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The First Year, an Almost Happily Ever After story by Jet LaBarge
Chapter 3 : Greeting the grieving
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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Harry woke up at about 6:00 AM on Sunday morning, the day after the battle. He realized that he was still a little tired after the last few days, but once Harry was awake he could seldom go back to sleep. Ginny was still asleep in the bed next to him, her hair spreading out from her face in a most attractive manner, a smile on her face. Arthur was asleep in the bed next to them, Ron’s old bed. Ron and Hermione were in the beds on the other side of Arthur, and in another bed Percy was sleeping.

Harry thought for a moment. Did he have a nightmare last night? Did Ginny climb into bed with him? He sort of remembered the nightmare and Ginny crawling into bed and waking him up, but did not remember her leaving. He put those thoughts aside.

Harry thought of all the people he was going to meet today, people who had lost a loved one because he, Harry Potter, had wasted the better part of a year finishing the tasks Dumbledore had given him. He had met enough people who were hurt yesterday and still thanked him, some who were seriously hurt, some who had lost someone, and still they thanked him. It did not feel right.

Harry was still thinking about it as he arose to go to the bathroom, shaved, and got himself dressed, taking care to drink more of the potion that Fleur had gotten for him for his injuries. He still hurt, but nowhere nearly as badly as he had the night before. Professor McGonagall had provided clean dress robes for them all, and Harry put his on before going back to the beds.

Sitting down on Ginny’s bed, Harry watched her sleep, marvelling that she was there. Ginny was the one thing in his life that seemed to be going just right. Leaning forward he gently kissed her. Ginny’s eyes fluttered opened and closed, and she lay there for a moment with the biggest most self-satisfied smile on her face. Ginny pulled Harry tight to her, hissed him passionately and said, “Hi, love. I get to spend all day with you!”

Harry found himself grinning as broadly as she was. “I’d like to spend a little time with you before we have to be in public again,” he said as he stroked her hair, looking tentatively at the scar above her breast, revealed too plainly by her skimpy nightwear. “Ginny, remember when Bill was hurt, and Fleur said that it just proved that her Bill was a brave man, a hero?”

Ginny nodded, wondering where he could be going with this.

“Well, she’s right,” he went on. “That’s what scars like that do, and I am so proud of you! That scar is going to be a beauty mark to me, and remind me of how incredibility brave you are.”

Ginny looked down at the scar. She was not sure how she felt about it. She certainly did not think of it as a beauty mark. She’d been so worried that Harry would think it ugly that to hear him call it a beauty mark certainly helped, at least a little. She supposed it was just a part of her now, something she would have to learn to accept. Then again, if her Harry could be proud of it and of her, then she could be proud of it too. She smiled tentatively, looking up into his eyes, seeking proof in their depths that what he said was true. There was no deceit there, and her smile became more certain.

Reacting to her smile, Harry leaned in to kiss her again. Ginny leaned into him eagerly for a swift kiss before pushing him gently away. Harry’s brow had quirked upward.

“Sorry. The loo,” Ginny murmured as she got out of bed.

“Ah,” Harry responded, remembering yesterday afternoon when he had to go to the loo after Ginny’s ‘never leave me’ remark.

“I’ll be right back,” she promised.

“I’ll wait,” he assured her.

Again Ginny flashed him a brilliant grin before disappearing behind the door to the loo. Thinking of Harry, she showered, washed her hair and got dressed as quickly as she could, taking just a moment to use the Touch-of-Lust spell again.

‘There’s nothing wrong with that,’ she thought to herself as she finished, although she had used it yesterday and probably didn’t really need to use it again. ‘After all, Harry walked hand in hand with me yesterday … I probably was a little sharp with Cho, but no one else wants Harry like I do. I really shouldn’t use it two days in a row though … at least not until we’re married, although I only used one flick today.’ And she promised herself to skip the spell tomorrow. Feeling a little righteous for the restraint she’d sort of shown and promised herself for the future, Ginny hurried back to Harry’s side a mere quarter of an hour later.

Harry and Ginny walked down to the common room together, hand in hand, and Ginny found she was still worried. Harry did not seem bothered by the scars, but they still bothered her. Also, there was that talking-to her father had given Harry the evening before. Ginny frowned at the thought. Was her father trying to keep them apart? She didn’t really know what he’d said to Harry, but rather than giving herself one more thing to worry about, she decided to ask.

“Harry, what did my father say to you last night?” she began as they walked down the stairs. “Did he get angry with you? Are you in trouble because of me?”

“Not yet,” Harry said. “Your father told me that hot-blooded redheads can’t really be trusted to tell a bloke when to stop, so I had better be careful. He wanted me to tell you to take your time, and he wanted me to take my time. He did not seem upset that we were together, in fact, he seemed pleased.”

Ginny turned to Harry, her face inches away from his, and answered, with that blazing look Harry had always loved. “It’s going to be hard to wait, Harry. I think I’ve spent half my life dreaming about you, waiting for you, and now you’re here. Having you being here with me is just like a fairy tale. You’ve killed Volde …” seeing Harry mouth Riddle “Tom RIDDLE. You’ve done what you had to do and you’ve saved me too. You’re ready for me and I’m ready for you. Dad’s just going to have to get used to it,” she said firmly. “Besides, I’m just so tired of waiting, always waiting, always being the youngest, being the girl who could not do what the boys could, being protected by my mother and father and brothers.”

