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A Time to Live by ladymblack
Chapter 2 : Chapter 2: Golden & Silver Trios
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 19


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Chapter 2: Golden & Silver Trios

Harry awoke with a start, thinking he’d forgotten to do something.  Then he remembered that Riddle was really and truly gone now.  He felt a soft bed beneath him, smelled the flowery scent he associated with Ginny and looked down to find her sleeping face nestled into his shoulder.  He realized that he was in his four-poster bed in his dormitory.  He was a bit confused.  The last thing he remembered was telling Ginny he loved her down by the lake, before passing out.  He vaguely recalled Ginny repeating the words back to him, but he wasn’t sure if he’d actually dreamt them.  He’d never heard the words spoken to him in his life, although he supposed his parents had told him they loved him, but certainly he couldn’t remember back that far.  He would have to try to get her to say those words again sometime soon, so he could be sure.

Then Harry began to take in his surroundings.  In the bed next to him he saw Ron and Hermione cuddled together in peaceful slumber.  Then he saw a perch on the other side of his bed with Fawkes the phoenix resting upon it.  He frowned for a moment, wondering if Fawkes would now be a permanent fixture in his life and where the perch could have come from.  Then Harry thought about the rest of the Weasleys and where they might be.  At this thought, Harry began to shake Ginny to wake her up.

“Ginny, you have to get up.  What if your parents come up here, what if they’re looking for you?” Harry said, trying to awaken her.

She looked up at him sleepily.  “Morning, Harry,” was her only response.

Harry heard movement in the bed next to him before hearing Ron say, “Don’t worry, Harry, mum already knows she’s up here.  She came to check on us, but decided not to disturb you.  You were so dead to the world though, that I don’t think anyone could have woken you up even if they’d tried.”

“How on earth did I get up here, anyway?”  Harry mused aloud.  Just then there was a CRACK and Kreacher appeared before his master.

“Sorry, Master Harry, but Kreacher couldn’t let you and Mistress Ginny lie on the cold ground.  He brought you to your bed instead.  Miss Granger had Kreacher get Madam Pomfrey to give Master a draught for dreamless sleep.”  Kreacher told Harry in explanation.  Harry was thankful, wondering what sort of nightmares he might have had without the draught.

“Oh, well thanks, Kreacher.  The bed’s much more comfortable than the ground.”  Harry said, chuckling.  “But, what is Fawkes doing here and where did his perch come from?”

“The phoenix was waiting in Master’s room before Kreacher brought him here.  Kreacher asked Professor McGonagall for the perch to make the phoenix happy.”  Kreacher replied.

“You must have won Fawkes’ loyalty, Harry.  I wonder though, why he waited this long to come to you.”  Hermione thought aloud.

“Maybe he knew that we couldn’t hide very well with a red and gold phoenix flying around after us last year.”  Harry said.  He couldn’t believe that the phoenix had actually chosen him for a master.  It would be like having a bit of Dumbledore with him always.  He wondered if it had anything to do with the things he’d said at Dumbledore’s tomb the previous day.  He looked down at the watch he’d received for his birthday to see that it was 6:30 in the morning.  He thought that he must have slept for over 12 hours, since it was early evening when he and Ginny had sat down by the lake.

“Master Harry will have to wait for breakfast until eight.  New robes are here for Master Harry, Mr. Weezey, Miss Granger and Mistress Ginny.  Kreacher will bring a snack so Master isn’t hungry,” Kreacher said, before disapparating.

Ginny, who was now sitting upright on the bed, had a look of utter bemusement on her face.  “Was that Kreacher?  What on earth happened to him?”

Harry, Ron and Hermione all laughed uproariously at this.  “Changed a bit, hasn’t he?”  Ron quipped.

“You know, Harry, there’s no reason that Kreacher should still be enslaved,” Hermione told Harry.

“Yes, Hermione, but I confess that I don’t wonder if Sirius was right,” Harry replied.

Hermione gave him a confused and quizzical look.  “Sirius said that we couldn’t free him because he knew too much.  But then he said that the shock of being handed clothes would kill him,” Harry explained.

Hermione actually raised her eyebrows at this.  Kreacher was not a young elf, and Harry could see Hermione’s contemplation of the idea that Kreacher could be very upset by being set free.

“Well, maybe you should give him an option,” Ron interjected, drawing surprised looks from Harry and Hermione.

“That might work!”  Harry said.

The elf appeared a few minutes later with some food and coffee on a tray.

“Kreacher, please sit down,” as Harry indicated the vacated seats from the night before, with Ron, Hermione and Ginny sitting down as well.  Harry continued “I would like to talk to you about your future.  I want to give you the option to either stay with me as your Master or to take your freedom.  It is entirely up to you.”

Kreacher fell off his seat and lay on the ground at Harry’s feet.

“Master Harry, oh Master, what did Kreacher do wrong?” the elf sobbed piteously.  “Kreacher was a bad elf last year.  He knows it.  He is sorry.  Kreacher is trying to be a good elf now.  Please, Master, don’t make Kreacher go.”

Harry looked at Hermione desperately, hoping for advice.  As much as she didn’t approve of the enslavement Harry knew that she also didn’t like to see someone so obviously distressed.  “I think he would prefer to stay with you, Harry,” she finally said.

“Kreacher, I am more than happy to have you continue to help me.  I just want you to be happy,” Harry told the elf, after kneeling beside him.  “Please don’t cry.”

The elf stopped sobbing and looked up at Harry happily.

“Thank you, Master Harry, thank you.  Kreacher is his devoted servant always,” he intoned.  “Does Master need anything else this morning?”

Figuring he’d better give the elf something to do, Harry asked him to go and check on the Weasleys to make sure that they were okay and to report back to him.  The elf smiled widely and disapparated. 

 "Great advice, Hermione,” Harry said, not too sarcastically.  She had the grace to look a bit sheepish.  Harry said “Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I could really use a shower.  I feel like I have a few days worth of grime covering me.”

