Chapter 15 : Chapter 15: The Fight
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August 11th was suddenly upon them and Harry woke Ginny with a light kiss on the lips.
“Happy Birthday, Gin,” he said as she slowly came awake.
She then sat bolt upright and exclaimed, “I’m of age!”
Harry smiled back at her and remembered coming of age himself the year before. She frowned suddenly and said, “It would be so much cooler if I wasn’t at school! I can do magic here anyway. Ah well, no matter. I’ll be able to get back at everyone once we’re home for the month of September.”
Harry could see the devious look in her eye and asked warily, “Uh, who exactly do you need to get back at?”
She looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “Well, certainly every one of my brothers…”
She gave him a wicked grin and he suddenly felt sorry for his future brothers-in-law. He knew that they would be in for a number of bat-bogey hexes for every slight against their little sister.
“Shall I warn them now?” Harry asked.
“I suppose it might not be right to just hex them without immediate provocation,” she mused. “But, I can tell you that from now on if one of them even makes a snide remark against me, I’m going to retaliate.”
Harry laughed and told her that she might want to open some of her gifts, which had been stacked neatly at the end of the bed. She ripped them open with glee. As apparition hadn’t been taught the previous year during the Carrows’ reign, her brothers had chipped in to purchase her lessons so that she could take the test before returning to school on October 1st. She was absolutely delighted and her face glowed with pleasure as she opened the jewelry case that her parents had given her of a delicate gold chain with a single small Peridot jewel hanging like a charm.
“I have two gifts for you,” Harry said, once she’d finished opening everything in front of her. He handed her the small box first and said, “This was the one that money could buy and I thought you could use it.”
She opened it to find the feminine gold watch. It resembled the sort of watch that a wizard would receive for his ‘coming of age’ but it was much smaller and had tiny jewels around the edge. Harry hadn’t been able to find what he was looking for and so asked the jeweler to create something new. The tiny jewels around the face were alternating emeralds and rubies, much like the engagement ring and jewelry he’d already given her. The hour hand had taken on a red color, while the minute hand was green and the second hand brown, to match her eyes. She looked at it lovingly before putting it on her wrist and smiled at Harry. She said lovingly, “I adore it. It’s just…well…it’s perfect!”
She kissed him passionately before he pulled away and said, “But that was the easy part. Now open this.”
He handed her the envelope he’d tucked into his nightstand the previous evening.
It has come to my attention that you may one day be a valuable asset to my team. I hope to attend your next official game at Hogwarts School to ascertain as to whether or not you may fit in. I have it on the best authority that it may well be worth my while. I await your response.
Captain of the Holyhead Harpies
Ginny’s mouth hung open as she looked at Harry with unmasked shock. “No way!” she screamed. “Why would you tell her that though? I know that I’d love to play Quidditch professionally, but what if I’m not really good enough?”
Harry laughed and asked, “How many times did you score against Wood? He was the one that suggested you may be professional material. I asked him if he thought Gwenog might be interested in you then.”
She frowned slightly and asked, “So, is she coming to see me just because you asked her to?”
“No, she’s coming to see you because you were able to score so well and work with your team so well. All I did was take care of the correspondence. I hope you’re not mad. I wanted to be able to give you a truly wonderful gift. Not just something that could be bought,” Harry said. He was a bit afraid now, looking at her as she took in his words. He had suddenly realized that maybe she saw his interaction with Gwenog as interfering and that the only reason Gwenog wanted to see her was because he’d suggested it. He decided he’d better try to fix it and said, “When Wood told her about you she was really excited. He didn’t say anything about me until she asked about how she could contact you.”
Her fears began to melt away as she looked at the desperation in his eyes and said, “Oh, Harry. It truly is a wonderful gift. I’m sorry. I suppose it will be a long time before people see the rest of us as more than just extensions of you.”
Harry didn’t quite understand what she meant by that and asked her, “What do you mean? Who are the ‘rest of us’ that you’re talking about?”
“Well, me, Ron, Hermione and everyone else that fought with you,” Ginny said, suddenly unsure of herself. “I mean, I know you don’t ask for it, but because of everything you’ve done we’re seen differently now. People think we’re somehow special because of our relationship to you.”
Harry blinked confusedly and said, “Well, you are special. Everyone should know what awesome people you are.”
