The story soon spread that Harry was going to give ‘a talk’, though those who knew what it was actually going to be about were very few. Speculation was rampant in the Gryffindor common room where the young people went after seeking out the rest of the Weasleys to tell them about the upcoming meeting. But the foursome said nothing as they talked together and visited with their friends a bit like old times until it was nearly time for it to begin.
“Go on,” Harry told them. “I’ll meet you there, I promise.”
“Why don’t you just come with us?” Ginny asked. They were all up in the boy’s dormitory again getting ready to leave for the meeting and the talk Harry would give.
“I’m going to go under the cloak. I don’t really want anyone to know where I’m going that we haven’t invited, you know?” he said. “When you leave, just tell them all …I don’t know….tell them I’ve gone to bed.”
“They’ll know you didn’t as soon as they come up here mate,” Ron pointed out.
“Well, just tell them anything, but I don’t want them hanging about,” Harry insisted. “Just make sure you take Neville, Luna, and Dean with you.”
“Why Dean?” Ginny asked.
“He was at Shell Cottage with us,” Hermione said.
“Why wasn’t I there!” Ginny demanded.
“Just go…please,” Harry said. “I’ll explain afterwards if you want.”
Ginny glared at him and folded her arms across her chest. “Alright, I’ll go. But I’ll see you there, right?”
“Ginny,” Harry caught her arm as she turned to go. “Save me a seat, okay? Next to you?”
Ginny turned towards him with a slight frown. There was a look on his face that made him look particularly vulnerable. “Alright Harry. I can do that,” she said.
He nodded. “Good. I’ll be right behind you,” he promised and he pulled his cloak from his rucksack and threw it over his head.
The foursome shuffled out, making up excuses for leaving again. They left together though it only looked like three instead of four leaving the common room.
“Let’s split up,” Ron suggested. “Hermione and I will go the long way. We’ll see you there.”
“Good,” Harry said from somewhere to the left of Ron.
Ginny felt him grab her hand and pull her beneath the cloak with him. “Finally,” he murmured. “I have you all to myself.”
“I heard that Potter,” Ron said. “You may be invisible but I can still hear where you are.”
Harry chuckled and Ginny giggled as Harry led her swiftly away.
Ginny held Harry’s hand as he led her through the castle’s shortcuts until they finally came to a passage not far from their destination that was utterly deserted. Here Harry stopped and pulled the cloak off of them both.
“How are you?” he asked as they panted trying to catch their breath.
“Good,” she said.
“You’re face looks better,” Harry said. “Was that a curse wound?”
“Yes. It didn’t get me directly though so Madam Pomfrey doesn’t think it will leave a scar. I’m supposed to drink this stuff four times a day, but it’s horrible.” She pulled a tiny potions bottle from a pocket of her sweater.
“Me too,” Harry told her. “Only I’m supposed to take it six times a day.”
“For how long?” Ginny asked curiously.
“Really? Mine is just for today.”
Harry grinned at her as he leaned up against the passage wall.
“Thanks for coming with me today,” he told her.
“Harry,…” she said. “I’m glad I did, I think, but I don’t have a clue what is going on…what that was all about at Dumbledore’s tomb, and that painting? That was just weird, you know?.”
“I know,” Harry told her pulling her towards him. “The talk will help, I think. Just don’t hate me afterwards.”
Ginny frowned. “Why should I?”
Harry looked down at his feet. “It wasn’t easy Ginny. I’m so … scarred. There isn’t any other word for it. I can’t believe you’d actually want someone as damaged as me.”
“You are not damaged Harry,” Ginny insisted.
Harry studied her. “Why don’t you wait until you hear the story before you decide that. Then, if you change your mind, I’ll understand.”
“Well I won’t!” she declared and she pulled him into a long deep kiss. After days or what felt like at least hours but was probably only a few minutes, they pulled apart again and Harry found himself lost in her beautiful brown eyes. “Do you believe me?” she asked as she watched him pull himself together again.