So they all took immensely long showers before donning their new robes.  As Harry pulled his robes on, he thought they were kind of cool.  The material looked as if it had been spun from gold, and the Gryffindor lion was etched in red on the back.  When they all met up in the dormitory once again he couldn’t help noticing that Ron and Hermione had the same robes that he did, but that Ginny’s were silver with the red lion on the back.  Kreacher was standing there as well, grinning at the people he now considered to be his masters.

“Kreacher’s Masters and Mistresses all look very nice in their new robes,” Kreacher exclaimed.  “Now, Mistress Ginny must come with Kreacher to the common room.  Kreacher will return for you soon,” he said, indicating Harry, Ron and Hermione.  He led Ginny from the room, while the four all gave each other looks of confusion.

“What on earth is this all about?” Ron asked.  Harry and Hermione just shrugged and waited as Kreacher had bidden them.  A few minutes later Kreacher returned and told them to go down to the common room.

Harry descended the spiral staircase.  Ron and Hermione followed him together, holding each other’s hands.  At the bottom of the stairs stood those members of Dumbledore’s Army that had survived the battle, positively beaming at the site of the trio.  Neville, Ginny and Luna stood at the front.  Neville, whose robes were identical to Ginny’s, had the sword of Gryffindor in a scabbard around his waist.  Luna’s robes were also silver, but had a blue eagle on the back to denote her house.  The Gryffindors wore red robes with the gold lion, the Ravenclaws wore blue with the bronze eagle and the Huffelpuffs wore yellow with the black badger.  The crowd cheered and shouted their names.

Neville approached the trio.  “We are your guard of honor today.  We couldn’t have been prouder to serve you and we all want to accompany you to the Great Hall this morning,” Neville told them.  The rest of the D.A. nodded their heads at this, smiling broadly. 

Neville moved them into a formation as they exited the portrait hole.  He, flanked by Ginny and Luna on each side of him, was followed by the rest of the army in twos and threes.  Harry wondered how long they had been planning this while they’d slept.  The trio trailed behind the army they had created two years ago.  Hermione and Ron had parted to walk with Harry between them, each with a hand on each of his shoulders.  Fawkes flew directly above them, seeming to join in the procession.  When they approached the Great Hall the doors were closed.  Neville reached up and knocked loudly on the doors.  They opened instantly to reveal the hall, filled with every person and creature that had fought in the battle.  There were students, teachers, parents, townspeople, centaurs, house elves and Grawp (who was peering through one of the windows again).  They cheered to greet the army that had vanquished the Dark Lord and his minions.  Neville, Ginny and Luna led the way down the aisle to the teachers’ table at the front of the hall, where Professor McGonagall was standing in front of the table.  The students stopped their procession to allow Neville, Ginny and Luna to approach the new headmistress.  Professor McGonagall, who rarely smiled, looked at them with outright affection.  She held her hand up for quiet, which fell immediately upon the expectant crowd.

“Firstly, we must remember those who lost their lives during this war.  Every one of them fought bravely to preserve our world.  Let us remember them with fondness in our hearts and not let their sacrifice go in vain.  A moment of silence, if you please,” Professor McGonagall began, her voice cracking slightly.  There were many sobs throughout the crowd as every person there bowed his or her head in grief and anguish.

“There were few in our world willing to step up and fight against Lord V-v-voldemort.  The three of you, young though you may be, led the resistance against the regime that held our school in terror, breaking numerous school rules in the process I might add,” Professor McGonagall said, smirking.  There were a few chuckles throughout the room.  “I think it’s safe to say that Dumbledore would be exceptionally proud of the Army you led in his name.  We all owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for every rule you managed to break this year and for the hope that you gave to those around you.  I would like to name you, our brigadiers, The Silver Trio.”

“Each of you shall receive an Award for Special Services to the School.  To Neville Longbottom, who boldly approached Lord Voldemort when no other dared.  You are a true Heir of Gryffindor and one of the few worthy to wear the sword of Gryffindor.  To Ginevra Weasley, who kept the spirit of our movement alive every moment this year with her insistence that Harry Potter was still alive and out there fighting for us.  To Luna Lovegood, who, with the help of her father, promoted our cause by exclaiming the truth to the world.”

The members of the Silver Trio each moved forward as his or her name was called to receive the silver medals, before turning to face the crowd.

“We must now recognize the very soldiers of Dumbledore’s Army.  They were the backbone of this operation, after all.  They continued to cause mayhem and wreak havoc around the school, reminding all of us of what we can do if we stand up against tyranny. Some, although alumni, chose to join the Order of the Phoenix where they continued their work,” Professor McGonagall said.  She began speaking each person’s name, who approached her to receive his or her bronze medal.  George accepted a second for Fred and Denis Creevey accepted one for Colin.  They all fanned out on either side of The Silver Trio, some with tears streaming down their faces, others somewhat embarrassed by the attention, others proud.

“And now we must speak about the three young people before me without whom we would not have seen victory.  They created Dumbledore’s Army in their fifth year here at Hogwarts to prepare themselves and their classmates to defend themselves against evil.  Although they were not here to command that army until moments before the Battle of Hogwarts, they truly were the generals of this war.  They sacrificed everything they had in order to lead us to a better life.  As I understand it, they broke many of the horrible laws our corrupt government created.  They broke into the Ministry, freeing many Muggleborns, broke into Gringotts, escaping on a dragon, and I’m sure there were other countless actions the rest of us can only imagine,” she said, while a few people chuckled over the dragon ride.  “Yes, we can only imagine the horrors that they have been through in the past few years, since they entered the magical community.  Yet they never broke ranks.  They never allowed anyone to keep them from their goals.  Their sheer determination is what kept our world from falling apart.”

McGonagall continued, “I would like to name you, our generals, The Golden Trio.”  She had to wait for the applause and cheers to wane a bit before saying, “To Ronald Weasley, who was the heart and soul of the trio.  You kept the others going, not allowing them to become downtrodden.  Your wit and courage were the glue that bound you together.”

