iron bench appeared and they sat down. She noticed she had the gold dress on from Bill and Fleur's Wedding. As anxious as she was, somehow she knew they needed to talk first.
"As you have guessed Harry has been on a journey. His body has been with you, however his mind is torn between two places. We are here to unite them so he can decide what is best."
"What do you mean 'What is best'? Do you mean he might not want to come back?"
"Yes. You saw what Tom did to him in the forest. We met and he made a decision to come back. This is similar. He left his body again, but your love for him brought him back. But not completely. The damage all four of you suffered nearly broke his spirit. I say nearly, because a part of him wants to come back desperately. However he knows who else has passed on, and desires to be with them also. Their love is strong too and tempts him to go to them. You are here because he wants you to be. Either to bring him back, or to say goodbye. He cannot continue as he is. He must be united mind, body, and soul."
"What must I do? I love him more than life itself. But if what he has suffered is too much for him than I will understand. Can I go there with him?"
"No. It is not your time" he replied, wondering how she might react if he decides to leave her.
Ginny and the Headmaster resumed their walk through the station, arriving finally on a balcony. Far below them were two trains, one facing in each direction. Faces could be seen, but it was too far away for her to tell who they were. Harry appeared as he walked into the space from beneath them.
"HARRY!" she screamed as she waved her hands trying to get his attention.
"He cannot hear you. Not yet anyway."
"Why not? When will he?"
"When he is ready. It is because of the love you have for him you can be here to witness what he is seeing."
Ginny watched as Harry looked at the two trains. He was gesturing both ways, suggesting he must be talking to them. She saw him walk to the train on the left, reaching up to touch the hands that reached out for him. "NO HARRY" she screamed, sensing this was the wrong train.
"This is not your decision to make. It always was and will be Harry's."
Ginny grew more anxious as Harry continued along the cars. At one point she saw him kiss the hand he held, and the long red hair told him who she was.
"How can you deny him the Family he has longed for?" Albus softly said. Other arms reached out to him, and she could tell they must be his Father and Sirius. At a closer car she spied Tonks pink hair and knew Remus would be with her. When Harry had walked the length of the train she saw him fall to his knees, overcome with emotion. She yearned to go to him, but knew she could only observe. "I love you Harry James Potter" she whispered. "You are my husband and always will be." Ginny was kneeling also, clutching her hand to her chest, and was surprised to see Harry was doing the same. Their wands appeared for each, and Ginny felt hers become warmer the longer she held it against her heart. Harry seemed to feel the same as he began to look around, seeming to look for her.
"Not yet" Albus said as she glanced from side to side trying to find a way to him.
Harry began walking along the other train, pausing occasionally to talk. He seemed not to be satisfied with any of them, going as far as to try to climb up the side of the cars. He even jumped into the air trying to see better. Benches appeared alongside and he leaped onto them, craning his neck to see over the heads of those inside. He went back to the cars, looking frantic as he went. Finally he reached the far end and hung his head. Slowly he made his way back to the middle and sat. For hours he did this, his head in his hands. Ginny held her breath when he stood. He looked one final time to his left (which she realized must be the people still alive) and slowly turned to walk the opposite way.
"HARRY NOOOOO!!!" she screamed as loud as she could. From her very soul this came, causing him to stop and look around.
Ginny was now on the train with her family and friends. She pushed her way through them trying to stop Harry before it was too late. She heard voices saying 'Let Him Go' and 'He Will Be At Peace', which reverberated through her head as she struggled against them. Finally she burst out of the compartments and down the steps.
"HARRY!" she screamed at him again. His foot was on the bottom step of the other train, and the whistle sounding their departure drowned her out. She saw him reach out to grasp the handrail to pull himself up.
"HARRY !!!" she screamed one final time as if her life depended on it. She saw a gust of grayish white smoke and felt herself falling. Two strong arms wrapped themselves around her.
* * *
Harry Potter stared blankly out the window. He knew he was on a train (he had figured that out some time ago) and was very frustrated. Most of the time the window was dark, but other times he saw images of his friends. Scenes would replay themselves - it was almost like the window was a pensieve and his memories would show themselves. He did not have the distraction of hunger or thirst, and he wasn't tired. He had no way to measure how long he had been there. As time passed he grew more and more nervous and anxious.
More memories began to show themselves in the window, forcing him to relive his dreams and his nightmares. Some were brief (like the night his parents died) while others were in slow motion. The attack by the Headmasters tomb was by far the slowest, showing over and over Ginny falling and hitting her head. The blood slowly trickling down her face. Hermione's screams as she was hit again and again. The thuds as Charlie punched Ron.
Interspersed were some good ones too. Time spent with his roommates Ron, Neville, Seamus, and Dean. Laughing at the pranks the Twins pulled. And doing one of his favorite things playing Quidditch. At one point he could swear he was holding his Firebolt, but it wasn't there. Another time he felt the heat of his wand, but he knew it was lost in the Black Lake.
That's when the depression began. Both his wand and his Firebolt were gone, probably forever. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron were seriously hurt because of him. So many friends and family members were gone now. 'Why bother anymore? The Prophesy was about me defeating Voldemort. Nothing about what comes next' he bitterly told himself. With his friends probably dying he lost the will to live.
With a lurch the train came to a stop. He looked out the window and saw an empty car alongside. "I guess I'm at the station." He exited the car and looked around. In the distance he heard voices and began walking towards them. As he did so more memories came to him. Family dinners at the Burrow, playing exploding snap with Hermione, losing at chess (again) to Ron. The DA, and how proud he was of them. And Ginny, the one he wanted to be with more than anything. He began to run, wishing with all his heart she was here.
The light got brighter as he entered a big open space. A train was on either side, one facing in each direction. The voices he heard were those of the train's passengers. On his right he saw all the Weasleys (but no Ginny, maybe she is in another car?). Hermione and Ron. The rest of the DA. Neville and Hannah Abbott (when did this happen?). Cho Chang and Michael Corner. The next car had the Professors. Minerva McGonagall and Professor Flitwick, Hagrid waving madly at him. Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt. He smiled as he waved back at them, again glad his actions gave them the chance to live without the threat of Voldemort hanging over them.
Harry turned the other way and the bottom fell out of his stomach. He knew if he had eaten (which he had not done in how long) he would have lost his meal. All the friends, and all the Family he had lost were there. He waved and knowing that was not sufficient he walked up to them. Cedric Diggory, who was 'the spare' and died when Tom Riddle came back to life. Regulus Black who he never met, his body lying at the bottom of the lake where the horcrux was hidden. Professor Dumbledore, whose body broke when he was killed in the Astronomy Tower. Even Professor Snape, whose face had no emotion like usual.
His parents were in the next car, and he held his Mother's hand not wanting to let it go. His Father and Sirius on either side, smiling broadly at him.
"Son we are so proud of you" he Father said.
"Sweetheart you did well in the forest. You did what was right" his Mother added.
"We know the decision was a difficult one for you. Unfortunately you are put in that same position" Sirius included.
"What should I do? I want to be with you so bad!!"
"Harry. Just like in the forest you are forced to decide. Life is not fair my Son. I wish I could tell you what is best, but I can't. You must look into your heart just like before" his Father stated.