“Yes.” He looked at her some more.
“Perhaps we should go?” she suggested.
“Of course,” Harry said and he set about folding the cloak away. “You go in first. I’ll come in a few minutes after and sit down beside you.”
Ginny nodded. “See you in a bit.”
Harry watched her leave, then pressed himself back against the firm cold stone that lined the passage. He closed his eyes, after months of secrecy this was it, it was time to tell.
Harry emerged from the passageway and walked along the corridor a short way to the classroom Professor McGonagall had set aside for their meeting. He paused outside the door steadying himself before walking in. Harry opened the door to find all eyes immediately upon him.
The Weasleys were all there, even Percy it had been decided should be part of this bit, though perhaps he would eventually know less than the rest. Much of the staff from Hogwarts was there, including Hagrid who waved at Harry enthusiastically as he joined them. Some but not all of the Order of the Phoenix members were also in the room, gathered around a very long broad table. It was curved a bit on the sides, wider in the middle than at the ends so that no matter where one sat it would be possible to see the faces of all who where there. Silently Harry walked the length of the table, taking a seat along the side near one end beside Ginny and across from Hermione and Ron. They rose to greet him with a nervous smile. He locked eyes with each of them then sat down.
“Hello,” Harry began nervously. “I know you all have questions. I know you all want to know various things about what happened, how it was we came to win this war. I’m going to try to tell you what I know about that. I’m afraid I don’t know everything either. I’m not sure anyone does…no scratch that, Dumbledore probably did, but he’s not here now. He did however tell me some things and this is where I’d like to begin.”
He glanced around the table looking for agreement or objection or some indication that they would be content to listen to this. He looked at Mrs. Weasley who looked worried but smiled encouragingly at him. There was Mr. Weasley sitting beside her nodding, surrounded by Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy and George. Beside him sat Hagrid, huge and hairy, just happy to be included in what he considered to be Harry’s finest hour. Little professor Flitwick was there too, along with Professor Slughorn, Professor Sprout, and curiously Professor Bins, and Harry wondered if what he said would eventually become part of some dry History of Magic lesson that no one would be able to sit through again without falling asleep. Curiously missing was Professor Trelawney, though Harry reflected that she was probably happier not know what part she had played in all of this. Sitting uncomfortably beside Professor Bins was Neville, Luna and Dean. There were spaces then and Harry thought of Tonks, Lupin, and Sirius, they had deserved to know this too, but it was too late to tell them. Finally sat Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt, That was everyone, everyone Harry trusted to hear the story in any form.
“Okay,” he said taking a deep breath. “All of this…most of what I’m going to tell you began with the battle at the Ministry nearly two years ago. As you all know, the incident there involved a prophesy and Professor Dumbledore was there. Probably what you don’t know is what it said.”
“It was smashed,” Neville said.
“That’s right it was.” Mr. Weasley agreed. “So no one knew what it said. Everyone in the Order knew that and hoped it meant we were safer than we had been.”
“I don’t know about that. Yes, the recording of it was destroyed,” Harry confirmed. “But the original prophesy was made to Professor Dumbledore nearly eighteen years ago. He told me afterwards what it said.”
Harry began with the prophesy and what it said, quoting it line for line, slowly enough for it’s meaning to sink in. He caught the sharp look from Neville when it did. Clearly the other boy had never known that this could have been his story instead.
“It was when Voldemort killed my parents that I was marked, destined if you will to do what the prophesy said. Dumbledore knew that and so he tried to prepare me for that task.
