A/N: And here is the final chapter of The Katarn Side.
Chapter Thirty-Two: Master and Apprentice
To see a list of Kyle Katarn's enemies, look under "Extinct Species".
Luke Skywalker sat speaking to Lily and James Potter over drinks in the Leaky Cauldron. The Jedi Grand Master sat surrounded by a faint blue nimbus of the Force, while James and Lily Potter were translucent, with the light of dingy windows behind them passing through their forms.
Nearby, the stunningly beautiful Helena Ravenclaw sat at another table staring longingly at the table where Harry's parents sat speaking to the spirit of a man who died hundreds of thousands of lightyears away.
Luke seemed to be aware of Harry's presence first and turned to study him intently. "We've been waiting for you, Padawan," he said with a warm, welcoming smile.
Lily and James both turned to watch him. Even in death, Harry thought his mother looked beautiful. The color was washed from her appearance, though he could see hints of red in her hair and cheeks. James looked like an older version of Harry himself, though he wore glasses where Harry's eyes were corrected as soon as he and Kyle reached Ossus.
"What are you doing here?" he asked to his parents more than anyone. "How can you be here?"
"Where is here?" Luke answered for them, though his tone was rhetorical.
"Am I hallucinating?" Harry asked. "Is this real, or all just in my head?"
"With the Force, Harry, you should know the two are not mutually exclusive," Luke said with a wry smile. Meanwhile, Harry's parents each stood from the table and flanked him, his Mum on his right and his Dad on his left. Without a word, the two embraced him.
"You asked Sirius a question, once," James whispered in his left ear.
"And the answer is yes," Lily whispered in his right. "We are so proud of you, Harry."
Harry felt his eyes tear up as he felt the one thing in his life he could never remember—the embrace of his parents. "But I don't understand, why are we here?"
The room around them darkened. Harry turned and saw another shade sitting at a table near the bar, her eyes rolled back in her head and her back stiff. In a shockingly deep, cavernous voice she said, "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
Frowning, Harry looked between his parents to where Master Skywalker continued to sit calmly. "But what does it mean?"
"Your Dumbledore was not a kind or good man as most would describe it," Skywalker said. "But he was not needlessly cruel, nor did he often act without reason. He was driven by what he thought necessary. The one question you and Kyle never asked was why he thought his actions toward you necessary. It is an important question, Harry. And because of how magic works, it is not too late to ask."
"Speak to his portrait," his Mum whispered, having never let him go. "Speak to the portrait soon, and remember, Harry. Remember we love you. We're proud of you."
He woke in a soft bed, staring up into shadowy rafters far overhead. A soft snort made him turn his head to where Hermione lay curled up in a plush chair next to the bed, easily within touching distance. Soft rivulets of hair hung down across her face, with one curl in particular bobbing in time with her breath.
I was going to tell her I loved her, he thought to himself. The thought was both warming and chilling. He knew the words were bandied about so easily, but he'd never thought they would apply to him. But when he looked at her he felt as if he could barely breathe; that she was the sole reason for his existence.
His mind, though, drifted from her to his dream, and within it, what Master Skywalker said of Dumbledore. He thought of the terrible loss he felt when he thought Kyle had died. Objectively, his master's actions could have been seen as terribly cruel. Harry knew that his master needed the world to think he was dead, and the most effective way of doing that was to make Harry think he was dead. But he waited for days before letting Harry know the truth, and during those days it felt as if his whole world had collapsed.
Was that really so much different than Dumbledore placing him with the Dursleys? Perhaps in scale, but what if there was a reason?
He loved Kyle despite what his master did. He loved Anakol and even Master Ben Skywalker. He loved Hermione so much it hurt. He misled her and used her to help set the trap in the Department of Mysteries. Was he any different? Who did Dumbledore love?
Who did Dumbledore love?
He was up before he realized it. His Jedi robes, wand and lightsaber lay on a nightstand beside his bed, opposite Hermione, and he dressed in silence. He looked back repeatedly, but Hermione did not stir. Though he wanted to wake her and talk to her about his questions, he did not. Instead, he left Hermione to her sleep as he walked out of the Hospital Wing.