She knew that he couldn’t understand what she meant and realized he probably never would. He thought so much of her, Ron, Hermione and all of their friends that he couldn’t see that sometimes people just associated them with Harry. She decided not to bother trying to explain it to him and said, “Well, really, I think I’d prefer the same sort of birthday present that I gave you for your birthday.”
He winked at her and said, “Good, cause that’s what I was planning on.”
He kissed her slowly and lovingly, enjoying their morning together before they would have to face the rest of the castle.
There wasn’t much more time for celebration as their exams were about to begin the next day. As the trio all needed at least ‘E’s’ on their N.E.W.T.s, they were studying constantly. Hermione had taken up Care of Magical Creatures again, considering the department that she had agreed to join and so had to catch up in that subject. Since she’d practically planned Hagrid’s lessons for him to begin with, she caught up rather quickly.
Pouring over Potions notes one evening, Harry remarked, “I really wish I could get Professor Snape’s book back. I kind of miss it.”
“So go and get it,” Ron suggested.
Hermione rolled her eyes and said, “Ron, that room was destroyed by Fiendfyre. Do you honestly think that anything could have survived that?”
Harry frowned and said, “I don’t know, but I think I’ll check it out. I suppose we ought to make sure that the room even works at all, if we’re keeping it as a backup for the D.A.”
Harry approached the wall where the Room of Requirement was located and asked it to become the room of hidden things. He was a bit hesitant to open the door, but when he finally did, he saw the devastation before him. The fire had finally gone out, perhaps because the room had sealed itself, but everything in it was in shambles. He approached the spot where he’d hidden Snape’s book and looked down at it. It was badly burned, but still intact. He felt like he’d found an old friend he’d once lost as he picked it up gingerly. He smiled slightly at the words Property of the Half-Blood Prince. It might be like having a little piece of his old professor always and Harry exited the room without a backward glance.
Harry appreciated Hermione’s shocked expression when she saw the book. “The fire must have gone out when we sealed the room,” he told her.
“I guess it must have,” she said in a surprised tone. “It will be the magic of the room I suppose.”
Harry suddenly felt more confident about his upcoming Potions exam the following day as he carefully memorized Snape’s extra instructions on the brews they might be expected to produce.
Breakfast was a dismal affair as the seventh and fifth year students nervously tried to get food into their stomachs, watching the examiners enter the Great Hall and greet Minerva enthusiastically.
“You’ll do fine, Harry,” Ginny said reassuringly, patting his knee. “You have Professor Snape’s help, right?”
Harry nodded, but a lump seemed to form in his throat. What if he and Ron didn’t get the required grades on their N.E.W.T.s? They’d both followed the regimens laid out for them by Hermione, but could only hope it would be enough. The written exam didn’t seem too bad. Then came the practical portion. The Polyjuice Potion they’d made the previous month was being graded, so Harry was fairly certain he’d done well on that one. At least it looked right, he thought. They had two rather complex potions that they were required to produce but Harry felt confident that at least he’d remembered Snape’s side-notes for them and they seemed to come out rather well.
The following morning brought the written Defense Against the Dark Arts exam, which Harry felt fairly certain that he’d certainly passed with high marks. He wondered if he’d given a bit too much explanation on how to ward off dementors. But he’d decided to include the standard Patronus method and the Occlumency method that Snape had been intent on teaching them. He figured that there was no way to tell what the examiners might be looking for.
Harry once again approached Professor Tofty for the practical portion of the test.
“Ah, Harry, more of a formality, isn’t it?” Professor Tofty said cheerfully, smiling fondly at Harry.
“Not at all, sir,” Harry replied. This would be his first exam using his wand and although he’d done quite well with Albus on taming it, he still needed to concentrate rather hard to make sure his spells performed the way they were supposed to. He needn’t have worried however as even the more complicated ones were those that he’d used so many times over the years that they almost came naturally.
“Wonderful, wonderful. Now, I’ve obviously already seen you produce a Patronus, for the extra point in your O.W.L., but I’d really love to see it again. If you don’t mind?” Professor Tofty asked timidly.
Harry smiled, conjuring thoughts of the end of exams and spending some quality time with Ginny and let the stag fly out the end of his wand. Deciding to perhaps impress the professor, he had the stag turn around and approach Professor Tofty.
“I don’t mind producing a Patronus for you at all, Professor,” the Patronus said with Harry’s voice.
Professor Tofty smiled and laughed. “Oh, that was marvelous indeed, dear boy,” he remarked. “I look forward to seeing you at the Ministry. You will be joining the Aurors shortly?”
