Disclaimer: I do not own HP. I repeat, I do NOT own HP. But, of course, you lot know this, right? If not, whack yourself repeatedly in the head with a blunt object until you do.
A/N: I had a few people who reviewed say that VVBane would have ended better if Ginny hadn't come back. So, for those folks, here's Chapter 32 featuring no Ginny. This is just an alternate ending, ladies and gents, not the actual one. Any sequel written (and, yes, there WILL be one) will be based on the original Chapter 32. So nobody get confused, k?Chapter 32 – Goodbye, Bye
"Dead," said an Auror as he combed through the bodies of the Death Eater's and those Hogwarts students that were littered about. It was half an hour after the battle had ended. The first thing the Aurors had done when they had arrived at the castle was to help get the wounded inside to the Hospital Wing.
The next was to comb the grounds for survivors. As of yet, they had had no luck.
"Hey! I found two!"
Two Aurors ran to join the third, who was standing a few feet from a bushy-haired seventeen-year-old girl. She was covered in blood – most particularly on her hands – and had a staff pointed at them.
"Easy now, miss," said the first Auror. "We just want to help the two of you."
The girl narrowed her eyes at them then she saw their navy robes and gasped, "Aurors. Aurors!"
"Bloody good show for them," groaned the dark-clad figure on the ground.
The girl lowered her wand and hurriedly said, "I'm sorry. Please help me get him up to the castle. He's losing blood fast."
"I am not," defended the figure on the ground, causing the girl to turn and brush a lock of green streaked black hair from his sweaty forehead.
"Hush, Sev." She then turned to the Aurors and snapped, "Come on!"
The three men nodded and moved forward, gently lifting Severus' limp form up off the ground that was now stained with his blood. Hermione squeezed his fingers gently and started to move along with them.
"You'll be okay, Sev."
"I…know I'll be," mumbled Sev. He looked around as well as he could then hissed, "Go find Harry, Mione. Don't you worry 'bout me. I've had worse."
"Don't you die on me, Sev," growled Hermione, glaring at him.
Severus forced an annoying smile and whispered, "Never."
Hermione smiled at him then pulled back so the three Aurors could carry him up towards the castle. Then she turned and studied the field of the dead. With a shudder, she oriented on the place where she'd last seen Harry and headed towards it.
She found Neville on her way there, cold as a tombstone. He had an odd smile on his face and Hermione smiled grimly as she knelt to close his eyes, murmuring a little prayer as she did.
Rising, she continued on her search, tripping over the leg of a Thestral (which she could now see). She landed hard on the ground and found herself lying in grass that was stained with dried blood. Looking up, she saw the still form of Ginny, a dagger buried in her stomach.
A sob welled up in her throat as she crawled towards her friend, placing her hand on the jacket she recognized as Harry's. At this she began to look around. Wherever Ginny was, Harry had to be close.
"Heya, Herm," croaked a voice from behind her suddenly and Hermione whirled about, leaping to her feet.
Harry stood there, swaying drunkenly. Slytherin's sword was held limply in one hand while the other was pressed to his stomach. Blood dripped from the wound and Hermione gasped, "Harry."
The dark-haired young man gave her an odd smile, the same sort that had been on Neville's face, before he started to collapse. Hermione rushed forward and caught him, feeling hot blood spurt over her as his hand slipped from his wound. His sword clattered to the ground as she gently lowered him down beside Ginny.
"Oh my God, Harry. Oh God, oh God."
"S'alright, Herm," mumbled Harry, reaching up with a blood-stained hand to touch her cheek. His emerald eyes were dazed as he continued, "I got him. I got the bastard."
"Don't talk," urged Hermione, looking around for something to staunch the blood flowing from his wound. She finally reached over and tugged his jacket off of Ginny, revealing her blood-stained shirt. Trying to ignore that sight, she balled the jacket up and shoved it against the gaping hole in her friend's stomach.
Harry grunted as she put pressure on it and whispered, "Don't… Let…go…"
"I AM NOT LETTING YOU DIE!" screamed Hermione. "DON'T YOU DIE ON ME, HARRY! I WON'T HAVE IT!"