Harry paused, a little alarmed by Ginny’s eagerness. “Ginny, slow down,” he urged.

“Why?” she demanded. In all of the fairy tales, the hero and heroine got married right after the battle, and she was ready to go to bed, well to do quite a bit more than just go to bed, with Harry any time.

“Ginny, I love you,” Harry said, and then he began to explain. He gazed into her eyes, earnestly willing her to understand what he was saying before they began walking again. “You’re 16. You have a year of school left. I promised your father that I would take it slow and I will. I think we both need some time to get to know each other again, before we dive into something that we’re not ready for.”

But Ginny was having none of it. “Slow down! You’ll be old enough eventually! Take your time! I want to be old enough now!” wailed Ginny, a little louder and faster than before. ‘Poor Little Ginny Weasley! I’ll show them!’ she thought. ‘Everybody wants me to wait, wait, wait and wait. Wait until some other witch comes and steals Harry away. I won’t!’

Harry’s response was to stop and hold her to him, embracing her as he wished he had the day before, but the moment was lost. Before they had a chance to kiss or hold onto each other for more than a few seconds, about a dozen owls came for Harry, landing on their shoulders or on the furniture or on the stair rails, as they stood in the doorway to the common room.

As quickly as he could, Harry began to open the messages they carried. Two were from the Ministry asking if certain people were Death Eaters or other problem people. Another two were from companies, asking if Harry would use and endorse their products. Four were from grieving families and four were from witches that wanted to meet Harry. A couple of them even had the nerve to mention, “Poor little Ginny Weasley” and tried to show how much better they were.

Harry sat down to answer the first two straight away, also sending brief notes to the two companies that he was too busy to talk to them right now. After showing the notes to Ginny, they decided, together, that they would work on the other letters sometime during the day, and, if possible, compose a response to the thank you letters and to the other letters. People were beginning to stir and if felt like they should be getting downstairs.

Ginny began reading letters from the four witches, with concern, becoming both angrier and more worried with each one. This was exactly why that article in the Prophet terrified her. Harry Potter was her dream and her boyfriend, and she was not going to lose him. Not now, not after all of this pain and suffering. She did not care what she had to do. She wanted to seal the deal, get him to propose or arrange a wedding or something so she had her Happily Ever After ending, and the sooner the better.

Maybe it was good she’d used the ‘Touch-of-Lust’ spell this morning after all, Ginny thought. ‘Maybe I ought to use the Touch-of-Lust once for each of those blasted witches who have written to Harry.’

Tucking the remaining letters away to deal with later, Harry led Ginny down to the Great Hall. Although there was still a lot of debris around, and they could still smell dust in the air, Hogwarts did not have quite the stench of death that it had yesterday.

Fawkes was in the Great Hall, and flew from his perch on the back of the headmaster’s chair over to Harry. “Are you mine now? Is your loyalty to me?” asked Harry. Fawkes looked at Harry with piercing eyes, not giving any indication of an answer, but he kept his eyes on Harry. Fawkes promptly flew away to perch regally, within sight of Harry, on the closest pillar. Fawkes might have transferred his loyalty from Dumbledore to Harry, but Harry thought he was hardly a cuddly pet, not really a pet at all but an independent creature consenting to serve him.

Across the room they spotted Molly, working on a parchment, and began making their way in her direction.

“Good morning, Ginny, Harry,” she said, looking up as they joined her, nodding toward the sheaves of parchment in her hands. “I am going over a list of the dead and injured. I’m also going over a list of who is coming today. The Ministry has the same list, and when one of us updates the list, the changes show up on the other one as well. They are beginning to release names and are making arrangements for everybody that needs to come to Hogwarts to use the Floo from the Ministry. They began contacting people yesterday, and I expect a lot of them will be coming today. The last I heard, the Ministry is scheduling family groups and individuals to arrive every 20 minutes or so, starting at 8:00 AM. You had better get something to eat and get ready.”

Molly went over the list with Harry and Ginny. It was re-arranging itself so the first arrivals were at the top, with check boxes to help track of when the people on the list arrived and when they left. It wouldn’t do to have people wandering around the castle, in its current state, for indeterminate amounts of time.

Then Molly took them to the two rooms where the bodies were laid out. Harry and Ginny squeezed each other’s hand as they looked at each body, and Harry thought that he died a little as they looked at each new person who, Harry thought, died because of him.

It took them a while to look at each body, and see where on the list that person was. They would need to know that to direct the family members to them later.

When they got to Fred, Molly said, “Fred We…” She paused a moment, looked at Harry and Ginny with tears of horror in her eyes, then composed herself and quickly said, “Fred Weasley.” Stepping from one body to the next body, she said, “Bill Bayleaf,” and again to the next body “Grace Appledorn. Bill and Grace were found together.” Molly continued to move down the list, but having to list Fred as one of the dead was obviously hard on all of them.

