Hi! Sorry it's been like a whole month… but here it is, the final episode in the great sarcastic saga. Endgame.
Dedicated to Liddlebee- my biggest fan, Kitani Petitedra- my sooperdooper artist, and of course all my faithful reviewers that have been with this story since the beginning.
Harry pulled down his sleeve to where Zedik was curled around his wrist, apparently asleep. A burst of memory hit him like an anvil.
"Harry? What is it?"
"Hedwig and Sleeve," Harry breathed.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other. "I'm really sorry about Hedwig," said Ron. There was a pause.
"Sleeve, too?" Hermione ventured.
"Crushed," Harry remembered, trying desperately not to bring up the vision of the stone slabs falling all around his friend, but failing miserably.
"Oh…" said Hermione. "Harry – I'm really –"
"Stop apologizing," Harry snapped. "The others?"
"All fine, as far as I could tell," said Ron, looking a little shocked. "They must've backed into the Entrance Hall when the ceiling…"
Harry lowered his head into his hands. "It was an accident," he told himself, aloud. "The whole room wasn't supposed to cave in!"
"I know, Harry," said Hermione. "But you couldn't have known what that light thing would do!"
"Then I shouldn't have done it at all!" Harry protested. "That's one of the first things Wendy ever taught me."
" Can we have a minute without you feeling sorry for yourself Potter?" came Snape's lazy drawl from behind them. Ron had to crane his neck to see past the Professor's nose.
"How's Malfoy, Professor?" Hermione asked.
"Huh? What happened to him?" said Harry, looking eager.
"He will recover," sneered Snape.
"Unfortunately," said Ron.
"How long do you think that curse was on him, Professor?" Hermione asked.
"I hardly think that is any of your business, Miss Granger."
"Hello? Still in the dark here," said Harry.
"Lucius Malfoy had little Malfoy under the Imperious," Ron explained. "It came off when you killed him."
"I killed…?" Harry exclaimed. "Someone really has to fill me in on this stuff. Little Malfoy or Big Malfoy?"
"Big Malfoy. Squished like a bug."
Hermione folded her arms just then, and they both thought it might be a bad idea to continue. "I was just wondering," Hermione continued in Professor Snape's direction. "Whether Malfoy had really been on our side all along – he could have been under that curse since he was born, couldn't he? And all that stuff he did to us over all our years at school could've been made up."
"I highly doubt it, Miss Granger," said Snape, turning his back on them. "My guess is that the curse was only applied last summer, when Draco refused to take the mark. Quite a lot of the younger generation are thinking twice about pledging themselves to Voldemort."
"Though that point is kind of moot," said Ron. "Seeing as he's dead now."
"Yeah," said Harry. "Weird, isn't it? I can't believe it was so easy."
"No doubt you will enjoy your new hero status," said Snape, moving back to his constant vigil over the unconscious Malfoy and the mangled Death Eaters.
"Git," said Ron, though he sounded a little half-hearted. "You gonna be ok, Harry?"
"I guess," said Harry, though he felt slightly sick to the stomach at the thought of Sleeve and Hedwig. When Madam Pomfrey let him leave, he would give them a proper burial.
It took Remus three tries to free Sirius from the effects of Veritaserum. Every time he tried to pour the antidote down his throat, Sirius choked and pushed him away. "Was this really necessary?" Remus growled, but no one was listening. Fudge was staring in horror into space, and the interrogator was hurriedly writing a report.
Sirius coughed the third time, but managed to swallow the greenish concoction. "Yuck," he exclaimed when it had run completely through his bloodstream. "I bet Snape made that."
"No, looks pretty legal," said Remus, looking at the label which read, 'Aesop's Apothecary.'
Sirius licked his dry lips and grimaced. "Disgusting." In two seconds he was embraced by a small person with long black hair. "Whoa, Ali."
"Sorry," said Wendy, stepping back from him. "But... Sirius…"
"Forget it," said Sirius, standing up and stretching. "Ow. That's uncomfortable. Tell me that's the last time I have to take that stuff."
"Well…" the interrogator stuttered. "We may have to call up a formal trial…" the man met Professor Dumbledore's eyes. "Or… perhaps not. No. Ah – we'll have a pardon arranged immediately. In the meantime… well. Come along, Minister."
Fudge followed the interrogator and the Aurors like a dumb child.
"What's the betting he resigns in three days?" Wendy wondered.
"Fudge won't resign. He likes his job too much," said Remus.
"I'll take that bet," said Sirius. "If he doesn't resign, the people will rise up at the oppressive injustice served to yours truly and throw him out of office."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Don't flatter yourself."