“Yes, I will, sir. Was there anything else you wished to see?” Harry asked. Professor Tofty waved him off and told him that he’d done a fine job on his practical exam. As he had before, Harry had a suspicion that he’d gotten another ‘O’ for Defense Against the Dark Arts, but didn’t want to dwell on it in case he was wrong. What if he was wrong? He could just imagine the reactions if the famous Harry Potter had failed his Defense Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T. He almost laughed aloud at the image.
The exams continued in a similar manner, keeping all of the students up late into the night as they tried their best to catch up on all of the time that had been lost the previous year.
On the evening of August 24th Kreacher appeared suddenly in the new common room with a bundle in his arms.
“Master Harry, your new elf,” Kreacher said for an introduction, a wide smile on his face.
Harry looked down at the bundle fondly.
“What would you like to call him, sir?” Kreacher asked.
Harry asked Kreacher to come closer and said, “He’s your son. You should choose his name.”
“Well, if it’s okay with Master Harry, Kreacher and Winky thought that we would name him Dobby,” Kreacher said, looking up at Harry hopefully and then casting his gaze at the floor..
Harry felt his heart split again and he could hear the gasps around the room at the memory of the wonderful elf that had saved so many lives. Harry felt himself falter.
“We can name him anything you like, Master Harry, if sir doesn’t like the name?” Kreacher said, obviously worried.
Harry couldn’t speak. He wanted to reassure Kreacher that he thought it very fitting to name the baby ‘Dobby’ but couldn’t articulate over his sudden renewed grief for his friend.
Hermione naturally took charge and said, “No, Kreacher, I think Harry is more than happy with the name you’ve chosen.”
“Is you sure, Mistress Hermione?” Kreacher asked, looking at Harry.
Harry pulled himself together and said, “May I hold him?”
Kreacher looked appalled but handed the bundle to Harry, as though to await judgment. Harry just held the tiny elf and whispered, “I’ll tell you all about your namesake when you’re old enough, I promise.”
Kreacher wasn’t sure how to react and started wringing his hands again. Ginny said softly, “You know how close Harry and Dobby were, don’t you?”
“Oh yes, well, Dobby used to tell us all sorts of stories of how he’d helped Harry Potter with this or helped Harry Potter with that. But wizards aren’t being friends with elves, Mistress Ginny,” Kreacher explained, as though this was obvious.
“Dobby was right, Kreacher,” Harry said, pulling himself together. “Dobby was a great friend of mine. We owe a lot more to him than just getting us out of the cellar of Malfoy Manor.”
“But Master Harry cannot be friends with an elf! It is just not heard of! What will people say?” Kreacher asked, affronted.
“Aren’t you my friend? Do you just do things for me because you have to or do you do them because you want me to be happy?” Harry asked. Kreacher looked confused and so Harry asked him, “When you first came to me you wanted nothing to do with me. Once we learned of Regulus and everything you realized that I wasn’t as bad as you thought I was, right?”
“Yes, Master Harry, yes! Master is a magnificent wizard. Kreacher is very sorry for how he acted. What sort of punishment would Master like Kreacher to use?” the elf asked.
Harry looked at him in despair. “I don’t want you to ever hurt yourself for any wrong, Kreacher. That’s an order…no more punishment! Whatever wrong you think you’ve done, just tell me about it and we’ll figure it out. And as for your son,” Harry continued, Kreacher suddenly looking fearful, “he will always have a home with us. We will take good care of him regardless of anything that happens; do you understand?”
Harry looked down at the tiny elf in his arms and said, “And if you want to name him Dobby….well….I can think of no better name for a house elf.”
Kreacher beamed at this and held his arms out to take his son home. Just to make sure, Kreacher asked, “Is Master Harry sure it is okay for Kreacher to name his son Dobby?”
“It’s the greatest news I’ve had in days, Kreacher. Thanks,” Harry said with a sad smile. Kreacher left with Dobby to go home, and Harry felt depleted.
“That was really nice, Harry,” Hermione said.
“I was hoping to break the tradition, but I think Kreacher would have been too upset,” Harry said, forlornly.
“Whether or not you want to be, Harry, I think you and Ron have joined S.P.E.W. by more than just listening. You both learned the hard way,” Hermione said, not unkindly.
“I just don’t want him to live in fear of me, Hermione. I invited Winky to live with us because Kreacher had promised to look after her. Then they were, well, you know. Now I’m responsible for another elf! Don’t worry though, we’ll remind him of Elfish Rights from the first,” Harry told his friend.