"Gin…" mumbled Harry, eyes staring blankly at the night sky above.
"Would she want you to give up?" demanded Hermione. "WOULD SHE WANT YOU TO STOP LIVING!"
Harry slowly shook his head and Hermione nodded.
"Then don't you dare die on me, Harry Potter."
"K, Hermie," mumbled Harry in a childish tone, his head falling over. His eyes stared blankly at Ginny's body until Hermione reached up and gently turned his face away.
When the Aurors arrived to carry him up to the castle, she walked behind them with Slytherin's sword and her staff gripped in her hands, blocking his view of the redhead's body.
* * * *
Dumbledore was standing at the castle entrance when the Auror's carried Harry in. He stopped Hermione and asked in a gentle tone, "Miss Granger? Hermione?"
The bushy-haired girl looked up at him with haunted eyes and said, "Neville's dead, sir. And Ginny. Oh God, Ginny…" She began to sob uncontrollably, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Dumbledore, a grave look on his face, gently removed the sword and staff from her hands and pulled the distraught young woman into his arms. She clung to his robes and buried her face against his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," he murmured. "If I hadn't done what I did to Harry perhaps this would have never have happened."
"It would have happened anyway, Albus," said McGonagall suddenly from his left. She had just come in from the grounds apparently as she had an extremely grave look on her face. "Voldemort was going to be after Harry no matter if he were an Heir or not. This battle would still have happened."
"But perhaps not with the same results," said Dumbledore sadly. "Will you please contact that parents of the students who were killed, Minerva?"
"Of course, Albus."
As McGonagall walked off, Dumbledore gently wrapped an arm about Hermione's shoulders and said, "Come, child. Poppy will take care of you."
All the bushy-haired girl could do was nod and let the old wizard lead her away from the doors that only showed a field of the dead.
* * * *End of Term Feast…
"We have lost many things this year. Alliances, friends, siblings…lovers. But we have gained peace. Peace for the Wizarding World. Peace from the Darkness that Lord Voldemort spread. It will never make up for the lives lost this year – lives that will never be lived out. But…we will pull through."
As Dumbledore sat down, Hermione leaned against Severus, who clutched her close. On her other side, Harry looked blankly down at the table. Medusa (who had also been in the battle but only near the end) sat beside his plate, almond eyes focused on her master. Across the table Draco gave the dark-haired young man a sympathetic look.
"Harry," he began only to be interrupted at the Slytherin blooded Gryffindor stood up hurriedly.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled before he turned and ran out of the Great Hall. Every eye followed him as he made his way out, every soul there knowing why he did so.
Severus and Hermione rose as well and followed him out, Medusa trailing along in their wake. Draco rose a few seconds later, the huge black dog that had been underneath the table follow him.
The five of them found Harry out on the grounds crouched on the spot where Ginny had died. He had two fistfuls of grass in his hands and was shaking, fine tremors racing up and down his body. Tears spattered on the still blood-stained grass.
"Harry," began Severus, only to be interrupted as Harry whirled about and hurled a fistful of grass at him.
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
He tried to get up to run but slipped and fell back down onto the grass, tears streaking his cheeks silver. Looking up at his friends and godfather, he hissed, "I miss her. I miss her, I miss her, I miss her…"
"We all do," murmured Hermione, lowering herself down into the grass beside her friend. She started to reach out to take his hand but stopped. He hadn't wanted anyone to touch him after Ginny's death. If she did it now, in the place where Ginny had died, he'd scream. "You aren't the only one, Harry" she continued.
"I loved her," gasped Harry as though he hadn't heard her. "I loved her and I never told her."
"She knew you loved her," insisted Severus. "We all saw it. She knew, Harry."
"That's not the point, Sev!" cried Harry, slamming his fist down on the grass. He turned teary eyes on his friend. "I never told her! I never said it to her face! I never even admitted it to myself till after she was dead!!"
"Harry," murmured Hermione as tears flowed anew down her friend's face.
"She knew though," whispered Draco. "It doesn't matter that you didn't tell her."