Numbly Harry nodded, finishing his 'Walk of Shame'. He spent time with Nymphadora and Remus, and said Ginny had agreed to be Teddy's Godparent too.
At the end on the train Harry stopped. He felt he needed time to think, so he returned to the middle where he found benches not unlike his last visit. For hours he sat there, wondering what to do. He did not see Ginny, but that did not mean she wasn't there.
But he didn't see her. He would have known if she was. Something happened on the lawn, on the way to return the wand. She looked different to him somehow. And he felt different too. But she wasn't here. Maybe she has passed on, like Sirius falling through the veil? Her injuries claimed her life? He got up and took a final look at the other train. A single group of redheads, but no Ginny. Sadly he turned, thinking going to be with his parents was the right thing to do.
Sad smiles covered his parents faces when they saw Harry approach. He could not hear his Father telling him not to do this. Or Sirius saying to turn around, the noise of the engine firing up was so loud. He also did not see his Mother pointing at something or someone behind him. Placing his right foot on the step he turned to look one last time at his friends whose train was also preparing to leave. Gusts of steam filed the air making it difficult to see. Between the clouds he saw Hermione and Ron waving at him wildly. As he began to turn back and finish climbing he felt something. In later years he described it as 'being pulled back'. In the mist he saw a figure running towards him. He knew her silhouette-she filled his dreams every night. Her arms were outstretched and he knew they were for him. He stumbled back down and caught her as she fell.
* * *
Ginny woke up and tried to stretch out the kink in her back. Two arms were holding her in place, but they relaxed when he felt her move. "What time is it?" she mumbled.
"Almost four o'clock. Go back to sleep" he replied.
"OK" she said, cuddling back into his arms. She was lying on her side between Harry's legs, and he had his arms wrapped tightly around her. Her face was nuzzled under chin. "I had this horrible dream. You were back, and we went to The Headmaster's grave. You were terribly hurt. Hermione too. For a while I lost you." Suddenly she sat up. "What time did you say it was?" she whispered, almost afraid to ask again.
"Just past four O'clock" he replied, his wand now glowing brighter. He had out the watch he received on his 17th Birthday, and was showing her what time it was.
"Harry ... you ... you talked to me" she said staring at him.
"Well of course I talked to you. We are married aren't we?" he asked her, his emerald green eyes twinkling in the light cast by his wand.
"HARRY YOU TALKED TO ME !!!" she screamed. Four sets of footsteps were heard coming down the stairs and their door burst open. "Ginny? Ginny are you all right?" Ron yelled.
The curtains parted to see a sobbing Ginny, her body cradled in Harry's arms. He smiled at them, winking to let them know he was conscious. He gestured with his head and the other four climbed in, holding each other as they too cried.
"Master Harry" was now heard from the doorway. Kreacher was there with Winky, apparently woken from a sound sleep also. Uninvited they leaped into the bed (after all it was big enough to lay sideways in) and all sat back to listen to Harry as he talked about what happened.
"Did you see anyone or anything? I mean there are stories about a white light, or meeting with the ones who have passed on?" wondered Hannah.
"I did not see a white light, but I did see people. Lots of them. My parents, Sirius, Fred ... "
"You saw Fred? What did he say?" asked a startled Ron.
"Not much. Keep the shop going. And that it wasn't my fault, just like what your parents said."
"Harry ... did you see my Mom?" asked Hannah as she clung to Neville.
"No I'm sorry. I think this was people I knew, or ones I thought I was responsible for. Like Cedric. I never met her, so I did not feel guilty for her death. So I take it you an Neville are .. "
"Yes. Absolutely" Neville replied, kissing her in front of them.
"That's brilliant" Harry replied. "And Kreacher if you or Winky don't mind I feel like I haven't eaten in months."
"You haven't mate. 90 days but who's counting" laughed Ron.
"Well if all of you don't mind I think Harry can wait a few minutes longer to eat" Ginny pointedly said.
"You heard the lady" Hermione dictated, pushing them all out. She gave Harry one final hug and left, closing the door firmly behind.
"Harry what do you remember?" Ginny asked.
"Most of what you were saying and doing. I was frustrated because I wanted to let you know I was here but I couldn't. It was like I was in two places at once. And the train was the worst. Every bad dream and nightmare came back. Yes I had some good ones, especially with the three of you."
"Kingsley and Minerva came by with a guess of why we were attacked. Did you hear all that?"
"Yes. I suggest we let Hermione look into it if she hasn't already. I trust her completely. If this does exist then we can talk about it more."
"And there is one more thing. That day outside did you know what you were saying?"
"I wanted to be honest with you, and promise to tell you everything in the future. All this time I couldn't and it was tearing me apart. But the worst part was not being with you. Ginny I love you so much" Harry cried as she held him.
For the morning they spent the time in bed, just talking. OK so not just talking, but most of the time. She sent her patronus (which was now a doe like his Mother's) downstairs that company was welcome. They arrived to find Harry sitting up in a chair near the window.
"My legs aren't the best yet, but I'm sure with time they will be" he told them. That afternoon a small Party was held. Poppy, Minerva, Kingsley, Hagrid, and Augusta were invited over to celebrate Harry's Birthday.
"And where are you two off to?" he asked of himself and Ginny as they prepared to leave.
"Florian's since they reopened. It is now operated by his wife. We thought we might get a quick scoop before the press arrives" Ginny/Winky answered. She had on one of Ginny's new dresses in pale blue.
"Don't get anything on it" Ginny warned herself.
"No problem. I know a good cleaning lady" Winky/Ginny replied as they entered the floo followed by laughter.
Harry recuperation in Grimmauld Place continued, and he made progress every day. By the fifth day he could do the steps himself, but he had Ginny by his side in case his legs or back faltered. Over and over he complemented each of them involved in renovating the house, continuing to ask if this really was #12.
Finally the day of Ginny's Birthday came. It was also to be the day he would be publically 'unveiled' and he wanted to do it with style. Arrangements were made with Lee Jordan, who thanks to 'Harry' and the scoop now had a regular noontime show. He broadcast from the top floor of the Leaky and teased his listeners to listen in that day.
"Harry are you sure you are up to this?" a worried Ginny asked him as they got dressed. She was going to wear at his suggestion the dress from the Wedding, which not only was one of his best memories (at least before the Death Eaters arrived) but was what he caught her in when she came to bring him back. She took his breath away both days, and today was no different.
"Absolutely" he replied as he straightened his collar. He was wearing a bright red shirt to stand out when the announcement would come. And he wanted to put Rita Skeeter in her place once and for all. Every day she maintained these sightings were lies or people who had taken polyjuice. She staked her 'reputation' on her sources, which caused people all over the Wizarding World to laugh.
Even though Ginny was worried she still smiled at him. The way he was looking at her reminded her of the Wedding. After seeing the memories he gave her she knew she had nothing to fear from any other woman. She had caught him staring at Hannah ( sorry Neville ) but at night he was 100% hers. One night to test his legs they transfigured themselves and went into a fancy club in London with 'Scott and Brenda', and Neville and Hannah. They had a wonderful time. Harry did not trust himself to try and fast dance, but he held her tight and did not look at another woman the entire time they were there.
