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The First Year, an Almost Happily Ever After story by Jet LaBarge
Chapter 6 : Harry tells his story
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3

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Wednesday morning, Teddy woke up just before 6:00 AM, and Harry and Ginny handled it the same way they had the day before. They began to realize that they were falling into a comfortable routine. They spent a few minutes snogging, once Teddy was settled again, before going down to breakfast, and picking up the daily owls. Shortly after 8:00 AM, they were ready for the rest of their day.

Today they were going to Gringotts to try to get into the first two vaults. Michael Appledorn came along, and they met Bill at the entrance to Gringotts in Diagon Alley.

“Good morning, Harry, Michael. Good to see you, Ginny,” Bill greeted them.

“Good morning, Bill. Could I speak to you for a moment?” Harry asked, hesitating before approaching the entrance to the bank.

“Sure. What can I do for you Harry?”

“I was wondering …the last time Ron, Hermione and I were here, we did quite a lot of damage. I’m surprised, actually, that the goblins are going to let me in.”

“Ah,” Bill responded. “Well, the fact is that the cost for repairing the damage has come up. In fact, it was a fairly touchy subject for us in making these arrangements, that is until yesterday.”

“What happened yesterday?” Harry asked, looking puzzled.

“You returned the Sword of Gryffindor to them, Harry. You arranged for them to have it on a regular basis and recognized what they feel is their right to it. That has made all the difference to them. I was informed this morning that, to the goblins, having possession of the sword is worth the cost to repair the damage to the bank.”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked warily, still glancing at the guards standing beside the entrance.

“Positive,” Bill assured him. “Come on. We have a lot to do.”

Harry nodded, and together, their little group approached the entrance. The guards greeted them cordially, and Harry was nearly convinced that he was going to be allowed to access, when a small knot of goblins intercepted himself and Ginny before the golden doors leading to the vaults.

“They’re worried that you brought Ginny and Teddy with you,” Bill suspected.

It didn’t take them long to figure out that Bill was right. The goblins were not happy to have Teddy with Ginny and insisted that he stay in the baby carrier, securely confined to her, while they were riding to the vaults.

With the goblins appeased, Michael, Harry, Bill and Ginny, carrying Teddy, followed their two goblin guides and crammed themselves into a waiting cart. They set off, riding the cart through neck-breaking turns at high speed, down to the level of the vaults. Teddy, who was already not happy to be confined, was even unhappier with the ride and shrieked loudly in protest, promptly throwing up over the side of the cart upon arriving at their first stop, and he continued to wail.

They all climbed out, Ginny staying slightly behind, doing her best to calm the infant, while Bill, Harry and the goblins approached the vault. They had a hard time removing the curses guarding it, and as Bill had predicted, only Harry could break the curses. Not even he could change the curses to allow Bill to open the vault.

According to the plaque that appeared beside the door, once the vault was opened, this first vault had belonged to the Nott family, one of several inter-related Nott’s that could trace their ancestry back to the early days of wizards in Britain. Bill, Michael and the goblins went over the records until almost 12:00 noon, with Harry having to unlock inner vaults and to cast counter spells to allow various records to be viewed. In the end, they identified a substantial amount of suspicious money, which was confiscated and moved to the Ministry Treasury. They also took documentation that allowed an appointment to a permanent seat on the Wizengamot.

“It’s almost noon. Shall we have lunch?” Bill suggested, as they finished.

“Good idea,” Ginny agreed, as her stomach rumbled.

“Don’t we have more to do?” Harry asked, looking around at all of the many vaults on this level, wondering how many of them they were going to have to enter and go through.

“Harry, we have loads more to do,” Bill agreed. “And it’s going to take weeks, if not months to get through everything just in Britain. We’ve made a good start this morning, and this is a good stopping point before we continue.”

“Good point,” Harry conceded. “Lunchtime it is. How about the Leaky Cauldron?”

Ginny and Bill smiled and it was decided. Harry invited the goblins to join them, but they declined, saying they didn’t much care for wizards’ food, as they all climbed back into the cart for the ride back up to the top.

Teddy’s second ride in the cart didn’t agree with him any more than his first one had, and Ginny spent their walk through Diagon Alley trying to calm Teddy back down. Bill got them a table, and they all sat down, talking over what had been discovered. By the time they’d ordered and been served, the discussion had drifted and Bill began to go over some of the Weasley family history as they ate. Bill started in, “At one time, the Weasleys had property and a seat on the Wizengamot. Then, several centuries ago, they got into a battle with several other old families because of their support for the rights of Muggleborns. In the end, on what were almost certainly trumped up charges, the Weasley family lost its property and seat. Ironically, Harry, the seat that you inherited was the original Nott seat and the living Notts have the seat that was originally a Weasley seat.

“That’s amazing,” Harry declared, as he considered the pattern in which the Wizengamot seats had changed hands.

“Isn’t it though?” Bill agreed. “Our history if full of instances like that. There are so few of us, with the same families interacting over the years, it was bound to happen from time to time.”

“I suppose,” Harry agreed, immediately deciding what he wanted to do. “I think I know what I want to do with this seat now though.”

“What?” Ginny asked curiously. She’d been struggling to follow the conversation while also trying to eat and to tend to Teddy.

“I’d like to give it to Arthur. Then, since it’s a permanent seat, Arthur could leave it to you, Bill, when he wants to retire. That way your family will have its seat back.”