There was silence for a moment. Finally Sirius suggested; "Harry?"
"Harry," Remus agreed. "And I want to know what happened!"
"In due time, my dear Moony," said Sirius, winking at Dumbledore as the three of them left the office.
Dumbledore watched them go. After a moment he went to his desk drawer, removed the blood-stained journal from the secret compartment, and looked at it briefly. Then he threw it in the still crackling fire. Harry would be going back to a real home this year.
Harry and Sarah had been force-fed dreamless sleep potion. Hermione and Ron sat watching them, not feeling like talking or doing much else. "I feel awful," Hermione said suddenly. Ron didn't answer but he wasn't feeling too great either. He had a weird empty feeling that he couldn't quite place.
"I should be happy," Hermione continued. "Voldemort is dead, Harry isn't, Sirius is going to be cleared… so why don't I feel happy?"
"Still half a term left to go before we get to tell anyone about it?" Ron suggested. It had all happened so quickly. Normally this stuff happened at the end of the year instead of the beginning.
"Oh dear!" Hermione exclaimed. "OWLs! I'd forgotten!"
"They're not till May, Hermione."
"I know but – I forgot about them! Normally they're all I think about!"
Ron raised his eyebrows.
"Ok… so not ALL I think about… we have a test tomorrow! I'd forgotten that as well! We have a Transfiguration test tomorrow and I haven't revised!"
"Feel better now?" Ron asked, stretching his arms.
Hermione stopped talking. "Yes," she said eventually. "Weirdly, I do. How'd you know?"
"Instinct," Ron yawned. "What time is it?"
Hermione glanced at her watch. "Half two," she said. "I'll have to revise at break time tomorrow."
Ron sighed. "I was thinking more, should we go to bed?"
Hermione moved her chair closer to him. "I have a better idea," she murmured, running her fingers through his hair.
When Sirius, Remus and Wendy came in, they were half sprawled over one of the few empty beds. "Now, now, children," Wendy tutted. "Let's play nice."
The two sprung apart as though someone had attacked them with a gigantic chainsaw. "Harry's asleep," Ron said stupidly.
"I can see that," said Sirius, grinning. "Did we wake you?"
"Oh, hardly," said Hermione, tossing her hair over her shoulder, her face rapidly reddening. "But I'd keep your voices down if I were you – Snape still hasn't left."
"Why?" Sirius asked, craning his head around the curtained beds.
"Looking after Malfoy," Ron groaned. "Like he deserves it."
"Severus is Mr. Malfoy's head of house," Remus said, professionally. "It's his job-"
"Do you see Professor McGonagall here, Professor?" Sirius snorted.
"Yep," said Remus as the woman entered the room.
"Ah," said Sirius. "Er…"
"Good news, I hear, Mr. Black?" McGonagall said lightly.
She shook her head. "Still as crude as ever."
"Well, I do my best," he said, pretending to be embarrassed.
"It'll take time," she continued. "To get everyone back on your side again."
Sirius sighed and sat down on the vacated chair next to Harry's head. "I know that."
There was silence while Sirius stared into Harry's face. He pushed a lock of black hair out of his eyes. "He looks so young," he said. "But he's not. He's had so much… I just wish I could've given him the childhood he deserved."
"Me too," said Remus.
"No," said Sirius. "You don't understand."
Silence once more. Sirius clenched the hand he had used to stroke Harry's hair into a fist. "I never got to cry for them," he said. "I never got to say goodbye."
Wendy put a hand on his shoulder. "You can cry now."
"No. Now I look after Harry. No matter what." He took a deep shuddering breath… and then suddenly he was smiling again.
Harry woke to the sounds of two people arguing. "That's not fair!"
"Oh yes it is."
"No it's not!!"
"I think you'll find it's perfectly legitimate according to the rules."
"But the square just moved for you!"
"I think I prefer the Muggle version of this game…"
He opened his eyes a crack. Ron and Hermione were sitting on the floor of the hospital wing playing wizard scrabble. Unlike wizard chess, it did not seem to be something Ron was at all proficient at.
"Come on Hermione… the squares can't just jump around and make it easier!"
Harry smiled. Who's the wizard in this conversation? He asked Ron. To his surprise, Ron did not seem to hear him and continued to argue.
"But I had a whole plan worked out and now it's ruined!"
"The board realised your plan and moved around."
Ron gaped. "But -!"
"It'd do the same for me if I had any sort of plan."
"I dunno," said Ron. "I think the board is on your side…"
Harry couldn't help it. He laughed. They both jumped, sending the scrabble board flying and the pieces scattered all over the floor. "HARRY!"