Just before 12 they used the floo to enter the Leaky. Kreacher had 'modified' the walls to allow them to go directly to the top floor where Lee was waiting.
"Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the Lee show. I am your host Lee Jordan and it gives me great pleasure to introduce my special guests today. Please welcome Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Ginny Weasley to our show today."
"Thank you Lee for inviting us" Hermione replied.
"Hermione first we want to thank all of you for the fine work you did against Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort."
"Lee you're welcome" she replied.
"As Harry would say it was a team effort" Ginny stated, feeling Harry's comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Speaking of Harry I was appalled to see the story about him being gone. How did you react when you saw it?"
"Actually we laughed reading it. We always do with whatever Rite Skeeter writes about any of us" Ron responded.
"And what about Harry? How did he feel?"
"Why don't you ask him yourself?" Ginny said as Harry pulled his cloak off.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WHAT A SURPRISE !!!" Lee shouted. "Standing next to me is Harry Potter in the flesh. Harry how are you? You look great for someone who is dead."
"Thank you Lee I feel pretty good. Not perfect by any means but I soon will be" he replied as he fingered the small box in his pocket.
"Fantastic. Shall we ask a few questions?"
"Certainly. But first I want to address the lies saying I am dead. While you can see me, I'm sure you know how the Prophet works. 'Publish first and prove later' I believe is their motto."
"Good one Harry. How do we prove you are you?"
Ginny laughed at the phrase, especially in light of the last two weeks to discredit Rita. "I have a suggestion Lee." Ginny went to the window and saw a crowd forming. "Look I see the Minister going to lunch. Are you coming here to the Leaky?"
"Don't I always?" he responded in his booming voice.
"Folks soon the Minister of Magic will be joining us."
"Sweetheart I have another idea" Harry said as he walked alongside Ginny. He waved out it with her at the growing crowd which now clogged the street. "Lee if you don't mind I am going to make your view better." Harry waved his wand and the walls turned from solid to crystal clear glass, now allowing everyone within view to see them.
"Lee I am going to tell you what I am seeing. This way if anyone tries to say later we taped this months ago they will be wrong. Anyone who can see Ginny and I wave their hands."
Every building now was listening in, so hundreds of hands were waving at them.
"Harry will you marry me??? " someone yelled.
"No thank you Mrs. Fortescue" he replied to laughter, especially from Ginny. She knew that as of today they could go to the Ministry to fill out the paperwork showing their marriage, so she was not worried at any proposals. "Hello Mr. Olivander!! Are you feeling better?"
The old wand maker waved, his voice drowned out by the crowd.
"Lee I brought someone else with me who knows Harry as well as I do" Ginny told him and his listeners.
"Fantastic Ginny" he replied looking to see who else might pop out. He saw Ginny reach into her purse and pull something out and set it on his desk. "Ladies and gentlemen it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Albus Dumbledore. Or at least his portrait at any rate."
"Thank you Mr. Jordan. I trust you are keeping yourself out of trouble? I seem to recall many visits to my office by you and the Weasley twins."
"Sir trouble seems to find me" Lee replied sheepishly.
"To all of you out there who know my voice, which given my advanced age when I died is everyone, I can unequivocally say that Harry Potter is indeed standing here."
"Thank you Headmaster for that. Yes Harry did you wish to say something?"
"Yes I did Lee. One final thing since there are some who insist, or maybe wish I had died, to prove it is me and not an impostor. I am going to write something down that only you and I and two others know."
"Ladies and gentlemen Harry is writing down something on a piece of parchment. He has now handed it to the Minister who has just arrived. Minister did you buy for everyone?"
"Complements of Tom and the Leaky" Kingsley replied.
"Thanks. OK folks Harry has just handed The Minister the note. What did you want to know Harry?"
"On the day we rode home from Hogwarts after the Tri Wizard Tournament I was in a compartment with you, Fred, and George Weasley. Do you remember what I said?"
"Yes I do Harry. And it was a wonderful thing you did. Folks Harry told Fred and George he wanted them to have the winnings from the tournament. 35,000 galleons right? To make people laugh which we all know from their time at Hogwarts and their joke shop they are extremely good at."
"And what else did I say?"
"Two things. That you would flush the winnings if they didn't want them, and to buy a new set of dress robes for Ron."
"Excellent. Kingsley can you read what I handed you?" asked Harry.
"It says: 'I'll flush the money. And buy my best mate something decent to wear'."
"Folks here we are again. This should disprove everything you may have read. I say may have because of the rumors I have heard about all the people who have cancelled their subscriptions to the Prophet."
"Thank you Lee. I see all the owls arriving, which I congratulate you on the brilliant idea of doing. Having your listeners sending owls to ask questions is pure genius. But before you go to them I have a request. I would like a moment of silence for all those who we lost in the Battle of Hogwarts."
"Harry Potter has bowed his head and begun to recite the people who died." Lee told people.
" Colin Creevy, Cedric Diggory, ... "
"Listeners you can hear a pin drop in Diagon Alley as Harry recites from memory all the people who died on May first and May second, 1998" Lee whispered.
"And lastly my Brother Fred Weasley. He and George helped me with my trunk on my first train ride to Hogwarts."
"Thank you Harry. I know this was as difficult for you to say as it was for our listeners to hear but it is important for us to both know and remember them.
"Lee my Godfather once told me that 'Those who love us never truly leave us. You can always find them here'."
"Harry placed his hand over his heart when he said that. We are going to take a moment to catch our breath. We will be back momentarily." The show switched to pre recorded commercials promoting his future show.
Ginny was holding Harry tightly, crying on his shoulder. Now she understood the reason for the extra set of memories he made that night, to keep them in his heart no matter what happened to him. She looked out to Weasleys Wizard Wheezes and saw her parents at the window, and waved to them causing them to cry even more. She kissed her husband again and nodded to Lee.
"Folks we are back on the air. I must say Harry that was a very difficult thing you just did."
"It was Lee but not as difficult as what we all went through. But that is now over. Voldemort, whose real name was Tom Riddle, is dead. It is time for all of us to move forward in our lives, and look to the future. It does not do well to dwell on the past."
"Excellent quote Harry. May I use it sometime?" the portrait asked.
"I believe I borrowed it from you Albus" Harry said as he smiled.
"Let me through! I said let me through!!" A voice was faintly heard to say.
"What the Hell are you doing here? I'm sorry folks but I have the distinct displeasure of informing you that Rita Skeeter has come unannounced onto our show!!"
"Thank you Lee it's good to see you too" she replied in her usual haughty manner. "Harry darling! So glad to see you. I'm very happy to see my sources were wrong about your tragic death."
"Folks Rita is trying to get to Harry. I think she wants to hug him but Ginny is in the way. Good one Ginny!!"
"Ginny there is no reason to be like that. Harry and I have a long standing relationship that quite frankly you are too young to understand."
"Uh oh that does it" Ron was heard to say as his sisters nostril's flared. Then she smiled, which meant she was thinking which meant even more trouble.
"Rita I believe everyone listening knows of your 'relationships' not only with my ... Harry, but Headmaster Dumbledore and the rest of the Wizarding World" she coldly replied.