“Starting at the beginning of my sixth year, Professor Dumbledore began giving me lessons,” Harry shared. “Well he called them lessons. They were more like meetings where he shared bits of what he knew about Tom Riddle’s life and the man who eventually became Lord Voldemort, how he liked to collect trophies and had a particular interest in a certain type of dark magic. He told me that he believed Riddle had used this dark magic to make objects that would effectively render him immortal.” At this he saw professor Slughorn go furiously red from his mustache all the way up to his very bald head. “I won’t tell you exactly how Dumbledore figured this all out – I’m not sure I exactly understand it all myself, but he knew by the end of that year that there were seven of them. He also knew that two by that time had been destroyed, one accidentally by me in my second year, the other by Professor Dumbledore himself. He told me that how he destroyed it had something to do with how he hurt his hand.”
And so Harry continued, telling the story, although in abbreviated form, never quite telling them what the dark objects were, though he felt fairly certain that Professor Slughorn knew. He told them all about how he and Dumbledore had worked together to figure out what each of the dark objects was and how Voldemort couldn’t be destroyed as long as those objects were around, how Dumbledore had started the search for the rest of them himself. “One thing though,” Harry continued, “Once he had actually found one, he was injured when he tried to destroy it. He told me that the injury would eventually be fatal, and so he chose to devise the time and manner of his own death devising that it would happen in a way that would protect both Draco and the school. He had Professor Snape kill him according to that plan.” There were gasps all around the table at that.
“The night Professor Dumbledore died,” Harry continued, “we had been out in search of another of the objects Lord Voldemort had hidden away. We didn’t find it because someone had gotten there before us, but we did encounter several forms of dark magic that had been put there by Lord Voldemort to protect the place. Fighting the dark magic weakened him,” Harry explained. “He was ready to die. But when he did, he made sure to tell me that other than Ron and Hermione, I wasn’t to tell anyone else what we had been up to. If Voldemort had ever caught wind of what we were doing… well let’s just say, it would have been bad. So last summer, with Ron and Hermione’s help, I took up the hunt where Dumbledore and I left off.”
He stopped speaking for a bit, looking around the table at the stunned faces all around him. Mrs. Weasley in particular looked horrified and Harry was glad that she hadn’t known. He continued by telling them how they had tracked the locket to the ministry, and a very little bit about their adventure there. He told them about Godric’s Hollow and the snake, but mentioned nothing of what they’d learned about the Deathly Hallows there. He told them of the visions he had begun seeing, the flashes of insight into Voldemort’s actions while they were there, the visions he’d had about his parent’s death, and how he’d learned for himself how exactly they had died, about how the silver doe had visited them in the forest and how Ron had retrieved the sword and destroyed the locket once and for all. He left out key details about their experiences in wearing such a dark thing and the trouble between them it had caused. He glossed over other bits here and there, skating over much of what had happened to them at Malfoy Manor. Dean and Luna stared at him for that, but Harry ignored them and pressed on. He wanted this over with and done.
Harry continued by telling them of their escape and of Dobby’s death. Many of them had all been there for that, but they hadn’t know of the trio’s discovery that one of the objects they sought was being stored in the Wizarding bank. Harry’s version of their visit to Gringotts was also simplified and left out a few key details, but he left in the part about the multiplying treasure and their escape on the dragon. That had just been cool.
“Which brought us here,” Harry continued. “I knew from seeing through Voldemort’s eyes that the last object we sought, or what I thought was the last object except of course for the snake, was here.” At this he paused and looked again towards Neville and Luna, and then at Professor McGonagall. “Neville took care of that one. Thank you Neville,” Harry said.
“No problem Harry. But what about the one in the castle?” Neville asked.
“I presume that was the object you mentioned you were looking for?” Professor McGonagall asked.
“Yes. We found it, and Draco Malfoy helped to destroy it,” Harry explained. There was quite a bit of surprised murmurings about that.
“But once we had done that, and before Neville did the snake, Ron, Hermione and I went to the Shrieking Shack to try to find it.”
