Chapter 1 : The End of the Beginning!!
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Harry started to lean on the wall as they descended, since the adrenaline had faded. An incredible weariness overcame him, so that his legs would no longer carry his weight. Both legs failed as he reached the bottom step and he fell forward. Ron grabbed him from behind and Hermione pulled him up on his left side. He was standing sandwiched between the two of them so that they held him up.
“I can’t go anymore,” Harry gasped.
“We have you Harry,” both Hermione and Ron said at the same time. Harry feebly chuckled at seeing how the two of them had become in sync with each other, in spite of themselves.
“I just need to lie down for a little while and rest. Can you get me up to Gryffindor tower?” Harry asked.
Ron and Hermione put Harry’s arms over their shoulders and helped him navigate his way to the Fat Lady's portrait. When the Fat Lady saw them approach, she asked, “Is it true? Is he who must not be named really dead? Is this nightmare really over?”
Harry nodded, “Yes, it’s done.”
“We don’t know the pass word but we need to get in, please,” pleaded Hermione.
“You don’t know the pass word?” the Fat Lady asked.
“No we don’t,” said Harry in frustration.
The fat lady leaned forward in the portrait, placed her hand on the side of her face and in a conspiratorial whisper said, “The pass word is Harry Potter.” The impact of what she had said brought a weary smile to Harry and his friends faces.
“Well, open up for us then,” Ron said, as he shifted Harry’s weight to move through the portal. The three stepped through the opening into the common room and stopped, side by side, to look at the room they had been away from for so long.
“We’re home,” Harry whispered. Ron and Hermione just nodded their heads in agreement, too overcome with emotion to trust their voices.
They made their way across the common room and up the stairs to Ron and Harry’s room. Harry staggered over and collapsed onto his bed. Ron lifted Harry’s legs up and helped him stretch out.
“Keep him awake Ron,” Hermione said, “I’ll be back in a minute.” She rushed out of the door, and Harry could hear her foot steps fade as she went down the stairs. A few minutes later she came back with two vials. She pulled the stopper out of the first one and handed it to Harry.
“Drink this, no arguments,” she ordered. Harry looked up at Hermione with a quizzical look on his face. “It’s a fortifying potion; it’ll help rebuild your strength.”
Harry chugged the liquid down and his eye brows peaked up. “Wow! That taste like Coffee,” Harry observed. Hermione handed him the second vial and told him to drink. Her tone, this time, suggested this potion would not be as good tasting, he was right. The closest he could get to how it tasted was old used socks. Hermione placed her finger on the bottom of the vial and tipped it up so that Harry received every drop. Harry was asleep before his head hit the pillow. Ron pulled the covers over Harry and tucked him in. He moved to the doorway expecting Hermione to join him there, but as he turned, he saw her make three counterclockwise passes over Harry’s head with her wand. When she joined him at the door he peaked an eyebrow.
“What was that all about,” he asked.
“I figured Harry needed some good dreams for a change, he doesn’t need any more nightmares.” Hermione explained.
Ron stood there looking at his friend for a moment, “Yea, I guess he earned them,” Ron agreed with her, as he put his arm around Hermione’s waist and pulled her close. A mild, surprised look crossed her face as she melted into him. She kissed him on the cheek, turned and walked out of the room without glancing back.
Harry stood at the podium in front of the Great Hall. He and Ron were dressed in fine cobalt blue formal robes. Beads of sweat from nerves and fear trickled down Harry’s face and soaked into his robe’s collar. He kept looking at the main doors but couldn’t quite see Ginny.
Ron asked, “are you all right mate?’
Harry looked at him, “No – Yes – No – I don’t know. Oh, help,” Harry gasped.
Ron chuckled, “it’s all right, just breathe.”
“That’s easy for you to say you’re not in my predicament,” Harry retorted.
Shacklebolt, stepped up on the dais and looked at Harry and Ron, “ready, gentlemen, it’s a beautiful morning for a wedding,” he said.
Harry acknowledged him only with a nod of his head as his attention was drawn back to the great doors by the start of the music. Luna was the first to enter, escorted in by Neville, as they reached the dais; each went to their proper side. Next came Hermione, walking in by herself as Ginny’s maid of honor.
Ron choked, “Wow, she’s beautiful.”
Harry turned to his best man and told him in an awed whisper, “If you let her get away, you’d be a true fool, keep that in mind, I want to be your best man someday. Do it soon Ron!!”