"My point exactly. So tell me Harry when can we get together to start on that book we discussed? I'm sure we can both profit by it" Rita suggested.
Harry snorted thinking of her using the word 'profit'. "Rita I am considering writing something. I want the World to know about Tom Riddle's rise to power so we can ensure it does not happen again."
"Fantastic my Dear!! When can we start?" Rita asked as she tried to slide around Ginny.
"Folks this is fascinating to hear their negotiations on our show today. Rita is attempting to move closer to Harry but Hermione is now standing next to Ginny and is smiling just as much. I am wondering why as I'm sure many of you are."
"Rita I'm sure you are aware of all the lies and half truths published about me since I have been born. You work for the chief culprit of them" Harry stated to her.
"Then let us set the record straight shall we? I'm sure Lee's listeners would love to hear that you and I will sit down and collaborate" she smoothly said.
"Not bloody likely" Ron shouted from behind her.
"Miss Skeeter there are very few people in the press who I trust. Specifically two. The first one is Lee here, who maintained Potterwatch during the War, and for that I will be eternally grateful. That is why we are here today to publically thank him and all the others who participated."
"Harry thank you. As you are so fond of saying it was a team effort. And who if you don't mind my asking is the other? Certainly not ... "
"One other journalist stood behind me, and was taken and tortured because of me. Or should I say us. His name is Xenophilius Lovegood. He consistently printed the truth, and his support was a great help. I know you and Luna are listening right now. When you have recovered I want us to get together. I wish you, and only you, to publish a series of articles we will write together. What do you say?"
"HARRY POTTER YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!!" screamed Rita. "You and I have talked about this many times?"
"Oh really? When I was dead, as you kept telling people?" Harry coldly told her.
"Folks it has become cold in here. I mean really cold on this hot July day. It has to be over 90 outside, but it is barely above freezing in here. They have redefined the words 'cold stare' as Harry and Rita face each other."
"No matter Harry. If you wish to work with that crackpot of a journalist" Rita started to say.
"Don't you dare talk about one of my best friend's Father like that!!" Hannah yelled.
"Well folks I wish all of you could see this! Rita is speechless. Boils are covering her entire face, which I must say is quite an improvement!!"
"Hannah Abbott you will pay for that!! When I finish my story about Harry your Family and the Longbottom's are next!!"
"Do you think so?" Hermione asked as her smile got bigger. "Minister. Lee. I have a few things to say. Firstly Rita Skeeter is an animagus. Unregistered if I'm not mistaken."
"Miss Granger we have no record of her. This is very serious Miss Skeeter. You will need to come with me" Kingsley said as the room grew even colder.
"I wish to make a statement also Minister. Rita may I?" Harry asked.
"Listeners Harry has asked Rita for permission to use her famous 'quick quotes quill'. He has jotted something down with it and placed it back on my desk. Now he has handed the parchment to the Minister, who folded it and placed it inside his breast pocket."
"And what do we have here?" Lee said as he got excited again. "Folks it is a patronus, which if I am not mistaken belongs to Luna Lovegood. It's a silvery white hare, and you should see it bouncing all over the studio. That's right Luna mess up Rita's hair, just don't pick up anything. She has now settled next to me."
"Harry thank you!! Daddy is so happy right now. It is the first time he has smiled since we were captured! He will contact you as soon as he gets better. We might go on a short trip first. There are more sightings of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks in Poland, so we might go there first if that's OK. Thank you again, and Rita Daddy has a message for you. No you can't have a job."
"Can you believe that folks! A talking patronus!! Very few people can produce one. Extremely powerful memories are needed. I wonder which she chose to do this? Anyway we are here with a stammering Rita Skeeter who has just been told off."
"I WOULD RATHER LIVE IN THE STREETS THAN WORK FOR THE QUIBBLER!!! Who needs them anyway? Crumple-Horned Snorkack of all the nonsense ... "
"I do. We have all promised to get a subscription when they start again." Harry walked to the window. "How many of you feel the same?" he called out.
"Listeners I see many hands raised. But Rita brings up a good point. These creatures they claim to see. Has anyone else seen them?"
"Lee just because we haven't doesn't mean they don't exist" Ginny replied. "What is love? Can you see it?"
"I can right now" Harry replied as he kissed her.
"Thank you sweetheart, and for all you listening that was the sound of my boyfriend Harry Potter kissing me" she laughed as the crowd roared. "I for one believe Luna. She is the most perceptive person I know."
"Well I don't! And I don't need you Harry Potter. My book is almost complete" scornfully laughed Rita
"Is it now?" Hermione asked. She pointed her wand at Rita's quill and said "Revelio"
"WOW EVERYONE!! The quill is going crazy! I have never seen one move so fast! Here is the first page, and it is titled 'My Story, by Harry Potter and Rita Skeeter."
"GIVE ME THAT!!!" screamed Rita Skeeter.
"Rita I'm sure our listeners would like a preview. It begins:
It was a cold and rainy night when Harry Potter and I met again. He chose to do this covertly, not wanting us to be seen together. He knew people would not understand the nature of our relationship. Harry has always confided in me, and trusts me to help write his story ... "
"Rita what are you implying? And since when have we been having these 'covert meetings' as you call them?" Harry demanded.
"Harry sweetheart you know how much my readers like me to, well, embellish things don't you?" Rita tried to ask as warmly as possible.
"The only person who can use the word 'sweetheart' to Harry is me" Ginny ominously said as she drew her wand.
"Minister!! I demand you arrest her for attempting to hex me !!!" Rita yelled.
"Rita you are so pathetic! You aren't worth hexing, unless you are asking me to, in which case I would be more than happy to." Ginny flicked her wand and her doe patronus appeared. It leaped out and raced from rooftop to rooftop and vanished into the sky. Moments later a cat patronus arrived. "Mission accomplished" it said in the voice of Minerva.
"Ladies and Gentlemen our tense situation continues. Instead of hexing Rita Ginny called for her patronus, which has changed from a horse into a doe to match Harry's stag I'm sure. The tabby cat patronus of Headmistress Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts returned, replying 'Mission accomplished'. I wonder what that meant? Maybe soon we can find out."
"Excellent" Ginny replied as she kissed Harry again, waving to the onlookers as she did.
"Folks while this was happening the quill has been going nonstop. Over a hundred pages have to have been done of what looks like Harry's life story. Harry are you telling our listeners you did not meet with Rita to write this?"
"Rita when do you say we met?" Harry asked as he scanned another page. "I see here you say it was on April 25th of this year. When and where did this happen?"
"Harry Sweet ... you don't want people knowing where our meetings take place do you? How can we keep having them if that happens?" she sweetly told him.
"You can tell me Rita because you know we didn't meet. So who then is feeding you this? Now who might know some of the things mentioned on page 249? She writes : 'We have escaped but I don't know what to do!! I am finding comfort in my muggle girlfriend's arms, hoping Ron does not discover our love!' Funny I don't remember Ginny being there. Seven of us were rescued from Malfoy Manor that day. Ron's words 'Take me instead' were said in front of four other people, and one of them was unconscious."
