Chapter 17 : Until the Very End
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“Stop beating yourself up.”
How can I not? I think to myself, ignoring Hermione and looking furtively at the door that leads outside. Out to the forest where I know Harry is – alone – facing Voldemort.
“Ron,” she says, more demanding this time to get my attention. I sigh and look at her. “It’s not your fault that Harry left.”
Sure – okay. Then why do I feel like it’s my fault? He’s my best mate – I know him better than anyone. I should have known he’d follow Voldemort’s instructions and go to him. We wasted so much precious time trying to find him in the castle. I should have known.
“We have to follow him, Hermione – we’ve wasted enough time already,” I tell her. “He won’t be able to take out the snake and Voldemort alone – maybe we can still help.”
She glances over to where my family is still hovering – with Fred. “Okay,” she whispers, as if she’s afraid they’ll hear her. We start to head for the door, but Bill steps into our path from out of nowhere. Bloody hell.
“Where are you going?” he asks suspiciously.
I stare at him; sure that he already knows what I’m planning to do. We’re not the only ones who’ve figured out where Harry must have gone. “Let us go, Bill,” I say quietly.
His eyes shift involuntarily over to mum and dad. “Ron, they’ve been through enough – don’t you think it would be better to stay here with the rest of us?”
I shake my head at him. “This isn’t over,” I reply. “Harry’s out there right now and he needs us. We’re so close to finishing this, Bill. We have to go - we don’t have any choice.”
He glances at Hermione, hoping that she’ll waver, but there’s no chance. She stares right back at him steadfastly. “Ron’s right,” she says firmly to Bill. “We have to go.”
Bill sighs deeply, resigned, and steps out of our way. “Be careful,” he says, patting me on the back and retreating to be with the rest of the family.
I grab Hermione’s hand and pull her towards the door, but before we take more than two steps we hear Voldemort’s voice, announcing that Harry Potter is dead.
I feel like I’m free falling from the astronomy tower. I must have actually swayed on my feet because Ron reaches out to steady me.
The entire room has gone dead still. He’s lying, I think desperately. After all Harry’s been through he can’t be dead. He just can’t be. I can feel myself starting to tremble.
“He’s lying,” Ron says, repeating my thought exactly, but he’s gone white. “Harry’s not dead, Hermione – we can’t believe what that lying, filthy bastard says. He’s just making a strategic move, trying to demoralize everyone. He said Harry was trying to run away to save himself – we know he would never do that.”
That’s absolutely true. So if he was lying about that then he could be lying about everything else too. It gives me a glimmer of hope anyway, although it doesn’t stop the tears that start to run down my face. Harry. He’s the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had, and we already lost Fred and Tonks and Lupin and so many others.
“He also said he was bringing Harry’s – his body – as proof,” I say, glancing towards the door.
Ron looks worriedly over at his family, where Ginny is standing. His dad has put an arm around her shoulder, but she’s as still as a statue. She closes her eyes for a minute and then opens them again, but it’s like she’s in a trance. “I’ll go out to see,” he says.
Oh no you don’t. “I’m coming with you,” I say, before he tries to suggest that I stay behind. I know he wants to spare me the sight of Harry’s – of his body, if he is dead – which he’s not. I won’t believe it until I’ve seen the proof with my own eyes.
Ron thankfully decides that arguing with me is pointless and pulls out his wand. “This is probably some kind of a trap, so we need to be on our guard,” he replies.
“I couldn’t agree more Mr. Weasley,” McGonagall says, striding past us towards the door.
I’d feel it if Harry was dead, wouldn’t I?
I close my eyes and reach out with my mind, trying to sense Harry’s presence. It’s faint, but I swear it’s there. I can’t explain how I know he’s alive, but I do. I’ve been doing this all year, and I could always feel him. I still feel him.
When I open my eyes I see McGonagall passing Ron and Hermione, obviously going out to see what’s going on. I have to go to, and start to pull away from my father’s grip. The rest of my family seems to be in complete shock again, standing wordless with worried looks on their faces.
“Ginny,” dad says as I move away from him. I turn around and look at him, but I have to go and he knows it. No one is stopping me from going to see if what Voldemort said is true. He finally nods and turns back to say something to mum.