There was a third room with the bodies of Death Eaters and other beings that had fought on the other side, about twenty five of them. Molly said there had been many more, but some of the creatures had been piled into a bonfire last night and burned, and some Death Eaters had escaped with bodies of relatives. Only people that they thought might have relatives to claim them were in that room, and the relatives of the attackers were not going to be allowed to come until the relatives of the defenders of Hogwarts had a chance to pick up their dead.

As they finished viewing the bodies, Molly said, “If anyone asks if they can help, have them show people to the proper rooms and have them offer to stay with the people picking up bodies. You will need to recruit some help, because there are only the two of you and everyone else is needed in other parts of the castle. I will stay with you for the first hour, and then I am going to need to get to bed.”

She’d gone off to speak to George and Charlie, when Ron and Hermione joined them at the side of The Great Hall.

“What are all of those?” Hermione asked, looking at the parchments both Ginny and Harry had bulging from their robes.

“Letters,” Ginny told her, and she showed Hermione the stack of letters she was holding for Harry. “It’s going to take us a while to answer these.”

Ron and Harry were talking to each other, and Ginny whispered to Hermione, “Almost half of them are love letters. What am I going to do with them? Others are thank you letters and other things. It’s a mess.”

Hermione looked in her bag and brought out a file folder with places for the various types of letters, putting her special undetectable enlargement charm on it. They had just finished trying to organize them, to deal with as they had time, when another two owls came for Harry; another thank you and another from a witch wanting Harry. This one had a photograph in it.

Harry was briefly reading through each of the letters, except the ones from witches offering themselves to him. Harry looked up at his friends in dismay. “How am I going to answer these letters from all of these witches trying to throw themselves at me? You’re my girlfriend, Ginny. I don’t want to even look at these,” Harry said as he thrust them into her hands, feeling slightly guilty about foisting the job on her.

“I’ll take care of them,” Ginny accepted, trying to say it sweetly, but not succeeding, as she accepted the letters. What she wanted to say to these witches is not publishable. Those letters were her worst nightmare, right there in her hands.

“I’ll answer the letters that only I can, and together we can answer the thank you letters,” Harry suggested. “I’m glad you’re taking care of the others.”

‘Me too,’ Ginny thought though she refrained from saying it. Maybe Harry wouldn’t want her to if he thought she might be rude, and she did want to … at least she certainly didn’t want Harry reading and trying to answer any of them.

‘Maybe I shouldn’t be SO insecure,’ Ginny thought. ‘Harry did say I was his girlfriend. But girlfriends and boyfriends come and go. I want, no, I NEED, something more permanent.’

A little before 8:00 AM, Minerva McGonagall stood on the platform at the front of the Great Hall and called for everyone’s attention.

“I have some announcements to share with you all before we begin our day. If you need to know where any dead or wounded are located, please see Harry Potter, Molly or Ginny Weasley. They have a list. If you need a place to sleep, see Molly or Hermione Granger for Gryffindor or Luna Lovegood or Cho Chang for Ravenclaw. Of course, for the time being, I will ask any Hufflepuffs to continue staying in Ravenclaw, since Gryffindor is already quite full. We are also in the process of trying to convert the Charms and Transfiguration classrooms into temporary housing for everyone else, and Molly and Hermione, Luna and Cho know about that as well. We hope to have at least some of the Hufflepuff rooms habitable within the week. Whoever got mad and destroyed the Slytherin dormitory did an excellent job; getting the water out and cleaning it up will take weeks and it is not a high priority right now.

If you want to help clean and fix the castle see me. I am in charge unless I am sleeping; in that case, Molly Weasley will be managing an overnight shift.”

With the coordinators of the recovery efforts duly identified, McGonagall stepped down and everyone present went back to work again, with whatever task they had been assigned.

Arthur, Percy and Bill were among the handful of people who took the Floo to the Ministry just before 8:00 AM, making it apparent to anyone who watched that Arthur was responsible for opening the Floo so it could be used. He used a security spell to release the lock that had been put in place to protect the castle from further invasion during the night, and was the first to step through it, ensuring it was ready for use once again.

Promptly at 8:00 AM, a witch, who was employed by the Ministry, appeared to claim her husband, a wizard who had also been a Ministry employee, and Harry stood ready to greet her.

“I am Harry Potter and this it Ginny ….” he began, but before he could finish, the witch interrupted him, saying, “thank you for finally finishing off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. At the Ministry, we are so grateful to you, for finally bringing our nightmare to an end!”

“Call him Tom Riddle,” Harry said firmly. “Don’t be afraid to use his name. I am so sorry we could not get rid of Riddle sooner, and sorry for your loss.”

The witch nodded at his words, clearly struggling to control her emotions, with some success.

Taking in the situation, Molly came up, saying, “I will show you to your husband’s body.” And she led the witch away.

Harry turned to Ginny and said, “Well, we got through the first one.” Ginny looked at her mother leading the other woman away and squeezed Harry’s hand again. Over the next few days, it would become their quiet and unassuming signal to each other that things were rough, but at least they were in it together.

