And finally, we reach the epilogue! A few notes await at the end. On with the final chapter!
Epilogue: June in King's Cross
The Hogwarts Express was going full speed through the British Country. Kenneth could see the landscape pass before his eyes. He wasn't seeing it at all. In fact, he was so lost in his thoughts that he failed to see that someone was at the door of his compartment.
"Hey, Kenneth," Ian greeted him, with a smile.
Kenneth had a little start and turned to nod and smile at the young third year
"Hi," he said.
"Depressed?" asked Ian.
"Not really," said Kenneth. "I'm just doing some thinking."
"Alright," said Ian. "Where is everybody?"
"Gone to get some food," said Kenneth, grinning. "They said they were starving."
"Always amazing how guys can eat at four o'clock," remarked Ian.
Kenneth only shrugged. Ian walked to him and offered him his hand
"Well," he said. "Hope to see you in good health, next year. Take care. It's always fun to have you around."
"The same goes for you, Ian," said Kenneth, taking his hand. "Have a great summer."
"That is, if my parents don't ground me for the rest of my life, for getting into that mess," said Ian, wincing.
"Yeah, luckily, I doubt my Dad will have the same issues as your parents," said Kenneth, smiling sympathetically.
"See you, Kenneth," said Ian, getting out of the compartment.
"See you," said Kenneth to the silence, as Ian had already rushed away.
Always the quick one, he thought. Ian had always been like this. He seemed to be always running around, from the Library to the Great Hall, catching every single word that was said in the school. Kenneth had a funny picture of Ian in his mind, running around the castle, with some bugging device on his ears, spying on everyone, and occasionally going to somebody's help.
At least, Kenneth was sure that he wasn't about to forget his school years in Hogwarts, whatever may happen for his next years. He would always remember having been the schoolmate of Ian Malcolm, one of the most unusual students in Hogwarts' History.
Kenneth's gaze returned to the landscape through the window. And his mind went back to the thoughts he was pondering. More exactly, it went back to Julie.
Was he wrong to think that he shouldn't push anything, now? He didn't want Julie to go out with him out of gratitude. She might like him, if Kalindra was to be believed, but still, there was too much doubt for Kenneth to try anything. He wasn't sure he was that attractive, for one.
Anyway, he would have the whole summer to think about it, and to sort out his feelings. Not that they needed too much sorting, as he was sure of one thing.
He loved her.
He was pondering this thought when his friends came back in the compartment, arms full of sweets and stuff to drink. He laughed at Will, who was eating like some maniac. Kalindra sat across him and they began to chat about what was in store for them, this summer.
Jennifer even tried to get the conversation on the subject of what they all wanted to do after Hogwarts.
"That means if I'm still alive after my seventh year," said Julie, smiling lightly, as she was playing with her little mouse, who had found her way back to her pocket after a thrilling year of roaming the Castle.
"Oh, we won't let you die," said Kalindra, sounding outraged.
"Really?" asked Julie, feigning to be marvelled.
"Of course," said Rob, grinning. "You still owe me three galleons."
They all laughed at that, while Julie was searching her pockets dramatically. Kenneth was looking at her, smiling and laughing, too. He was looking at her beautiful face, her shining eyes, and her magnificent hair.
Yeah, I'm screwed, he thought. I love her.
Ian got back to his compartment, after his chat with Kenneth. He joined his friends, who were discussing about this year's results.
"I hope I will be able to go on with Flitwick lessons," said Kieran. "I really enjoyed working with him."
"And it was really useful," said Ian, getting inside. "I won't ever stop saying how much I'm impressed."
"By the way, speaking of useful," said Terry. "Let's be practical and efficient. Kieran, can you come to my house this summer?"
Ian turned suddenly to Terry, his eyes wide as galleons. Joel raised his eyebrows. Terry was only smiling. Kieran was surprised at Ian's reaction. She looked at the three boys. Joel was just also surprised, but she could feel some kind of uneasiness with Ian. He was reacting strangely to a simple invitation during the summer.