Ron’s face changed, not from what Harry had just said but from what he was looking at over Harry’s shoulder. Harry turned around in time to see Ginny and Mr. Weasley step through the great doors. Harry gasped and his knees started to shake, “Oh my!” was all Harry could say.
Ginny was absolutely beautiful. She wore dazzling white robes that shimmered as she walked down the Great Hall’s nave. Her train stretched out behind her some distance and her sleeves were flared out at the top and drew out to points just above the bottom hem of her robe. She wore a simple flower crown with a full veil and blusher. Her father was dressed in a sharp black robe and his face had a smile that could have lit up the rainiest day.
When Ginny saw Harry she tightened up and caught her breath. Arthur stopped at the foot of the dais and turned to Ginny. He lifted her blusher up and over her head and gently kissed her temple.
“Oh, daddy,” Ginny sobbed. Arthur gave her a smile, hug, and winked at her, telling her it was all right without saying a word. Arthur turned to Harry shook his hand and pulled him into a hug.
“Take care of my baby for me Harry,” he whispered. Harry nodded. Arthur took Ginny’s right hand and placed it in Harry’s left hand, he then put his hands on the top and bottom of their hands and a pale blue glow appeared. The intensity increased until it became blindingly bright white, and then disappeared.
Shacklebolt stepped forward. “Who gives this bride's hand in marriage” he intoned, starting the ancient rite of marriage.
“We do,” Arthur and Molly said together. Molly’s voice caught in her throat with a sob.
“Very well,” Shacklebolt accepted. “And who gives this groom’s hand in marriage?” he asked.
"We do,” said Hagrid and Professor McGonagall together. Harry nodded his head in thanks to his two friends that were taking the part of his parents. Hagrid blew his nose, as forceful as a fog horn, into his table cloth size handkerchief.
Shacklebolt, turned to Harry, “Do you Harry James Potter take Ginevra Molly Weasley to be your wife, to have, hold, comfort, and protect so long as you both shall live?” he asked.
“I will, with all my soul, mind, and body. This I swear on my life,” Harry whispered so that only Ginny could hear him.
Shacklebolt turned to Ginny. “Do you Ginevra Molly Weasley take Harry James Potter to be your husband to have, hold, and comfort as long as you both shall live?” he asked again with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.
“I will, with all my soul, mind, and b-b-body,” Ginny said with joy, “This I swear on my life.”
The minister turned to Ronald, “Do you have the rings?” Ron handed Ginny’s ring to Harry, who took it into his left hand, and went to place it on Ginny’s ring finger. Harry started to slide the ring on, but as it crossed the first knuckle, Ron came around behind him and pulled his arm so that the ring came off her finger.
“Harry,” he pulled again, “Harry,” he pulled again “Harry,” Ron said.
Harry pulled his arm away, “Stop it Ron, can’t you see I’m trying to put the ring on her finger?” Harry said as he opened his eyes and saw that he was still in his bed in Gryffindor tower.
“What!!” Harry was lost. He finally realized he had been dreaming, in his bed, all along.
“Harry, you have to come down to the Great Hall right away, there’s trouble, we need you, now!” Harry rolled over, slid his feet into his trainers, got up and started to follow Ron out the door. He had reached the threshold when he realized that he had left his wand on his night stand. Harry pointed his open hand at the night stand and his wand leapt across the room into his out stretched hand.
Ron’s eyes bulged, “bloody hell, Harry, how did you do that?” Ron asked, awe struck.
“I don’t know, I just needed it, and it came,” Harry shrugged. He realized that he had never done anything like that before. He would have to investigate this further, later.
Harry and Ron ran down the steps two and three at a time. When they reached the common room Harry pointed his wand at the portrait hole and the portrait swung open.
Both boys didn’t break stride as they hit the stairwell, again taking two, three, and four steps at a time. Reaching the last stair case, Harry could hear Hermione begging for everyone to stay calm. Harry reached a point on the staircase where he could see into the Great Hall. His heart rate jumped off the scale.
In the corner, to the left of the great doors to the hall, was Lucius Malfoy, standing in front of his wife and son. Draco had his mother pinned into the corner, he was shielding her with his own body, wand held tightly in his hand. Lucius stood in front of Draco. Both father and son were holding off some thirty of the Hogwarts defenders.
Between the two groups stood Hermione, Neville, and Ginny, each producing a visible shield to ward off any actions by either side.