The next person through was a witch working at the Ministry, and again her husband was also a Ministry employee. She came through crying loudly, obviously in the late stages of pregnancy. Harry started to say, “I’m Harry …” but she started to sob even harder, if that were possible, and Ginny rushed up to hold her, putting an arm around the witch’s shoulders and taking her hand.

She finally said, “Thank you, Harry, can I see Robert now?” and Ginny led her to the room where her husband was.

Ginny had to spend some time holding the pregnant witch and consoling her, something she had never done before. Ginny got back just before the next people were due, shaking her head and crying, and said, “Their first child and she will never know her father. So sad!” She hugged Harry like her life depended on them merging, muttering, “I should be stronger than this.” She looked up at Harry as she wiped her tears away and said, “Harry, this is going to be hard!”

Harry felt empty inside, and very much responsible for the tragedy playing out around them. “It’s all my fault!” he told her quietly, if urgently. “If I could just have gotten rid of Riddle sooner… I must have done something wrong last year. Too much of the time we just waited, trying to think what to do next.”

Harry’s self-recrimination was just what Ginny needed to get out of her funk. “Harry Potter,” she said, looking at him. “You’re the one who got rid of Riddle. You’re responsible for ending all of this horrible death and torture and … all of this … you won! It will get better!”

“I guess I feel a little better,” said Harry. “It’s hard to be too sad with you next to me.”

“Good!” said Ginny, and she really meant it.

Harry looked down at the schedule. “We have a big group coming next; the Appledorn and Bayleaf families. There is a note on here that they were staying together, and may need housing. Is Professor McGonagall here?”

Harry saw the headmistress coming into the room, and waved her over.

When the two families had assembled before him, Harry said, “I’m Harry Potter and this is Ginny. We’re so sorry for your losses.”

The man of the group said, “I am Michael Appledorn. I am a forensic accountant and had a mostly Muggle practice, so my wife was the one to come here. The Bayleafs were staying with us because Bill was a Muggle-born Ministry official that really got on the bad side of the Death Eaters. They destroyed his house. He decided that he did not have a life anyway, if He-Who-May-Not-Be-Named was not defeated. Our house came under attack just at the end, as we were leaving, so both families may need a place to stay for a few days.” By this time, all of the members of their group were there; Michael, in his mid-thirties, sons Tom, 10, Dick, 8 and Harry, 6, and Rosemary, who was about the same age as Michael, with daughters Cinnamon 10, Coriander 8 and Cardamom, 5. Michael looked like he was in command of the situation, but the other seven people looked a little stunned.

Addressing Michael, Harry said, “Call him Tom Riddle, Michael, Rosemary. He is dead! Gone!”

Michael answered, “Thank you for killing him, Harry. The whole Wizarding community owes you a great debt of gratitude.”

Harry answered back, “Lots of people worked, suffered, and way too many died to get to this day. I certainly had lots of help. Ginny can show you to your spouses. Professor McGonagall can help you with temporary housing.”

The first witch came back with her husband’s body and left through the Floo. Then a Ministry wizard came through to get his wife. He also thanked Harry. Molly and Minerva McGonagall both briefly stopped to tell Harry that he was going to have to say “you’re welcome” and acknowledge the thanks. He wasn’t to talk about how he hadn’t gotten the job done faster, or even how many people had helped in the task. They didn’t, however, tell him to stop encouraging people to call Voldemort Riddle, acknowledging that no one could do a better job of dispelling people’s remaining fear.

At about 9:15, a name suddenly appeared just before the already scheduled 9:20 group- Violet Brown. “I wonder if that’s Lavender’s mother,” asked Ginny.

When the witch appeared, there was little doubt that she was Lavender Brown’s mother. She looked at Harry and said, “You must be Harry Potter.” Harry nodded. She then said, “Thank you for bringing this horrible war to an end, for getting rid of You-Know-Who.”

“How is Lavender?” asked Harry, letting the moniker for Riddle go this time, due to his own concern for Lavender.

Violet started to tear up and said, “Not good. Not good at all. They cannot even move her to St. Mungo’s. It broke my heart when I had to leave last night, but there were things her father and I had to do. Her father is on the continent looking for more medical help. I need to go up and see her. She screams a little less when I hold her hand.” Violet left for the Infirmary and from the way she walked, you could almost see the heaviness in her heart.

At 10:00 AM, along with their scheduled arrival, the Daily Prophet appeared.

Daily Prophet

Sunday May 3, 1998


Partial list of the dead inside.

Kingsley Shacklebolt confirmed as Minister of Magic.

Additional ministerial appointments to be announced within the next 2 days.

Minerva McGonagall confirmed as Headmistress of Hogwarts.


That was all they had time for, before the next arrival appeared in the Floo. Harry had barely directed their 10:20 arrival to the proper room, when, ten minutes later, the Floo glowed green with an unannounced arrival. Rita Skeeter stepped out wearing a smug expression and looking exceedingly pleased with herself.

Ginny looked at Harry with one of the furious, angry looks that caused all of the males in the family to quake, saying in a quiet but very angry voice, “Did you see the lies she wrote about you, about us, in the paper yesterday?!”

Harry didn’t hesitate for a moment. He pointed his wand at Rita and told Ginny, “Take her wand away right now!” Rita took one look at Harry’s angry expression and surrendered her wand. “Who is your editor?” asked Harry.