“Why in the world would you go to look for it there?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“Because that’s where Voldemort was, at the beginning of the battle. I thought from the visions that he might be there, and that is where we found him,” Harry explained. “The snake was there, but so was Professor Snape, so we waited trying to find the moment to attack, but before we could the professor was killed.” Harry paused again before continuing. “He saw us before he died and gave us… gave me some of his memories,” Harry explained. “I used Professor Dumbledore’s pensive to see what they contained.” Harry shrugged. “I thought that maybe, there was information there that might help.”
“Was there?” George asked curiously.
“A bit,” Harry said. He drew a sharp breath, trying to decide how much to say before continuing. “I learned through the pensive that Professor Snape had information that I didn’t. Information Dumbledore didn’t want me to have until the very end. We were fighting in the castle, I thought it must be the end.”
Everyone nodded at that reasoning.
“What I learned was…well I had known for a while that when a person kills someone, that it damages their soul, that it tears it, sometimes into pieces. Sometimes apparently, if a person, a dark wizard perhaps kills enough people their soul becomes so damaged, so unstable that pieces of it can just come off, and potentially get lost like that. What I learned was that at Godric’s Hollow, on the night my parents died, on the night Voldemort disappeared, when he tried to kill me, this is what happened to him.”
Now Harry paused again, his eyes fixed on the very center of the table. Ron and Hermione tried to catch his gaze but he utterly refused them. “It was my mother’s magic that protected me. She chose to die in her attempt to protect me. She had a choice. She could have lived. Dumbledore said that put a special kind of magic into my blood. So that when Voldemort tried to curse me, it rebounded, killing him. But it didn’t actually kill him, just his body was gone, but that act split off part of his soul as I said.” Harry paused again. “What Dumbledore told Snape that he didn’t tell me was that on that night, that fraction of Voldemort’s soul that got split off, attached itself to the only living thing left in that house after Voldemort collapsed. That was me. The killing curse made my scar, but that’s also where it attached itself to me. I knew then that as long as that piece of soul existed in me, Voldemort could never be killed. Ron, Hermione, and Neville knew about the snake, but this last bit, that was going to be up to me.”
A gasp escaped from the other end of the table occupied by the Weasleys as Harry heard Mrs. Weasley gasp. “Oh Harry!”
Harry’s voice shook now as he spoke. “So then, I knew what I needed to do. I threw on my cloak and went to meet him in the forest. I found him there, in the hallow that used to belong to the spiders, and I was determined then to try to do what my mother did. I had a choice whether to go there, whether to fight, but I knew the magic wouldn’t work right for those I left behind if I did. So I just did it. I stood there and he cast the killing curse at me again.”
Harry nearly stopped there. Flashes of his walk into the forest, of his trembling hands, of his fear and doubts about meeting his own death flooded back to him and threatened to over come him. Slowly however he reminded himself to breathe and though his body shook, he went on.
“I’m not sure I can explain what happened next exactly. I did talk to Dumbledore. He told me that Voldemort’s killing curse had actually killed the bit of himself that was in my head. He tried to explain to me more about blood magic, about how I was tied to the Earth because of how Voldemort had used some of my blood to create his own body on the night that he returned. I don’t know, it was actually quite complicated and I didn’t understand it really. It might have all been in my head, I’m not sure, but I do know that I had a choice about whether to wake up or not. Dumbledore thought though that if I did there might be a chance of finishing Voldemort for good. I wanted that chance. When I awoke I was lying on the forest floor.”
Hagrid was crying now. “Terrible, just terrible it was, seein’ him lying there, broke, d-d-dead,” he sobbed pulling out his tablecloth sized handkerchief to blow his nose.
“I decided there might be some advantage if Voldemort thought I was dead, though and so I stayed where I was. I didn’t want to give myself away. He sent Narcissa Malfoy to check on me and she lied for me when I told her Draco was still alive. I owe a lot to her,” Harry said and again there were murmurs of surprise. “Voldemort believed it.”
“He did the Cruciatious curse on you!” Hagrid objected. “You never moved!”