Somehow, he was not surprised to see Kyle waiting for him by the Headmaster's office stairs. The man looked ancient and cast in shadows as he stared intently at Harry. Harry himself didn't say anything to Kyle, but instead turned to look at the gargoyle who guarded Dumbledore's office.
"Master Skywalker?" Harry asked, somehow knowing why Kyle was there when he was..
"He was the one who guided my to Little Whinging, seven years ago. And he guided me here, now."
"And just like then, you were there," Harry said simply. He turned, confident with his master by his side, and stared intently at the stone gargoyle who guarded the headmaster's office. Somehow, the enchanted guardian knew to step aside and let them pass. He felt Kyle's hand on his shoulder and smiled, though his heart beat rapidly.
The headmaster's office looked naked and bare—most of the odds and ends had been packed away in boxes. The bookshelves remained, though the books themselves were stacked on the floor awaiting someone to go through them. The rest of the furnishings were gone, though, even the massive desk.
The walls, however, still teamed with all the portraits of former headmasters. Dumbledore's took a position low on a wall behind where his desk used to set in a moderately sized frame compared to some of the other large portraits. He sat in a high-backed wooden chair within the portrait, slumped to one side as if asleep.
Without a word to his master, Harry stepped to the portrait and placed his wand to the frame. "I know you're awake."
The eyes of Dumbledore's portrait opened and he smiled before sitting up in his chair. He then made a show of yawning and stretching luxuriously. He did not speak, though.
Harry waited, but the portrait simply stared back. Harry realized, then, that this was not the headmaster, only a simulacrum like the other portraits he'd seen. "Who did you love, Dumbledore?" Harry asked.
The old man beamed at him, as if he'd just solved an infuriating puzzle. "You," the portrait said simply. "Your parents. Dear Minerva and all the staff. I loved my brother, though he would not accept it. I loved my dear sister, lost these many years. I loved everyone."
"Even Tom Riddle?"
"Even Tom, at least once upon a time."
Harry took a deep, ragged breath. "Why did you place me with the Dursleys? Why did you try to trick me here with the Goblet? Why am I so important?"
"Because, my dear boy, either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."
Harry sucked in a breath. "So I have to kill Voldemort?"
The painted image of Albus, so lifelike within his frame, stroked his beard while shaking his head gently. "No, my dear, dear boy. I wish it were that simple. If that were the case, I would have raised you myself. I would have taught you all I could and given you the tools you needed to defeat him. That is not what the Prophecy meant. I knew that the moment I saw your scar."
The room around Harry darkened to a single point of light—the moon shining through the stained glass windows high above. The realization felt like a blow to his stomach so strong he could not even find the strength to draw his breath. "I'm a horcrux," Harry whispered when at last he could breathe.
"Did you ever hear the story of Humfrey Kilbowy?" Dumbledore asked, rather than give Harry an affirmative.
Harry frowned, unable to pull his mind from the horrid realization that his life was maintaining Voldemort's. "What?"
The portrait leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. "A brave lad, one of the Founder's first students. The end of the first millennium was a violent time and their understanding of warding was not the same as ours. The Pictish tribes were constantly attacking. The only way they could ward the future castle was through blood rites that required human sacrifice. And so they held a lottery—a lottery which included the children of the Founders themselves. But Humfrey Kilbowy snuck into old Godric's office and made sure all the tiles in Godric's enchanted hat held his name only. He told no one but Godric, and then only after he was chosen."
"But…the Grey Lady said he screamed and cried."
"He did, Harry," Dumbledore said sadly. "But he did not fight. Bravery is not fearing the end, but rather doing what must be done despite the fear. Humfrey so loved his fellow students, especially dear Helena, that he could not bear to see any die when his own death could protect them all. This did not mean he himself wanted to die, only that he very much wanted those he loved to live."
"So…you knew. All along, you knew I had to die for Voldemort to cease."