“Are you sure, Harry?” Bill asked. “That’s quite a valuable thing to just give away.”

“I’m sure,” Harry told him firmly. “I already have a seat representing the Potter house.”

“You do?” Ginny asked.

“Of course he does, Ginny. The Potters are an old, established family that has been prominent for centuries, until Voldemort came to power,” Bill informed his sister.

“I didn’t know that. I thought it was only Harry,” she murmured, looking at her boyfriend with newfound respect.

“Harry’s the only modern representative of that line, but the seat has been his since his parents died,” Bill told Ginny.

“That’s right,” Harry agreed. “So I already have a seat, and in my opinion, your family should have one as well. It’s the right thing to do, giving it to you. Besides, the more people we have representing those who took a stand against evil in this war, the more it will help restore some of the balance of power to the Wizengamot … something it’s been lacking, even before the war.”

“Agreed,” Bill said. “Transferring the seat is going to take some time.”

“Can we start on it right away?”

So Harry and Bill decided to start working on transferring the seat that same afternoon, along with visiting a second vault that was on Bill’s list.

“Do you mind if I sit the afternoon trip out?” Ginny asked, as they got up from the table.

“I thought you wanted to come along,” Harry answered in surprise, remembering Ginny’s declaration that he wasn’t ever to leave her again.

“I did … and I’m glad I came; only Teddy doesn’t like the carts much, and it hasn’t been much fun trying to make him feel better. Besides, it’s time for his nap, so maybe I should take him back to Hogwarts,” she suggested.

“Are you sure?” Harry asked.

Ginny nodded. “Besides, with him waking up in the middle of the night to nurse, I need a nap too. I had no idea how tired mothering an infant made you. I’ll see you back at the castle.” She kissed Harry on the lips, in spite of holding Teddy, and went through the Leaky Cauldron Floo to the Ministry. From there, she could take the secure Floo back to Hogwarts.

The afternoon was similar to the morning, except there was no seat involved, and there was more money transferred to the Ministry. Harry saw Grabhook, as they were getting ready to leave Gringotts for the day, and remembered his promise to the elves, resolving once again to find a way to help them.

Harry and Michael followed Bill out through the golden doors, expecting to turn towards the Leaky Cauldron, so they could follow Ginny back through the Ministry to Hogwarts again, but Bill and Michael led him an another direction. Down a small side street Harry had never noticed before, Bill took Harry to where there was an office building just off of Diagon Alley.

Before they went inside the building, Bill explained, “I’m working for you now, Harry, as is Michael. We need more documents signed, and personal trusts set up. A lot of paperwork. He led the way to an upper Floor office that looked down on the shopping street below.

“You do the paperwork and I will sign it,” said Harry.

“You need to know what is going on,” Bill advised him. “Some of the money involved has been stolen from the Ministry, but we have no idea how much. If a wizard dies without a clear will and heirs, the money is supposed to go to the Ministry. We would like to turn over half of the money from these estates to the Ministry right now to keep it from going broke.”

“I do not have any problem with that,” said Harry.

“You can also help a lot of people who need it, but to do it properly, we need a charitable trust set up,” said Bill.

“Do it,” Harry agreed.

“That’s what some of these documents are, Harry,” Bill explained. “Transferring this much money is a lot harder than just giving a few Galleons in cash to somebody.”

“Do it,” Harry repeated.

The office that Bill led them to was a reasonably plush. A wizard, who seemed to be an assistant of sorts, escorted them into an inner office, where they were met by a witch in very elegant robes. She directed them to some sofas to wait for a few minutes. After receiving the okay, he then led them to a large office and introduced them to an evenly more lavishly dressed witch, saying, “Harry Potter, Michael Appledorn, I want to introduce you to the best financial legal advisor in Britain, Marge Baker.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Marge said, as she had them sit down, her manner brusque and businesslike.

“First, Harry has to sign additional documents to set up the Harry Potter Trust, and then Harry really needs to approve your salary,” Marge added, nodding at Bill. “The goblins wanted Bill paid 30,000 Galleons a year, minimum, but he insisted on 25,000 at most, because 30,000 would mean he’s earning twice what his father is earning.”

“I want Bill to be paid whatever he is worth,” said Harry, thinking about the amount of time Bill had worked on his behalf and the fact that he would be floundering otherwise.

“Do me a favor and say 25,000, Harry. That is three times what I was making, even with bonuses,” said Bill.

“Fine, for right now 25,000,” Harry agreed with a mental sigh, admitting that Bill’s insistence was honorable. “Is that it?”

“Well, in order to make it easier to find out what is going on with some of these estates, I really could use goblins and elves on staff, and that is highly irregular. I have the documents for you to sign, but you need to know what you’re signing. I’m warning you, some people are going to be unhappy.

These documents give Kreacher and me unprecedented power to ask questions on your behalf, and to hire goblins to help. Wizards have never put any responsibility in the hands of house-elves and never trusted goblins much. Many have never trusted other wizards all that much either, and many people think you are daft giving Michael and me this much power. I think we ought to do this, but by delegating and not insisting on personally approving every financial decision you are changing hundreds of years of tradition.”

“You’re the financial expert, Bill,” Harry said. “I trust you. I don’t want to have to learn all of this! I’ve got enough to worry about right now, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have someone that I can rely on.”