Ron stepped forward to have McGonagall place the gold medal around his neck and pull him into a brief hug, then turned around.  The crowd cheered loudly as Ron went completely red in the face.  Mrs. Weasley was crying with her face buried in Mr. Weasley’s shoulder.  There were cries of “speech” rippling through the crowd.  Ron looked positively horrified, but cleared his voice.  “I think I can honestly say that none of the three of us had any idea of what was going to happen this morning.  But I suppose we should have expected to not eat breakfast when we got down here, since Harry’s house elf kept telling us to eat more of the food that he had brought to our dormitory.”  There were a few laughs in the crowd, particularly from those who knew about Ron’s voracious appetite.  “Harry once said that hearing one’s exploits lauded by other people always sounded better than they really were.  I’d have to say that I agree.  All we’ve done is what we had to.  We weren’t really brave or courageous or anything.  We just did our duty.  I would have to say, though, that Harry and Hermione certainly did more than I ever did.  They were the leaders of our little group.”

“To Hermione Granger, who is the brightest witch I think I have ever known.  Your bravery is even more apparent to me, because you stepped up even through your terror and fear.  You kept the others going down the proper path, not allowing them to be led astray,” Professor McGonagall said.

Hermione stepped forward to receive her gold medal and hugged the professor as well.  The crowd almost immediately began begging for a speech again.  Luckily she was a little more forewarned from watching Ron.  She said, “I know that all three of us were skeptical that we would even be here after the fall of Voldemort.  I think we all sort of expected to be killed in the process of trying to defeat him.  Professor McGonagall called me the brightest witch she’s known.  But all I really know are books.  Sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees in front of me.  If it weren’t for Ron and Harry constantly forcing me to look at different perspectives, I doubt I’d be here now.  If I’d been truly clever we would have won this war much sooner.  I don’t think I even deserve to be considered clever.  I am not a leader or a general.  Harry, when all is said and done, is the man who was the general in this war.  He took up where Dumbledore left off and led us to the victory that everyone fought for.  He was the reason we rallied together.”

“And now,” began Professor McGonagall.  One could hear a pin drop as silence descended upon the Great Hall.  As Harry approached her, he noticed that Dumbledore’s portrait had been moved so that it sat directly behind the Headmistress’s chair of the teachers’ table.  Fawkes was perched atop the frame of his former master.  Dumbledore stood in front of the chair he had been painted in, and beamed at his former student with tears in his eyes. 

“Now, we must thank Mr. Harry Potter himself.  His name was spoken only in a whisper all over the country these last months, while everyone simply prayed that he was alive and that he would return to release us from the hell we’ve lived in.  He willingly sacrificed his own life, not defending himself, so that we could live in freedom.  He’s been known through the years as The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One and many other names.  I think that perhaps he will now be called Our Savior, because without him we could not be here.  His power is such that he will continue to astound us for as long as he lives.  His deeds and accomplishments will go down in the history books.  But it is his ability to love that truly earns him his distinction.  Harry has always fought fiercely for those he loves, and even those that do not deserve his love.  Just before setting out on his trek this year he was asked why he did not kill a young Death Eater who was determined to kill him.  Harry’s response was that killing and torturing people was Lord Voldemort’s job, not his.  He said he would not kill people just because they happened to be in the way. 

But I cannot speak not only of the immense love that Harry has for others, which is surely what led him to sacrifice his very life, but of his capacity to nurture love.  He grew up, much like Lord Voldemort, in a home where he was unloved and despised for what he was.  But, unlike Lord Voldemort, Harry chose to accept love when it was offered to him.  As we got to know him as he grew up, here at Hogwarts, we found it very easy to give him that love.  He often dealt with cruel treatment, not just at the hands of his blood relatives, but from his fellow classmates and even the Wizarding world at large. 

Yet he never wavered from his stance against evil.  Those of us who knew him couldn’t help but love him even more for his selflessness, his humility and his kindness.  We thank you Harry, from the bottom of our hearts,” she concluded.

Harry approached her to receive his gold medal and she blinked her eyes rapidly as she pulled him into an embrace.  Releasing him, she briefly rested her hand on his cheek and whispered, “Sorry, Harry, but we had to honor you,” obviously hoping he wouldn’t be too angry with her for extolling his virtues to everyone.  He gave her a rueful look before she turned him around to meet his admirers.  The benches scraped the floor and as one the crowd rose to its feet, all of them.  There were cheers, cat calls and sobs echoing throughout the Great Hall.  Harry noticed the Weasleys standing together at the Gryffindor table, Mrs. Weasley still burying her face into her husband’s shoulder.  He spotted the Malfoys, alone at the Slytherin table.  Lucius stood silently, but Narcissa and Draco were cheering with genuine looks of happiness on their faces.  The requests for a speech began rather quickly, once again.  Harry took a tentative step forward to find silence descend again, though all remained standing.

“As Hermione said before, I’m just sorry that we couldn’t have found a way to end it all sooner.  I know that I could ever live up to the greatness and goodness that was Dumbledore,” Harry said. 

The phoenix gave an indignant cry at this while everyone noticed Dumbledore shaking his head and rolling his eyes in his portrait to indicate his disagreement. 

Harry chose to ignore this, turning his back on Dumbledore, and simply moved on, “I can’t say that the past year was fun or easy, but it’s over.  We missed our families and our friends desperately while we were gone.  It is Ron and Hermione you should be giving your thanks to, not me.  If it hadn’t been for the great sacrifices they both made and for their unwavering loyalty I would never have survived even my first year in the Wizarding World, let alone this last year.  I think it’s a bit ironic that this school was the first home that both Riddle and I ever knew.  He was as fond of this school as he could be for anyone or anything and considered it his own.  Yet the only people in the Wizarding World that were willing to stand up to him were the very students of this school. 