"Yes. But I did not know everything. When I faced a reanimated Tom Riddle in what would have been your second year, over the body of poor Ginevra Weasley, I realized that you were not the only one. It was a terrible realization, made more so by the loss of such a beautiful, promising child. I admired what your master was trying to do for you, but in the end your fate was here. It always was, from the moment Voldemort marked you as his equal."
Harry bowed his head. "If it was you, would you have died?"
"Evidently, I already did," Dumbledore said with a wry smile. "But I think we both know that death is not something to be feared, but rather just another great adventure."
Harry nodded and opened his mouth to speak, only to realize that there was nothing else to say. Instead, he turned and walked away from the portrait. Kyle followed behind in silence, supportive but not intrusive.
Without a word, he walked back to the hospital wing. Kyle stopped at the entrance and simply leaned against the door frame as Harry walked to the plush chair where Hermione slept. Harry sat down on the bed, and the creaking of the springs woke her. She blinked back her sleep and removed a strand of hair from her eyes. "Harry? You're awake."
He nodded, absorbing every aspect of her face in the dim lighting of the wing. She noticed his oddly attentive gaze and straightened in her chair to face him directly. "What?"
"I don't know for sure," he said, struggling to find words. "I mean, I don't have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, but I was afraid if I didn't say it now, I wouldn't ever have a chance. So I…I mean…well…."
"Yeah, I think I may love you a little."
Her lower jaw dropped as she stared at him, but a second later her brows furrowed. "Only a little?"
This time it was Harry's turn to stare, speechless, until Hermione leaned forward and kissed him. "I may love you a little too, I think," she said, saving him from floundering too bad.
Harry couldn't help but wrap his arms around her. "That's good, Hermione. I think everything's going to be okay, because…because we know now. Right?"
She leaned her head into his shoulder. "That's right."
He kissed her forehead. "Good. I… goodnight, Hermione. Dream of me, okay?"
"I already do," she admitted with glowing red cheeks. "Almost every night."
Harry felt as if he were going to burst—so much so his eyes were growing moist. So, desperate not to lose control, he leaned forward and kissed her. When their lips parted, Hermione slumped back into her chair until Harry levitated her to his bed and pulled the cover up around her shoulders. He'd seen Kyle use the Force to send someone to sleep before and was surprised he could do it so easily.
"I'll dream of you too, Hermione," he whispered.
He turned to leave the hospital wing, but almost stumbled when he saw a lanky figure standing beside Kyle. Even in the dim-light, he could see scraggly, unkempt white-blonde hair and the wrinkles and stains in what was once a robe of the finest acromantula silk. Harry walked toward Draco Malfoy, but with each step he felt heavier and heavier.
"You're here for him, aren't you?"
Draco's eyes were red and swollen. "He's…possessed Snape. My father's dead. He killed him, but said it was because of you. He said if I didn't get you back there, he'd kill my mother and me. He already hurt her—we were only able to save her because I brought Dumbledore's wand. He's using it, how. You destroyed his old one, he said."
"What makes you think I'll go with you?"
"Please, Potter! It's my mother! Kill me if you want to, I don't care anymore. Maybe I deserve it. But please save her."
Harry could sense only honest fear from the other boy, and wondered what they would have been had he attended school. Friends? Enemies?
"Then I'd better go."
Draco blinked back his tears. "Really? No tricks? He said you'd come, but…"
"No tricks," Harry said. "But Kyle's coming too. Take us both there, but don't say anything about Kyle. Instead, you get your mum and get out."
Draco, too desperate to look a gift horse in the mouth, nodded fervently. "Whatever you say, Potter. Come on, I have a portkey."
Draco turned to lead them out of the castle. Harry paused only long enough to glance back at Hermione. "For her," he whispered before following with Kyle at his side.
As they walked, he reached into his robe pockets and removed his invisibility cloak. Kyle took it in silence, knowing without words what Harry was thinking. One way or the other, it was time to end this.