“Tom Timmerman,” said Rita.

Harry silently expelled a Patronus and told it, “Get Tom Timmerman right away! Let him know Harry Potter is mad!” Harry sat there fuming for a full five minutes before a harried-looking middle-aged man came through the Floo.

To the editor, Harry said, very quietly but in a tone of voice that said he was deadly serious, “Never, never send this insect, this sorry excuse for a reporter, to cover me or any person at this school! Get her out of here and keep her away!”

It was not like Harry to lose his temper like this, and everyone was amazed. Only Harry knew that what he said was mild compared to what would happen if Ginny really got wound up.

Tom answered, “We do need the situation here reported, and we do need you to talk to reporters, Harry.”

Harry replied, “I know, and I will do my best to help. My problem is with this one reporter who I want out of here!”

Tom Timmerman told Rita, “Go back to the office and wait for another assignment.” After she left, he turned to Harry and said, “I was going to send two reporters, and Rita volunteered. After Rita left, one of the people in the office said to me, ‘You sent Rita? Harry and his friends have run into her before. She would not have been my first choice.’ Obviously I made a mistake. I will send two different reporters, and keep her as far away from you as possible.

Harry, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for defeating Voldemort. Thank you for allowing us to print the truth again.”

Harry responded, “Call him Tom Riddle. That’s who he was. Tom Marvolo Riddle or Tom Riddle who called himself Lord Voldemort. I will work with your reporters.”

“Can I have Rita’s wand?” asked Tom. After Ginny reluctantly gave it to him, he took the Floo to return to his office. Within minutes there were two new reporters coming through the Floo, a middle-aged man and a young girl. The middle-aged man walked purposefully into the castle, merely bobbing his head at Harry in greeting as he passed. The young girl timidly introduced herself as Cindy Base. She then went a little ways into the room and looked around.

Michael Appledorn came back and told Harry and Ginny that the children were going to be staying in the Great Hall for now, as their rooms were not ready yet. Since they had nowhere else they could go to, he and Rosemary were willing to help.

Rosemary commandeered two of the tables and set up an area where the children could play. She had some books and toys, and the six children tried to entertain themselves.

Harry continued to greet all of the people who came through the Floo. He was so used to dealing with difficult situations that this was just another very difficult thing to get through. Harry was embarrassed if he started to sob or tear up, but each dead person, each story, was a tragedy.

Harry found that a lot of the people wanted to talk to him, either before or right after they saw their loved ones, and he spent a lot of time at the Floo talking to families and friends of those who had died. Most of them were very grateful that he would take the time to talk to them. Harry had a hard time not feeling guilty as person after person thanked him.

Ginny had a much harder time handling what was going on, and in between people coming through the Floo, if she was not busy with people coming to pick up bodies, she was holding onto Harry. Occasionally, she would mumble, “I should not be this soft. I should be stronger than this,” and Harry would remind her that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, with so much tragedy around them. Meanwhile, any time Harry voiced blaming himself for all the tragedy, Ginny kept reminding him that he had won, they had won, and that the deaths were not his fault.

Mid-afternoon, Harry noticed Ginny and Rosemary walking into the hall with two of the saddest and most confused looking little girls Harry thought he had seen since the heart of the battle. Rosemary led them over to the tables where the other children were, and sat, talking to them. By this time, there were about a dozen children at the tables, from several displaced families. Ginny came back to Harry, looked at him with horror in her eyes and said, “Oh, Harry.” She just lost her composure totally and held on to him, shook herself, took a couple of deep breaths while looking at the little girls, and said, “I did not think it could get any worse. They are in Gryffindor, Mary Lou Dippet, 4th year, and Ann Marie Dippet, 1st year. Their brother Dan was in sixth year with Colin and me. They were best friends.”

“Were?” said Harry, his stomach sinking with dread.

“Oh, Harry, it’s even worse than that,” said Ginny, her eyes showing a certain amount of horror. “Their mother was a Muggle and she was killed two years ago, and the family lost everything. What little they owned, their father carried in a backpack, including a tent they stayed in while on the run. Not only was Dan killed in the battle, but their father was as well. Their bodies are right next to Colin, and the girls have been sitting there crying, not knowing what to do until right now. Rosemary and I tried to talk to them, but it has taken this long for them to even be willing to talk to anyone.”

“We have to do something,” said Harry, feeling angry all over again. “Somebody has to do something. They cannot be left to sit there by their brother and father’s bodies for days or weeks.”

“Somebody has to do something,” Ginny agreed. She wasn’t sure what she could do, but at the very least, she would speak with her father later.

At about 4:30 a witch came through the Floo and asked for Luna. Harry brought out his map and found her in the Ravenclaw dorm, and directed the witch to her. About an hour later, a distraught Luna came back with the witch holding one of her hands, Cho the other.

“Luna’s father is at St. Mungo’s,” Cho explained. “He has been asking for Luna, when they can get any coherent words out of him.” Cho turned to Luna and said, “We will visit you as soon as we can. You need to be with your father.”

Luna and the witch left through the Floo, and that was the last they saw of her for several weeks.