"Yes, it does," said Sirius, speaking up for the first time. He slowly settled himself down on one knee in the grass in front of his godson. "Even if a person knows that you love them, you've got to tell them. After all, they might not know. And it helps you know."
"You speak as though from experience, Siri," said Severus softly.
Sirius looked at his twin for the first time without anger. He slowly nodded and said, "Yeah, I do. There was a girl once. I tried to tell her a load of times but every single time by tongue got tangled up in itself. So I never told her. Sure she knew I was mad for her – everyone did. But I never told her. And I lost her."
"What happened?" asked Hermione, leaning against Severus' side.
"She joined the Death Eater's," replied Sirius. "Spying for her father. I never knew till after she had been killed in a raid." He sighed heavily and continued, "I've always that maybe if I'd told her…maybe she wouldn't have joined them. Maybe…maybe she'd still be alive now."
"Kat," mumbled Severus. He stared at his twin and breathed, "Oh Merlin, Siri, don't tell me…"
"You've got it, Sev." He leaned back and looked up at the stars spiraling high above them. "Oh Merlin, why didn't I tell her?"
"Who?" said Draco.
"Mischa Katherine Alexi-Dumbledore," said Severus. "Albus' grand-daughter."
"That'd be her," mumbled Sirius. "'Queen of Slytherin' we called her. And Merlin help me, I fell for her."
"Hard?" said Harry.
Sirius only nodded and said, "Very hard. I never told her and she went and got herself killed."
"Looks like I went and did the same thing," mumbled Harry.
"No!" hissed Hermione. "Don't you ever think that!"
"If I hadn't been out here fighting Ro…Aubrey she wouldn't have come out here! She wouldn't be dead!"
"Harry," said Severus in a serious but gentle tone, "you can't keep blaming yourself for things. The world isn't on your shoulders, no matter how much people say so. Stop trying to take the blame for everything. Ron's turning wasn't your fault. And Ginny's death is most certainly not your fault."
"I wish I could go back," murmured Harry, drawing his knees up to his chest. "I'd kill the bastard before he got her."
"You can't change the past, Potter," said Draco.
"You think I don't know that!" bellowed Harry, leaping to his feet. "I know I can't go back! And it hurts like hell! It hurts to know that I can't go back and save her from that. She shouldn't have died! She had her whole life ahead of her! Her whole life…an entire lifetime…gone. Oh God, Gin…"
He fell to his knees and began to slowly rock back and forth. Hermione pulled herself to her feet and slowly walked over to him, kneeling down in the grass beside him. And carefully, ever so carefully, she wrapped her arm about him.
His entire body stiffened at the touch and she could feel him shaking under her fingertips. Just when she thought he was going to go off, he sagged against her with a sigh of release.
"Maybe it was her time," murmured Hermione, laying her head against his. "You don't know that it wasn't that."
"I know," mumbled Harry. He pulled back slightly and looked up at her with eyes that had dimmed to green-gray. "There's one thing I'm happy about though."
"What's that?" asked Hermione.
"The last thing she saw…the last thing she saw was me." Tears pooled in his eyes and Hermione pulled him close as they began to fall again. "I was the last thing she saw."
"And I'll bet she loved it," whispered Hermione into his ear.
"Yeah," agreed Severus, Draco nodding in agreement with him.
Sirius smiled slightly and said, "We'd better get back before they send the cavalry after us."
Harry laughed and pulled away from Hermione, brushing the tears from his face. "Don't you know, Sirius?" he said with a shadow of a grin. "We are the cavalry!"
Severus, Draco, and Hermione all smiled at that and Sirius threw an arm about his godson's shoulders.
"Yeah, you are. Now come on, let's head back."
Harry nodded and they slowly started towards the castle. Severus and Hermione looped their arms about each other and tagged along behind them, Draco slouching along behind them.
A little ways in their walk, Harry stopped and turned around, peering back through the dark. Sirius frowned and turned to look at him, saying, "What?"
"Dusa's still back there."
Severus and Hermione stopped and turned back with frowns on their faces. Draco sighed and said, "I'll go get her. You lot head back without me." With that he began to job back the way they came.