The night was brisk but not cold. There was no moon, and perhaps because of it the stars shone so much brighter than Harry remembered seeing them on this world. As they woke, Draco glared at him. "I hate you so much." There was no passion in the words, just a lost, hopeless declaration of fact.
"I know," Harry said. "I'm going to die for you anyway."
"You and your stupid messiah complex," Draco whispered. "Always the hero, always trying to do the right thing. I wish you'd never come back. Never even been born."
Harry said nothing as the other boy ranted. He could sense Kyle nearby, but he could no longer see him. Draco didn't even seem to care. Finally, they reached the edge of the castle wards. Drago removed a length of frayed rope from his pocket. "Grab it," he ordered. Harry did so, and felt Kyle take it through the cloak as well.
Seconds later, the world erupted in wild, chaotic motion. The Force screamed as they tore through reality at impossible speed, only to instantly arrive in a huge, darkened room. Draco stumbled away from Harry. "He's here, Master!" Draco cried. "Please, let me take my mother away. Your promised."
Harry sensed the shadow before he saw it. It felt like a sewer in the force—a roiling cesspool of utter hatred and darkness. From the shadows emerged Severus Snape, his eyes glowing eerily red from the monstrous magic that possessed him. Around his shoulders slithered Voldemort's snake, shimmering with protective magic.
"I did promise, didn't I?" Voldemort said through Snape's voice. It produced an awful, bi-tonal sound that grated on Harry's ears—a harsh, grating whisper over the normal tone of Snape's voice. "But sadly, I will need Narcissa very shortly. Or at the very least, I shall need parts of her. You, however…Avada Kedavra!"
Draco screamed in horror a second before Harry instinctively jumped in front of the of the curse. He did so fully intending to take the curse; he could just as easily Force-pushed Draco away. His blow sent Draco flying just as something struck his head like a hammer. He had a brief sensation of flying through the air, but that was nothing compared to the wet, tearing sound he felt inside his head.
He heard screaming and shouting, but he could not summon the energy to pay attention to anything other than the utter, excruciating pain that bore down into the depths of his skull. It was a deep, stabbing, visceral pain that suddenly, abruptly ended.
He found himself prostrate on the floor, gasping. He managed to look up to see Draco Malfoy staring back at him, jaw's agape and wide eyes. "Get your mum and get out," Harry whispered, shocked at the hoarseness of his own voice.
"Why'd you do that?" Draco asked. "How…?"
"A life for a life, Draco. Go, save your mum."
The teen scrambled to his feet and sprinted from the large, mostly unlit room. Harry rolled onto his side and saw, to his horror and delight, the severed head of Nagini not ten feet away. Ten feet beyond that, Voldemort and Kyle Katarn dueled.
In some ways, this duel was both less and more impressive than their first encounter at the Ministry. Voldemort's magic was obviously hampered by the energy required to possess Snape. And yet Kyle was physically exhausted to start with. The fighting was somehow dirtier than before. The Dark Lord did not bother with broad, awe-inspiring attacks, but rather used the whole of his magic to kill.
Kyle, driven to the edge of his body's limitations already, depended on the Force to shield him from Voldemort's attacks, moving only when absolutely necessary. The air burned with living fire and blue lightening. Walls cracked and the floor buckled. Overhead, portions of the house's painted, plastered ceiling blew up and outward into the starry sky.
Voldemort fought with angry snarls, rage filling every portion of his face and expression. However, his borrowed body moved clumsily, as if somehow Snape were fighting him. The magic flowed with stunning ferocity and power, but he simply could not move with the grace Harry remembered from the Ministry.
But Kyle looked so old!
Harry stood, surprised that his legs didn't shake. In fact, other than the echo of the pain he felt just moments before, he felt astonishingly good. He reached up and felt moisture on his forehead—when he pulled his hand away he saw a black ooze mixed with blood from his scar, but already the blood was congealing. It didn't hurt any more, at least not more than any ordinary cut would hurt.
He examined himself in the Force and could find nothing wrong at all. He glanced to his right, and in the far shadows he saw two figures stumbling away—Draco and his mother. The two boys' eyes caught and held for the merest second before the Malfoy survivors escaped.