"Folks I see Luna's patronus is here again. Let's hear what she has to say .. "
"Harry I know who it has to be !! The person who swore to get back at you and Ginny. It's ... "
"Dean. Dean Thomas" Ginny said as she surveyed the crowd. She pointed down, seeing the train conductors hat disappear into Madam Malkin's. The crowd surged forward, returning with him moments later.
"Hestia please take him to my Office" Kingsley instructed.
"Folks Auror Hestia Jones has taken Dean Thomas into custody. And I love the outfit you wear to work! All that purple, plus the colors of the four houses of Hogwarts. I am sure the Ministry will issue a statement at a later date. To update you this 'book' if I can call it that must be hundreds of pages long by now. Those must have been some exhausting memories Harry."
"Apparently. Now I know why I have been so tired. Fortunately this book, which I had nothing to do with, will never be published."
"And what are you going to do about it Harry Potter!! When I get through with this it will be the bestselling book I have ever written, with or without your help!!"
"Don't be so sure of that Rita. I don't plan on publishing it" Hermione announced.
"YOU??? What does a know nothing mudblood like you have to do with this?"
"Listeners you should see Rita's face now. The pustules are starting to burst she is so wound up" whispered Lee.
"The book company your deal is with is called Baskerville's. I purchased them yesterday. I will take possession of the manuscript plus the quill" Hermione firmly stated.
"Go ahead. Keep them. I can write more" Rita acidly told Hermione.
"Good. Your contract calls for the exclusive rights to all published works. For the next 50 years. Your agent got you a great deal. I will honor it, paying a percentage of all money made for each one I publish."
"Then I will go somewhere else" she said her voice sounding more haughty.
"Try. Please do. I am informing the publishing world if anything is printed without my permission I will sue them for one billion galleons, which is also in your contract. As I said your agent did an excellent job."
"But Miss Granger if you don't publish this ... "
"The you will receive nothing, which is what they are worth in my opinion."
"Folks this is fascinating!! Rita has been boxed into a corner. She can't print anything without permission, and unless they are printed she will not be paid ! A brilliant piece of strategy!!" Lee whispered again.
"You really are the brightest witch of your age" Albus complemented.
"Actually it was my boyfriend" she gratefully replied as she embraced Ron, to the cheers of the crowd.
"It's like chess. We knew you could not resist coming here today out from whatever rock you live under. It's like drawing bees with honey, or in your case flies to a pile a ... "
"RON" Ginny scolded.
"Sorry. Don't want to get you kicked off the air" Ron laughed.
"Lee what time is it?" wondered Harry suddenly.
"Harry my friend it's 2:45. Did you need to be somewhere else?" questioned Lee.
"No, I didn't want you to get in trouble for broadcasting too long."
"Harry I can't think of anything people would rather be listening to right now. Do all you folks agree?" he asked, standing himself to approach the window.
"NO!!!" screamed the crowd, which had overflowed the narrow streets surrounding them.
"Fantastic!! And now everyone we have another guest! Will the surprises never end? Headmistress Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts is here. She is being embraced by everyone, well except Rita Skeeter who for once in her life appears to have nothing to say. Headmistress how are you? What brings you here today, except to see me of course?" Lee joked.
"Mr. Jordan it is a pleasure to see you too! I must say you are always surprising people on your show aren't you" Minerva replied. She was looking at Lee, and at Harry who was standing with Ginny directly behind him. Her smile broadened to match his, knowing what Harry had in store for later. "Miss Granger operation 'checkmate' is successful."
"Operation checkmate? Is this some kind of secret mission to eliminate Death Eaters?" wondered Lee.
"No. But it is one to eliminate lies and falsehoods. At my request Baskerville's has recalled every copy of 'The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore' pending investigation of the accuracy of it. The DA, in conjunction with the Ministry, has traveled the globe to pack up every copy in every Bookstore. Headmistress I am donating them to Hogwarts once our investigation is complete" Hermione said to Lee.
"How wonderful" Rita said clapping her hands. "Every student can have a copy of their own to read there. Miss Granger I misunderstood you. Please accept my apology."
"And Minister the other 5000 copies, to go with the 4735 unsold will be donated to the Ministry."
"Miss Granger I'm sure the owls will appreciate them" Kingsley replied.
"The owls Minister? Is this some king of secret project underway?" Rita asked, her eyes bugging out just like when she thought she had a story, or something to exploit.
"Not at all. My owls will be using them too" Minerva replied.
"Folks is am beginning to hear laughter from the street. It's getting louder and ... no ... that can't be the reason can it? Minister if there any extra copies are they destined for Eeylops Owl Emporium?"
"Lee that is an excellent idea! Minister if you don't mind I will be sending you 1000 fewer copies after inspection" Hermione laughed again.
"I still don't see why this is happening. Why send them to the owls?" Rita asked again.
"Folks the laughter is getting louder every time Rita talks. Maybe that can be her future occupation as a joke teller? Should we tell her? For all of you who have not figured this out yet, the reason why these are going to the owls is not for them to read. It is instead for when they ... Folks Rita has just gotten it, and fainted. She is sitting in a chair beside me ... not too close please ... and the flapping from the owls who have started to be brought in is beginning to relive her. Any further comments Rita? What? My such colorful language!! It's a good thing my producers have charmed my microphone as I have been known for such outbursts myself, especially during the Quidditch Matches at Hogwarts. But tell me, what about all the ones already purchased? Some unscrupulous people may duplicate and sell them!!"
"Lee another part of the contract was an anti-copying charm. Rita was worried about the same thing, since her lively hood was based on her writing" Hermione confided.
"Listeners Harry Potter has now moved to confer with Hermione Granger. Hannah Abbott, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley and Ginny Weasley have joined in. Can they have another surprise for us?"
"Luna if you are still listening I have a proposal for you and your Father. We want every copy of that book removed. Anyone who has read it knows all about the lies contained in it. For everyone who has bought one, and we believe there are 8726 copies, we are going to give you something to replace it. If you will owl your copy to the publisher by noon tomorrow you will receive a certificate good for the very limited first edition of the Quibbler. Not only will it contain a synopsis of what happened in the rise and fall of Tom Riddle, it will include stories by all six of us, telling from their point of view. Seven Luna, because yours should be there to. What do you say?"
"Harry that is incredible!! What a wonderful gift to receive or to give to someone, especially if it was their Birthday. By the way Ginny Happy 17th Birthday I almost forgot. I see Harry hasn't because he is snogging you right there in front of the window. Actually this is all window isn't it? For those of you just tuning in Harry charmed the walls to be transparent. Oh and Rita Skeeter is out of a job. I think that sums it up quite nicely. Rita do you have something to add before the Minister takes you away?"
"Yes I do !!! The Prophet is still my employer, and if they want me to work for them I gladly will."
"Miss Skeeter I suggest you come to the window. You may wish to see this" Kingsley informed her.
"My loyal listeners I am joining Rita and the Minister as they look outside. Directly across from me is the main Office of the Daily Prophet. I see lots of people in the windows waving at the crowd below. Mixed in I see people carrying boxes being patted on the back. More are coming out. Isn't that the Editor Malcolm Greengrass, and the publisher Victoria Applebee? Have they all been sacked?"