Hermione spent most of her time in the library, where the best resources were located. Harry, Ginny and Ron decided to join her one evening, with just a few days of exams left, when the common room had become too loud.
As they approached they could hear Draco saying, “I’m never going to be able to learn all of this stuff in time! They’re going to chuck me in Azkaban!”
“They won’t, Draco. Remember, McGonagall said you could stay here as long as you need to in order to get the required grade. If you don’t think you can pass it this time, you can wait and take it next year.”
“I don’t honestly think I can take another year here, though. Everyone will be so much younger than me. I just want to get out of here and move on, maybe start dating.”
They could see Hermione patting Draco’s hand, with her arm around his shoulders. “I wouldn’t worry about that right now. You’re young and you’ll find someone who’s right for you, someone who’ll support you.”
She said it in a practiced tone, indicating they’d had this discussion before. “Now, why don’t we go over the muggle British government again?”
Ron had stopped dead and pulled out his wand. “So, what’s going on here?” he shouted.
“As you can see, we’re studying,” Hermione said, in an exasperated tone.
“With your arm around him? I don’t suppose he produces a Patronus cause he loves you and me so much!” Ron yelled, even louder than before.
“Don’t you even dare!” Hermione said, rising from her seat and pointing at his wand.
“Shouting in the library? Wands raised? What do you think you’re doing?” Madam Pince said, glowering at Ron. “Get out, now!”
Ron turned on his heel and fled the library.
“God, he needs to get a grip!” Hermione said, under her breath.
“Aren’t you going to go after him?” Ginny asked her friend quietly.
“What for? He’s got everything all figured out. I can’t take the jealousy anymore, honestly. I just don’t have the time or the patience right now.”
“I’ll go talk to him,” Harry volunteered.
“I’ll stay and work. I’ll wind up yelling at him if I go with you,” Ginny said, shaking her head. “I can help Draco too, so Hermione can get some of her own work done.”
Harry nodded and left to find Ron.
Hermione was rather moody as she slammed a book shut and opened another.
Draco looked over to Hermione and said, “You know, I’m not sure I understand why you even put up with his nonsense.”
“No offense,” he added to Ginny.
“None taken, Draco. I’m very well aware that Ron can be rather pig-headed, especially where Hermione’s concerned,” Ginny explained.
Hermione just rolled her eyes and said, “You know, I really thought he’d finally started to grow up. I suppose I should have known better. Am I not allowed to have any friends?”
“He’s insecure, Hermione,” Ginny pointed out.
“Well, I don’t know how many times I can tell him that I’m with him and that’s where I want to stay. Either he doesn’t believe me or he doesn’t feel that way himself,” she said dejectedly.
“He loves you, Hermione, I’m sure of it. Have you two actually talked about going out and your love for each other or did you just assume after the final battle that everything would work itself out?” Ginny asked wisely.
Hermione wiped her eyes on her sleeve and said, “No, we haven’t really talked about anything like that. There have been too many other concerns and half the time we just fall into bed exhausted.”
“You need to talk to him,” Draco said, then looking down awkwardly. “What I mean to say is that you need to tell him how you feel. As much as it hurt to break things off with Pansy, I felt quite a bit better once I’d told her how I felt.”
Ginny looked at him with a bit of surprise on her face. She couldn’t imagine a more unlikely person to be trying to comfort Hermione and give her advice.
“I know, but right now I’m really angry with him and there’s too much work that needs to be done. I’ll worry about it after the exams are over,” Hermione said, burying herself in her book.
Ginny shared a look with Draco and moved closer to help him with his Muggle Studies work.
Meanwhile, after checking the ‘common’ common room and the D.A. room, Harry wasn’t sure where to look for Ron.
He ran into Neville in the Gryffindor common room. “Have you seen Ron?” he asked.
“Yeah, I saw him run up to our dorms,” Neville said. “I wasn’t sure if I should follow him or not. You want me to go up there with you?”
“Sure,” Harry said, “I’m not certain what to say anyhow.”
They climbed the stairs to the seventh year boys’ dormitory to find Ron pacing around the room in a circle.
“What?” Ron asked, rounding on them.
“I was just going to ask you the same thing?” Harry said in reply.
“Why does she have to do stuff like that? Has she been sneaking around with him all summer?” Ron asked, frightened.
“Well, they obviously aren’t sneaking around. They were sitting in the middle of the library and it was pretty apparent that they’d been studying,” Harry said sarcastically. “Do you honestly not trust her?”