It occurred to Harry just how far he’d come recently. He’d never known how to ask for help, let alone delegate tasks. But he was glad that he’d learned that lesson, even if it had been the hard way.

“Well then, you are going to have to trust me, Michael, Fleur and Kreacher.” And sign all these documents to confirm it.” Bill pushed a couple of documents at Harry.

Harry looked a little warily at Bill but said, “All right,” as he signed another couple of documents. “Anything else?”

“Just that, and these.”

Bill pushed forward a stack of parchment related to the business they’d conducted that day. Resigned to his role of signing when needed, Harry settled himself at a desk and worked his way through the mountain of scrolls, signing over the funds they had discussed, the Wizengamot seat for Arthur and dozens of other, smaller agreements. Finally, he rose and stretched his fingers. Bill bundled the signed documents to return to the bank. Together Bill, Harry and Michael left the office building, and dropped them off on the way, as they walked together.

“Fleur was telling me, last night, that there are a lot of medical needs, both at the castle and at St. Mungo’s,” Bill commented to Harry as they stepped into the Floo at the Leaky Cauldron.

“She wanted to see if the trust could pay for some of them. Just one is the special wizard that the Browns have found for Lavender,” he finished as they stepped out at the Ministry.

“Of course the trust can pay for Lavender,” said Harry, as the trio brushed themselves off and then joined the queue for the secure Floo to Hogwarts. “Just how much money are we talking about? It sounds like a lot, maybe a million Galleons or more.”

“Both the Potter and the Black estates are worth about a million Galleons each,” said Bill, as they arrived at the front of the line. “The total Galleons we are dealing with, not even counting the Swiss, could easily climb to over a hundred million Galleons, maybe well over that.”

“That’s a lot of money,” said Harry, said as he and Bill stepped into the Floo.

“Harry, we could easily be talking about a billion Galleons,” said Bill as they arrived at Hogwarts once more. “That’s a huge amount of money to have killed for and stolen, and a huge amount of money to manage.”

Harry nodded. He was just beginning to get a feel for how much was involved, but there was no time to talk about it anymore now. It was nearly 7:00 PM and dinner was being served, earlier than it had been the days before, when they had been working until 8:00.

He, Michael, and Bill made their way to the tables and found that the combined Appledorn/Bayleaf families had joined the extended Weasley clan, minus Arthur and Percy, who were working until 8:00 PM as usual, for dinner.

Bill kissed his wife, who looked weary. “You’ve said that there are a lot of people who can’t pay for their medical care. How can we find out who they are and how much they need? Harry has generously set up a trust to care of those needs.”

Harry nodded his approval.

“Oh Bill, Arry, zere is zoo many needs,” exclaimed Fleur, perking up immediately. “Lavender’s mama an’ papa not know ow zey are paying for her care.”

“Do you want to tell Lavender and her parents that the trust will pay for her medical care?” asked Bill of Harry.

“Not really,” replied Harry. “I’m embarrassed enough by all the people thanking me. Can you not let anyone know that I have anything to do with this?”

“Probably not,” said Bill. “I’ll do my best to keep the trust anonymous, but I doubt it will work.”

“Fleur,” said Bill, turning to his wife, “can you let the Browns know that a trust will be taking care of Lavender’s bills?”

“I will!” she said, and then she turned to Harry and said, “Sank you, Arry, sank you so much! I will make sure no one lacks zee care because zey lack zee moneys!”

Harry noticed the Malfoy family and told Bill about the conversation with Lucius. Bill turned to the other people at the table and said, “Harry and I need to talk to the Malfoy family alone.”

Bill went over and got Michael Appledorn, and then called, “Kreacher.” The house-elf appeared with his usual CRACK. “Tell them what you told me,” Bill said, and Harry briefly relayed his story.

“Kreacher and I will take care of it,” Michael said, with a wicked grin.

“Will be most pleasant outcome for Master, most unpleasant for Lucius,” Kreacher said.

The four approached the Malfoy family.

Harry said, “Lucius, I want to introduce you to my representatives, the people who will be talking to you about the missing Ministry money, my house-elf Kreacher and my forensic accountant Michael Appledorn. They work for Bill Weasley, who is my personal financial representative.”

Lucius looked at the group before him, and Harry thought he turned more shades of color than a human, wizard or Muggle, was capable of turning. “I talked to you, Potter. I never said I would talk to your servants and certainly not a house-elf,” he said.

“They are managing my money,” Harry replied. “I have signed documents delegating unprecedented powers to them, and I want you to answer their questions.”

“To a house-elf?” Lucius replied, indignantly.

“Hard to lie to a house-elf,” Harry said, grinning.

Lucius had a furious look on his face. It looked like he was going to say something when Michael said, “I see you know the magic, Mr. Malfoy. Kreacher has been most helpful. It is not possible to lie to the honest house-elf of an honest wizard. It takes a good forensic accountant to know what questions to ask, and I think I’m pretty good. Harry, Bill, we can take it from here.”

Harry and Bill went back to the dinner table. Glancing over at the Malfoys, they could see a very unhappy Lucius talking to Michael and Kreacher.

After dinner, Harry and Hermione went down to the kitchens to talk to the elves about Kreacher’s request to bury the two house-elves. Kreacher said he was not the elf to talk to, and eventually, a very old house-elf came out.