Somehow, seeing them escape felt like a release to Harry. He reached down and gripped his lightsaber with his right hand, his wand with his left, and with a yell jumped into battle to help his master.
Voldemort's eyes burned not with rage, but something new. "How?" he hissed as he cast a powerful curse.
Harry, though, felt no danger at all from the curse. The curse struck him in the chest in a shower of sparks, but did nothing else.
"Die, damned you!" Voldemort cried. This time, he didn't bother with a direct curse, but rather conjured a spear and banished it toward Harry.
Harry negligently blasted it away with the Force and took a step forward.
"You've discovered Dumbledore's final plan," Kyle Katarn panted form nearby. "The Elder Wand owes loyalty only to those who win it. Draco Malfoy won it from Dumbledore, but Harry defeated Malfoy. That wand was never yours, Voldemort. The only thing you can hurt on Harry with it was the last portion of your sickened soul that you lodged in his forehead fourteen years ago."
Voldemort stepped back as Harry approached. However, the Dark Lord was too powerful to simply give-up. He twirled his wand and the floor under Harry exploded in flame. This time, he didn't wait calmly because he most definitely felt the danger, not to mention the heat. He leaped out of the flames just as Kyle leaped over them, and the two Jedi attacked Voldemort in one concerted strike. Magic flared against their lightsabers, rebuffing their blows. Kyle lashed out with lightning while Harry shielded his master with magic. Always they spun and twirled and attacked, forcing Voldemort back step by step.
He conjured spears, arrows, monsters and shadows, but Kyle easily dissipated the magic with the Force while Harry pressed the attack; Harry cancelled the magic using some of Dumbledore's training while Kyle pressed the attack. Always one or the other was on the offense, always pushing the wizard back and back again.
Finally, snarling in rage, Voldemort tried apparating only to suddenly spurt black blood from his shoulder when he popped back into existence just feet away. "What?" he screamed, spraying spittle as he clutched his splinched arm.
The door to the far size of the ballroom blasted open as Amelia Bones led the charge into the room, followed by easily a hundred aurors, hitwizards and volunteer Ministry employees. Harry knew without doubt that it was she who cast the atni-apparition jinx that just forced Voldemort to splinch himself.
Glowing red eyes glared around at the line of witches and wizards which had him completely surrounded. Finally, though, they locked onto Harry. With a negligible flick of his wand he conjured a large knife and abruptly disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Harry felt the warning in the Force and started to move aside, and it was that alone which kept the knife from entering his heart. Instead, it sank with a wet thud deep into his right shoulder as Voldemort rematerialized from the black smoke which allowed him to cross the floor in seconds. Snape's face twisted with incoherent rage. "I will kill…erck."
Harry's lightsaber slid through the man's stomach. "Mine's longer," Harry whispered back through his own pain. He placed his hand over that which held the knife and pushed hard against the nerve in his wrist, forcing him to release the grip. Once the hand was off the handle, Harry stepped back and slashed his saber up, perfectly bisecting Severus Snape's torso and head in a single swipe.
Somehow, he expected a last show of defiance; a last burst of terrible magic. There was none; Voldemort had no horcruxes left; he had no soul to continue after death. The body of Snape fell back against the parquet floor with a wet splat and did not move.
Kyle stepped up beside him. "Are you okay?" he asked. His own voice dripped exhaustion.
Harry nodded, then frowned. "Oh, yeah, I god stabbed."
Kyle blinked and saw the handle sticking out. "Hmm, so it seems. Probably want to have Andromeda look at that."
"I killed him."
"Yep. Don't feel too bad. He wasn't much of a teacher, or a human being, really. So, ready to go home?"
Despite the pain of being stabbed, all Harry could think of was Hermione. "We do have to go, right?" Somehow, he made the question sound like a plea.
"We do, Harry," Kyle said somberly. "But that's not to say we can't ever come back for visits."
THREE YEARS LATER
"Thank you for coming, Auntie!" Susan Bones said as she gave her Aunt Amelia a deep hug.