A few seconds later I’ve caught up to Ron and Hermione. I see a look of concern on Ron’s face and instinctively know he doesn’t want me to go outside, but I’m having none of his overprotective nonsense right now. He must realize this and only says, “Get your wand out.”
“Harry’s not dead,” I state with certainty, pulling my wand out of my pocket.
“We don’t believe it either,” Hermione tells me, reaching out to give my arm a comforting squeeze.
But McGonagall’s heart wrenching scream a second later shakes this belief to the core.
No, not Harry. Please, not Harry.
I rush forward and look over McGonagall’s shoulder. I freeze when I see him, carefully being cradled in Hagrid’s giant arms. Hagrid is completely distraught and crying, and Harry’s body is limp and unmoving - which could only mean one thing. “No!” I scream.
I continue to stare at Harry as I hear Hermione scream out beside me, having seen Harry for herself. I wish I could have spared her this, but it was impossible to keep her inside. Bloody hell, Ginny will be right behind. I don’t want her to see Harry like this either - but I’m too late.
“Harry!” she screams, pushing her way past McGonagall and me. I realize - almost too late – that she’s trying to get to him, but I can’t let her get that close to Voldemort. I quickly reach out and grab her around the waist, pulling her back to me. “Harry!” she sobs, louder this time, trying desperately to free herself from my grip so she can go to him.
I wrap both arms around her and pull her back up against my chest. I hold her tightly until I feel the fight go out of her. Hermione steps in front of Ginny and wraps her arms around her too. The three of us cling tightly to each other, tears running down our faces. I can feel Ginny shaking from her sobs and it breaks my heart. I promised her I’d take care of Harry and I failed.
Everyone is streaming out of the hall and there are screams and cries of anger from the crowd. I hear my mum burst into a new wave of tears – Harry was like another son to her. I can hear the voices of Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus and so many others as they pour out of the castle. Disbelief turns into anger and then an outpouring of grief.
Voldemort loses his patience and silences us with a bang, then orders Hagrid to lay Harry on the ground. I watch – a part of me breaking – as he gently lowers him down to lay at Voldemort’s feet. Just like with Fred, flashes of memories run quickly through my mind.
Harry showing me his scar the first day we met.
The look of wonder on his face the first time he came to the Burrow.
Promising myself I’d never complain about my room again after he described his cupboard under the stairs.
Searching me out with his eyes after he kissed Ginny in the common room, to seek my approval.
His quick forgiveness after I walked out on him and Hermione during the horcrux hunt.
Watching him retreat from King’s Cross every summer with his miserable uncle.
Staring at him through the bars on his bedroom window when we came to rescue him.
Sharing a bedroom at Grimmauld Place.
How good it felt to have a best mate.
When Voldemort announces to everyone that Harry was nothing and relied on others to sacrifice themselves I can’t take it anymore. “He beat you,” I cry out, surprised that the silencing spell didn’t hold. Maybe he’s not as powerful as he was before we destroyed his horcruxes. Maybe they were what gave him so much power.
I vow that I’m going to take advantage of any opportunity I can to finish this for Harry. And then I find the perfect chance as my eyes go to the snake and I realize it’s totally unprotected now. Its magical encasement is gone and it’s more vulnerable now that it will ever be.
I shift Ginny and Hermione behind me so I have a clear path to get to the snake, but before I have the chance to move Neville suddenly breaks free from the crowd.
Ginny’s screams almost break me, but I force myself to stay still. I only hope she doesn’t do anything rash and get herself killed before I have the chance to reveal that I’m alive. I’m desperately hoping that Ron and the rest of her family can keep her safe until then. I’ve already put her through so much. Please Ginny, just a little while longer.
Through slit eyes I watch Neville’s interaction with Voldemort, appalled when the sorting hat is set on fire. I’ve waited long enough – I have to act now.
But when I make my move all hell breaks loose.
I bury my face into Ron’s chest as Voldemort sets the sorting hat on fire. Poor Neville. I only keep it there for a second though. “We have to help him,” I say to both Ron and Ginny. All three of us start to advance when suddenly the centaurs, Grawp and a surprising number of new reinforcements all show up at once and start attacking the death eaters from all sides.