"Yes Lee. Baskervilles is also the majority shareholder of the Daily Prophet which means I own this too. The Headmistress has been kind enough to provide us with back copies of them, and research to date shows me who should be removed. Miss Skeeter I'm afraid your services are no longer required" Hermione ended with.
"But ... but ... " she stammered.
"I know where to find you. Perhaps I can offer you a job. You will be my reporter in Azkaban. You can tell us what it is like in there, from an inmate's point of view. You will be paid of course, the money put into your account at Gringotts for when you are released. If you refuse your contract states you have resigned, and will not seek another job in this field for 50 years."
"Miss Granger I ... "
"Rita no need to thank me. I expect your first story by noon Friday. If I find it satisfactory it will be in Sunday's edition. But before you go I am sure and Lee's listeners will be also to learn that I am offering every member of the DA a job. Please come by and see me about it. As Lee pointed out I have many vacancies to fill."
"Like I said the smartest Witch I have ever known" Albus repeated again.
"Thank you Headmaster. I want to offer you a job also. I'm sure you could provide us with valuable insights on the history of the school, or amusing anecdotes of past students" Hermione wondered.
"Miss Granger I am flattered. Perhaps I might throw in the memories from the other Headmasters?"
"Brilliant. They say that not All Memories are Good ones. In your case I trust your judgment and will publish them as written, no questions asked."
"Did you hear that? The Headmaster Albus Dumbledore will be writing 'from the great beyond' as Professor Trewany used to teach us. This just keeps getting better and better folks! I see Rita Skeeter being taken away by Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt. Goodbye Rita!! Looking forward to your stories! And who knows folks maybe people can learn something from her. All you kids out there always tell the truth. If you don't you will learn about life in Azkaban. Harry I see Luna's patronus has returned. Luna stop bouncing around please and come over here. Did you talk to your Father?"
"Harry that is a fantastic idea!! I would love to be a part of it. Daddy says yes, and I do have one suggestion. The photo we took of the DA? That should be in there, and every member who wants to tell their side can too. Plan on us being gone for several months, so maybe the first edition on January first? Oh and Daddy suggested each special one be autographed by us."
"Lee do you see what I meant earlier about Luna being perceptive?" asked Ginny. "The DA was founded for us to work as a team, not as individuals. I would be honored to be a part of it, and I hope every member will contribute."
"Yes I can Ginny, and I'm sure you will get almost every copy of the Headmasters book back. Rita does have some actual fans. Maybe in Azkaban? She can autograph their copies while in there. Do you have a few more minutes? Great. My loyal listeners know they can owl us during the show, and there has to be hundreds of them out there. Look at all the colors they come in. I can see a brown one with the head all covered in black feathers. Very unusual. My assistants have let the first group in and we can start. The first one does not want me to read her name, and it is a proposal of marriage. What should I do with this Harry?"
"Lee that's up to you. I don't know if you are available" Harry answered with a straight face, to the laughter of his friends and the crowd below.
"Great one Harry. The next one says she sees you and Ginny together. I guess she must be in a building nearby. Do you want to meet her later anyway?"
"Lee I have the most wonderful woman in the world right her. I have no interest in any other" he replied.
"As you may guess out there Ginny is snogging Harry senseless right now. Let's take a break and let them catch their breath before we continue."
Cho Chang sat listening to the Lee show in her parents furniture store. A few people were milling around out front in the non-magical portion. Her responsibility was usually the charmed part which you had to be a Witch or Wizard to see and/or enter. Her Mother had 'ripped her a new one' as her boyfriend Dean Thomas liked saying after (intentionally) losing the order Hannah and Neville placed. 'If you weren't my daughter you would be fired' her Mother yelled when she got home. The order for two bedroom sets and accompanying extras amounted to 10,000 galleons or more than two months sales. She didn't want to hurt her parents, she was just mad. Her boyfriend Dean had been hurt 'for no reason' as he put it by Neville's cousin who looked even bigger than Ron with his sun tanned complexion. So she slid it into a drawer, forgetting to place the order with the supplier but keeping it just in case.
She usually listened to Lee's show since they attended Hogwarts together. He was one year ahead of her and announced Quidditch Matches. She was the seeker for Ravenclaw and in her final match for the House Cup Ginny beat her to the snitch ensuring their victory. She also beat her to Harry. They had dated for a short time when the DA first began, but her heartbreak over Cedric Diggory's death prevented them from having much of a relationship. At the same time Ginny was dating Dean Thomas which also ended badly. They both had this in common when they started seeing each other that year, but were pulled apart when she graduated and he had one more year. Owls went weekly between them, Dean steadfastly saying she was the one for him. Her friends at school told her otherwise, telling her he was actively looking for 'dates' as he described them. Cho did not believe her friends, thinking them jealous she had such a good looking, charming boyfriend.
But a part of her still wondered what if she had been able to stay with Harry then. 'Would it be me, not Ginny on the radio with him?' She laughed at Rita Skeeter, and applauded Hermione's genius. That was until the quill went to work.
"Please don't find that part" she whispered, adjusting the purple scarf she perpetually wore since that fateful meeting with Rita back in June. Dean had gotten a promotion at his parents restaurant to Maitre D', and was feeling very confident. He talked her into contacting Rita and they met after the restaurant closed one night.
"So tell me why should I believe you?" Rita asked after listening to what they said, the quick quotes quill scratching away.
"Because of our relationship with the both of them" Cho replied. "Harry has a birthmark on his .. well ... his left backside. How else would I know that?"
Rita was smart, but not that smart. If she was then she might have figured out that Dean being Harry's roommate might have seen it in the shower. Instead she smiled and shook their hands saying "You have a deal." Money passed between them and their relationship began. Weekly meetings took place over the summer as Rita's project continued. She encouraged them to 'embellish" their stories, hypothesizing on the relationship between Hermione and Harry, and Ginny and Hermione who were painted to be feuding over Harry. Ron was a toy for Hermione to play with, and the same for Ginny with Harry. Another story line called for Ginny to be using Harry, ready to throw him away as soon as someone better came along.
Cho listened intently when Lee said the quill was scribbling away, hoping her name did not come up. She never saw the finished copy, Rita always having excuses like 'It's not ready yet' or 'my publisher is proofreading it right now'. When Harry mentioned page 245, and what Ron screamed she knew she and Dean were in trouble. As fast as she could she ran up the back stairs to the roof. She heard the crowd, and with her seekers eyes and saw someone dressed in multi colored clothes being taken away. Closing her eyes she began to transform.
* * *
"Welcome back to the 'Lee' show everyone! I am your host Lee Jordan and I want to apologize for the extra long delay. We decided to hit the loo during the break and you know what when happens-one person goes and then everybody has to. Now that we've gotten that out of our system I promise no further interruptions. We are back to our listeners. So Harry about those marriage proposals ... "
"Lee unless they are for you Harry is taken" Ginny joked.
"You heard it from the Lady folks. Don't bother, he's taken. And Harry you are very lucky. Ginny has been like a little Sister to me too."
"Thank you Lee. Nothing will keep us apart ever again. I have traveled too far for that to happen."
"Traveled Harry what do you mean? Can you share something with us today? I know you hinted about you telling your story at a later date."