"How could I miss it?" Amelia said. "My only niece has graduated from Hogwarts. And six NEWTS is something to be proud of."
Susan beamed happily. With a last hug, she left to find her seat with the rest of the small class of graduating Seventh Years.
The Commencement Ceremony was a new event pioneered by Minerva McGonagall when she took over as headmistress of the School. It seemed that past generations used to have commencements, but Dumbledore cancelled them during Voldemort's first rise and simply never restarted them. That changed in Susan's seventh year.
"Minister Bones? They're ready for you."
Amelia did not care for Percy Weasley, but she had to admit the officious little man was efficient, if nothing else. She accompanied the young man onto the stage that occupied the north end of the quidditch pitch. As she settled down, she found herself looking at the smallest graduating class in Hogwarts history. A total of thirty two children sat looking at each other with exhausted, happy smiles. It was a class that saw several deaths and withdrawals over the years. Only four children graduated from Slytherin house out of the ten who started in Susan's year. And of the six who did not graduate, three were dead.
The class was historical for another reason, though. It was the class which got to meet Harry Potter, the Jedi. The papers not just in Britain, but across the magical world, heralded the victory of a fourteen-year-old warrior against the worst dark wizard the world had seen since Grindelwald. The end of the fight, captured by several enterprising Ministry workers who just happened to have recordable omnoculars, became the stuff of legends.
Everyone wanted to know just who this boy and his master were, who wielded glowing swords and moved faster than any mere human. Why kind of Magic did they wield? Where was Harry hiding for so many years?
More importantly, where did they go? Kyle Katarn and Harry Potter disappeared literally within the hour of Voldemort's death. No one on Earth knew where, and even three years later, people were still asking where they went, but no one knew
Amelia's eyes met the eyes of Hogwart's Head girl, and the two women shared a smile. Almost no one.
McGonagall took the podium, looking prim and proper as always. She stood in her traditional witch's hat as she viewed the students. In the stands overhead, parents, friends and families listened proudly as the headmistress delivered a fine, rousing speech. She exhorted them to make the world better than when they arrived.
"To make magic wonderful again!" she finished.
Amelia clapped with the rest. She'd always liked McGonagall, and it amazed her, as old as she sometimes felt, that Minerva had been her teacher as well when she finished Hogwarts. Amelia wasn't sure if the Headmistress intended it, but her speech was a perfect segue to Amelia's own. She stood when Minerva introduced her as the Minister of Magic and waived as she accepted the applause. She couldn't help but notice more applause came from the students than the parents.
Nor did it bother her in the least.
"Good afternoon, class, and let me add my own congratulations on your accomplishments." The applause that followed was more restrained in anticipation of her further remarks.
"The last three years have been, in all honesty, the most exhausting and frustrating I have ever experienced. When you consider I was an auror in Voldemort's first rise and lost my whole family, I hope you appreciate just what that statement means. I'm sure that more than a few of you have heard my name cursed nightly over dinner tables. There is a good reason for that. Just as crups do not like having their noses shoved in their own droppings, your parents and grandparents did not enjoy my forcing them to face their own mess. And let me tell you, it was a mess."
The students chuckled over that; the stands were eerily silent. Amelia stepped out from behind the podium and resorted to a simple sonorous charm to ensure she was heard by everyone. "When I fought Voldemort, on both occasions, my cause was hampered by a level of corruption and incompetence in the Ministry of Magic that led directly to the deaths not just of co-workers, but of friends and families. I thought things were better the second time around, but harsh experience taught me otherwise. Headmistress called on you to make your world a better place. I know you will, because frankly you cannot do any worse than those who came before you."
This time, there was no applause as the students realized Amelia had no intention of delivering yet another "Good luck" speech that the two years before had seen.
"Within the first month of my tenure as Minister, with little if any investigation at all, I discovered that very nearly every single department head in the Ministry, even people who I would otherwise describe as decent, hardworking witches and wizards, were regularly accepting bribes and kickbacks.