Within a matter of seconds it’s mass bedlam and the noise is incredible – thanks to the arrival of several giants. However, in the middle of all the mayhem we see Neville suddenly and inexplicably free himself, unharmed, from the burning sorting hat and neatly dispose of Nagini. Ron and I glance at one another, momentarily stunned but clearly thinking the same thing.
There are no more horcruxes.
If someone can finish off Voldemort there’s no way he can return from the dead this time. Even though it’s only Ron and I that truly understand the significance of Neville’s heroic action, several Order members descend on Voldemort at once. Battles are breaking out everywhere and the crowd surges, almost as one, back into the hall out of the path of the giants. Amidst all the commotion I’m almost sure I hear Hagrid continue to call Harry’s name.
Harry. I still can’t believe he’s dead. Even when I saw it for myself it seemed surreal. I choke back a sob. We have to finish this for him. I can’t think about the fact that he’s gone right now – I can’t. I force myself to concentrate on what’s going on around me.
As the battle moves into hall, I get separated from Ron when he turns abruptly and moves purposely in Greyback’s direction. I start to follow when a familiar, frightening black haired woman blocks my path, cackling and firing off curses into the crowd. Bellatrix seems to be looking for certain targets and I suspect I’m one of them. I’ve had nightmares about her for months – it’s time to face my fear.
She suddenly turns and spots me. An evil, malevolent grin slowly appears on her face, which makes a shiver run down my spine. “Ah, my favourite little mudblood,” she cackles, firing in my direction. I quickly produce a shield, which her curse bounces off harmlessly. She looks annoyed and starts to move closer to me when curses start flying at her from two different directions, forcing her to protect herself.
“We’re here Hermione,” I hear Ginny say from my left. A quick glance to the right reveals Luna has joined us too. I feel much better now and the three of us continue to fight Bellatrix, but she’s extremely powerful so we’re barely holding our own.
Just when I’m not sure how much longer we can hold her off she sends a killing curse at Ginny, which barely misses. That was way too close for comfort and a catalyst for Mrs. Weasley, who arrives in spectacular fashion and takes over the fight, waving us off. Up until this moment I would never have imagined that Ron’s mum could fight so well. She’s truly amazing, showing more agility than fighters half her age. Bellatrix totally ignores everyone else as she takes on Molly, fatally underestimating the power of a grieving mother.
She clearly intends to fight to the death.
As the frenzied crowd continues fighting I unexpectedly smell - even in this crowd of people - the familiar mangy, disgusting odor that only means one thing. I turn to see Greyback coming towards me, his wand pointed and his lips curling to reveal his fangs.
“I think I see your delectable little girlfriend here ginger,” he snarls, firing off a curse at me that I barely get a shield up in time to deflect. “I’d quite like to get reacquainted with her – can’t stop thinking about her lovely, milky throat,” he adds, his eyes glinting with desire.
I fire off a few curses of my own, hoping fervently that Hermione has disappeared in the crowd. Soon we’re in a heated battle. I’m ducking and moving continually, more on the defensive than the offensive, although I manage to get several good shots off.
“I’ve got your back,” I hear someone yell, and realize it’s Neville. He starts firing at Greyback too, and between the two of us we manage to keep him at bay, but can’t manage to take him down.
“When I’m done with you I’m going to find her and have myself a little snack,” he growls menacingly at me.
Like hell you are.
There’s only one way to finish him - I’m not taking any chances this time. “Avada Kedavra!” I shout, aiming at his chest while he’s preoccupied avoiding a curse from Neville. I’m rewarded with a direct hit and he stumbles back and finally goes down for good. I’m a little stunned that I was able to use an unforgiveable, but it was definitely well deserved.
“Well done,” Neville tells me, looking down at the dead werewolf.
“Thanks for your help,” I reply, out of breath. “And you were brilliant with the snake, too.”
“Thanks,” he replies modestly, almost looking embarrassed.
We both look around and realize that most of the death eaters have been taken down and that everyone is watching the only two remaining battles. Voldemort is battling McGonagall, Kingsley and Slughorn all at the same time and Bellatrix is in a heated battle with someone else. At first I can’t see who she’s fighting, but when I step closer I’m stunned to see that my mum is taking her on single handedly.
I start to move towards them to help her, but Hermione appears from nowhere and grabs my arm. “She told everyone to stay back Ron – you might be more of a distraction than a help,” she warns.