“I did fly up a bit into the air,” Harry said remembering, “but he believed it. So did you Hagrid. I was really lucky that he asked you to carry me. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get back up to the castle without him knowing on my own. Then when Neville killed the snake and pandemonium broke loose, I knew that was my chance. I still had my cloak so I threw it over my head and looked for my chance to strike.” Here he hesitated again, his voice a bit stronger. “You were all there. You know the rest,” he finished a bit lamely.
He looked up now and all the eyes in the room were upon him. Silence reigned for a moment, then voices broke out around him, not clear ones, just people talking among themselves.
“Harry,” Neville was the first to speak. “Are you sure you want to answer questions?”
“Not much Neville, but I don’t want to think about this much after this either, so if you have them ask.”
“You were a bit vague about what kind of dark magic that was,” Bill said.
“I intended to be Bill,” Harry said. “It’s probably better if not too much is known about that.”
“I quite agree,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I don’t want any of my children too involved in that.”
“No Mum, I knew you wouldn’t,” Ron said. He glanced anxiously in her direction.
“But you know though?” George asked.
“Of course he does,” Ginny said. “Hermione does too, don’t you Hermione?”
Ever so reluctantly Hermione nodded.
“And you died Harry,” Luna said. “I thought you had.”
“Everyone thought that,” Neville agreed. “And you did, even if you weren’t any more when Hagrid set you down.”
“You should have said somethin’” Hagrid sobbed.
“No, you were right not to Harry. The element of surprise … I don’t think your victory would have had the impact it had without it,” Kingsley agreed.
Harry nodded, glad of the support; he’d been feeling terribly guilty about that.
“But the snake, it was really important then?” Neville asked.
“Yes Neville,” Hermione said. “Harry couldn’t have got rid of him without what you did.”
“She’s right Neville. What you did, standing up to Voldemort like that, as infinitely braver than anything I did. And without it we couldn’t have won the war.”
“Oh come off it Harry. You let him kill you,” Neville objected.
“And he could have killed you as well. I at least knew why I was doing it, I knew or at least I hoped I knew what effect it would have,” Harry insisted. “You didn’t.”
“I trusted you Harry. I knew if you said it was important that it was,” Neville said.
“Like you trusted Dumbledore Harry,” Dean explained.
Harry considered that. How could anyone think of him like that?
“Was all of this, do you think, part of Dumbledore’s plan?” McGonagall asked. “Do you think he knew you would survive?”
“He hoped I would,” Harry said. “Blood magic is rather tricky I hear. He told me he couldn’t be certain before then.”
“You really talked to him?” Ginny asked.
Harry looked at her, looking at him. “Yes I did Gin.”
People talked all around him for a good twenty minutes or more, but nobody asked him any more questions directly, though he thought eventually they probably would. They all knew enough it seemed to realize just how dangerous it might be to know the rest. The students left shortly after this, followed shortly by the teachers and Hagrid.
“Thank you Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said, patting him on the shoulder as she left. “I will consider what you have said, though I may have more questions for you tomorrow.”
“Good night Professor,” Harry said looking up at her from his chair.
“Harry,” Mrs. Weasley came round the table to hug him as they all got up to leave. “You’re coming with us tomorrow to the Burrow? Yes?” she asked.
“Oh, ah. I don’t know Mrs. Weasley. I guess.” Harry said standing up now. He hadn’t actually thought much about what he would do after today. “It sort of depends on if they need me here for a bit.”
“I expect you could use the rest Harry,” Kingsley told him. “After what you’ve shared with us today.”
“I expect we will be in touch though, but as long as you are at the Burrow, at least for the next week or two, we should be able to find you,” Kingsley continued.
Harry glanced back at the Weasleys questioningly.
“Yes,” Mrs. Weasley nodded vigorously. “Tell me you will be there, no arguments.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll be there. When I’m finished here, I’ll go to the Burrow for at least two weeks, Okay?”
“Then that’s settled,” Mr. Weasley agreed. He extended his hand. “Harry, until then!”