Chapter 1 : The Task at Hand
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A/N: I began writing this story back in 2007, and I am still writing it, though I am now going through and re-editing earlier chapters between validations. To clarify, the story takes place directly after the fall of Voldemort, right after the Battle of Hogwarts. Ignores the Epilogue. Thanks for reading, and please remember to leave a review!
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling, excluding the plot.
The roof of Hagrid’s Hut was engulfed in smoke and partially collapsed under the weight of the crumbled chimney. From where Harry Potter stood, observing the grounds from the window, everything looked smaller, the damage more manageable. It was a feeling in which Harry revelled. He broke his gaze from the little house just in time to see Cho Chang enter Dumbledore’s office, emerging from the moving spiral staircase. Ron and Hermione, who were seated in two of the three armchairs within the room, followed Harry’s gaze and looked up too.
“Hey, Cho.” Harry greeted wearily. His exhaustion quickly extinguished any awkwardness there would have been. Fifth year seemed so far in the past now.
“Hi Harry. Congratulations about tonight and all.” She paused. “Er- Professor McGonagall has been looking for you. I figured you’d be up here.” She said quietly.
“Thanks Cho, is she in her office?”
“Oh, yeah,” She gave a slight nod. “Well, um, bye Harry.” She said nervously as she turned and walked slowly out of the office, shutting the doors behind her. Harry looked over at Ron and Hermione.
“Maybe you should go talk to her, mate.” Ron suggested. “She looked bloody anxious.”
“She has every right to be! Everyone is!” Hermione protested.
“Not right now, Ron. I have to go.” Harry said quickly, wanting to go find McGonagall.
“You’ll be alright, though?” Hermione asked with concern, glancing from Harry to Ron worriedly. “A lot’s happened in the last few hours...are you sure you’re okay?”
“Hermione, for the first time in my life, I think that we’ll all be fine.” Harry replied with a small, reassuring smile. It was obvious that they were all on the verge of collapsing – everyone was emotionally drained and overcome with both victory and grief, and doing anything other sleeping appeared overwhelming.
“No. Not Fred. Not Lupin. Not Tonks. Not all of us.” Ron muttered. He sighed heavily and rested his head in his hands. Hermione put her arm around him.
“You’re right, Ron.” Harry said quietly, which caused Ron to look up at him. “We’ve all been through a lot. We’ve lost so many people...and, well, that’s bound to leave a mark. I’m so sorry.”
Hermione nodded solemnly. “There’s nothing we do to stop ourselves from missing them...but, overtime, I think that we’ll begin to accept that they’re gone. We shouldn’t stop living just because they have. They wouldn’t want that.”
“I just wasn’t ready.” Ron murmured. “I thought we would be really prepared, you know?” he added, glancing between Harry and Hermione.
“But we got through it. We got through it together.” Harry said reassuringly. Ron gave a sad smile and returned his gaze to the floor. “I’ll see you guys in a few minutes. Will you wait for me here?” Harry asked.
“Sure, Harry.” Hermione replied. Harry reached across Dumbledore’s desk and retrieved his newly repaired wand. The Elder Wand lay beside it, and Harry noticed that he felt no need to possess the Hallow, no want to have complete and unbeatable control. There were so many people, Harry mused, that would die for it. And there were so many people, Harry realized, that had. He toyed with the thought for a few seconds before pocketing his own phoenix-feather wand and heading towards the door.
He turned once he reached the stairs and glanced back at Ron and Hermione, who were sitting quietly beside each other. There was no need for tight embraces or long, encouraging speeches. They had finally reached a point where they merely strived for peace and quiet so they could sink into their own thoughts and stay there until they were ready to face the world.
Harry headed down the spiral staircase, stepping carefully over fallen portraits and avoiding the evident cracks in the stairs. This was a strange and unfamiliar Hogwarts, and through the victory, Harry couldn’t shake the feeling of defeat that had seemingly settled around him.
When he reached the bottom, Harry saw Cho slowly turn the corner at the end of the corridor. Harry knew he should call her back and explain. But this was something he couldn’t do. At least right now. This was not the time, nor the place. There were many wounds of greater severity that needed mending.
Making his way over fallen suits of armour and crumbled gargoyles, Harry passed through floor after floor of the broken school, feeling both worshipped and hated. There was no emotion that could describe the current events, so Harry gave up and let the whirlwind of confusing feelings run its course. He arrived at the door to McGonagall’s office sooner than he expected. The entrance was battered up and several curses had blatantly left marks upon the once smooth, oak surface. He knocked lightly, as if to not cause it any further damage.
“Enter.” McGonagall’s voice was faint and muffled by the door. Harry gingerly stepped inside.
“Yes, Professor? Cho Chang said you wanted to see me.”
She nodded. “Harry, I would like to congratulate you on an excellent job tonight. There is no doubt that your actions have shown true, courageous Gryffindor spirit. I’m sure Professor Dumbledore would have been proud.” She paused. “It’s been a long night, but before you retire, I have a few questions.”
“Yes, Professor?” Harry asked again.
“People have been searching quite a while now for the body of Professor Snape. I’m under the impression that you may know his location.”
“He’s in the Shrieking Shack. That’s where he died, Professor.” Harry replied quietly. He still couldn’t understand if he was supposed to be grieving or celebrating the loss of Snape. He had tried to tell himself that it wasn’t his fault – though he and Hermione could have attempted to save Snape’s life, the both of them had still thought him to be on the Dark side at that time. It wasn’t until after that Harry had realized his true allegiances, and then it was too late. He was shaken from his reverie when the professor spoke again.