Dumbledore’s Army, I can safely say that the three of us could not be prouder of everything that you’ve done throughout the war.  You have shouldered a grown wizard’s burden and found yourself equal to it,” Harry said, using Dumbledore’s own words to him so many years ago. 

“Everyone keeps referring to the victory of the Battle of Hogwarts.  But I can’t help feeling that the cost was too great.  We lost too many good people.  The losses over the years were slowly breaking my heart, but in the last few months I think my heart has completely shattered.  I don’t know if it’s something that can ever be fully repaired for me or for all of you who have suffered these same losses.  But maybe we can all learn something from these last few years.  As Dumbledore once said to us, ‘if there comes a time to choose between what is right and what is easy, remember what you have seen here.’  If we can instill this idea within our own children then perhaps something good can come from this war.  I only have one thing to ask of you.  Please do not continue to go in fear of Lord Voldemort.  Call him by his name or even better yet call him Tom Riddle, for Lord Voldemort was only a mask behind which he hid,” Harry finished.  His eyes lingered on Draco briefly, who closed his eyes and nodded, almost imperceptibly. 

The cheers began before the members of Dumbledore’s Army all cried “Expecto Patronum!” sending their Patronuses around the Great Hall.  Harry, Ron and Hermione all smiled at each other before adding their own.  The Patronuses all fell in behind Harry’s stag (upon whose back Fawkes appeared to ride) while the cheers deafened everyone present.  The blinding light from the Patronuses finally disappeared into a mist.

Professor McGonagall, looking fondly at her students and former students, then called for order once more before saying, “Our devoted house elves have prepared a marvelous feast for us this morning.  Please enjoy it, everyone,” Professor McGonagall told the congregation.  Dumbledore’s Army split into three groups to join their houses.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and George approached the remaining Weasleys who were already seated at the Gryffindor table.  Their faces were almost stony.  Harry wasn’t sure if he saw something accusatory when they looked at him.  Then Mrs. Weasley got up and gripped him in a bone-breaking hug.

“Oh, Harry dear, how are you, son?” she asked, looking into his eyes beseechingly.

“I….I don’t know, Mrs. Weasley.  Fred….I’m just so sorry.  I should’ve…” Harry replied, unsure of what to say.

Mrs. Weasley’s eyes flashed in anger.  “No, Harry, you shouldn’t have done anything differently.  I thought I’d lost you too, dear,” Mrs. Weasley sobbed, as she pulled Harry into her arms again.  Harry lost his composure at her motherly gesture and just cried unashamedly into her shoulder.  Those who had been watching Harry, turned away, feeling like intruders.  Mrs. Weasley stroked his hair for a few moments before clasping his shoulders saying, “Harry, I don’t ever want to hear you say that again.  None of this is your fault.  You need to understand that.  We certainly don’t blame you, nor would….Fred.”  She forced him onto the bench.  Harry’s throat had constricted, barely allowing him to breathe, let alone speak.  She seemed to understand and started to make him a plate of food from the platters on the table.

Harry was unable to look up at the family he loved so dearly, grief and guilt consuming his body.  While a part of his mind knew that he couldn’t have prevented Fred from dying, there was still the part of him that knew the guilt would never fully leave him for as long as he lived. 

George smacked Harry on the arm and said, “Harry, Fred and I knew what we were doing.  We knew that fighting against V-v-v-voldemort would be dangerous.  We knew we could be…” he gulped.  “We could be killed.  There are some things worth dying for.  He would’ve wanted to…go…fighting.”  Harry looked at George and put his arm around his shoulders.

“I know, George,” was all Harry could manage.

“Well, maybe now I won’t be known as Forge,” George said, giving a feeble attempt at a joke, the corners of his lips twitching.  At this the whole Weasley family roared with laughter, even though the joke wasn’t all that funny.  The tension was broken and the family dug into their plates hungrily.

Harry’s thoughts then turned to Lupin and Tonks, who were gone now as well. Teddy Harry thought my godson

Fawkes came fluttering down to Harry, bearing a letter.  He opened it at once.

Dear Harry,

We would appreciate a brief meeting with you once you’ve finished enjoying your breakfast.  Please meet us in the Headmistress’s office when it’s convenient.  Also, please ask Ron and Hermione if they would consent to come as well.

Kingsley and Minerva


Ron and Hermione were already reading the missive over his shoulder and nodded their agreement, so Harry wrote OK on the note and handed it back to Fawkes.

“Harry, isn’t that Dumbledore’s phoenix?” Bill asked, looking astonished at the bird’s actions.

“Well, actually, we think he’s Harry’s phoenix now,” Ron supplied for Harry.  There were a few murmurs of “wow” around the table.

Since Fawkes had delivered the note from Kingsley, Harry realized he could use him to deliver messages much in the same way as an owl.  So he hastily scribbled a note off to Andromeda Tonks to ask if he could visit her later that afternoon.  He handed it to the phoenix and asked if he could deliver the letter.  Fawkes took off at once, leaving the Great Hall.

Hermione asked, “Isn’t there a morning Prophet?” scanning the table, looking for a newspaper.

“Kingsley shut down the Daily Prophet yesterday.  He said that once he’d spoken to you three he would see about getting an evening edition out,” Arthur explained to her.

Harry lingered over his breakfast, even though he wasn’t very hungry.  For some reason he wanted to postpone his meeting with McGonagall and Shacklebolt.  Finally he couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer.  Looking at Ginny with a smoldering look, but not daring to kiss her in front of her entire family, Harry rose from the table.  Ron and Hermione followed suit and accompanied him out of the Great Hall.  They could feel everyone’s eyes upon them as they exited.

“Ugh.  Harry, why the hell did I want to be like you?  Remind me again?” Ron asked, already annoyed with the attention they were receiving.  Harry laughed.

“Cause you’re a git,” was Harry’s response.

Back in the Great Hall, Mrs. Weasley gave her only daughter an appraising look.