“Of course I trust her!”
“Doesn’t sound like it to me,” Neville pointed out. “If you trusted her you wouldn’t be asking whether or not she’s been seeing someone else. Who was it by the way?”
“Malfoy; she’s been helping him with his Muggle Studies homework so he can pass his N.E.W.T.” Harry explained. Neville seemed a bit surprised but chose not to comment on that revelation.
“Of all the people too! Malfoy! He’s never happy unless he’s screwing us around,” Ron said angrily.
“I think Hermione’s the one you need to talk to about this, but she’s pretty upset with you right now,” Harry told him.
“She’s upset with me? I’m upset with her! How could she be upset with me?” he asked, rambling.
“Because you got jealous again, without cause,” Harry reminded him.
“Well, I just don’t like to see her with her arms around another bloke! You’re one thing, but Malfoy’s quite another!” Ron exclaimed.
“If you’ll remember, you tried to curse me on the train and when that didn’t work you punched me, Ron.”
“He punched you?” Neville asked, struggling not to laugh.
“Yeah, but I apologized for that,” Ron said, sighing.
“You almost did it again. If Madam Pince hadn’t interrupted you, you would have cursed Malfoy,” Harry pointed out.
Ron looked a bit sheepish and said, “Yeah, I guess I might have.”
“You might want to start working on your apologies. Is there anything in the book about it?” Harry suggested.
Ron shrugged and reminded him that all of his books were in Hermione’s dorm. So Neville and Harry accompanied Ron to the Head Dormitory. Harry levitated him up the steps to avoid the slide and Ron slipped into her room, coming down with the book.
The three men sat near the fireplace in the common room. There weren’t many students in there as most were in the new common room or else the library. Harry pulled out his Transfiguration notes to try to study, while he waited for Ron.
“So, what kind of a book is that?” Neville asked, peering over Ron’s shoulder.
“The key to women, mate,” Ron said sagely. “When’s your birthday? I’ll get you a copy.”
“End of July,” Harry supplied, absently.
Neville looked at him curiously and asked, “How do you know when my birthday is? I don’t remember ever telling you.”
Harry caught himself up short. He hesitated for a moment and mumbled, “Albus told me when we were talking about the prophecy.”
“What do you mean? Why would my birthday have anything to do with the prophecy?” Neville asked, thoroughly confused. Ron had stopped his search in the book and looked up as well.
Harry briefly recited the prophecy and said, “It could have referred to either of us. The only reason it wound up being me was because I was the one who Voldemort assumed it meant. If he’d gone after you, then it would have referred to you.”
Neville’s mouth hung open. Harry gave a half-smile and said, “I thought it rather fitting that you stood up to him and killed Nagini.”
“You never said it could have been Neville,” Ron said.
“It didn’t really matter. Like I said, it all depended on Voldemort’s actions. He chose me,” Harry said. Ron and Neville stared at him in stunned silence. Harry decided to change the topic and said, “So, any luck on apologies?”
Ron looked down at the book again to resume his search. “Ah, here we go. Flowers or jewelry or chocolate are always nice accompaniments for when you’re in deep trouble with your witch. Also, make sure you are completely sincere in your apology or else she’s likely to hex you. Blimey, maybe I should sneak out and get something from Hogsmeade.”
“I don’t think you have time for that right now. If she won’t talk to you later tonight, then go down and pick something up tomorrow after class. We have the afternoon off, remember?” Harry said.
Ron nodded and began to look sick as he contemplated how he was going to try to apologize to his girlfriend.
“Do you think I should go back there now?” Ron asked.
Neville shook his head and said, “No. I don’t know much about women, but I’d say it’s better to let her cool off first.”
But Hermione did not cool off. She took one look at Ron, Harry and Neville sitting by the fireplace and stalked off to her room. A few minutes later all of Ron’s possessions sat in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.
“I don’t think she’s going to cool off tonight, Ron,” Neville whispered.
“I guess not,” Ron whispered back in a frightened voice. He looked at Harry. “What do I do now?”
“Get yourself to Hogsmeade tomorrow and get some damn good apology gifts,” Harry suggested. “I’d better go to bed. Transfiguration is bound to be a nightmare tomorrow.”
Harry tried to wait up for Ginny, but fell asleep before she returned.
In the morning, he asked her about what had happened with Hermione after he’d left and told her about what Hermione had done once reaching Gryffindor Tower. They found the couple having words as they walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast.