“Call me Aristotle,” he said. “We are honored that you would want to help us bury our dead.”

Harry asked, “Where are house-elves buried? Is there a graveyard here?”

Aristotle answered, “Many house-elves are not buried, but masters just throw them out. Some have been sent to be rendered like cows and horses. But at Hogwarts, we have buried our dead for many generations.”

“Can you show us this graveyard?” asked Harry, feeling a little sick at the thought of house-elves being thrown out like rubbish or worse even still, being slaughtered like animals.

Aristotle just walked out the door, and the friends followed. A little ways from the castle, they came upon a reasonably large mound. “How many house-elves are buried here?” asked Harry.

“About 2,000” said Aristotle.

“There is no marker, no list of names here!” said Harry indignantly. “Do you have a list of names; do you know who is buried here?”

“We know all 2,346 names,” said Aristotle.

Harry perked up. “We ought to have a monument with a list of all the names, with plenty of room for more names as house-elves die. Can I bring Headmistress McGonagall here? Can we talk about a monument with her?”

“House-elves is not all named,” said Aristotle.

Harry insisted, “They all have to have names. How do you talk to each other? How do you record who was born and died?”

Aristotle thought for a moment, obviously trying to come up with a proper reply. “House-elves do not all have names from masters. House-elves has own language and names and writing, but not for masters, not for their owners.”

Harry answered, “Could we have a monument with names in elfish and English, please?”

Aristotle looked startled and asked, “Is that what Harry Potter wants?”

Harry answered back, “Yes, very much. If I get the monument, can you take care of writing the names? Elfish on top, English below if there is an English name.”

Aristotle again looked surprised, even scandalized, and commented, “Elfish on top. Oh no, Harry Potter, we cannot do that!”

But Harry insisted, “Yes, Aristotle; you are elves, elfish on top! It has to be elfish on top! And when we have the monument, we will dig the graves for the two house-elves who died in the battle, and they will have their names on the monument.”

“Elfish on top could change the magic,” Aristotle said in awe and not a little amount of fear. “Even writing elfish for all to see could change the magic. Harry Potter changing the magic that keeps house-elves safe!”

“You changed it when you took our side at the Battle of Hogwarts,” Hermione said. “You were not really safe when Tom Riddle was in charge. You are not really safe when your masters abuse you.”

“What’s so wrong about putting the names in Elfish?” asked Harry.

Aristotle responded, “Language important. ELVES speaks ELFISH in public? We is not allowed to use elfish in public for as long as written history. Cannot do that!”

“It’s a direct order, Aristotle,” Harry insisted, belatedly realizing that he didn’t have authority over the house-elves of Hogwarts, only Kreacher. “You deserve recognition. You fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, when you did not have to. You suffered casualties, just as everyone else that fought. You must be treated better than you have been!”

“Kreacher!” Aristotle said.

The old house-elf appeared beside Harry.

“Harry Potter wants a marker with names in Elfish and English for the Hogwarts house-elves,” Aristotle said to Kreacher, frowning at Harry.

“Much subversives,” Kreacher said, nodding his head like he’d become accustomed to such strange actions. “Prophesies say Harry Potter the friend of house-elves and goblins.”

“Is changing the magic,” Aristotle repeated, shaking his head.

“Is changing the magic,” Kreacher agreed. “Harry Potter gives Kreacher most hard order: do what is best for house-elves, for now and for future. Is hard. Is subversive.”

“We will obey Harry Potter,” Aristotle said. “But is changing the magic!” Aristotle was obviously quite frightened about writing the names in elfish.

“Can I help dig the graves?” asked Hermione, looking warily at Aristotle. There were tears in her eyes, and Harry suspected that she knew that the change in the magic would help to promote their cause better than anything else possible.

“Yes, you have always been pushing us for house-elves’ rights. You, of all people, need to help dig the two graves. Aristotle, we need to talk to the headmistress. We will be back to see you soon.”

They found Headmistress McGonagall in her office and told her what they wanted to do. Harry explained a little about burying Dobby and how that helped them get Griphook to help them break into Gringotts, and how important he thought it was and McGonagall agreed.

Harry also mentioned a little about having the names in Elfish, and, together, they turned to Dumbledore’s portrait and asked for his thoughts. He agreed with what they were doing, in fact looked very pleased, but also concerned. He warned Harry and Hermione that exposing the Elfish language, and giving it prominence, was not a minor matter.

Dumbledore explained, “I’ve tried to learn how the house-elves were enslaved, Harry, Hermione. Language is not a trivial issue. How house-elves talk to each other, about each other and about the people they serve is very important. It causes them to think a certain way. I could not learn the language, and I had a minor gift for languages. I think you would have to start as a very young child to learn Elfish and to do a good job of changing the magic. I am sure that in changing the magic you would change the language, and I almost think that just by changing the language you would change the magic.”

“Just by publishing the Elfish language we will do all that?” Hermione asked. “Is it safe?”

“I think it’s a good thing to do,” Dumbledore replied. “I never said it was safe. And it’s going to take a lot more than words on a wall to free the house-elves, but that’s a start, an important one.”

“Do what is right, not what is easy,” Harry repeated. “Not everything is safe. Doing the right thing is not always safe.”

Hermione got a sick feeling. She wanted the house-elves to have their freedom, but she did not want to start something that would end up hurting them.