At about 5:00, an unpleasant looking witch came through the Floo, dragging her husband behind her. She saw Harry and started to yell, “Why did you start all this war, Potter?! Here you are untouched, and my only son, only child is dead. You sit there all smug, greeting everybody and we all suffer. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”

Harry sat there dumbfounded, but Ginny wound up. “HOW DARE YOU TALK TO HARRY POTTER LIKE THAT! HE LOST BOTH HIS PARENTS, HIS GODFATHER AND HIS BEST FRIENDS WERE KILLED IN FRONT OF HIM. HE HAS SUFFERED MORE LOSSES THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE. HE HAD TO LET VOLDEMORT KILL HIM TO BRING THIS WAR TO AND END. He actually had to walk to his death, with no expectation of living. AND YOU DARE TO TELL HIM HE HAS NOT SUFFERED!”

The witch looked at Ginny, standing there with her hands on her hips, started to say something, decided better of it and walked away. Rosemary and Michael were both waiting to take families to see their dead. Rosemary was taking most of the women, but she indicated that Michael was going to take this one, and he agreed.

Late in the day, at about 7:00 PM, Bill Weasley appeared and once again made a beeline to Harry, not bothering to even acknowledge anyone else. He asked Harry, “Do you still have the wand you used to defeat Voldemort and the wand he was using?”

Harry felt down to where he had Draco’s wand. “I have the wand I used, the one that belonged to Draco Malfoy. I know where the other wand is.”

Bill said, “Please get it, Harry. It could be very important.”

Harry did not know what to do. He did not want to go back and open Dumbledore’s tomb. At the same time, Bill said it was important. He wondered if Fawkes could get the wand; phoenixes are magical birds, after all.

Harry called Fawkes, and stroking him, spoke to him in a quiet voice, saying, “I need you to do something for me, Fawkes. Can you?” The bird dipped his head in answer. “Get me Dumbledore’s wand,” Harry told him. Fawkes squawked once, and then the phoenix flew out of the room through the gaps in the walls near the magical ceiling. He reappeared quicker than Harry could have imagined, carrying the wand between his talons.

Harry held the wand out for Bill’s inspection, but the older wizard pushed it away.

“Keep it with you, Harry … it and the other one together,” Bill admonished, looking around to see who was watching, which was pretty much everyone in the Great Hall. Very quietly, he said, “Since neither is your primary wand, do not use them. They may be very important!”

Harry and Ginny were standing side by side, with their arms around each other, holding hands as he said this. Bill looked at them appraisingly and asked, “How serious are you two?”

Ginny piped right up, “More serious than Mum or Dad want me to be! They keep telling me to slow down! I love Harry, big brother, like you love Fleur.”

Bill turned to Harry and asked, “Is this what you feel too?”

Looking directly into Bill’s eyes, Harry answered back, “I do not want to rush anything, but there is no doubt in my mind that I want to spend the rest of my life with Ginny. What is going on? I expect there is a reason for these questions.”

Bill said, “Harry, Ginny, give me a couple more days to work on this. All I can say is that it may be very important that Harry beat Riddle in a single duel. Is Fleur still here?”

“As far as we know,” said Harry, while looking at Ginny, who nodded yes.

“Good,” Bill answered. “I need to take her home. She needs to rest.” And he disappeared, going to find her. It wasn’t long before he was back with Fleur at his side.

“I weel be back tomorrow,” Fleur promised as she stepped into the Floo with her husband.

It was finally 8:00 PM and the Floo was magically closed. They were emotionally drained, feeling that, at last, it was the end of the day, and yet the owls had continued to come, reminding them of the letters waiting to be answered. By now there were over thirty of them. Harry had already answered the few important ones, and Ginny had written to tell a few more companies that Harry was too busy. The thank you letters were piling up, as were the letters from witches who wanted Harry, sorting themselves out into the magical file Hermione had given them. Ginny felt panicky again, when she saw how many letters there were from witches wanting to meet Harry. She grabbed them from their place in the file as the two sat down at one of the long tables nearest the fireplace they had been manning and turned their attention to answering a few more of the letters.

Before long, Molly, Ron and Hermione joined them.

“We had three families come for their dead,” Hermione told them as they sat down. “That was hard. The rest of the day was not so bad, although a lot of people seem to have lost their homes or be too scared to go home and housing is a real problem. Half of the time I was trying to find housing and other people were helping Ron. How was your day?”

Ginny looked up from the letter under her hand she was answering. “Well, we had about twenty grieving families, one bitch of a witch, and Rita Skeeter. I yelled at the bitch and Harry was so mad at Rita that he called the editor of the Prophet. Lots of tears. It was really, really tough.” She looked down at her hands. “I cannot believe how hard it was. I don’t think it can get much worse. I should be tougher than this.” As she was saying this, she was just successful in holding back tears. Harry did not say anything, but he turned in his seat and gave Ginny a big squeeze. Ginny hugged Harry back like her life depended on being close to him, just hugged him with her face buried in his chest for the next ten minutes.

Arthur was the last to come through the Floo, saying, “The Floo is closed for the evening. How is everybody?”