“Ginevra Weasley,” Mrs. Weasley said, in her tone that caused all of her children to cringe in fear.  Ginny looked at her mother, her eyes wide.  “I think you and I should go for a walk to discuss some things.”

Mr. Weasley looked up at his wife, as she rose from the table.  “Do you need any help, dear?” he asked.

“No thanks, Arthur.  This is something between a mother and her daughter,” came the reply.

The Weasley brothers all looked at each other wondering what their sister could have done to upset their mother so much while they were all still grieving.

Once they’d cleared the front doors of the castle Mrs. Weasley asked her daughter “Is there anything that you’d like to tell me?”

Ginny fidgeted as they headed down towards the lake.  “Like what, mum?” she asked in reply.

“You know, I’m a pretty perceptive person, dear, especially when it concerns one of my children.  I think you owe it to me to explain what’s going on between you and Harry.”

“Oh, that.  Well…..we dated for a little while at the end of his 6th year, you know, before Dumbledore died.  But that, of course, changed everything for Harry.  He dumped me so that Voldemort wouldn’t have another reason to come after me to get to him.”

“I see,” Mrs. Weasley said.  “But that’s not the whole story, is it?  Look, I was there when Hagrid carried Harry back from the forest.  What I saw in your face and heard in your voice was not just simple anguish from losing a family member or a friend.  It was the pain of losing one’s soul mate.  You are in love with Harry.  Is that right, dear?”

Ginny wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, but it did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Weasley, who slipped her arm around her daughter’s shoulders.  “Yes, mum, he is everything to me.  He hurt me terribly, but I love him with all my heart.”

“You do know that he would never intentionally hurt you, right?  If I’m right, and in this case I believe I am, he loves you too.”

“I know.  He even told me so last night.  But I think he’d passed out before he could hear my response.  I think it will still take me awhile to get over the anger that has been inside me for so long, though.  He said he will explain everything in time, so that I can understand.  He started a little bit last night, which seemed to help,” she told her mother.

“You will forgive him, dear.  Based on what you’ve said so far, I think you’ve already begun to.  Tonight be sure to tell him very plainly of your love for him.  If I’m not mistaken that poor boy has never even heard those words uttered to him before.  We’ve all loved him so much over the last few years, and I think he knows that.  Still, knowing it and hearing it are two different things,” Molly advised her child.

Ginny just nodded.  She said, “Oh, Mum, as angry as I’ve been at him all year, I’m realizing just how harsh I’ve been on him and how much he’s had to go through.  I almost feel guilty, myself.  I just don’t want to let him out of my sight for even a moment.  When he, Ron and Hermione left the Hall I almost felt angry again.”

“I know.  I think it’s going to take us all a long time to feel comfortable letting our loved ones out of our sight.  We all need each other so much right now,” Molly said, pulling her daughter into her arms.  They stood there for some time comforting each other.

* * *

The Golden Trio approached the gargoyle guarding the Headmistress’s office, which was still sitting at an odd angle.

“We have an appointment with the Minister and Headmistress,” Harry told the gargoyle, still not knowing what the password might be.

“Go on up,” came the reply and once again the trio climbed over the gargoyle onto the moving staircase.  They entered the office once reaching the top.  Harry noticed that Dumbledore’s portrait once again hung behind the desk.

“Thanks, you three, for agreeing to meet with us,” Kingsley said.  “Minerva and I have been discussing everything that has happened.  Now, we would like to ask you a few questions.”

They had been prepared for this, knowing that everyone would now want to know what they’d been up to all year long.

“Very well, but you must understand that some things should never become common knowledge,” Harry said.

“Yes, we are aware of that, Harry.  Dumbledore has filled us in on what you’ve been up to all year and so we don’t have any further questions in that regard,” Kingsley told them.  “What we need to decide now, is what to release to the papers and what not to.”

Harry looked at Dumbledore and asked, “Did you really tell them about everything, including Riddle’s attempt at immortality?”

Dumbledore nodded and replied, “Yes, Harry, and they are aware that much of that must never be spoken of again.”

“Okay, well, you may release anything you deem necessary then.  Perhaps just tell people that there were certain objects that needed to be destroyed before Riddle could be killed.  They don’t have to know the nature of the objects,” Harry said, addressing Kingsley now.

“That sounds good, Harry.  I’ll take care of that after our meeting,” Kingsley replied.

“Now it comes down to your future.  The three of you never came back to school to complete your education, and many of your peers who did return to school didn’t get an opportunity to do much learning this past year,” McGonagall told them.

“It is my understanding that you, Harry and Ron, have expressed interest in becoming Aurors,” Kingsley continued.

“Well, yes.  I think that if you are in control at the Ministry we might be interested in such a career.  But we never took our N.E.W.T.s and I’m not sure we’d even pass, to be honest,” Harry said.  Ron and Hermione nodded their heads at this.

“Yes, your N.E.W.T.s.  It has been decided that during the months of July and August we will allow anyone who would like a chance to take their end of the year exams to return for some instruction.  Then you will be allowed to sit the exams.  There’s no way we can even finish out the semester with the school in the state it is in.  There are not enough dormitories or classrooms to allow it.  We hope to have everything repaired soon, but it will take awhile,” McGonagall explained to them.

The trio exchanged looks at their great luck of being able to return the school to complete their studies.

“When you’re finished you will be able to come to the Ministry as fully fledged Aurors,” Kingsley completed.

“But I thought there were three years of training,” Ron said, in confusion.

“Ordinarily yes, but you have already basically passed the test that would come at the end of that training.  We test on dueling capabilities first.  I have seen, first hand, the way all three of you can handle a duel.  Honestly, you’d probably beat most of the Aurors who’ve been with us for years,” Kingsley said, chuckling.  “Then we test on how well you are able to move in stealth.  Now, since you’ve been on the run for almost a year with absolutely no one knowing of your location I would say that you’ve passed that one with flying colors.  Lastly we test on your knowledge of how to perform Occlumency and throw off the Imperius Curse. I’m assuming you’ve mastered Occlumency at this point?”