"Sorry," he gasped. "But… so… funny…"
"I'm glad you found our little disagreement amusing," said Hermione, folding her arms. "But you are supposed to be asleep."
Harry sat up and rubbed his head. "I feel fine," he told her. "Anyway, if I'm meant to be sleeping, what are you two doing here?"
"We've been coming up here after classes in case you woke up," said Ron, tentatively. "You sure you're ok?"
"You've been… coming up after classes…" Harry repeated. "How long have I been out?"
"Nearly a week."
"WHAT?" Harry looked around. Apart from him the place was empty.
"I'll get Madam Pomfrey," said Ron, standing up.
"Ron, I said I feel fine…"
"Do you want to get out of here alive?"
Harry just rolled his eyes at him and he walked off towards Pomfrey's office.
"That was some potion," he remarked, unable to think of anything else to say that wouldn't invoke a long, complicated conversation.
Hermione smiled. "It wasn't just the potion," she said. "You were suffering from severe exhaustion – physical and magical. That was a huge spell you did the other day."
The other day…
"It still seems like only five minutes ago."
"You'll get used to it. You missed the Transfiguration test."
Harry gasped. "Oh no!"
"Wow, I didn't think you'd be that disappointed..."
"I missed Sirius… was he cleared?"
"Fully and with compensation," said Hermione with a satisfied grin as she bent over to pick up the scrabble pieces.
"I can't believe I missed that!"
She laughed. "You're annoyed – Remus wouldn't be pacified until we'd given him every single detail about what happened in the Great Hall after he was out."
Harry managed a small smile.
"Did it scare you?" Hermione asked.
"When we thought Remus had died."
Harry thought about it. He wasn't sure. He couldn't remember whether he'd just been more worried about killing Voldemort and Wormtail.
Ron came out with Madam Pomfrey. "Ah, Mr. Potter," she said. "You're up earlier than we expected."
Harry smiled. "That's me," he said. "Always with the unexpected."
"Well, from hereon in I'm hoping you'll become more predictable," said Pomfrey, checking his temperature with one hand.
"Who's predictable?" a dark-haired woman stuck her head through the door. "Harry! Hey Remus, Harry's up!"
"I don't think 'up' is really the right word," said Harry as Madam Pomfrey magicked off his hospital shirt.
"Well, well, look who's finally joined the land of the living," said Remus, coming in after Wendy.
"Not too many of those Death Eaters, I hope," yawned Harry as Madam Pomfrey pointed her wand at various parts of his body.
"A couple died," said Wendy, a little sadly. "Pettigrew, most unfortunately, survived and is currently insane in a top-security holding cell in Azkaban."
"Without bars on doors or windows," Remus added at the worried look on Harry's face. "He wouldn't be able to transform anyway, he's guilty as hell and he knows it, he's a walking Dementor feast."
"Where's Sirius?" Harry asked.
"In the house he bought so recklessly the day before yesterday, fixing it up for you," said Wendy. There was silence for a second. "What?" she asked, looking back at Remus. "What?"
"A house?" Harry asked, sitting up on his knees and ignoring Pomfrey's attempts to further check him over. "Really?"
"It was supposed to be a surprise," said Remus, lifting his eyebrows at Wendy. "But yes – really."
For a moment, Harry's eyes were lit with a happiness Hermione couldn't ever even remember seeing. Then he frowned. "I dreamed about him," he said. "He was crying."
"Well, he's been doing quite the opposite of crying these last few days," said Remus, smiling.
"There's more," said Wendy, looking slightly embarrassed for once. "Me and Remus… well, the house is quite big… do you mind terribly if we come and live with you as well?"
"Not in the least," said Harry, grinning again. "I'd love that, Wendy."
"Harry," said Wendy, winking. "Do us a favour, will you? Call me Alula."
"Ali?" Harry asked the next day when they were having dinner in the hospital wing. "What's a key?"
"Well, generally it's a long thin piece of metal with gaps in it in a unique order that opens a door somewhere," said Alula with her mouth full. "Why?"
"Ha, ha. I mean a different sort of key. When I was dreaming about Sirius in Divination last month, he said something to Dumbledore about wishing he still had his key."
"Ah," said Alula, looking sceptical. "Well, I think he must have meant an Auror's key. It's a talisman of some kind that every Auror carries – it grants them access to all the strongholds. The strongholds are several places… either homes or protected areas of land where wizarding people can flee to in times of crisis."
"Oh," said Harry.
"Why?" Alula asked again.
"Oh, nothing. Just an old mystery answered in a most uninteresting way. Except that Sirius used to be an Auror."