Together, the group drew up an arch leading into the area of the graveyard, with a large wall on each side. Harry wanted one side of it to be large enough for over 2,000 names, so that there was plenty of room for more names. Harry said that he would pay for any expense, but the headmistress would have none of it.

“They are Hogwarts house-elves, and we should take care of the expense,” McGonagall told him.

McGonagall thought that with magic, two days would be enough to have the monument in place. Harry and Hermione let Aristotle know that the gate and wall would be done by Friday and they could bury the two elves on Saturday.

Harry woke up and grabbed for his glasses. He reached for his watch. ‘Seven AM already?’ he thought. ‘When have I needed nine hours of sleep? Oh, how many times was I up with Teddy last night? I didn’t feed him. Ginny must have been awake for hours in the middle of the night. What day is it? Thursday? Do we have to tend the Floo? I guess that is over for us. Answer letters, get ready for the talk tonight.’ Harry went to the loo, getting back about twenty minutes later. Molly was standing next to the bed she and Arthur were sharing, looking at her husband, but when Harry came in she turned to him.

“Hello, Harry,” she whispered. “I’m just trying to decide if I should get into bed with Arthur and risk waking him up. Others are up, and I’m tired.”

“Ginny seems exhausted too,” Harry whispered back. “I know she is awake a lot at night, nursing Teddy. I’m getting up to change his nappies, but I think I can almost change the nappies in my sleep.”

“By the time we had Charlie, Arthur could change nappies in his sleep. Ginny really appreciates you changing the nappies,” Molly quietly replied.

Molly gently sat on the bed next to Arthur, and Harry went into bed next to Ginny. She had started to stir, and he gently kissed her. Ginny looked at Harry and smiled, reached for her breasts, felt them and then reached for the baby bag and got the bottle with the milk, the formula and her wand. Ginny saw her mother sitting on the bed next to them, grabbed a nightgown, hastily put it on and stumbled to the bathroom. Ginny went to the loo, made more milk and used the charm to fill up the nursing bra, almost without thinking. She finally looked at her wand and thought, ‘Do I have to use the Touch-of-Lust spell? No, probably not. I’m too tired, and nursing seems to be … and Harry seems to be …’ Ginny really was tired, and she stumbled back to bed.

Ginny looked at Harry, gave him a little kiss, got out of the robe, crawled into the bed and almost immediately went back to sleep.

Just before 8:00 AM, Harry heard Teddy making gentle noises. He went over to the crib and picked up Teddy, changed his nappies and laid him on the bed. Harry started to quietly talk to Teddy, but soon Teddy made the mouth motions that said, ‘I’m hungry.’ Harry gently shook Ginny and said, “Teddy’s hungry.”

“MMM, mmmm, wha … wha … all right,” said Ginny. “Close the curtains, Harry.”

Harry waved his wand to close the curtains. He made them close around both beds so that the two beds were in their own little closed off area. Ginny felt both breasts and opened one of the bra flaps, then looked towards Harry and Teddy. “Give me the little bugger,” she said. Harry handed Teddy to Ginny, who positioned him close to her and waited for him to latch on. Very quickly Teddy found what he was looking for and started to suck greedily at Ginny.

“I love you, Ginny,” said Harry. “Thank you for taking care of Teddy.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Potter,” Ginny replied, grinning. “Nursing feels so good, and having your approval and love feels even better.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Weasley,” Harry said with a flourish. Harry saw more of Ginny, when she opened the bra, before Teddy latched on, but it was just part of feeding Teddy. It was sexy, sort of, well, it was really sexy, but it was also so natural. Harry just marveled that something like nursing could be both the sexiest thing in the world, seeing your girlfriend with a baby sucking on a breast and the most paternal thing in the world at the same time.

“August 11,” said Ginny. “Remember, if the Ministry needs us to be married when I turn 17, we need to get married August 11th, and I’ll be Mrs. Potter.”

Harry gave Ginny a gentle kiss, and thought, ‘This marrying thing is getting serious. I really want to marry Ginny, and would love to marry her when she turns seventeen, but how can you ask your sixteen year old girlfriend to marry you? How are we going to work this out?’ The discussion ended here, however.

When Harry, Ginny and Teddy got downstairs, there were more owls for them over breakfast. All of the urgent ones had been answered, but the ones thanking Harry and the ones expressing their love for Harry had not been answered and the pile of them was growing. Ginny was going to hold on to the ones from all of the witches eager to get their hands on HER Harry, but she did tell Harry that they had better compose an answer to the people thanking him.

“I think that we should include Hermione and Ron, and ideally Neville, and you, obviously. Maybe Luna too,” Harry insisted.

Ginny argued some, but they worked together and eventually they had a form letter that she could duplicate and use to answer the letters thanking him or them. It read:

Dear ….
Thank you for your kind letter.
Many suffered for many years under Tom Riddle and his supporters, and we were just the last to add our support to the struggle. We are very fortunate to have played a part in getting rid of Tom Riddle for good. Like many of you, we have suffered losses in the war, with family members being tortured or killed. We are sorry for your losses.

We are sorry we could not mention all of the hundreds of people who helped in this struggle. One, Luna Lovegood was a full partner with Neville and Ginny at Hogwarts last year, but unfortunately she was not available for the enclosed photograph or to sign this letter, because she is taking care of her father, another victim of Tom Riddle.