“Tough day, Dad,” said Ginny. She got up from where she was sitting, went over and hugged him, and this time she was not quite successful in stopping the tears. “Daddy, all of those people. It was so hard. Harry did a great job, and thank you, I am so glad I am with him but all of the people.” She pulled herself together and went back to holding Harry’s hand.

“I didn’t think it was going to be easy, meeting all of the people who lost someone in the battle,” said Arthur, as he joined the rest of them at the table. “We are getting a lot of compliments on how well you and Harry are doing. Harry, people came back just so grateful that you were there to meet them. The people who were at the Ministry-end of the Floo told me over and over again that the grieving families said, ‘I can’t believe that Harry Potter himself was there to greet us.’ I know it is hard duty, but it is making a big difference to a lot of people.”

“I ought to be meeting all of these people,” Harry answered. “It’s my fault that we could not get rid of Riddle sooner. If we had done it sooner, all of these people would not have died.”

“No one blames you, Harry,” Arthur assured him. “If you had not done what you did, Voldemort …Riddle, sorry Harry, and his supporters would still be killing people.”

“Let’s eat,” said Ron eagerly, totally breaking the mood of the people at the table. Hermione rolled her eyes. When they all looked at him, he added, “What? It’s been over twelve hours since breakfast. I don’t know about you lot, but I only got a couple of sandwiches at noon. One thing I expected to be better after the war was getting to eat again.”

Harry and Hermione laughed. They were quickly joined by the rest of the family, who all knew about Ron’s enormous appetite. Everyone wanted to know how Ron had handled the lack of food while they were on the run, as an abundance of food appeared on the tables. Harry and Hermione regaled them with stories about Ron’s surly moods. Then they all laughed when Ron’s eyes started to tear as he proceeded to stuff a roll into his mouth whole and follow it with about three forks-full of succulent roasted beef.

Ron wasn’t the only one who missed food. Everyone was hungrier than they could remember being the night before, for maybe even longer than that, when fear and lack of provisions had forced everyone into a forced diet. And so they shared the meal almost as eagerly as Ron, talking amongst themselves.

Everybody in the family was a little concerned about George, but he seemed to have picked up his own little cheering section. In addition to his brother Charlie, who was almost always with him, Lee Jordan, the twins best friend and sometimes business partner was almost always with George. Most noticeable, however, was Angelina Johnson, who was holding George’s hand from time to time, and was always sitting next to him at meals.

Just as they were finishing dinner, the Malfoy family approached Harry.

“I need my wand,” Draco said with an uncertain sneer. There appeared to be very mixed emotions on the faces of the entire family.

“I NEED MY BROTHER BACK, YOU BASTARD!” Ron yelled. “Bloody Hell, you tried to kill us in the Room of Requirement, and Harry risked his life to save your sorry arse, and you don’t even have a thank you, you ungrateful worm. I hope they send you to Azkaban!”

As Ron and Draco glared at each other, Narcissa approached Harry and quietly said, “Thank you for saving Draco’s life.”

“Thank you for lying for me in the forest,” Harry replied to Narcissa, tit for tat, as it were.

“Is that why V … Riddle thought you were dead?” asked Ginny, realization setting in.

Harry nodded. “I think we all owe our lives to Narcissa.”

No one noticed Cindy Base sitting in the corner taking notes.

There was an awkward period of silence. Draco looked back and forth between his mother and father, obviously trying to get some sign of what to say or do. He went up to Harry and very quietly said, “Thank you for rescuing me. I really do owe my arse to you.”

“You are welcome,” Harry said to Draco. Then, turning to address the family, he said, “I’m sorry, but you still can’t have your wands back. I just don’t feel I can give them back until Kingsley or someone from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement says I can.”

“I understand,” Draco replied, resigned to his fate. “Dad’s side lost.”

Finally, Narcissa said, “No one in the family has a wand, and we do not feel we can go home wandless.”

“I don’t think I have the authority to give your family wands,” Harry said, not daring to relinquish Draco’s wand, especially after what Bill had said. He wondered what had happened to Narcissa’s wand, since Draco had been using it during the battle. Had a Ministry official confiscated it after Riddle’s defeat? Finally, he decided to put the decision in someone else’s hands. “You probably ought to talk to Arthur Weasley.”

“Thank you, Harry,” Narcissa said politely, and she went over to talk to Arthur. Lucius and Draco followed at a distance. Only Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione heard the conversation with the Malfoy family, plus Cindy Base the reporter.

It wasn’t long after the conversation with the Malfoys before Ginny pulled Harry aside and together they went up to the dorm room.

“I do not care what anybody says, I need you to hold me,” she told him when they got there.

“I can do that,” Harry said, and he took off his shoes and robes, leaving his jeans and undershirt on and got into his bed. Ginny took off her robes as well. Underneath, she wore only shorts and a skimpy top.