“Look, Ron, I really don’t have time to deal with this right now,” Hermione said.
“Hermione, I’m sorry. I know that I can be a bit jealous, but I don’t really mean it,” Ron pleaded.
“I don’t want to hear it, Ron,” she replied vacantly.
“Well, you will hear about it, ‘Mione, cause it’s important! Do you just want to let this die?” he half-yelled.
“I don’t know. Like I said, we will deal with this when we get home. There’s too much going on right now,” she told him, walking away.
Ron went to Hogsmeade and spent a small fortune on sweets from Honeydukes, flowers and had even visited the jeweler’s. But the candy, flowers and necklace were thrown back in his face. He wasn’t sure what else he could do, but he’d decided that he would be relentless once the exams were over and they could relax. He continued to be as courteous to Hermione as he could and she reacted in kind, but it was rather strained.
Harry and Ron snuck quietly under the Invisibility Cloak through the school the night before the end of the year feast, their arms loaded. The doors to the Great Hall creaked slightly as they closed, behind them.
“Should have thought to ask Malfoy for his hand of Glory, shouldn’t we? We’ll have to light our wands,” Harry said. All they could do was cast the Muffliato and hope that no one would see the light from under the door.
Stealthily, they strategically placed their pranks around the room and covered them with Disillusionment Charms.
“Make sure you remember where you put them so we can tell everyone else in the morning,” Harry warned.
“Uh….right,” Ron said, looking around the room. “No, I remember where they are. Whew! They could have been stuck there forever. Could you imagine if someone accidentally set them off? Minerva would kill us!”
Arriving back at the dormitory a short while later, the Fat Lady yawned and said, “I sincerely hope that this is the last time you two wake me up in the middle of the night.”
“We hope so too,” Harry mused.
The hours until the closing feast seemed to fly. Before they knew it, they were descending the staircases for dinner.
Harry tried as hard as he could to keep his face straight.
“Can you believe this is it? It’s our last meal here as students!” Hermione said wistfully.
“I’ve still got a whole year left,” Ginny said with a grimace.
Minerva stood, bringing a halt to all conversation.
“I just wanted to say a few words before everyone leaves for the evening. I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad with the graduation of this class. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a class that has gone through more turmoil than yours. Yet you met it willingly and with distinction. I am extremely proud of all of you and Hogwarts will miss you greatly. But our loss is the greater Wizarding World’s gain. I think I speak for all of the staff when I say it was a pleasure to teach you.”
The hall erupted in applause from the students and staff alike.
“Now,” Harry muttered.
He cast his spell first with a swish under the table, raising the tables and benches into the air a few feet. The moment everyone’s feet were off the floor, Neville set off the swamps which swam in from the walls. Hermione and Ron aimed at the corners behind the staff table in a synchronized motion while Ginny and Luna hit the back two.
“Mssrs. Moony, Padfoot, Prongs, Gred and Forge live on! Go Marauders!” spelled the fireworks over the staff table. Others exploded into wolves, stags, great black dogs and silver weasels that gamboled around the Great Hall.
The staff had a hard time holding amused smiles back, while Hagrid laughed delightedly and Filch scowled. The students were screaming their delight at the sparklers. Minerva’s lips were drawn into a thin line. Harry couldn’t tell if she wished to emulate Hagrid or Filch.
“Miss Granger, I don’t know how you are holding everyone up like that, but I insist you let them down at once,” Minerva shouted over the din.
“I can’t, Professor, Harry’s doing it. But don’t you think that our feet and robes might get muddy?” Hermione shouted back and Harry let everyone drop a few inches. There were quite a few shrieks as people pulled their feet up, although they were still far enough from the ground not to get soiled.
“Ron, you’d better get rid of that swamp,” Ginny suggested, taking note of the frown that now marred the Headmistress’s brow. Ron waved his arm at the swamp, performing the countercharm and Harry gently let the students back down.
Minerva came striding down from the head table, not pausing as she passed the Gryffindor table. “Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, Mr. Longbottom, Miss Lovegood!” she intoned.
They didn’t need to ask if she wished them to follow and smiled amongst themselves as they departed the Great Hall to a great deal of appreciative muttering.
Minerva didn’t say a word until they’d reached her office.
“That was extremely foolish of you, Potter,” she finally said as she sank into her seat behind the desk. “What if you’d dropped them?”