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley

Ginny could change the letter, as needed, to better answer individual letters, but the form letter would definitely make things go faster, and she thought she would be caught up with answering all of the letters thanking Harry in just the next few days.

After breakfast, they found Ron and Hermione, then Neville, who was still eating.

They had someone with a camera take a photograph of the five of them; Ginny and Neville sitting down, and behind them Harry in the middle with Ron on one side and Hermione on the other.

“We’ll send a copy of this photo with every thank you letter we answer,” Ginny explained, when she was asked, and everyone readily agreed.

With the photo done, Harry turned to them all, saying, “We have to get ready for our talk tonight. Gin, a lot of what we are going to talk about, we do not want anyone else to know, but you should know everything. Is that acceptable, Ron, Hermione?”

“Yeah, Harry, you’re the boss,” said Ron, and Hermione nodded yes.

After taking over an old abandoned classroom, they explained what Horcruxes were to Ginny, and how they had to destroy all of them.

“Are you going to tell everybody that?” Ron asked.

“Hm, maybe. I think it’s okay for people to know that we had to destroy objects to kill Riddle, but maybe we shouldn’t say what the nature of the objects was,” Harry suggested, looking at Hermione.

“I agree,” his bushy-haired friend said.

When they got to the Deadly Hollows, they explained everything to Ginny, but decided not to mention them to anyone else. Ginny learned that Ron had left and some of the problems that the locket caused, but they decided not to talk about those with anyone else either. Harry wanted to keep the talk down to about an hour, something that ended up being impossible to do. It took most of the day to get a good outline together.

After dinner, they went to a classroom. All of the Weasleys were there. Almost all of the Hogwarts staff was there too, including Professor Binns. Harry assumed that some version of the talk would become part of a dry history lesson someday. Most of the remaining members of Order of the Phoenix were there. All of the DA was there, including those recruited in the last year, and some Ministry officials that Kingsley and Arthur had approved.

As they waited to begin, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione sat quietly, each lost in his or her own thoughts.

Hermione was going over the outline, trying to make sure, for the hundredth time, that they did not say too much or too little, trying to anticipate questions. She looked over to Ron and thought briefly about their relationship. Ron was surely in love and trying hard not to be an idiot about it, something that was not all that natural for him. Ron really cared for her, one of the things that she loved so much about him. As for the physical part, that was enjoyable too. If they were going to do it, they were going to get really good at it, but there was a time for that and now was not the time. Her eyes flitted to Ginny, who was watching Harry like a hawk. ‘Ginny’s terrified because of all of those other witches wanting him, and Harry does not even want to look at the letters,’ thought Hermione. ‘Relax, Ginny!’ Her eyes drifted to Harry, who like her, was looking over the outline. Hermione shook herself mentally and went back to the outline too.

Ron was trying to think about the speech. They were going to talk about him saving Harry and destroying the locket but not about him leaving. He was going to come out looking more like a hero than he deserved, thanks to Hermione and Harry and how they wanted to tell the story.

Most of Ron’s attention was focused on Hermione. When did she get to be so gorgeous? He always knew that she was a girl and not bad-looking. She was no Fleur, and all of her parts were sort of average-sized, but she had all of the right parts, and they all felt really good, at least all of the parts she had let him touch so far. She had let him touch a lot of her! She was trying to teach him how to turn her on. Well, she was always trying to teach you something or learn something; that was Hermione. But when she talked about needing to learn about each other’s bodies, what a turn on! Only Hermione would make-out like it was a scientific experiment. Except, when you did it gently enough and got to the right spots, the scientist would disappear and the passionate girl/woman, would appear. Of course, these moments always ended with, “Well, that worked! We have to do that again!” She said the same thing when something turned Ron on. He knew that he was ready at any moment, but Hermione had everything in compartments. If he was not an idiot, which was hard sometimes, and complimented her and was gentle, then usually, at the end of the day, she was ready for some serious snogging and “learning.” This whole idea of having to get really good at sex intrigued Ron. If she was going to approach sex with the same passion that she approached everything else, Ron thought that learning with her was going to be, well, typical Hermione: exhausting, but a lot of fun.

Ginny was still trying to absorb all that she had learned that day. She had a copy of the outline too, if just so she could understand what Harry was saying. She was going to have to learn about this, if she was going to understand Harry. She ought to feel relieved that Harry had spent so much time looking at her dot on the Hogwarts map, and she did, sort of, but that was before all of those letters from the other witches came. ‘I’m still just a girlfriend,’ she thought. ‘I could still lose him.’

Harry was just trying to go over the outline and make sure he was telling the story the way that they wanted it told. He was very grateful to Hermione for making the outline, and he was glad that Ginny knew everything as well. The last days, really the last year, had been very hard on her. She was very uptight about something or everything, he couldn’t be sure which.

Once he thought that everyone was assembled and ready, Harry started, “I’m not sure if we have won this war, because of the Death Eaters that are still out there. The defeat of Tom Riddle is the most important victory in this long war, and I hope it will make final victory possible. We want to tell you what Hermione, Ron and I have been doing during the last year, and how we came to this point. We are not going to tell you everything. There is not enough time and some of what we were dealing with is very dark magic. We do not want to go into any detail on the dark magic part. I’m not sure if anybody knows everything, even Dumbledore, although he probably knew more than anyone.”