Sirius started to continue on but Harry stayed where he was, staring back into the dark. His entire body was tensed, taught as the string on Draco's bow. After a moment his hands began to shake and he stuffed them in the pockets of his robe.
"Harry?" said Severus, reaching out a hand towards the young wizard. "What is it?"
Harry didn't answer, just stared away into the dark. When Draco reappeared with the tiny cat clutched in his arms, he sagged, as though he was a balloon with the air let out of it.
"Harry?" inqueried Hermione, gently touching his arm. "Are you alright?"
"I…" began Harry, looking back towards the tiny hill as Medusa leapt from Draco's arm to his shoulder. He then smiled at her and said, "I'm fine, Herm. C'mon, let's head back. I bet all the food's gone by now."
Severus frowned at him and slung an arm about the young man's shoulders. The serpentine eyes turned towards him and he said, "You sure you're alright, Harry?"
Severus gave him a Look and Harry looked away, a shiver passing through his body. When he looked back, his eyes were slightly gray.
"No, Sev, I'm not okay. And I – I don't think I ever will be."
He separated himself from the other young man and made his way towards the castle. Hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped, and head down, he looked like a broken figure. As though he had nothing to keep him going.
Draco voiced something to this effect and Sirius looked at the blonde for a moment before turning his eyes back upon his godson's retreating form.
"He does seem broken. I just hope he doesn't break anymore."
"So do I," muttered Severus, pulling Hermione close. "So do I."
* * * *Thirteen years later…
It was a stormy night at Hogwarts. The enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall rolled with dark clouds and lighting as the first years were lead in for the Sorting Ceremony. Most of the Sorting Hat's song was drowned out by loud peals of thunder and then the first year's were called up by Edward Windmyer, who had replaced McGonagall as Transfiguration professor after she had become Headmistress in Dumbledore's stead.
As Professor Windmyer continued to read out names, McGonagall leaned over to the man sitting to her right and whispered, "Which one is our young Snape again?"
"The dark-haired one," came the gruff reply as the witch looked out at the sea of heads, most of them dark-haired.
McGonagall gave the young man a slight glower and said, "Mister Potter, you continue to be the most infuriating child I have ever met."
Harry smiled slightly at her and said, "Professor, I haven't been a child since I was eleven and started fighting Voldemort."
"I know. Now, which one is Severus'?"
"The dark-haired one," replied Harry, smirking.
"I'm sorry, professor. I promised Sev when I got this job that I'd do his job for him."
"And what job would that be?"
Harry grinned and replied, "Annoying you, of course."
"Of course," said McGonagall with a roll of her eyes. "I should have known. Now, will you answer my question?"
"The lad with the gray tabby on his head." Harry tilted his head towards the eleven-year-old, who indeed had a small, gray tabby-cat perched upon his head. McGonagall frowned at the creature then looked at the wizard beside her.
"You're doing, I suppose?"
"Actually," said Harry, "it was Hagrid. He was the one who sent me Dusa."
"Where is that cat of yours, by the way?"
"In my rooms." Harry frowned then and added, "At least, I hope she is."
McGonagall arched an eyebrow at him then turned back to the Sorting as a name they both recognized was called out.
The dark-haired boy shuffled forward, the tiny tabby perched in his nest of wavy hair. His dark eyes wandered over the Head Table before they landed upon the only face he knew there.
That of his godfather, one Harry James Potter.
Harry smiled at the eleven-year-old, who grinned back before pulling the tabby off his head and hopping up onto the stool. The cat meowed at being removed from her perch and pawed at her master's hands as the Sorting Hat was dropped down atop his head.
"What House?" asked McGonagall quietly to Harry.
"One never knows," replied Harry cryptically, his serpentine eyes swirling as he watched the back of the slight boy.
Abruptly the Sorting Hat straightened and yelled out, "SLYTHERIN!"
Tristen Snape ripped the Sorting Hat from his head and leapt off the stool, the tabby cat leaping back up to nestle in his hair. He grinned widely at his godfather before he hurried over to join his House.