Harry’s mouth fell open. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but that certainly wasn’t it. “I wouldn’t have dropped them!” he exclaimed indignantly. “How could you think that of me, Minerva?”
His familiar use of her name seemed only to incense her further and her nostrils flared. He continued, “Can you honestly say you wouldn’t have been disappointed if we hadn’t pulled at least one prank during our time here? You have to admit it was amusing and a fun way to honor the Marauders.”
“I have to admit nothing, Harry,” she said, although her voice had softened somewhat and Harry noticed her renewed use of his first name. She waved her hand at the students and said in an exasperated tone, “So, now what am I going to do with you?”
“May I suggest not allowing them to take the train home tomorrow?” Albus said with an amused expression.
“Thanks for your input, Albus,” Minerva replied wryly. “Very well, the six of you will come up here before breakfast tomorrow to Floo to your respective homes,” she said, in a resigned tone, after a few moments of contemplation.
Not one of them was upset with this announcement, which meant that they could avoid the crowds at Platform 9 ¾.
Harry dared to smile and whispered, “Thanks.”
“I may yet change my mind about punishing you, Potter. You are all dismissed,” she said and they turned to leave.
“I still say he was reckless, Albus,” she said defiantly, looking at the portrait behind her desk.
“Minerva, Harry sacrificed his life to keep those students safe. Do you honestly think he would cause them injury?” he replied. Then he said wistfully, “I only wish I’d been able to watch it all, but bringing my portrait into the Great Hall might have been a bit of a giveaway.”
The students hadn’t gotten past the gargoyle when they heard Minerva explode with, “You knew about this?!!”
“Run!” Ron shouted and they sprinted down the hall. “Blimey, I wouldn’t want to be Albus right now,” he said, as they slowed once a safe distance was between them and the headmistress.
“Well, he could always just go visit a different portrait, right?” Neville observed.
“She’ll just be even more upset with him if he leaves now,” Hermione said, Ginny nodding beside her.
The six friends entered the new common room amid raucous cheers. As they sat and things began to quiet down, Seamus stood and said, “I think tonight is a time for celebration.” He pulled a large everlasting bottle of Ogden’s Best Firewhiskey out from under his robes and began conjuring glasses.
Catching Hermione’s look of disapproval he said, “I’ll only give it to those of age, I promise.”
With her facial expression unchanging, Harry said, “Come on, we deserve a break after all the work we’ve done.”
Ginny forced a glass into Hermione’s hand and she reluctantly accepted it. Harry could see Seamus handing out glasses all around the room, and he was quite certain that many of the students he’d included weren’t of age yet. Harry thought that as Head Boy he should probably yell at Seamus for it, but didn’t have the heart. Most of the students in the room had fought in the Battle and had worked quite hard over the last two months to get to this moment of peace.
Ron stood up and said, “Just to let everyone know, Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes will be opening tomorrow at ten.”
There were a great many cheers to this announcement and people were celebrating gloriously.
“So, what’s everyone going to be doing?” asked a slightly drunken Hermione. Seamus had handed her three shots almost in a row, obviously hoping to catch her off guard. It seemed to have worked, as she hadn’t refused them.
Dean, who was sitting on a couch with Luna in his lap, said, “Well, Luna’s got another year here. Seamus and I are going to apply to the Auror Department if we get the grades.”
Seamus spoke up, from beside Lavender and asked Harry, “Are they taking on any more new recruits? I heard that they’ve already hired you and Ron.”
“I have no idea. We haven’t even been to work yet. We just nabbed a few Death Eaters at Malfoy Manor….and obviously a couple at the Burrow, as well,” Harry told him.
“We’re not quite in the Auror Department yet, Seamus. We still have to pass the exams in a few days,” Ron told him. “But if we make it, we’ll put in a good word for the two of you. Does anyone know when we can expect our exam results?”
Hermione, who seemed to have forgotten her argument with Ron, sat beside him and said, “We should have them by the end of next week. They’re going to rush things a bit because of the circumstances.”
“That’s good,” Parvati piped in, “because it’s rather difficult to apply for a job if you don’t have your grades. Lavender and I are going to try for the Healing Program at St. Mungo’s.”
“What about you, Neville?” Harry asked.
“Well, there’s an expedition to Africa with this Herbology Troop that starts some time in October. I was hoping I might be able to join that. There’s no pay, but the experience would be handy,” he replied.
“Oh, Nevvy, you’d be gone too long,” Parvati said with a pout.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” he told her in a placating tone. They’d been arguing almost constantly during the exams, but seemed to have made up once the tension had lifted.