Harry started with the battle at the Ministry. When he told them about the prophesy, Neville looked at Harry, and Harry said, “Yes, Neville, the prophesy could have applied to you. When Riddle tried to kill me, I became the object of the prophesy, destined to do what the prophesy said. Dumbledore tried to prepare me for this task.”

Harry went into the tasks that Dumbledore had given him and the insights into Riddle’s life. He told them that they had to destroy objects before they could kill Riddle, but avoided telling them what the objects were. He told them that Dumbledore was hurt trying to destroy one of them. Harry went into the bargain Dumbledore had with Snape and how Snape was supposed to kill Dumbledore. Harry was asked if he was sure of this part of the story, and Harry told them that he saw Snape’s memories and could share them with a couple of the people there if they needed to see them. Harry realized that if he was ever going to get Snape’s name cleared entirely, he would have to share those memories.

Harry told the group that Dumbledore had warned him that if Riddle ever found out what he, Ron and Hermione were trying to do, there would be big problem. So last summer they set out to try to finish the task of finding the objects and destroying them.

He told them about how they had tracked the locket to the Ministry, but did not tell them how many problems the locket had caused afterward. He told them about Godric’s Hollow and the snake but avoided talking about the Hallows. He told them about the visions he had been seeing, giving them some insight into how he had known what Riddle was doing. He told them nothing about Ron’s leaving but did explain about the silver doe in the forest and Ron saving his life and destroying the locket. He glossed over most of what happened at Malfoy Manor, although he did mention, in passing, that Hermione had been tortured. He felt that others had to know that it was not just Harry who had suffered.

Harry told them about their escape and about Dobby’s death. He described how they found out that one of the objects was at Gringotts. He spent a little more time than necessary on Gringotts; it was just such a great story to tell.

Harry said, “Then Voldemort knew what we were doing. I could tell that he knew and was very upset and angry. The last two objects that needed to be destroyed, as far as he or I knew, were the snake and one other object that was at Hogwarts. Neville took care of the snake, and that was critical to getting rid of Riddle/Voldemort, thank you.”

Neville said, “You asked me to kill the snake, and when the sword of Gryffindor was put in my hand, I did what you asked. We all trusted you, Harry.”

“There is a sad story about how the other object was destroyed, that we will not get into here,” Harry said. “After that happened, Ron, Hermione and I went to the Shrieking Shack, because that was where Voldemort was. The snake was there, but so was Snape. Voldemort told the snake to kill Snape, and before he died, Snape gave me some memories. I left Ron and Hermione and went to use Professor Dumbledore’s Pensive to see what they contained.

“Professor Snape had information that will clear him and make you know that he was a hero in this struggle. He also had some information that I was not supposed to know before the end.

By the time Voldemort tried to kill me as an infant, he had done so much killing that his soul was very unstable. A piece of his soul came loose, and it attached itself to the only living thing in the room, me. My mother’s sacrifice saved me. But even after we had gotten rid of all the other objects, there was going to be that one piece of Voldemort attached to me. As long as that was alive, as long as I was alive, Riddle, Voldemort could not be killed. That must be why Dumbledore did not think he could tell me. How do you tell someone that, to save the world, you have to let yourself be killed?”

“Oh, Harry!” cried Mrs. Weasley. She had heard that part of the story before, but it still horrified her. Most of the people in the room just stared at Harry, stunned.

“So, then I knew what I had to do,” said Harry. He grabbed Ginny’s hand, took a deep breath, and said, “Give me a minute.”

The room was totally quiet, most of the people looking at Harry, a few looking down deep in thought. Harry was shaking; Ginny and some of the other people had tears in their eyes.

Harry found his strength return to him, thanks to Ginny’s encouraging presence. “Well, I threw the Invisibility Cloak over me and went to do what I had to do. I saw Neville, on my way out, and told him about the snake. I walked by Ginny and almost lost it right there. I’m not sure I could have made it, but Dumbledore made it possible for my parents, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black to be with me, as more than ghosts. They called me brave; I didn’t feel brave. I felt terrified. But I knew what I had to do if everybody I loved was going to have a chance to live, to be free of Voldemort. So I found Riddle and let him kill me.”

Harry sat down, and said, “I’m sorry; it’s hard to talk about this part.” After a short time, he got back up and resumed. “I found myself in some sort of halfway place. Dumbledore met me there, and explained some things. He told me that I had the choice to go on or go back. It was so peaceful and I knew there would be a lot of pain if I came back, but we would have a much better chance of getting rid of Voldemort if I came back.

Normally, the choice would be to go on to whatever exists beyond death or become a ghost. But Voldemort had taken my blood to regenerate his body, the blood that held the powerful charm that my mother created with her sacrifice. Dumbledore said that as long as my blood lived in Voldemort, I could live, if that’s what I chose to do. I’m not sure if I can explain it any better than that, or if I even understand it more than that. But, in the end, I had to choose, and it wasn’t as easy as you might think.

It was so peaceful and I knew there would be a lot of pain if I went came back, but we would have a much better chance of getting rid of Voldemort if I came back.”

Hagrid was crying. “It was terrible seeing him there. Voldemort cursed him again and again and he flew up into the air. He did the Crustaceous Curse on you, Harry.”

Harry said, “Well, I decided there would be an advantage if Riddle thought I was dead. The Prophet was correct; Narcissa Malfoy checked to see if I was alive and lied for me. When Neville killed the snake, I put the Invisibility Cloak over me and you all know the rest.”