I’m still debating with myself whether to go anyway when mum delivers the killing blow and Bellatrix goes down in a crumpled heap. I’m amazed and proud and surprised all at once as I stare up into her face. I can feel Hermione clutching my arm. We glance at each other briefly, allowing ourselves a moment of happiness in the middle of all the terrible losses we’ve sustained today.
The reaction of crowd is ecstatic, except for Voldemort, who blasts his opponents out of the way as he screams in anger. He abruptly turns his rage on my mother, heading towards her with the obvious intent of killing her.
Before we have time to react I hear a familiar voice cry out “Protego!” and much to everyone’s amazement Harry suddenly appears in the middle of the hall.
“Harry!” I cry, shocked. I wonder for a minute if my eyes are playing tricks on me - if I’m only seeing what I want to see. But several others are calling his name as well, so it must be real.
“He’s alive,” Ron says, not taking his eyes off his best mate. “He’s alive.”
The hall goes very quiet as Voldemort and Harry start to circle each other. Harry tells the crowd to let him deal with Voldemort alone. This is it, then - the final showdown.
I’m gripping Ron’s arm so tightly I’m sure it will leave bruises, but he isn’t aware of anything other than Harry and Voldemort circling each other. We both still have our wands out in case Harry needs our help, but we’re doing what he asked and leaving him to fight this final battle alone.
I’m not quite over the shock of Harry being alive, and I’m not sure I could survive it if he were to die – for what would feel like the second time. I’ve had my doubts about the Deathly Hallows and the Elder Wand, but now I’m nervous that the fairy tale may be true. Either way, I’m still confident that Harry will win. Somehow good always seem to triumph over evil.
And if it doesn’t, Ron and I will make sure Voldemort doesn’t make it out of here alive.
I watch, fascinated as he circles Voldemort and taunts him. I want to shout at him to just finish it – now - but he clearly needs to get some things said before it comes to that. He’s talking about remorse, Dumbledore, Snape, a wand – I don’t really understand all of it. But Voldemort does – he’s clearly mesmerized with Harry’s tale - and it’s making him nervous and twitchy. Chinks in his armor are definitely starting to show.
Then the sun rises, flooding the room with light, and in that second I know the time has come. Harry and Voldemort scream their curses at one another and I watch helplessly as the spells crash into each other.
After only a few seconds - that feels more like an hour - Harry’s spell overpowers the killing curse, forcing it to rebound and knock Voldemort to the ground. It takes a few seconds for the crowd to realize that the darkest wizard of our time is truly dead.
I’m almost too stunned to react, but I reach Harry right after Hermione and Ron get to him. He grabs me briefly in a hug before he’s inundated with people surrounding him. He tries to keep hold of my hand, but the overwhelming force of so many people pulls him away. He looks at me apologetically but he can’t fight the ecstatic crowd. I smile at him to let him know I understand.
There will be plenty of time for the two of us to be together later.
At first I’m too astonished to realize he’s really dead. Apparently I’m not the only one because for a second you could hear a pin drop in the hall. Then several people suddenly surround me. Ron and Hermione first, then Ginny, Luna and Neville. Dozens of others follow, pulling me away from the few people I really want to be with right now.
The next few hours are a blur. I feel like I’ve spoken to almost everyone in the hall. I’ve accepted congratulations, offered condolences and listened intently to the news that’s coming in from all over the country. Hagrid lifted me right off my feet and held me for several minutes, crying with happiness this time.
By far the hardest conversation was with the Weasley family. I finally worked up the courage to go back to see Fred, Tonks and Lupin and found myself surrounded by Bill, Percy, Charlie, Fleur and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. I wondered where Ron, Ginny and Hermione were, but it was almost easier to do this without them here.
“I’m so sorry – “ I start, but Mrs. Weasley pulls me into one of her signature hugs.
“You brave, dear, boy!” she cries. “We are so proud of you.”
I don’t feel I deserve her praise. Mr. Weasley seems to sense this. “Harry, I’ve know you since you were eleven – and I know you are blaming yourself for every single death here. But you can’t, son.” He pauses, putting his hands on my shoulders before looking me straight in the eye. "You’ve sacrificed so much yourself, and you saved us all tonight. Each and every one of us. And the - the ones we lost –“ he becomes almost too choked up to go on, but manages, “All of the losses are Voldemort’s fault, not yours. Never yours, my boy.”