Harry shared a look with Ginny. She thought that they’d eventually break up, but apparently that was still to be put off. They avoided looking at Ron and Hermione, who seemed to be making up nonverbally.
“Do you know what Draco’s decided to do?” Harry asked, knowing that she’d been helping him with Muggle Studies.
She grimaced slightly before saying, “Well, he’s rather upset with you. He’s going to take the O.W.L. to see if he can pass that first. I can’t say that I blame him. I’m not even sure how those who were supposed to take that N.E.W.T. were going to pass, let alone never having taken the normal class to begin with.”
Harry felt a bit bad that Draco would have to stay at school for yet another year, and said, “You think I was harsh with him.”
She said, “No, I think you were fair. You could have just let him go to Azkaban, but you didn’t. You gave the Wizengamot an option. Usually they only see black and white; you made them see gray. Draco will be happy for it in the end, I’m sure.”
Harry wasn’t so sure about that, but Draco wasn’t his primary concern at the moment.
Dudley and Susan suddenly came into the room, sitting with Harry and their friends. Dudley had a large case of beer under his arm and immediately offered some to the older students.
Dudley whispered, “Just don’t tell anyone. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to give beer to students. But I thought we could all use a bit of a break.”
“Not at all, Dudley,” Ginny said, welcomingly. “Seamus has some Firewhiskey there as well. Feel free to help yourself.”
“Think I’ll stick to the beer, thanks. Firewhiskey isn’t quite to my taste; a bit too strong. I know my beer, and it knows me,” he said with a laugh.
“So what are you going to be doing, Susan?” Hermione asked with a hiccup. Everyone shared a look, wondering just how much Firewhiskey she’d consumed thus far, considering her recent snog with Ron.
“I’m not sure yet. My father wanted me to join him in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, but I’m really not sure. I’ll see what openings are available and figure it out from there, I suppose,” she replied.
Dudley pulled a grimace and said, “I think I’ll wait to see what sorts of grades my students got on their tests before I even consider keeping this job.”
Ron looked particularly sympathetic and said, “Well, remember that all of your students were taught by someone who was just teaching them to hate muggles, not to learn about them.”
“Oh, Ron,” Hermione said, leaning into him, “I’m sure the examiners understand that no one had a proper Muggle Studies class this past year! They’ll take that into account.”
Still leaning on Ron, she turned her head to address Dudley and said, “But you do realize that for a lot of wizards, learning about muggles isn’t easy.”
Dudley looked at her with an amused expression and said, “Uh, yeah, I kind of figured that part out. After all, I’d never heard of ekeltricity before Mr. Weasley came to my house.”
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at Dudley’s attempt at a joke and soon all of those who knew the proper name for electricity were roaring with laughter, while Dudley looked on with a pleased gaze.
“You know, Harry, I find myself quite envious of you, having lived here for all of these years and learning all of these things,” Dudley said thoughtfully.
Dudley frowned then and looked at his cousin closely, “Look, Harry, I really think that you should see Mum.”
Harry responded, “Look, Dudley, it’s different.”
“She needs to see you and you need to see her, Harry. I’m no expert in psychology or anything, but you two need to sort everything out. You had to live with her for all of those years, but she had to live with you too. You know it can’t have been easy for her,” Dudley said tentativally.
“Yeah, Dud?” Harry asked aggressively, standing and turning away. “She did everything she could to thwart me, Dudley….everything. Why? Because she was jealous; this was all because of jealousy!”
Dudley stood up and went to face Harry. “I know,” Dudley said quietly. “But you both need to deal with these demons in your closet.”
Harry knew that pain flickered across his face, but it didn’t really matter anymore. Dudley grabbed his shoulder and said, “I know. I know how I treated you and how I hurt you. I don’t deserve the kind treatment that you’ve given me, nor do my parents. But you owe it to yourself to make your peace with her. As much as I love my parents, I’m really quite a bit ashamed of them. A child can’t help what happens to him, no matter what world he comes from.”
Harry still did not say anything but just looked at Dudley. Finally Dudley said, “Look, would you feel better if I was there?”
“Perhaps, but she will have to meet me on my terms not hers. She will have to come to my house,” Harry said.
Dudley said, “I think that can be arranged. Send Fawkes to me and we’ll figure out a date.”
“GO DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY!” Hermione screamed, with a manic grin on her face. Ron caught her as she almost hit the floor.
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