“Well, sort of.  I could throw off Voldemort by the end, but I don’t know about anybody else,” Harry said, apologetically.

“I’ve never even tried Occlumency, Minister, and I only just barely threw off the Imperius Curse in our 4th year,” Ron added.

“Well, Harry, if you could keep Voldemort out of your mind I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  He was one of the best Legilmens in the world, but we can test you if you would feel more comfortable.  Ron, we can work on that with you.  Even just barely being able to throw off the Imperius Curse is a remarkable achievement.  Indeed, if half of our Aurors were able to do so well, we wouldn’t have had as many problems as we’ve had in the recent past.  So, you both agree that you will join the Auror department and help us sort everything out?” Kingsley asked.  Harry and Ron looked at each other for a moment before nodding their agreement.  Kingsley then said, “Excellent!  Now, Hermione, although you’ve never expressed a desire to become an Auror, you too would make a wonderful addition to that department.  Would you like to join your friends there?”

“Not really, Minister.  I mean, I don’t think I could handle fighting the Dark Arts every day.  But I don’t know what else I want to do.  I think I would like to fight for equal rights for magical creatures, if I’m honest,” she replied.

“Well, why don’t we start you off in the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures?  If you don’t like that we can always move you to another department,” he suggested.  Hermione nodded at this, smiling.

“Ok, so we’re working on rounding up the remaining Death Eaters.  We were wondering if Harry and Ron might help us in this regard.  Harry, you would be instrumental, considering that you could see into Voldemort’s mind and perhaps know who were acting against their wills and who weren’t,” Kingsley said.  The three exchanged a look of total incredulity.

“So, you actually want us to help you hunt them down?” Ron asked, still dumbfounded.

“That and your testimony will be essential at the trials as well.  I’m aware that you are all excellent at finding out information that you shouldn’t have and at tracking people.  I also have an idea that might work.  It will require the cooperation of the Malfoys, though.  I’ve tried to speak with Draco, but he insists that he will only speak with Harry,” Kingsley told them.  If they thought they’d been shocked before, they were left speechless at this.  Kingsley laughed a bit before saying, “Would you mind talking with him, Harry?”

“Oh, ok,” was all Harry could manage.  Then he thought about trying to explain this all to Ginny.  He didn’t think she’d be very pleased with him.  “I think we’ll need to discuss this all together before we make a decision regarding hunting down the Death Eaters, though.  I’ve only just barely gotten back into Ginny’s good graces and I don’t think I want to consider what she might do to me if I don’t consult her first.”

Everyone laughed for a few moments before Kingsley said, “I think that’s fair enough.  Could you let us know after dinner tonight?”

“Sure,” Harry said.  They all discussed possibilities and strategies that they could use for the hunt before they headed back downstairs for lunch.

Harry slipped onto the bench beside Ginny.  She looked up at him expectantly.  He asked her if she would take a quick walk with him after lunch.  She agreed immediately, but couldn’t help but be curious as to what could possibly have taken so long at the meeting.

“We’ll be heading back for the Burrow early tomorrow morning,” Arthur told the family.  “That includes you two, as well,” he said pointedly to Harry and Hermione.

“Are you sure?  I mean, maybe you should just be together as a family for a little while,” Harry said, Hermione nodding her agreement.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Molly said.  “You are a part of our family, and have been for awhile now.  I don’t want any of us separated right now.  I don’t think I could bear it.  I need you with us so that I can feel like we are all safe again.”

So, Harry and Hermione agreed to return to the Burrow with the Weasleys.

“’Mione, shouldn’t we talk about going to get your parents some time soon?” Ron asked.

“Yeah, I hope they’re not too angry with me.  Perhaps it would be best if I wait awhile,” Hermione said.

“I’ll go with you if you want.  We’ll just wait until Mum’s a bit more comfortable with the idea,” Ron suggested.  Hermione had a look of relief on her face as she hugged him and thanked him.

Harry and Ginny told the family that they would meet up with them later, once they’d finished eating.  They immediately gravitated towards their favorite spot by the lake, where they’d slept not that long ago.

“So, what exactly was that long meeting about?” Ginny asked him.

“Well, they’re going to let everyone come back in July and August for some intense study so that we can all pass our exams,” Harry began.

“Wow!  That’s great.  I missed too much after Easter to feel comfortable sitting the exams right now.  Obviously you guys missed a lot more, but perhaps since you have first hand experience that’ll help you,” she said.  “But that wasn’t all your meeting was about, was it?  It couldn’t take that long to tell you that.”

“No, Kingsley also wanted to ask us if we wanted to join the new Ministry.  He wants Ron and me to join as trainee Aurors right now to help find the remaining Death Eaters,” Harry said, closing his eyes and ducking slightly (as though expecting her to curse him).

“Oh!  What did you say?” Ginny asked.

“I said we would have to think about it.  I wanted to talk to you first about it.  You’re the one I want to spend my life with, so I think that you should have a say in what sort of a future I choose,” Harry said.

She looked surprised at this gesture, but it was not lost on her by any means.  “Well, Harry, I think that you would never be happy sitting behind a desk.  I also know that it’s in your very blood to try to protect people and fight against the Dark Arts.  As much as I know I’ll worry about you over the years, I couldn’t be happy if you weren’t content.  I think that if it’s what you want, you should take up Kingsley’s offer.  However, you have to promise not to leave me in the dark again,” she said.  She knew that his mind was already made up, but it touched her that he would give it up if she asked him to.

“Thanks, Ginny.  I will share everything with you, I promise.  Although there’s a part of me that would prefer to never do another dangerous thing for the rest of my life, I don’t think I’d feel right if I wasn’t involved in this.  I think perhaps it is what I’m meant to do.”

“Now, we have one other thing that we need to talk about, Ginny,” Harry started. “Now I have a baby to care for, don’t I?”