Harry sat down. Everybody was quiet. Arthur asked Harry, “Do you feel you can answer questions? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

Harry said, “I’ll try.”

Bill asked, “What kind of dark magic are we dealing with?”

Harry replied, “I’d rather not answer that question. Dumbledore felt that the fewer people that knew what Riddle did the better. We’ve decided that we agree with that.”

Kingsley asked, “Do Ron and Hermione know?”

Harry said, “They know everything I know. They have been full partners in all that has been done.”

“Were you really dead?” asked Molly, her face still wet with tears.

“I could have been,” said Harry. “I know that the part of Voldemort that was in me was killed.” He went on to describe the malformed body that had appeared with him in that half-way place and how it could neither move forward nor backward. It would just be stuck there forever.

Harry continued, “But Voldemort, Tom Riddle, is no longer there. For all of my life, I could feel some sort of presence there, sometimes just a presence but lots of times much worse. The presence is gone! He is gone!”

“Do you think Dumbledore knew you would survive?” asked Minerva McGonagall, a thoughtful expression on her face.

Harry looked at her, thinking for a moment about the fact that Dumbledore wanted him to unite the Deathly Hallows, so that he could be the Master of Death. Was that because he wasn’t a hundred percent sure that the blood connection was enough? Feeling humbled at the effort Dumbledore had put into ensuring his survival, Harry tentatively said, “I think he hoped I would survive, but I don’t think he was sure. I definitely thought I wouldn’t. Maybe if I’d known I could live through it, it wouldn’t have worked?”

No one seemed to move for several minutes.

Kingsley eventually cleared his throat and asked if all of the DA members could come around him, and he told them, “The Auror department at the Ministry is in terrible shape, and we want to recruit as many of you for the Auror department as possible. How many of you want to become an Auror? Harry?”

Harry nodded yes.

“Ron, Hermione, you were Harry’s partners. Could we get you to join him?”

Hermione declined, and Ron said that he was not ready to make a decision yet.

Neville indicated that he would; that he was helping at Hogwarts now and eventually wanted to come back, but he would be an Auror, for now, if that was what was needed. Hannah Abbott was holding Neville’s hand, but she answered she was not going to join.

In the end, Terry Boot, Cho Chang, Michael Corner, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Seamus Finnigan, Anthony Goldstein, Ernie Macmillan also promised to consider starting in the autumn. Padma and Parvati Patil said that they would have to ask their parents, but if they could, they also wanted to join. Lavender had to be released from the infirmary to be at the meeting. The special wizard was with her, and she seemed to be in a lot of pain. She needed to go back to the infirmary, but thought she would be OK by September and really wanted to be an Auror and catch the rest of the Death Eaters. Alicia Spinnet was the other member of Dumbledore’s Army there; she had also been wounded, but not as severely as Lavender, at least physically, but she indicated that she never wanted to fight again. Later on, Harry would find out that Alicia would take a few years to get over the battle, and mentally, she was always a little fragile.

Teddy had been sleeping through most of the presentation, but he started to stir as they talked, and Ginny went to a corner of the room, changed him, and started to nurse him. Harry was sitting down, and very few questions were being asked. People in the room were mostly talking to each other or to Ron and Hermione. While she was nursing, Ginny went back and sat next to Harry, sitting so they were lightly touching.

Neville and Hannah came over, and Hannah asked, “How did this happen?”

“When his grandmother gave Teddy to Harry, I tried to feed him with a bottle, but he didn’t want to take milk from a bottle. From the way he was acting, we could tell he wanted to nurse. When I realized that I could get a magical bra and nurse him myself, I just thought it would be a good idea. What is going on between you and Neville?”

Neville answered, “We are going to get married in a couple of weeks.”

Ginny asked, “Why so soon?”

Hannah looked embarrassed. “We’re starting a family. About Christmas.”

“I was sleeping in The Room of Requirement most of the time, and Hannah came in and slept with me. She was-is working at the Leaky Cauldron. She is going to inherit it and a couple of times a week, when the Floo network was not being watched, she could Floo to see me, and we gave each other news,” said Neville.

“You gave each other more than just news if you are expecting a baby,” said Ginny, with a grin. Neville and Hannah looked at each other guiltily. Ginny said, “Is that why you are interested in Teddy? Do you want to hold him?” Hanna held Teddy and she and Ginny spent a little time talking about babies.

People started to leave the room, most of them thanking Harry, many of them putting a hand on his shoulder or shaking his hand. Finally, just the Weasley family was left. Ginny was done nursing Teddy, and Molly took Teddy so that Ginny could give Harry a big hug and kiss and walk with him up to their dorm.

Harry was very relieved that the presentation was over. He hoped that he would not have to do anything like that again. It was good, walking back to the dorm hand in hand with Ginny. Being with Ginny was, at least for now, the new normal, and it felt very good indeed. A couple of times he stopped, pulled Ginny into him and gently kissed her.

Ginny was so proud of Harry. She’d listened all day to Harry, Ron and Hermione give her the full story of what had happened. Harry was more of a hero than anyone could have imagined. He had chosen life; he had chosen her. This was like her dreams, her Happily Ever After ending, working its way out, somehow, in real life. Ginny was feeling like she was the luckiest person in the world to have HER Harry with her.

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