Harry reached the main floor and as he walked toward the hall he flicked his wand, producing two parallel shields some two meters apart. Each shield was some three meters high and ten meters long and composed of hundreds of interlocking triangles that were sparkling bright green. These shields were producing such power that an audible buzz could be heard emanating from them.
“Hermione! Neville! Ginny! Come out from there, I have it,” he said in a voice that allowed for no dissention. The three of them moved toward Harry. Everyone in the hall watched as the power of the shield caused Hermione’s and Ginny’s hair to fluff out as if they were touching a van de Graff generator.
Harry stepped in between the shields and turned towards the Malfoys. “Put your wands down, you will not be attacked,” Harry told Mr. Malfoy. Both father and son held their wands at the ready, still. Narcissa stepped around Draco and placed her hand on Lucius’ arm. He looked at her and lowered his wand.
Harry watched the elder Malfoy. Although he wasn’t an expert in occulmency, he could see what Malfoy was thinking. “You realize, I’m lost,” Lucius whispered to his wife.
She nodded her head. “No one else will die today,” she replied.
Harry turned to the other side. He didn’t have to say anything, his look was enough to have everyone lower their wands and step away. He flicked his wand, once again, and the shield disappeared.
On cue, Shacklebolt and four aurors arrived at the great door. Harry raised his hand to ward off the aurors. Shacklebolt held them back. “Mister Minister, I owe Narcissa Malfoy my life from earlier this morning and I intend on paying it back,” Harry said. He turned to the Malfoys, “if we throw you into Azkaban, nothing good comes from it. I think there’s a different way to settle this, if you’re willing,” he put this forward as an invitation for Lucius to ask what it would be. When there was no response he continued.
“Mr. Malfoy, I’ll give you a choice. You can rot in Azkaban or,” here, Harry paused looking at Lucius, “you can use your wealth to assist those that the war has hurt in some way.”
Narcissa looked at her husband; Lucius looked at her with a quizzical look in his eyes. “Do I get to pick who I help?"
“Yes! So long as it’s everyone,” Harry told him, placing emphasis on each word. “You stay with your family. Muggles, purebloods, and those that are of mixed parentage will be helped,” Harry said. “All we have to do is find someone for you to report to on a weekly basis. If we can’t find anyone then there’s a problem.”
Malfoy looked horror struck; he doubted that anyone would want that responsibility. He was about to turn to the aurors to end his misery. “I’ll do it Harry. He can see me on a weekly basis. I’ll keep the Minister up to date on his progress,” all eyes turned to look at Mr. Weasley. “You have no more chances, but this one,” Arthur told Lucius. “If you screw up this time, I’ll ship you to Azkaban. Have I made myself perfectly understood Lucius?” Arthur said this in a low guttural voice that Harry had never heard him use before. He also noticed a shiver run down Ginny’s back and shoulders. He would ask her about this later.
“That’s settled then. Take your family home Mr. Malfoy,” Harry finished.
Lucius nodded to Harry and Arthur, he put his arm around Narcissa and his hand on Draco’s shoulder and walked out of the Great Hall of Hogwarts.
“Do you think he’ll do it,” Kingsley asked Harry.
“If he doesn’t, I’ll personally throw his sorry ass in Azkaban prison. I’ll put him so deep he’ll never see blue sky again!” That’s not a promise, that’s a vow!” Harry almost whispered under his breath. Listening to Harry at this point, made Kingsley glad that Harry was on his side. In the year since he had last seen him, Harry had changed. He had become an adult, but also a full wizard with power that was palpable to those around him.
Arthur, Kingsley, and Harry turned and started across the Great Hall toward the rest of the Weasleys, Hermione, and Neville. They had come to within a few meters from the group when Ginny charged at Harry and threw her arms around his neck with such force he had to swing her around so as not to be bowled over by the impact. When he was able to stop and put her down, Ginny grabbed the front of his shirt with both of her hands in a death grip. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again, Potter. I though you were dead when Hagrid dropped you on the ground. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you were really gone,” Ginny was almost screaming as her voice broke into a sob. She slapped at his chest several times with her open hand then collapsed into his open arms and started sobbing uncontrollably. All of her toughness had been lost with what she had seen that day.
Harry leaned down toward her; she slipped her hands around his neck and into his hair. She stretched up and gave him a gentle, slow, kiss that lingered on long enough to let Harry know how much she had missed him. Harry, for his part, took the first true breath he had taken in what seemed like a life time.