Her eyes flashed in anger as she whipped her head around to face him.  “What?!!  You told me there wouldn’t be any dating opportunities last year!”

“Teddy.  He’s my godson.  I’m responsible for him now,” Harry told her, struggling not to roll his eyes.  Her expression softened immediately and her mouth hung open.

“Oh!  I’d forgotten.  Harry, I’m sorry.  WE have a child to care for,” Ginny said, her voice much quieter now, her eyes filling with tears with the memory of the deaths of her friends.

“Well, I hope you know something about babies, cause I have no idea what to do.  I have no clue.  What if I do something wrong?  What if I’m a horrible godfather?  I’ve never even had a parent, at least not that I can remember,” Harry said.

Ginny smiled at him and said “Harry, you have nothing to worry about.  You’ll make a great parent.  You had a good role model in Sirius.  Plus, we have my parents and Andromeda to help us.”  Harry brightened at this and thought he might look forward to spending time with the baby.

“Would you mind coming with me to Andromeda’s right now?  I don’t know if I can handle it all by myself,” he said.

“Of course, Harry.  How are we going to get there?” she asked.

“Well, we’ll have to leave the grounds and apparate.  I know where it is,” he said.  They walked down to Hogsmeade, where Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand to apparate them to the Tonks’ cottage.

Ginny squeezed his hand in reassurance as they approached the front steps and knocked on the door.  Andromeda peered through a small opening in the door.

“Who goes there?” she asked, in a frightened tone.

“It’s me, Harry Potter and my girlfriend, Ginny Weasley,” Harry informed her.

“How do I know you’re the real Harry Potter?” she asked.

“I’m Teddy’s godfather, and the last time I was here Hagrid and I used a Portkey made from a hairbrush,” he replied.  Andromeda opened the door and pulled Harry into a hug, tears spilling from her eyes.

“Oh, Harry.  I received your note earlier to expect you.  Thank you, for everything you’ve done,” she said.

“Please don’t thank me, Mrs. Tonks.  I….I…can’t tell you how….how….sorry I am,” he said, trying to keep himself from breaking down.

“Oh, dear, why don’t you two come in?  I’ll fix us some tea?” she said vaguely, backing up to allow them entrance.  Harry and Ginny crossed the threshold, Ginny with her hand on Harry’s back for comfort.  The house looked a complete mess, as though it had been ransacked.  Andromeda led them into a drawing room, where there was a bassinet in the center.

“I’ll leave you to get acquainted,” she said as she headed towards the back of the house to the kitchen.

Harry and Ginny approached the bassinet to see the infant.  The child was not even a month old but an orphan already.  His hair was the same mousy brown that had been Tonks’s natural color.  Harry knew that the baby probably somehow sensed that something wasn’t right, and the trauma he was experiencing had affected his metamorphosing.  The baby was wide awake and looked up at them with Remus’s eyes.  Ginny picked him up and let him lay his head on her shoulder.  Harry looked at Ginny and they shared a small smile.

“How did you know how to do that?” Harry asked, knowing full well that she was the youngest in her family and didn’t know how much experience she’d actually had in handling children.

“I don’t know, Harry, I just did what came naturally,” she said.  He thought it must have been an instinct of sorts.  “Do you want to hold him?”

“Uh, I don’t know,” he said, suddenly frightened of the prospect of actually holding the baby.

“Well, Harry, you’re going to have to get used to it, you know.  Come on,” she said leading him to a couch and pushing him with her free hand to make him sit on it.

“What if I drop him?” he asked in a panic.  She just smiled and laid the baby in his arms.  Harry held Teddy closely to him, still a bit afraid that he would do something wrong and hurt him.

“Hi, Teddy. I’m Harry, your godfather,” he said, feeling a bit silly talking to a baby that probably couldn’t even understand a word he was saying.  Ginny smiled at him and sat beside him.  Harry just looked down at the baby, who was looking up at him expectantly. 

“We’re going to have some fun together, you and I.  I’ll make sure of that.  I’ll also tell you so many stories about your mum and dad, and all of their friends.  You’ll never wont for anything if I can help it,” Harry told the baby.  Teddy raised his fists up in front of his face and Harry grabbed one, wiggling it about.  Harry gave the baby a little tickle, causing him to giggle with amusement.  At that point Teddy managed to surprise Harry and Ginny by turning his hair black and his eyes green.  They both roared with laughter, the baby looking quite pleased with himself.

“I think he likes you, Harry,” Ginny said, once she’d gotten her laughter under control.  Andromeda walked in then, with a tea tray hovering in front of her.  She levitated it over to the coffee table and sat down on the couch opposite Harry and Ginny.

“Oh, he must be feeling better, my poor baby.  I’m afraid he must have picked up on my depression the last day or so, since…well since, you know.  I’ve been so worried about him, but there wasn’t much I could do.  I just couldn’t get my mind off of everything that’s happened,” Andromeda said weakly.  Ginny got up and went over to the other couch, pulling Andromeda into her arms.

She let Andromeda cry for a little while before saying, “Here, Mrs. Tonks, let me pour you a cup of tea.  That’s always comforting.”

Ginny poured out tea for each of them and passed a cup across the table to Harry.  Feeling more comfortable with the baby in his arms, Harry was able to sip from his cup.

Once Andromeda had downed her tea and poured herself another she said, “Well, thank goodness you two have come here.  It would seem that Teddy is happy to have you here as well.  I haven’t been able to get him to sleep in forever.  He just cries and cries.  Well, he doesn’t understand why his mother….”

Harry fought with everything he had not to allow his anguish to come gushing forth.  He needed to be strong for Andromeda and Teddy.  He could allow himself to grieve later.

“I know, Mrs. Tonks,” Harry said sadly.

“It’s Andromeda, dear.  You and I certainly have an enormous task ahead of us here,” she replied, indicating the baby in his arms.  Harry instinctively held the infant closer to his heart.