Harry sat in bed with his back to the headboard, watching her, expecting an embrace. He wasn’t disappointed, but it wasn’t long before Ginny pulled slightly away and began tugging on Harry’s shirt. Harry’s eyes widened slightly, remembering their conversation that morning, but he didn’t object when Ginny pulled off his shirt over his head. Instead of embracing him again, however, she removed the wrappings that Fleur had put on his chest, and sat back, looking at all of his various wounds, before reaching for the bottle of lotion and beginning to apply it to the largest of his fresh scars. They seemed to be healing and Ginny openly admired Harry’s chest; there was the starting of some chest hair and it was reasonably muscular, although he was still very thin from so many months on the run. Harry was a little person, small boned, but she thought he was very good looking. His features were so fine, he was, she thought, almost pretty. He had such kind eyes, such beautiful green eyes, and the love that he had for people shone in them. He was going to be easy to love.

Setting the lotion aside, she re-wrapped Harry’s chest to keep the big wound from coming open. Then she put her head on his chest and thought, ‘I’m living my dream. Maybe we will live Happily Ever After.’ Then she thought of Fred and all of the other people who had died, and her “Happily Ever After” never had so much pain and death in it. She began to gently cry.

Harry held Ginny in his arms as she cried. He didn’t even have to ask why she was crying. There had been so much to cry about on that day … so much he didn’t want to think about any more. Instead he focused his attention on the girl he loved.

He could see both of the scars Ginny had gained at some point during the war, but, despite the scars, he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Maybe it was the spell that Ginny had used on her hair, although Ginny really was pretty all on her own. Harry was more aware than ever of her shape as he held her. He could see enough bust to really turn him on, plus a very narrow waist, ample, shapely hips. He never thought his love for Ginny was mostly a physical thing, but lying on his chest as she was, she was so sexy, so perfectly proportioned, so appealing. Then she started to cry slightly louder than before.

“What’s wrong, Gin?” he asked, wondering which of the horrible things they’d been dealing with that day was getting to her in that way.

Ginny looked up at him and said, “When I was little, I had Muggle fairy tales as well as Wizard ones. I had the tale of Harry Potter, but I also had Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and other tales, used books that my dad found and fixed up for me. I combined them together and told my mother, ‘When Harry Potter defeats Lord Voldemort for good, then we are going to get married and live Happily Ever After!’ I had this dream that after the battle you would rush over and pick me up, and somehow the next day I would be in a beautiful white wedding dress walking down the aisle to the man of my dreams.

At the end of the duel, when Riddle’s wand flew into your hand, it was like the climax of a fairy tale for me. That part, the wand flying into your hand, was better than any dream. Except that it wasn’t really. Mum was a mess, people were frantically taking care of the sick and wounded. Lots of people were dead; I never imagined all that death. Hogwarts was almost destroyed.”

Ginny sat up and looked at the scar on her chest. “Hogwarts wasn’t the only thing damaged. I always dreamed of myself as the beautiful princess, my hero’s dream, and here I am with this ugly scar. Harry, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH IT HURT?! When they put a wand on you and do the Cruciatus Curse IT HURTS and it keeps on hurting and I’m ugly and it’ll never go away. Harry, I’M SO SCARED! There’s not going to be any Happily Ever After.” At this Ginny collapsed back on to Harry’s chest and started to sob again.

“Ginny,” he said, turning her face up to peer into her eyes. “I’ve been looking at you, at your body, and you look to me like the most beautiful woman in the world. You’re so sexy, so beautiful, and so perfect in every way. I always thought you were cute, but I never realized how beautiful you were until the last couple of days. I have scars too. I still say that scar-” Harry gently touched the start of the one over her breast, tracing it gently with his finger, “-is a beauty mark, and it shows me that my lovely Ginny is also my brave and strong and courageous Ginny. I love you, scars and all, and just ask that you love me with all my scars too.”

Ginny lay her head back on Harry’s chest and tried to control her emotions. By the time she had calmed down she was fast asleep.

Harry thought that things could not get any more confusing. What else could happen? He was exhausted. Shortly after Ginny fell asleep, Harry fell asleep too, sitting up in bed with Ginny’s head in his lap.

It was about 11:00 PM when Arthur got up to the dorm room that evening. He found Ron and Hermione in adjoining beds, just like they were the night before. Harry and Ginny were still on top of the covers on the one bed. He gently woke them up and got them into their own beds, still partially clothed.




Every story is the product of much more than one person. We are all playing in JoAnn Rowling’s universe, so first thanks go to her. I also owe a debt of gratitude to many of the authors on another site. My first beta Mrs_Granger’s stories have been an inspiration to me, and although my story is very different in some ways the universe I write in owes a lot to her. I will thank her for various pieces from time to time, and her thorough answers to my reviews have been very helpful. Her beta seeker68 is well worth reading, and I use a couple of pieces from his ‘31 Bottles’ as well. 1917Farmgirl does not write much, but what she does write is first rate. I am going to refer to her Yes, Ginevra, There is a Santa Claus, with her permission.

My beta Ladymblack is the most fantastic proof-reader and consistency checker I could hope to find, and I am very grateful for her advice and encouragement. She and I are in the process of totally revamping a huge mess of a story, and she is more of an editor than just a beta. Thanks again.

I also want to thank my Irish beta PokePotterfan93 for helping me with the British way of spelling and phrasing.

Reviews on what works and what doesn’t are always most helpful.

JetLaBarge


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