Somehow, she felt reassured that Ian would care for this. She didn't know why she felt like this. But it was kind of… flattering. And Ian's attention was making her feel good, suddenly.
Oh, my, she thought.
"Well, Terry, I'm sorry, but my parents have prepared me some surprise trip, so I'll be abroad the whole summer. Next time, maybe?"
She saw Ian breathe out, although he tried to hide it. She only smiled to apologize to Terry for her refusal.
Terry turned to Ian and Joel.
"Are you interested?" he asked.
Ian felt some strange relief pass over him. Terry was maybe just offering this to anyone. Or was he inviting them to compensate for Kieran's refusal? Anyway, Ian was glad that Kieran wouldn't be alone with Terry during this summer. Ian couldn't understand why he was getting so nervous at the thought of Kieran and Terry together, staring to date or something… Could it be that…?
Nah, it's just Terry messing with your head, he told himself.
Yes, sure, it was nothing much… Wasn't it?
Somewhere in Eastern Europe
"I can still complete the Ritual," objected Lilia.
She stood in the light before the shadowy figures of the Council.
"No," said the Elder. "We have been exposed enough for the moment. You do realise that we have lost the Maze of Era. That fortress had been ours for two millennia. This loss is very serious."
"But we came very close to…" began Lilia.
"Which is why that loss didn't mean your execution, Lady Lilia," said the Elder, cutting through her reply. "Understand this, Lady Lilia. We understand how important what you attempted was. But, for now, we cannot afford open war with wizarding England. The Heir is under the protection of the Order of the Phoenix. We will need to take time before another attempt is made."
Lilia seethed at this, but lowered her eyes in submission. At least she wasn't being blamed. She still couldn't believe she had been foiled by kids! Even Harry Potter hadn't been able to stop her. She was inches from eternal glory and she had been stopped by teenagers! This wasn't to be borne.
"Unless you get a clear order from us to do so, you will not approach the Heir or move against Hogwarts," said the Elder. "Your talents can be used elsewhere, Lady Lilia."
The nice words were a disguised slight. She was being deprived of her autonomy. The Elders were reclaiming control of her troops. As they said, her life had been spared, but this was a humiliation nonetheless, and all of this because of children!
"You may go," said the Elder.
Lilia turned and gestured for Einon to stand up. He followed her, his eyes low on the floor. Once they were out of the Council Chamber, she turned to him. He didn't dare to raise his eyes to her. He probably feared her reaction to his defeat in the Fortress, that had allowed the Order to break the scene in the temple. But he had made up for his mistake by retrieving the reliquary before the Maze collapsed. None of her devoted followers had thought of that. Because of him, the Ritual of Life was still possible.
"Einon," she said. "Look up."
The Acolyte looked up, amazed that she had used his name.
"You will return to my fortress and prepare the troops," she said. "In case the Council needs us, I want each and every warlock under my command to be ready. You will relieve Arthan of the command of the troops. He failed to defeat Harry Potter. If he objects, tell him he's lucky to be breathing."
"Yes, Mistress," said Einon, bowing in gratitude.
"We are not defeated, Einon," she said. "We will have our vengeance."
"Of course, Mistress," said Einon, for the first time daring to raise his eyes and meet hers.
His resolve reinforced hers, surprisingly. Yes, she would have her revenge on Hogwarts, and on these children that had dared to challenge her. She wasn't done with the students of Hogwarts.
They all got off the train reluctantly, as if they didn't want this year to end. Kenneth was wondering what to say to Julie. The situation had been awkward, despite her best efforts to act casually. He had seen her part ways with Robert, but it had been pretty formal, with a kiss on his cheek, as his family was around, and it seemed premature to introduce her as his girlfriend. Kenneth wasn't sure what to think about that.
"So," he asked her. "How do you get home?"
"I've got a Eurostar (*) in half an hour. It'll bring me back to Paris. People from the Order will pick me up there, and arrange my passage to my Uncle's home in Brittany," explained Julie.