“Thanks Mr. Weasley,” I say, trying hard to believe him.
Maybe someday I really will.
I’m so exhausted and hungry I decide to sit down before I fall down. I see Harry on the other side of the room talking to my family but I just don’t have the energy to go over there right now. Hermione is talking to Lavender, of all people. I watch as they surprisingly exchange a hug before Seamus approaches them and puts a protective arm around Lavender’s shoulders. I smile to myself, wishing Seamus good luck.
“I hear the elves are going to be sending up some food,” Ginny says, sitting down beside me at the Gryffindor table. She grins at me. “Thought you’d like to know.”
“Thanks,” I respond. Honestly I could eat a Hippogriff right now, feathers and all.
Ginny cuddles up close beside me, putting her head on my shoulder. “It’s really over, isn’t it?” she asks.
“Yeah, it is,” I answer, although I’m still having a hard time believing it myself. I see Ginny’s eyes seeking out Harry across the room. “You know he’s going to be in high demand the next little while. Reporters, the Ministry – and I don’t even want to think about Rita Skeeter.”
“I know,” she says, resigned.
“Be patient – he’ll come to you as soon as he can,” I tell her. “He really does love you.”
“I know. I’ve been patient for a year, I guess one more night won’t matter,” she says, “But if you see him first, tell him that’s all he’s getting.”
“Fair enough,” I say, kissing the top of her head.
A second later the tables are covered with trays of fruit and sandwiches and pitchers of pumpkin juice. I love house elves. Ginny and I exchange a delighted glance before we dig in. People always tease me about my appetite but she’s just as bad.
I’m on my third sandwich when Hermione approaches, plopping herself down across from us and pouring herself a drink. She downs the entire glass and refills in before reaching for a sandwich.
“I had no idea how hungry I was until I saw the food arrive,” she says between bites. We eat in relative silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I notice that Harry has moved on to talk to Kingsley.
“I’m going to take a plate of food over for mum and dad,” Ginny says. “They haven’t even noticed it yet.”
“Do you want some help?” I ask.
“No, you two just stay here and relax. You’ve been up for over 24 hours, you must be exhausted,” she replies. “I’ll see you later.”
As soon as Ginny leaves I get up and move beside Hermione. We’ve barely had a moment alone together since Voldemort died. We’ve been catching up with classmates and spending time with my family. And of course everyone keeps asking what we were really doing all year.
“I’m so tired,” Hermione yawns, leaning up against me.
“Me too,” I say. “I don’t suppose we could just sneak off to the dorm and grab a nap, could we?”
She looks like she’s seriously considering it when Harry shows up and asks us to go with him.
Ron and I listen intently as Harry tells us what happened after he left. The hardest thing to believe is that Snape really was on our side all the time. Well, that and Mrs. Malfoy lying to Voldemort. We were horrified that Harry went into the forest with the sole intent of sacrificing himself for all of us.
After arriving at the headmaster’s office and listening to Dumbledore I’m completely convinced that Harry is doing the right thing with the Elder wand. I was amazed and relieved when it was able to fix Harry’s wand – I was never going to get over feeling guilty about breaking it - but we have to make sure no one ever knows this part of our story.
It’s far too tempting and dangerous.
Despite an overwhelming desire to finally drop into a comfortable bed, there’s something I still need to do – thank my two best friends. Dumbledore has now drifted off to sleep in his picture frame and I notice the rest of the portraits are sleeping or gone. I turn to Ron and Hermione, my heart full of love for both of them.
“I know we’re all exhausted, but I can’t let this day end without telling you both how much you mean to me,” I start. “None of this would have been possible without you. From my first year at Hogwarts you stuck by me every step of the way – right up until the very end.”
Hermione starts to cry and rushes forward to give me a hug. “Oh Harry, we thought you were dead,” she sobs. I rub her back soothingly as Ron looks on.
“I know you did, and I’m sorry for that,” I say, still holding her, “But it was the only thing I could think of to get the upper hand. Voldemort had to believe I was dead.” I look at Ron, hoping he’ll understand.