"Within the first six months of my tenure, I discovered that every single member of the Wizengamot was accepting payment for votes. I repeat, children: every…single…one. There was not a single member of the Ministry of Magic above secretarial stage who was not, in some form or fashion, corrupt."
She placed her hands behind her back, fully aware of the angry glares from the stands above her, and the concerned looks in front and behind her. She did not care. "I will be honest—I considered resigning. I know from my friend Rufus Scrimgeour that the corruption he encountered was one of the main reasons for his own resignation when I emerged from my undercover assignment during the second war with Voldemort. It would have been so easy to walk away from the mess your parents and grandparents made. But then I thought of my dear niece Susie, who was kidnapped along with our own Head girl by Voldemort's forces. She and Hermione Granger were personally rescued by Harry Potter, Kyle Katarn, myself, and the only honest Aurors who existed in the Ministry at the time. And it made me realize that if I did not try, no one else ever would."
Pacing along the stage, she paused as if in thought. "The first step was cleaning out the Ministry and forcing everyone to reapply on the condition of an Unbreakable Vow. It seemed so odd to me that no one ever thought of how easy it would be to force honesty in the Ministry. Unless, of course, no one wanted that honesty to begin with. So I demanded it. And I can tell you in the last year, we've only had one case of bribery in a department head, discovered in the body of Ludo Bagman."
Now the silence in the Quidditch pitch was so profound Amelia could hear the wind whistling through the stands. "I dismissed the Wizengamot. Oh, yes, the papers had a field day with that. Dictator Bones, they called me. The British Fuhrer. The Iron Bitch. So be it—as an institution the Wizengamot was so sick and cancerous it threatened the life of all magical Britain. So the hereditary seats are gone. Seats are now based on popular election, with minimum standards of education and experience to even run. And yes, Wizengamot members are required to make an Unbreakable Vow for the tenure of their office. It is vague enough that they can do the necessary work of their office, but if they take any action knowingly against the interest of the kingdom, they will fall dead where they stand, as discovered by Antony McClaggen two weeks ago. While I feel for his son, I say here and now that any witch or wizard who betrays the country deserves the fate magic brings them. Just as your parents and their parents before them deserved Voldemort."
This last statement garnered a response—several parents and spectators started booing and shouting from the stands. Amelia, however, ignored them and looked at the students. "Your parents, and their parents, they deserved Voldemort. But you, you future leaders of Magical Britain, deserve a fresh start. You deserve a blank slate to try and build something better. And for the past three years, I have driven myself to the brink of death to give that future to you. To you, Susie. Finally, I can say I'm done. Everything else is up to you, to either build on what I've done for you, or to tear it down and repeat the mistakes of those who came before you. As for me, you can find me in the stars."
People screamed in alarm as the air right above the pitch shimmered to reveal the forty-meter black and gray, forward-swooping shape of the Preening Crow. Students stumbled back from the chairs while parents and assembled guests hugged each other in alarm as the ship hovered in a shimmering bubble of anti-gravity like magic just two meters above the stage.
McGonagall, alone of all the professors, had not abandoned the stage. "Amelia!" she shouted over the sound of the ship's drive. "You're not truly leaving, are you?"
"I told him I had a job to do," Amelia said, grinning back at McGonagall as if she were a girl herself. "I've done my best, and by Morgana it's time for me to live for myself!"
The ramp opened and two people stepped out into the air. The younger of the pair fell to the stage and landed with barely a bend of his knees. The second held both hands palm down on either side and floated gently to the stage. The older man had iron gray hair and beard. He was thinner than the last time they saw him, but McGonagall could see this was none other than Kyle Katarn and Harry Potter.
"Am I early?" Kyle asked over his own ship when he reached Amelia.
"You're right on time!" Amelia said. To the shock of everyone watching, she leaned up and gave the elder Jedi a long, lingering kiss. "Take me away, Kyle Katarn."