McGonagall smiled as she leaned over towards Harry and said, "Looks like you have a new student. Aye, Head of Slytherin?"
The corner of Harry's mouth twitched up in a smirk as he replied, "Looks like I do."
* * * *
After the Sorting, Harry wandered outside onto the grounds. A cold, brisk wind whipped his robes out behind him as he walked across the swaying grass. His dark hair, which he had allowed to grow out to his shoulders, covered his eyes at some points in time and flew straight back behind him at others.
He weaved his way across the grounds towards the Forbidden Forest, where several pairs of bright white eyes watched him. Harry gently brushed his fingertips over the dark scars on his wrist as he smiled at the creatures standing before him.
"I never thanked any of you for your help," he whispered as one of the Thestral's stepped forward. "None of us did."
The creature snorted, as though agreeing with him, and stretched out its neck to nuzzle at his hand. Harry stroked the velvety nose and said, "Thank you. For everything. The battle, your protection…I'm glad you believed I was worth it."
You are, whispered a voice in his head. Brother…
Harry smiled and patted the slender neck before he turned and walked towards a small hill. The Thestral followed him, moving slowly along beside him. After a moment, Harry reached out and laid a hand on the broad back of the creature.
He stopped at the top of the hill, staring down at three gray stones that had been placed there thirteen years before. Kneeling down beside them, he plucked up three blades of grass and held them in his hand, palm open to the now clear sky above. His eyes closed partially and the blades of grass shivered before they lengthened, growing leaves and scarlet petals. When the emerald eyes opened, three perfect roses lay across his palm.
The Thestral snuffled and leaned its head against his shoulder as Harry placed a rose upon each of the graves.Neville Longbottom
"A brave friend lost too soon but never to be forgotten."
"A good friend lost to Darkness. May he find his way back someday."
"Love lost to Darkness. Hope turned to sorrow. Tears were shed on her passing and shall be shed on the 'morrow. Her soul lingers on, waiting for a certain someone to join her. Until then, she waits…in sadness and in sorrow."
Harry laid a hand on the third tombstone and slowly leaned forward to place a kiss on the cold marble. When he pulled back, there were tears on his cheeks and on the stone.
"I never told you how much I loved you," he whispered to the stone. "I thought if I did I'd lose you. I lost everything I ever loved. My mum and dad to Voldemort, Sirius to Azkaban, and you to that bastard Aubrey." He tucked his chin to his chest and continued to himself, "Did you ever know I loved you?"
The dark head jerked up and Harry stared at the form of his godson, who was standing nearby. Dark eyes watched him and frowned as they saw the tears streaking his godfather's cheeks.
"Why are you crying?"
"Old memories," replied Harry, rising heavily to his feet. He patted the Thestral's shoulder then turned and walked over to his godson. Placed a hand on the thin shoulder, he turned the boy towards the castle. "Why aren't you in your common room?"
"I wanted to talk to you. Besides, I'm an in-insoomiach like Father."
"You mean an insomniac."
"Yeah. Who were you talking to?" This was asked as the two of them entered the castle.
"An old friend," replied Harry heavily. "It's nothing for you to worry about, Tris."
"Okay. Good night, Uncle Harry."
As Harry turned to head towards his rooms, Tristen spoke up.
"Hmmm?" Harry turned to arch an eyebrow at his godson, who smiled slightly at him.
"Whoever you were talking to, I bet they knew you loved them."
Harry's chest tightened and he coughed before croaking, "Thank you, Tris."
"You're welcome, Uncle Harry. Night."
"Night," mumbled Harry, heading towards his rooms. As he did, he felt a hand brush his cheek and the feel of lips brushing his.
Or perhaps he just imagined it.
Either way, as he continued towards his rooms to get ready for his first class as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and Head of Slytherin House, he felt a weight that had been on his chest for thirteen years lift.
Out on the grounds, the rose lying on Ginny's grave slowly set down roots and stood up, petals shining scarlet in the light from the stars above.
A/N: Sappyness again. So sue me. I may be a Slytherin but I am also a hopeless romantic. Can't help it.