“Well, you were pretty convincing mate,” Ron says, giving me a somber look. “But it was brilliant,” he adds, breaking into a grin. “You were brilliant – and unbelievably brave. I don’t think I could have walked calmly to my death like that. I don’t think anyone could.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t exactly calm,” I admit.
For some reason – not the least of which is likely pure exhaustion - this strikes Ron as hilariously amusing. Hermione starts to giggle and I join in too. Hermione pulls Ron into a three-way hug as we continue to laugh. It’s similar to the uncontrollable and ‘verging on hysteria’ laugh we shared at the side of the lake after our wild ride on the dragon. We calm down a few minutes later, still standing with our arms around one another.
“Seriously though, I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you did for me. I love you both more than I can possibly say,” I tell them.
“We love you too Harry,” Hermione says brightly. Ron nods in agreement.
It dawns on me that for the first time in my life I don’t have Voldemort hanging over my head. “So what are we going to do now?” I ask.
“Well I don’t know about you,” Ron replies, “But right now all I want is a comfortable bed and to give Hermione a good night kiss.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea,” I say, smiling. “I think I’ll go find Ginny.”
Something in the air seems different and I’m sure Harry is near. I feel someone take my hand and give a gentle tug. Of course I can’t see him - he’s under the cloak – but I excuse myself and allow him to guide me out of the hall. As soon as there’s no one around he pulls me under the cloak with him.
“Ginny,” is all he manages to get out before I kiss him like I’ve never kissed him before. It’s several minutes before we come up for air and he rests his forehead on mine. It’s obvious that he’s totally exhausted and practically dead asleep on his feet.
“I love you,” he says. “I missed you every single minute we were apart. I used to pull out the Marauder’s map and watch your dot all the time.”
“You did?” I ask, touched.
“Almost every night, until you weren’t at Hogwarts anymore.”
“I thought you were dead,” I whisper, clinging to him.
“I’m sorry,” he replies. “Forgive me?”
Now is my chance.
“I’ll forgive you if you promise never to leave me,” I say. “And you promise to tell me everything that happened. And you promise you won’t leave me out of things ever again.”
He smiles at me and pulls me into a tight embrace. “I promise,” he says, before kissing me again.
“So really, what are we going to do now?” I ask Hermione as soon as we’re alone.
She immediately goes into list making mode. “Well, I imagine Kingsley will want to meet with us, and the Prophet will be all over us trying to get our story. We’ll have to decide what we want to tell everyone. And I need to go and get my parents –“
“We,” I interject. “We need to go get your parents. If you think I’m going to let you go traipsing off to Australia alone your crazy Hermione. Not every death eater was killed or captured. There are still some out there.”
“Fine,” she agrees, smiling at me. “We need to go to Australia.” Her smile abruptly fades. “And there are - “ she stops and looks at me gently, “We’ll have several funerals to attend, of course.”
Oh – right – of course. I was trying not to think about that. I know giving up the Elder wand is for the best – it’s caused nothing but problems for everyone who’s owned it – but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about finding the resurrection stone so I could use it for Fred. But it wouldn’t really be Fred, would it? I force myself to shake off this thought.
“He didn’t die in vain,” she tells me. “He’s a hero, just like all the others. Fred wouldn’t want us to be sad – he’d want us to celebrate this enormous victory and remember all the joy he brought into everyone’s lives.”
She’s absolutely right. “He is a hero,” I repeat. “And you’re right, it’s going to be absolutely mental for the next little while, isn’t it?”
“It is. But before we get into all that,” she says, putting her arms around my neck and looking at me expectantly, “I thought you were going to kiss me."
So I do.
~ The End ~
A/N - Thanks to everyone who stuck with the story “until the very end”, and to everyone who was kind enough to take the time to review. To my consistent reviewers – many, many thanks and you know who you are.
I’ll be taking a break from writing for a bit, I think, and I have no plans to write a “next 19 years” story because there are already so many great ones out there. I may write some short one shots instead as I have a couple of ideas for those.
As always, the fantastic world of HP belongs to the one and only JKR, who I thank from the bottom of my heart for creating such a fantastic world and interesting, heartfelt characters for us all to enjoy and get lost in… it’s because we love it so much that we feel compelled to expand the HP universe with our own stories.
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