Molly rested her head on Arthur’s shoulder with a faint smile on her face. She noticed something and nudged Arthur gently in the ribs. Arthur looked down at his wife and followed her eyes to where she was looking. Although, Harry’s arms were tightly wrapped around Ginny’s waist, his hands were closed in a clam shell fashion with his thumbs along side his index fingers. Arthur made a note to himself to watch Harry closer in the near future.
Neville excused himself and moved across the hall to where a few girls were sitting and admiring Gryffindor’s sword. He took the sword up in his hand and was explaining to the girls what he had done again for the tenth time. Each of the girls reacted with awe and amazement at all the right points in his story so that Neville had become a pseudo celebrity within the group.
Ginny finally broke the kiss when she just couldn’t breath anymore. Harry rested his forehead on hers as both of them came down from their high. “I’ve waited eight months for that. I hope it won't be our last,” Harry whispered into Ginny’s ear.
“You can count on that,” Ginny whispered back with a smile and a blush on her face.
A scream from across the hall caught everyone’s attention. Harry moved so fast that Ginny was thrown back against her father and mother. He had his wand out and had stepped in front of all three Weasleys. Ginny could feel wave after wave of energy radiate out from Harry. She had never realized the power he could extrude when he went into combat mode, it was exhilarating but terrifying at the same time.
Standing at the great door of the hall was Carrow with his arm around Luna’s waist and his wand at her throat. Luna stood quite still, and showed no sign of fear, but rather surprised at what was happening to her. She slowly raised her left hand toward her wand that was stuck in the bun of hair at the back of her head. Carrow saw her move and jabbed his wand harder into her neck.
“I won’t let you win Potter, if I have to die, I’ll take you with me,” an enraged Carrow screamed across the hall. “You may have killed my master, but I’ll take out as many of you as I can, starting with this one.”
Neville dropped the Sword of Gryffindor onto the floor. The echoing clang it made caused Carrow to glance over at Neville. Luna touched her wand and a red bolt hit Carrow and knocked him off his feet. He turned back quickly to Luna, “you bitch!” he yelled as he aimed his wand at her and yelled, “Avada...”
A brilliant blue-white beam reached across the hall and caught Carrow broadside. The force of the impact picked him up and threw him completely across the entrance hall and up some four meters onto the wall. Once the spell was lifted, Carrow’s body slowly slipped a short way down the wall leaving a red, bloody slick as it slid. His body fell, the rest of the way to the floor making a squishy wet sound as it came to a hault.
Both legs were folded several times beneath him, as if they were accordioned into his belly. His right arm laid flat on the floor, still clutching his wand. His other arm was folded in several unnatural places that it shouldn’t have been. When one of Shacklebolt’s aurors reached the body, fluids, and associated internal body parts were oozing out. Carrow was removed and unceremoniously dumped next to the now cold body of Tom Riddle.
Everyone else stood still and stared at Harry. No one moved, they were too stunned by the power that Harry had just exhibited. Harry turned to Ginny, “are you all right?” he asked as he stepped away from her toward the door.
“I’m fine,” she said as she stepped forward to join Harry as he moved toward Luna.
Harry, Ginny, and Neville reached Luna at the same time. Luna seemed to be unsteady on her feet and finally collapsed as Neville and Harry reached her. She reached out as she fell backwards and grabbed both of the boys by the front of their shirts and yanked them down with her. Ginny helped the boys to regain their feet and get Luna up. Luna’s legs buckled again and she would have fallen if Neville hadn’t grabbed her. He scooped her up in his arms, “It’s all right Harry, I have her,” he said as he walked over to where the rest of the Weasleys were.
Mr. Weasley moved a chair forward and Neville sat down with Luna on his lap. “I’m cold, but I shouldn’t be,” Luna observed. “I can’t seem to warm up,” Luna whispered into Neville’s ear.
Professor McGonagall produced a blanket with her wand and with Hermione’s help wrapped Neville and Luna up together. Luna had her legs tucked up under her chin and leaned her head against Neville’s shoulder. She wiggled herself into a comfortable position, closed her eyes, and promptly fell asleep.
Ginny came over and pushed Harry into one of the other chairs and sat on Harry’s lap. “I’m cold,” she whispered in his ear. Harry smiled and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.
Hermione led Ron over to an empty chair next to Harry’s. She slipped onto Ron’s lap and Whispered in his ear, “I’m cold.” Ron wrapped her up in his long arms. The five friends looked at each other and cracked up laughing at their innocent, shared joke.