“That is not the only reason I called you here, Harry.” McGonagall said slowly. “Did Professor Snape happen to give you anything before he died tonight?” she asked. Harry could tell she was struggling for composure.
“Yes, Professor. He gave me some of his memories from when he was younger. And yes, I have watched them...but I didn’t really find anything significant other than the fact that he...” Harry broke off, not wanting to go into detail about Snape’s love for his mother.
McGonagall waved off Harry’s unfinished sentence. “So there wasn’t anything in the memories that singled out a certain place in the castle, or anything of that sort?” she asked anxiously.
“No, not that I can think of. I’m really sorry Professor, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Harry said. McGonagall suddenly looked very old, the gash upon her face deepening within her wrinkles.
“Harry, before Professor Dumbledore died, he wanted me to keep an eye on Professor Snape. To see if he left any clues or dropped any hints about this.”
“But Professor, what is ‘this’?!” Harry asked impatiently.
“Dumbledore himself said that even if Severus didn’t know it exactly, something he had or some of his knowledge could inform us further.” She explained.
“Inform us about what, Professor?”
“Albus reckoned that something in this castle belongs to you.” McGonagall said, almost whispering. She looked exhausted and drained, and Harry’s heart went out to her. She’d done so much to benefit Hogwarts and she had always seemed so strong; it pained him to see her so worn out and elderly.
“What? But, Professor, how is that possible? What do you mean ‘belongs to me’?”
“Have you even touched your copy of Hogwarts, a History, Harry? On page 286 it clearly states that if a location in the castle is located by a student that the current Headmaster did not know about, it becomes their personal possession. When your parents were young, the apparently stumbled across a location in the castle that was not known about at the present time. Therefore, seeing as they are gone, this possession has been passed onto you.” McGonagall said with a slight smile. It was odd, Harry thought, to see someone smile. Especially at a time like this.
“But how are you supposed to figure this out?” Harry asked, dumbfounded.
“Not me, Harry. You. Seeing as you own it, it is now your responsibility. And considering the circumstances, I give you full permission to search the castle to figure this out.”
Harry was exhilarated. There was something in Hogwarts that actually belonged to him! Something that was connected to his parents! Harry could feel his heart pounding against his ribs in excitement. He had reached the point of exhaustion where he was nearly out of control.
“Thank you, Potter. You may go.” McGonagall motioned towards the door.
“Goodnight Professor.” Harry said with a slight grin. As he grasped for the doorknob and turned away from the office, he was mentally kicking himself. There was a small voice inside his head, lecturing him.
“You’ve finally gone mad, Potter. You, happy at a time like this?”
Closing the door behind him, Harry headed down the corridor to go back to the Headmaster’s office. At the next turn he made, he saw the familiar figure of Ginny walking down the passage towards him, her features bathed in the moonlight flooding in through the cracks in the walls. Harry could see that she was silently crying, and when she noticed his presence, she attempted to quickly wipe away the tears.
“It’s over, Harry.” She said softly as she approached him.
“Yeah, it is.” He replied. “For good.” It had just hit him. No longer would he have to look into Voldemort’s mind. No longer would he have to search for Horcruxes. It was over. He noticed that her eyes were rimmed with red. “Are you alright?” he asked with concern. She nodded immediately, as if trying to reassure herself that she was fine. The loss of Fred and the others was obviously taking a toll on everyone.
“Ginny, I…” He broke off.
“Its okay, Harry.” And she looked at him with pure understanding. Harry gave a sad smile. There was so much he wanted to say her. But he couldn’t.
“Let’s go see Ron and Hermione. I have something I need to tell all of you.” Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand as they began to walk, and Harry couldn’t help but notice that something felt off. Holding her hand after all this time just felt...awkward.
When they arrived back at the Headmaster’s office, Harry recounted his story of what McGonagall had told him.
“There’s something they left behind for me! Something I’m supposed to find!” Harry was beaming broadly. He felt a heavy pang of guilt at his happiness – he should be crying and mourning and overcome with grief. But he wasn’t – and he was ashamed. Despite his inner struggles, Harry’s excitement paired with his exhaustion caused a burst of energy to surge through him. He glanced around at them. Hermione, Ron and Ginny looked both nervous and pleased, albeit undeniably tired. They understood Harry’s excitement. They knew how much this meant to him, which he was thankful for. Hermione looked nearly as excited as Harry.
“Harry, you don’t think Snape left any clues in his office?” It was random and farfetched, but stranger things had happened.
“It’s possible.” Harry agreed.
Harry smiled. Maybe Snape had left him a clue. If it was anywhere, it’d probably be there. Maybe it wasn’t going to be like another search for Horcruxes.
“We should start looking soon, yeah?” Ron added.
“Although we do go home in a couple days.” Hermione reasoned. “We’ll have time to look when we come back as well.” Their excited chatter faded into nothingness and soon the room settled into a sombre silence. The weight of recent events was pressing and overwhelming, and the grief coupled seamlessly with the celebratory mood that was evident within everyone’s relief. Voldemort was gone, as were many loved ones. It was a difficult time, and they could all sense it. But things were going to get better. It was decided.
They all stood and walked through the broken castle to the portrait of the Fat Lady, anticipating a long, long rest.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter, please review! Thank you!