"Gladly," Kyle said with a happy grin. He nodded to Minerva, wrapped an arm around the former Minister for Magic, and levitated both of them back to the ramp of his ship. Minerva stood watching, shocked and yet not entirely surprised. Finally, her eyes lowered back to the other visitor, and she found herself covering her mouth and fighting back tears.
"You came back," Hermione said flatly.
Harry Potter stood before her nervously, while around her fellow students stared at the Boy Who Conquered. The past two and a half years had done a lot for Harry, she noticed. He would never be a truly tall man, but he had grown into a respectable adult height and filled out a great deal. She couldn't spot a trace of fat on him. His hair was trimmed short and neat, his green eyes stared at her with the same simple earnestness she remembered from their first meeting.
"I had to finish my training," he said. "And you needed to finish your schooling."
"So you're done?"
"I am a Jedi Knight," Harry said simply. "I serve the Order, but my life is my own. And…well…if you want…Iwouldlikeyouinitwithme."
Hermione frowned as she tried to decipher his last jumble of sound. "Kyle was talking to Amelia," she accused.
"Why didn't you com me?"
"Your unit's battery died," Harry said with a shrug. "I couldn't get a signal to you. Kyle thinks it was the magic around here. I tried, Hermione. I promise I tried. I've spent the past two years wanting to talk to you."
Hermione looked back over her shoulder at her classmates. Susan especially looked as if she were about to start crying, though Hermione hoped it was in happiness at seeing Harry again. "So, are you going to sweep me off my feet and take me to the stars? I don't hear from you in two and a half years, and you show up here expecting me just to go with you?"
Harry stood gaping at her, his face frozen in alarm at a reception he obviously was not expecting. Finally, though, he calmed down and simply looked at her. "Yes," he said simply.
Hermione marched right up to him, put a finger on his chest, and said, "Okay, let's go."
He took a breath to answer his argument, but then blinked. "Wait, what? I mean, really?"
"Really," Hermione breathed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him like she'd wanted to for the past three years. Behind her, Susan started to clap and cheer, setting off the rest.
"You know, three years can change a person," Harry said with they parted. "I'm not the same person I was when I left."
Hermione laughed. "Oh yes you are, you goof. And even if you're not, I look forward to finding out how you've changed. My trunks in my pocket, I wasn't planning on staying in Britain anyway. So, take my away too, Harry Potter."
Grinning so wide it looked as if his face hurt, he nodded and wrapped his hands around her waist. After a moment of thought, however, he frowned and looked at her. "But you knew we were coming back."
"Of course, Harry. My best friend's Aunt was the Minister of Magic. I know things." She winked and kissed him, before leaning up and whispering in his ear. "I've been waiting for you, Harry Potter. No more waiting. Take me home."
Harry wrapped them both in the Force, and to the cheers and happy calls from his former classmates, he levitated the two of them up to the ramp of the hovering Preening Crow. The two stood on the lip of the ramp, looking down at the Quidditch Pitch.
"Will I ever see them again?" Hermione asked. "My parents, I mean?"
"Well, yeah, Earth is only a week away from my estate," Harry said. "I'm an adopted cousin to the Emperor of almost half the galaxy, you know. I figure we should probably meet. In fact, what do you think they're doing for dinner tonight? Kyle wanted to pack up the things he left here, so we have the night to ourselves."
Hermione couldn't help but beam. "I love you, Harry Potter."
"And I love you, Hermione Granger."
"Happily ever after?" she asked.
"Until the sequel," Harry agreed.
Hermione laughed and shook her head. "No sequels, Harry. Drama requires pain and anguish, and all I want from you for the rest of my life is happiness. Can you do that?"
He kissed her as he slammed the ramp shut. "As a former Jedi master used to say, 'Do, or do not. There is not try.' I do promise to spend every moment of the rest of my life doing everything I can to make you happy. And that is my unbreakable vow to you."
Below, wiping her eyes, Susan Bones bid farewell to her aunt and her best friend. "I wonder what Cedric is doing," she whispered to herself, before grinning saucily.
Final A/N: Thank you all for reading. I can say that I finally got my sappy "Officer and a Gentlemen" ending.