"Good you don't have an owl, then," said Kalindra. "That would have looked weird on a Muggle train, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah," said Julie. "But Marie will be mad at me for days after a whole trip in her box."
"Alright," said Kalindra. "My parents await me! See you in September then," she said, kissing Julie's cheek. "Take care of yourself, Lionheart," she added, punching Kenneth in the shoulder. "We want you to be back next year. And above all, don't you dare change this hair-do!"
Kenneth chuckled as she pushed her trolley toward the barrier. He turned to Julie.
"My father's going to pick me up in one hour," he said. "I can walk you to your train."
"Are you trying to play body-guard with me again?" asked Julie, smiling warmly.
"No harm I being too cautious," said Kenneth, hoping he didn't upset her.
"Well, I've got this, you know," she said, pulling the amulet Dumbledore had given her out of her top. "There will always be someone watching over me through this."
"Yes, I know…"said Kenneth, with a smile.
He was feeling ridiculous. He was clearly looking for excuses, because he didn't want to watch her go away just like that. Julie's smile grew wider.
"You can walk me to my train, just to be nice, though," she said.
"I can do that," said Kenneth, hiding his surprise and delight under a decided tone.
They walked through the barrier together and emerged on the Muggle side of the Station. They wheeled their trolleys across the huge Hall of the station, looking for some direction. Julie then pointed to a large panel, with blinking lights. It was showing hours of departures.
"There is my train," she said, pointing at one line. "Platform Twenty-two."
Kenneth followed her to that platform. By the time they reached it, the speaker systems were announcing the train's imminent departure. Kenneth helped Julie to heave her trunk inside her car. The train looked weird to him, very smooth on the outside. The locomotive didn't have any chimney, and no steam at all was going out of it. How this train could even circulate was a mystery to Kenneth. But Julie assured him it was very fast.
A voice repeated that the train for Paris was about to leave, inviting the passengers to get aboard. Julie turned to Kenneth.
"Well, see you next term," he said.
"Yes," said Julie.
She suddenly seemed to take a decision as one siren was warning the passengers to get in for the last time. Julie stepped up on the first step leading to the car. She hanged from the door frame and leant to him.
She kissed softly on the lips.
"See you soon," she whispered, smiling tenderly.
And she rushed inside the train, as the door was shutting down on its own, leaving Kenneth thunderstruck. He was tied between surprise and pure joy. All he could do was to watch Julie's face appear at the train window. She waved, as the train started. It was really fast, and soon, Julie was out of sight. But Kenneth stood there motionless for a long time.
"Wow," he finally whispered.
"So when do you come to my home?" Terry asked Ian, walking through the barrier, just behind Kieran.
"Dunno," said Ian. "I've got to ask my parents first."
"Ask us about what?" said his father, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. "Hello, Terry, Kieran."
"Good afternoon, Sir," said Kieran politely.
"Hello, Mr Malcolm," said Terry. "I just invited Ian to come to my house over the summer."
"I see," said Mr Malcolm. "I'll settle this with your parents, then."
"Thanks, Dad," said Ian.
"Are you ready? Your mother awaits us in the car."
"In just a minute, Dad," said Ian.
He turned to his friends, while his father was pushing the trolley a little farther.
"Alright, see you soon, then?" he asked.
"I hope so," said Joel. "I'm not getting another 'full-Playstation' summer again."
"Well," said Kieran, who had seen her parents. "Sorry to miss August at your home, Terry. See you, Joel."
She shot a strange look to Ian, who smiled.
"Good bye, Ian," she said.
"See you, Milady," said Ian, bowing very low.
Kieran shook her head, laughing lightly. She then walked to her parents who greeted her by a hug, before to wave at Ian, in the distance. It seemed to be a signal. The three boys parted, waving at each other and Ian joined his father, who was waiting near the trolley. As John Malcolm was pushing the trolley to the station, he turned to Ian, who was shooting quick looks at Kieran, walking away.