Alula scoffed. "Oh, just for a couple of months. He barely got through training and I'm sure he'd have given it up within the year. Most Hogwarts students who leave with top marks in everything do the same thing."
Harry walked down the empty corridors, trying to ignore the buzz of chatter from behind classroom doors. It had taken three days for Pomfrey to finally clear him of all illness, even though he had continued to assure her that he was completely healthy. He'd gone straight up to Gryffindor tower for his bag, and after asking the first ghost he passed what day it was, he'd checked his timetable and realised he had Potions.
Deciding that it would not be a good idea to just go straight into his Potions class, he'd hid in the library until the bell rang. Unfortunately he'd been so involved in his Herbology homework (Hermione and Ron had been dropping it off in bits ever since he'd woken up) to notice it and was now ten minutes late for Transfiguration.
And there was the classroom. Grasping his bag strap tightly with one hand, he took a deep breath before knocking on the door.
"Come in!" came the stern, annoyed voice of Professor McGonagall.
As one, the class looked up when Harry came in. For a second there was silence, until the whole room burst into applause. "Well, Mr. Potter," said McGonagall, smiling. "It's about time. Do sit down."
"Thanks," said Harry. He sat down beside Ron. "You saved a seat for me?"
Ron grinned. "Knew you'd be out today."
Ha! I knew you were psychic! Harry told him silently. There was a pause.
"Are you ok?" Ron asked.
"What? Fine," said Harry, narrowing his eyes slightly.
The clapping died away, Dean and Neville leaning forward from the row behind to slap Harry gently on the back. "Well, now that we have a full class," McGonagall said, lifting her wand. "Let's continue the lesson."
Harry wasn't really concentrating. He kept trying to talk to Ron, but Ron was not answering. What have I done? he kept asking, but Ron continued to ignore him.
Ron looked up when a piece of paper touched his hand. Harry was passing him a note. What's this? he asked, but Harry just continued to copy the notes McGonagall was witching onto the blackboard.
He opened the note. It read: Can you hear me?
"I can't believe it," Ron said later in the common room. "It's just… gone?"
"Seems like it," said Harry. He was sitting cross-legged in one of the armchairs by the fire – three first years had vacated them for the trio as soon as they came in. "It's not even just closed. It's not there anymore."
"How?" Hermione asked.
Silence. Harry was getting used to these uncomfortable silences – no one wanted to talk about the minutes he'd been trapped under several tons of rock. "Both of us nearly died," he said. "The bond must have stretched its hardest using your air to keep me alive. It must have… shattered somehow."
"Shattered?" Hermione asked quietly.
"I knew I felt different," said Ron. "I feel just like I did before we made the bond… except now I can feel that there's something missing."
"So… no more talking to each other with your minds?" Hermione asked. They shook their heads. "Well, good," she said, causing them both to look up at her in shock. "Well, I think the way you were talking to each other all the time was very rude. I mean, you could have been talking about anything." She rolled her eyes when they only continued to stare at her. "Think about it," she said. "I'm going to bed."
The fire seemed to crackle very loudly after she left. Harry sighed and went inside his own mind. Without Ron, it was hard. He had to concentrate on not thinking about anything else. There were no barriers. Not one. Voldemort was dead, he and Ron had exhausted their connection through keeping each other alive, Remus had been hit with the killing curse and disconnected the bond that existed between Harry, Sirius and himself. The Animagus gate would only open when he was talking to another Animagus. The only mind there was his own. In a way it was comforting, in another, it was lonely.
"So," said Ron. "What do we do?"
"I don't know," said Harry, startled out of his trance in a way that was slightly painful. He rubbed his forehead.
"Has this ruined everything?" Ron demanded. "I mean – are we both still Animagi?
Harry looked up at him. "I hadn't thought of that." He'd gathered that the powers he'd had during the last few months had been given to him by some divine presence to help him defeat Voldemort. What if all his powers had been erased?
"Only one way to find out." They were the only two people left in the common room. Harry closed his eyes.
Two birds winged their way through the night sky. This is still incredible, Aureus Plumeus said through the Animagus link.
I know, said the Phoenix, black as night.
Would you rather freeze to death…?
It is the end. My baby is grown up. Heck, it's left university, got married, had kids, and is now retired and living on a sunny beach in the Caribbean. Excuse me while I hide away and cry.
Please please please please please leave a review to tell me what you think about the ending. From Age to Age the Same and Loving You should both be updated as soon as I have time to finish up the next chapters, and I have a new book-length story starting called Evanesco, so do not give up on me!!
For now, goodbye.