"Lee you know how turbulent my life has been. And up until now it has never been totally mine. Your listeners are aware of all the labels placed on me over the years. 'The Boy Who Lived', 'The Chosen One', and many others I have been saddled with. Very, very few people have cared about me. Harry Potter. The ones surrounding us here have, along with the DA and the Hogwarts Professors. Now that this part of my life has ended I am forced to think 'what comes next'? That was one of the reasons why no one has seen me the last several months, along with recovering from what I experienced this last year."
"Harry we all saw you disappear that night after Voldemort's ultimatum. Do you feel comfortable telling us some of it? I understand if it is too painful."
"Lee painful doesn't begin to describe that awful night. You saw the Great Hall. All the bodies. Fred, Colin, Remus, the list goes on. Madam Pomprey going in three directions at once. I knew this could not go on, and once I got some additional information I knew what I had to do."
"Folks the silence is deafening. We are all holding our breaths. Judging by everyone's faces, this is the first time Harry has discussed this. Harry please continue."
"We learned Voldemort and his Army were coming, and had to get to Hogwarts immediately. There was a particular item he was searching for and we knew we needed to beat him to it. We did, but that did not matter because he was here anyway. As you know the attack began and we suffered damaging losses. A break occurred and he made his ultimatum. It was during this I learned more about our situation and knew what I must do."
"Harry we heard. We all did. Pansy Parkinson wanted to betray you but the Headmistress refused. Typical Slytherin, only looking out for yourself."
"Actually Lee one of them is different, and we all owe everything to her. Minister I wish to go on record concerning her and her actions that night. We owe everything to Narcissa Malfoy."
"NARCISSA MALFOY? DRACO'S MOTHER? Are you serious Harry? What could she have possibly done?" yelled Lee.
"Lee I'm sure your listeners are wondering the same. How could the Mother of my worst enemy at school Draco Malfoy be so important? It's because she is a Mother, that's why."
"Harry you have lost me, and I'm sure all our listeners."
"I can see why Lee. Minister is this being broadcast in Azkaban as I requested?"
"It is Harry. I thought maybe you wanted the Death Eaters to know you are indeed alive, and all their plans have failed."
"Thank you Minister. That was one reason. The other is Narcissa I plan on being there at your trial next week to testify on your behalf."
"Folks we are looking at Harry like he has grown an extra head or two. 'Are you crazy?' was just heard from the street. Harry what could this woman have possibly done to deserve this?"
"Everything. That night I realized something. No matter what we did this would never end. So I did what all of you did not want me to. I went out there to face him. Just me, no one else. I know many of you would have come if I had asked, but I knew that would not help. So I stood there and let him kill me."
"HARRY YOU DID WHAT??? Listeners I don't know if you can hear anything at this time. Harry is holding up his hands asking for us to be quiet. Harry whenever you're ready."
"Thank you Lee. When I was a baby my parents were killed because of me. There was a prophesy which said 'Neither can live while the other survives'. Tom took that to mean he needed to kill me, so he tried and failed. My Mother's sacrifice, her giving up her own life, prevented him from succeeding. It killed his body at the time, and the next few years he spent attempting to come back.
When I walked into the forest I did not expect to live. I hoped my sacrifice for all of you would give you the strength to fight on, and Neville I have never been prouder than the way you stood up to him. The strength and the courage shown inspired me.
But as I was saying. Tom tried to kill me, and failed ... "
"Harry how can that be? You said your Mother died for you? Who was there this time? You said no one" Lee pointed out. "Listeners I see Harry looking at Ginny who is nodding yes. They have gotten up and are approaching the window. Ginny has unbuttoned Harry's shirt and the crowd has gasped. What is it? Harry is turning around and ... Harry that can't be! Ladies and gentlemen Harry Potter has an identical scar on his chest to the famous one on his forehead. This one is probably six inches long. Harry how can you survive again?"
"Because of love. When my Mother gave her own life for me the magic was so powerful it shielded me from Tom, with a magic so strong nothing could penetrate it. That night I did not think I would survive. I was just as willing to die as she was. The love I had in my heart prevented me from dying, and in turn helped in the final confrontation. Did you notice how Tom's curses were not as powerful?"
"Yes. At the time we thought you were dead, but wondered why Voldemort wasn't wiping us all out. This makes more sense now. But what about Narcissa Malfoy?"
"In a minute Lee. When Tom hit me with the killing curse, I was prepared to die. My thoughts were of all of you, and you surviving. But one person in particular I wanted to live. The person who means everything to me. She is what I was thinking of when it happened, and her love for me is what drew me back."
"Harry this is incredible. But where did you go? Some people say you see a bright light. What was it like?"
"It is difficult to explain. Suffice it to say that I was given a choice, for maybe the first time in my life. To return and fight, or to pass on to ... to I don't know where. I won't deny Lee it was tempting. To see my parents again, my Godfather Sirius Black, the Lupins, but in the end I knew I needed to return. Voldemort was still alive, so my goal of defeating him was not done. And I wished to return to this beautiful woman who is patiently holding my hand while I ramble."
"Harry I have waited my whole life for you. A few more minutes will not hurt."
"Thank you Ginny. You see why I love her so much? But let me finish. I awoke in the same clearing in the forest. Hagrid was forced to carry me back to the Castle. Before he did Narcissa Malfoy was sent to see if I was dead. She knew I wasn't, and lied to Tom in order to return to the Castle and search for her Son."
"So she had an ulterior motive then Harry? Not to help you?"
"She may have Lee. At the time all she wanted was her son. I'm sure she knew the Prophesy of my killing Tom, so that may have entered in."
"All this is so fascinating Harry. But what surprises me and I'm sure our listeners is you're surviving the killing curse again."
"Another part of the prophesy Lee was this: 'He will have power the Dark Lord knows not'. That power is love. Tom Riddle did not love anyone but himself. To him it was a useless emotion for those too weak to stand on their own. As we saw here at Hogwarts last year it was the power of love which gave those the courage to resist his followers. And here in the final battle it was what united us and gave us the strength to fight."
"Harry this is all so amazing. I can't wait to see what else you have to say once the Quibbler returns. In our time remaining shall we try to get in as many questions as possible from our listeners? Another one writes 'Harry I want to marry you too. I can share Ginny ..."
"I'm sorry I can't" Harry replied, to the laughter of Ginny.
"All right maybe we can start skipping those. I know this summer there were hundreds of proposals. Ron and Neville got their fair share. Can the owls who are carrying those please fly over here? Thank you for that. I see it is going on 6 o'clock, so we have to wrap this up soon. While we are waiting Harry do you have anything to say?"
"Yes Lee I do. To all those who came to that final horrible battle I say thank you. Without your sacrifice and your help none of us would be standing here today."
"Harry I agree. Shall we say goodbye to everyone down in the street? Folks Harry and Ginny are standing along the wall, waving at the crowd below. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are on their left, and Hannah Abbott and Neville Longbottom are on their right. I must say today was incredible for me, and I hope it was for you too. This is Lee Jordan signing off for today, August 11th, 199 ... . HEY WHAT THE !!!"