“Yes, Andromeda.  For now, however, I would like to ask you to come back to the Burrow with us.  Your mum will be okay with that, right?” Harry asked Ginny.

“Oh, of course!” Ginny exclaimed.

“Oh, dear, I couldn’t intrude.  You’ve suffered your own losses in this war and will want to just be together as a family,” Andromeda insisted, although it was obvious that she very much wanted to be around other people right then.

“Andromeda, I will not take no for an answer.  Harry is a member of our family as much as any of my parents’ children by blood.  My parents think of him as a son and my brothers think of him as another brother.  His godson is now a part of that family.  Of course Teddy’s grandmother, who will certainly have guardianship over him, is therefore a member of our family as well,” Ginny said, with an almost Mollyish tone of voice.  Harry looked at her with love at the immediate acceptance with which she was receiving Andromeda.  She added, “I don’t think Harry will feel comfortable just leaving you both here, anyway.”

“Oh, of course, Harry.  I guess I didn’t think about it that way.  Of course you will want to have the child near you as you recover from the battle,” Andromeda said, accepting the invitation to the Burrow.

“Why don’t we take Teddy with us back to Hogwarts, so that you can get yourself all packed up and everything?  If you like, you can either meet us there at Hogwarts or come to the Burrow anytime tomorrow,” Ginny said, almost taking all decision-making out of the others’ hands.  Harry thought perhaps she was correct in doing so, considering how distraught Andromeda seemed to be.

“Oh, actually, maybe that would work best.  I think I’ll meet up with you tomorrow, if you two don’t mind watching the baby tonight.  I could use some rest,” Andromeda said, with an obvious air of relief.

Looking down at his watch, Harry realized that they needed to get back to Hogwarts soon for dinner.  He still needed to give Kingsley his decision regarding Auror duties.

“Well, we’d better get going.  What do we need to take with us to take care of him?” he asked Andromeda, realizing that he had no idea what he might need.  Andromeda packed a small diaper bag with some diapers, formula and a few toys for the baby, giving them instructions on feeding times and such.  She cuddled the baby and gave him a kiss before handing him back to Harry so that they could leave for Hogwarts.

Passing the boundary of the cottage, Ginny took Harry’s arm with the diaper bag over her other shoulder.  Harry was secretly glad for the number of times he’d apparated over the year, else he might not have felt comfortable doing so with a baby in his arms.  Harry landed them neatly in Hogsmeade, but Teddy didn’t seem to care for the situation and let out a big cry.  The attention of passers-by turned towards the couple as Harry soothed the baby, rocking him back and forth a bit.  Teddy seemed to enjoy this and fell back to sleep quickly.

The small family made its way back up to the castle, stomachs rumbling.

“Luckily dinner should be ready by the time we get up there,” Harry commented.

The three of them entered the Great Hall to many stares and whispers in their direction.  Harry belatedly realized that there probably weren’t many people who were aware that he had a godson and were now wondering whose baby this was.  He guessed that they would be thinking Teddy was his and Ginny’s love child or something.  Ginny must have had the same notion, because she nudged him and then gave him a knowing look.  They took their seats with the family at the Gryffindor table.

“Where on earth have you two been?” Molly began, before registering the baby in Harry’s arms, “Oh!  That must be little Teddy!”

Harry just nodded, while Ginny began preparing him a plate of food, figuring that he might have a difficult time with Teddy in his arms.

“Where’s Andromeda, Harry?” Arthur asked, looking around.

“We thought it might be best if she had a night off.  She looked pretty harried when we were there.  When Ginny suggested we take Teddy for the night, she practically jumped on the idea.  I mean, it’s not that she doesn’t love him or want to take care of him, just I think she was exhausted,” Harry explained.  “Uh, Mrs. Weasley, do you think, I mean, would it be too much trouble if Andromeda and Teddy came with us to the Burrow for a little while?”

“Of course not, Harry.  I think it would be best if they stayed with us for awhile,” Molly replied.  Harry felt a slight weight lift off of his chest.  He realized that a part of him must have been worried that Molly would only want the immediate family around at this time.  He smiled at her in thanks.

Ginny watched him struggle with cutting his chicken for a moment, before taking his knife and fork from him to cut it herself.  Everyone laughed, even Harry.

“I see he’s gotten used to his godfather,” George said, gesturing at the baby’s black hair and green eyes.

“Yeah, he took to Harry right away,” Ginny said, with some amusement.

After dinner, Ginny offered to take the baby from Harry so that he and Ron could go over to talk to the Malfoys.

They approached the Slytherin table just as dessert was starting to appear on the tables.  Lucius sat on one side while Narcissa and Draco sat together on the other side.  Harry and Ron sat on either side of Narcissa and Draco, with Harry next to Draco.

Draco looked over to Harry before asking, “Well, what on earth is going on?  The Minister asked us if we would stay for a few days because it’s too dangerous to go home.”

“He’s probably right.  After all, your mother betrayed Voldemort by lying to him,” Harry said, noticing how visibly the Malfoys had flinched at the name.  They still looked almost terrified as he continued, “Many of them are going to want your family dead.”

“Yes, I know.  Look, I was wondering if I could talk to you and Weasley in private somewhere,” Draco said, indicating that he didn’t want to include his parents in this discussion.

Harry and Ron shared a look, before Harry agreed.  He told Draco and Ron to follow him as he approached the head table.  He could hear Narcissa scolding Lucius saying that he would do as she told him to.

“Professor McGonagall?” Harry said to get her attention.

“I think it’s time for you to call me Minerva, Harry.  But what can I help you with?” she replied.

“Oh, okay, um, Minerva, I was wondering if there was somewhere private that we could chat with Draco,” Harry said.

She thought a moment before saying, “Well, why don’t you use my old office.  The password is ‘Animagus.’”

“Thank you, Professor, I mean, Minerva,” he said, leading the other two out of the Great Hall.

 


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