"So," he said. "I heard you had quite a term."
Ian turned to his father.
"Yes, very interesting," he said, not sure about what his father knew about his year, and more important, what his mother could possibly know, which would determine the level of trouble he would be in.
"No trouble?" said Mr Malcolm casually.
Ian rolled his eyes. He knew! Still, he tried to look casual.
"Well, nothing special," he said, trying to keep a straight face.
"Really?" said his father, irony clear in his tone. "How come, then, that we have received a letter from Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, if you please, explaining how brave you have been? Brave and daring?"
"Err… surely they were exaggerating?" offered Ian, innocently.
His father chuckled and ruffled his son's hair. Ian let out a sigh of relief. His Dad saw it and smiled wider.
"Well, trouble is that I'm not sure they were…" he said.
"But don't get too proud," said his father. "You're in for a lecture by your mother. She hates to hear you've been endangered, you know, no matter how proud of you she could be."
"Yeah, Moms are always like that," he said.
He exchanged a long look with his father and they burst into laughing, while walking through the Muggle station, to head back home.
Two silhouettes were watching these partings, from a far bench in the Hall. People weren't noticing them at all. But if they had, they would have noticed how much they looked alike. They had the same round face, the same blue, lavender tinted eyes and the same curly brown hair. They were looking at the young boy going out of the Station with his Father. And they were looking at the young boy walking a girl to her train. They had curious, enigmatic smiles on their faces.
"So, you think these ones can be important?" asked Ariel.
"The Oracles are clear. There are still a lot of things that they don't know," said Aria. "But once they will know, I'm sure they will have a serious impact on the course of things. The two boys are impressive."
"You mean Potter and Lockenburn?" asked her twin.
"I said 'boys'," said Aria, patiently. "Potter and Lockenburn are grown-up heroes and powerful wizards. But the young Chaotician and the Wandmaster. They just could be the key."
"You're probably right," said Ariel. "I see the whole of them as kids."
"Yes, dear Brother," said Aria. "You've always been way too aware of your age."
Ariel had a light snort, refusing to rise for the bait.
"This isn't over, yet," said Ariel.
"It's merely the beginning," confirmed Aria. "We'll see how they turn out… but they could be the way to end it all."
Ian, Kenneth, Harry, Alexander and all the others will return in …
HOGWARTS: THE STAFF OF MERLIN
(*) For the non-French, non-British and non-European readers who may not know what a Eurostar train is, the Eurostar is a High Speed Train (TGV in French) which links London and Paris, by passing under the Channel Sea. You may have seen the kind of train it is in the first "Mission: Impossible" movie, although trains NEVER cross path under the Channel, as there are TWO tunnels (just wanted to point that mistake in the film, hehehe).
Oh, and for those who may not know geography of Europe ( Absolutely NO offence intended, I know some of my friends have no clue about the geography of Australia, for example, and I'm not really good at it either), the Channel is the Sea that separates England from France.
Whoa! I can't believe how tricky the rewriting of this story turned out to be. by comparison, editing 'Seal of Chaos' was a cake walk! And yet, I met so many blocks and got stuck so often that I want to apologize for the erratic pace of the updates, and the long gap between chapters sometimes.
I have a few thanks to hand out, now that the story is over. I want to thank each reader that had the patience to follow me to the end of this. I will make it up to you on the sequel by not taking that long this time. I've already done a lot of work on Staff, at this point, and I should be able to start posting very soon. I'm still working on the new subplots and changes I've made to the wider story, so that Staff would fit perfectly into it. Keep an eye out for the first chapter!
I also want to thank the people who reviewed the story, and hope there will be more of you on the next one, lol.
Last, I want to thank Wolf-redlance, for his continued support and the fact he was available anytime I needed to bounce an idea off him (like last night, over skype, for example, :)). Your help is appreciated, mate! Merci!
Now, the next story should be up soon. See ya there!