Static filled the air for a second as the sound of the microphone tipping over was heard. Sounds of screaming carried out over the airwaves and then a loud thump. "FOLKS WE ARE BACK ON THE AIR, OR I GUESS WE NEVER LEFT DID WE !! I'll try to compose myself to tell you what happened. As I said the three couples were waving goodbye to the people congregated below us. I felt something fly by me, knocking me and my microphone over. A big owl, the one I saw earlier with the black feathers all over its head and back, swooped across and attacked Harry and Ginny. I'm not sure which one she was after, but it failed. What I saw I cannot explain. All three couples were engrossed in the action outside. Somehow, and I'm not exactly sure how, both their wands began to glow and pulled them away from the wall and back in my direction. A jet of golden light erupted from both wands, freezing the giant bird in place. Chains then came out of their wands, tightly binding the bird while it floated in front of us. As we speak it remains there, Harry and Ginny still pointing their wands at it. Let's listen in."
"Is everyone all right?" asked the Minister.
"I think so. Who ever heard of an owl doing that?" wondered Ron.
"Maybe it was specially trained to attack Harry if she ever saw him" speculated Hermione.
"That could be. Look at the claws! They must be six inches long!" added Hannah.
"Sweetheart what do the colors remind you of?" Ginny wondered to Harry.
"Listeners Harry Potter is walking around the big bird and looking at its markings. He is seeing a large owl probably three feet tall, which is a little taller than average I believe. The top of its head is covered in black feathers, and now that I can see the back of it they run at least halfway down. It has a normal owl's face with one exception. Above its eyes are wavy purple lines. Extremely unusual for an owl. I've never seen one with purple on it before. I wonder where it came from? There isn't any note attached to its leg. Harry is smiling now, but this is the saddest smile I have ever seen folks. He and Ginny are standing side by side again and discussing something. They seem to agree."
"Homorphus" Ginny and Harry shouted together.
"Unbelievable !! The owl isn't really an owl !! A bright blue jet of light has bathed the owl and it is slowly transforming. It is becoming ... no I can't believe it. Cho Chang, one of the DA members! How can this be??"
"Harry Cho was our friend. Why would she want to hurt you?" wondered Neville.
"It may have been Ginny she was after. Remember she and Harry dated when the DA first began, but because she and Cedric were so close she never got over her loss of him. The night we came in, she wanted to help Harry but Ginny suggested Luna instead. Then she wanted our assignments, not the ones we asked her to do. Put it all together and jealousy may be behind it" Ron summarized.
"One thing more. Remember when Susan told me she saw Cho and Dean together? That makes two people who hated you both. Look at her forehead-it says sneak, just like when Marietta Edgecombe betrayed us fifth year. That's your answer Minister. It bet if you check Dean's forehead it will be the same" Hannah stated.
"Miss Abbott I received an owl myself while this was happening. You are correct about Mr. Thomas. We will be investigating them both for assault and attempted murder. Maybe Miss Skeeter is behind this also? Either way the Veritaserum will tell us more" answered the Minister.
"Listeners the potion 'Veritaserum' acts to force the drinker to tell the truth. We will know who is behind this, rest assured."
"Harry do you remember at the DA meetings how Cho likes to be barefoot? She said her balance was better. Look at her feet, and her hands!" replied Hermione.
"Listeners let's move by Harry and ... yes I can see what Hermione is referring to. Cho's fingers and toes have nails which are impossibly long, and are covered with some type of green substance. Poison perhaps? Minister she doesn't look very good right now. Do you have anyone who can take her to St. Mungo's?"
"Lee my Aurors will be here momentarily. You may be right about poison because Mr. Thomas is in St. Mungo's also."
"Harry this is all so tragic! Why would she get like this?" wondered Ginny as she hugged him, afraid this would take him back to his perpetual blaming himself.
"Miss Weasley you did not see Miss Chang after Cedric Diggory's death. She was devastated. It surprised me when she wanted to get close to Mr. Potter. I can see why their relationship failed. I hope she can get the help she needs" sadly said the Headmistress.
"Folks two Aurors have taken Miss Chang away. Down on the street I can see Cho's Mother. Yes, go to St. Mungo's. They took her there. Harry I'm sorry this marred what was a very eventful day for all of us."
"Lee this is tragic. I really hope she makes it. And you are correct this has been very eventful. Is the clock on your desk accurate?"
"Yes it is. 6:17. My goodness folks we have been doing this for over 6 hours! My how time flies. Any last thoughts anyone? Yes Harry? Listeners I can see Harry is holding Ginny and wants to say a few things."
"Ginny I love you. I think a part of me always has. I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me. It was your love which I felt when I faced Tom in the forest, and it was you who brought me back on my Birthday."
"On your Birthday? Harry what else happened?"
"Not now Lee. Harry I love you too. You know I have ever since I could talk. But it is the real Harry Potter, not the Chosen One, who I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"So do I Ginny. That's why I want to tell you again what I said three months ago. I promise you Ginevra Molly Weasley, here in front of our two best friends who are also our family that I will never lie or keep things from you again. I love you."
"And Harry James Potter I also promise in front of our friends and family that I will never lie to you or keep things from you. I love you too."
"My loyal listeners this is absolutely incredible!!! That sounds like a marriage proposal to me! And it is !!!! Harry has dropped down on one knee and pulled a box out of his pocket! He has opened it and look how it sparkles!! Ginny has extended her hand and Harry has slid it onto her finger. Now she has taken out another ring and placed it on Harry's!!
Something else has taken place folks. Harry and Ginny have kissed, and as they did their two wands have touched bathing them in a golden glow. I see golden cords coming out of their wands, connecting their hearts. How beautiful this is!! Where is my camera? The Creevy's gave me one and ... here it is. Harry, Ginny please turn around. Neville Longbottom has just handed Ginny a bouquet of Lilies. How appropriate. Smile everyone! Harry that ring you gave Ginny. Was that your Mother's?"
"Yes Lee it is. I wanted to put it on her hand before but I couldn't. I had to wait until now. Or to be more accurate, after 6:17 which is the exact time Ginny was born. Now the Ministry or anyone else will cannot say our marriages are not recognizable."
"Harry why would they say that? As you said you are both of age now."
"Because Lee when Harry and I spoke those words the first time on the second of May I was only sixteen. He did not think he was proposing and neither did I. We learned afterwards what it was. In our hearts we were married, and I think it was what allowed me to help him when he needed me. Is that right Professor?"
"Mrs. Potter I think you would give Miss Granger a run for her money" Albus answered. "Yes it was the magic you two shared that day which formed the bond between you. It created essentially a bridge for you to cross to find Harry and to safely return. More about this I cannot say Mr. Jordan."
"Headmaster my head is spinning right now, as I'm sure out listeners are too. I don't think we need to pry into their personal lives any further. As Harry told us close to seven hours ago he hasn't had a private life. Anything and everything has been public knowledge right down to his favorite dessert, and I for one think it is time to stop. So as much as it pains me to say it I am not going to ask you or Mrs. Potter - and folks you should see the smile on Ginny's face when I said that - to come back onto my show. If you wish to come and visit on or off the air you will be welcome, but we all need to leave you two alone. Besides you are on your honeymoon aren't you. Harry where are you going to take her? Sorry old habits die hard. This is Lee Jordan signing off, wishing only the best for Harry and Ginny Potter."