Chapter 19 - As Things Should Be
Four days later, Harry sat down to breakfast. The Great Hall was actually crowded now, so much so that not everyone could eat at once. Amusingly to him, Dobby reported that all of the house elves in the castle were very happy to have so many people to help.
When the Daily Prophet arrived, Harry took a moment to look at the front page of the one in Hermione's hand. The headline of "POTTER'S CHALLENGE" was all he needed to see.
A short moment later, Hermione gasped and looked at him in fear. "Did you really send the newspaper a letter and call Him a coward?"
"Yep," Harry answered causally. Only Susan didn't look surprised and that was because he knew he had to tell her first.
"I don't understand, why did you do it?" Neville asked, not angrily but curiously.
As Harry was about to answer, he realized the normal volume of voices was dropping rapidly and almost everyone was looking at him. He supposed he was only a little surprised by this, as he'd have thought his ploy was obvious, but perhaps not.
Rising from his seat, Harry addressed the crowd and answered Neville's question. "I'm sure most of you have seen the headlines and maybe even read part of my letter to it…"
"Why did you do it?" one man yelled. "This is going to make him attack us!"
"That's the point!" Harry shouted back, shocking the objector into silence. "I thought it was bleedingly obvious that by all of us coming here that Voldemort would attack us eventually." Many looked uncomfortable at hearing that name, making Harry roll his eyes. "I don't know about you, but I'd prefer he do that soon so I don't have to keep waiting and so we don't run out of food. I'm ready for him so there's no real reason to wait."
"But…" someone started to object.
"Listen, I invited all of you here to be safe and I meant that. The main reason is that I didn't want you to be used as hostages against your children, so you are all here. Also, I don't expect you to go out and fight. I and a few others will do that. You can stay safe in the castle with your children. So stay here and be a family. If you can teach others about practical magic and how the wizarding world works, then please do so. You don't have to worry about defense of the castle because we have a very good plan for that."
Harry sat back down and continued his breakfast. The talking slowly started up again around the large room.
"You really don't need us?" Neville asked.
"I don't want any of you on the front lines because I don't want you hurt, not because I don't think you can do it," Harry replied. "If the worst should happen and I fail, then you lot are responsible for protecting the other students from whatever is left over. Of course," he glanced at Susan as they'd already had a loud conversation about him placing himself in danger, "I don't believe I'll fail."
— — —
As dinner came, Harry sat with Susan and her friends at the Hufflepuff table. The elves had grilled the chicken and he found it quite tasty.
"Harry?" Megan Jones called to him.
When he looked at her, she said, "I heard from Professor Babbling that you're still taking our accelerated Runes class for OWLs, plus you're also taking sixth and seventh year Runes. Is that true?"
He noticed the looks he was getting from those around him, mostly expressions of astonishment. "Sort of; I am still taking our class so I can take my OWLs, so that's true. I did get Professor Babbling to let me sit in the sixth and seventh years classes so I could see the material, but I don't have to do any of the homework or take any of the exams, although I probably will just to see how well I'm doing."
By Megan's look, he was glad Ron wasn't hearing the news as he was sure his friend would proclaim Harry daft and probably very vocally.
"Seriously?" Megan almost squeaked.
"Yeah, I really am. Mostly I'm just doing the reading and listening in class, so it's not all that much extra work and I find it interesting," he explained.
Susan chuckled when Megan looked at her. "He really is serious and he seems to be good at Runes, so I can sort of understand, at least a little."
"I'm not sure I understand, but whatever," Megan responded.
As Harry was about to reach for dessert, a ghost of a wolf ran into the Great Hall and jumped into Harry, who sat very still for a moment.
"What?" Susan asked, fear edging into her voice as Harry listened to the private message.
Harry grabbed her hand and looked at her for a moment, doing his best to ensure he had memorized her face. Turning to the head of the room, he saw McGonagall and Flitwick looking at him. He gave them a nod before standing.
Susan jumped to her feet and threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. "Harry…"
Despite her having trouble saying what she felt, Harry understood her message anyway, having talked about what he was planning to do. "I'll do my very best to come back to you. Please stay in the castle so I don't have to worry about you."
Harry felt two more sets of arms go around him. Looking around, he saw Vince and Pat joining the hug. "Thanks," he said quietly.
They all let go, Susan the most reluctantly. It wasn't until he was walking away from her that he realized the entire room had gone silent. As he neared the end of the tables, he heard a single voice start the chant of "Har-ry! Har-ry!"
He had to smile as the volume grew with Ron leading everyone else; he really should have been a Hufflepuff, Harry thought.
At the doorway, he stopped and turned to face the room; McGonagall and Flitwick caught up with him and stood next to him. As the chant died down, Harry raised his voice. "Stay in the castle and stay safe. Hopefully, the war will be over soon."
"Professor Sprout is in charge while we're gone," the Headmistress said before the three turned and left.
In the Entrance Hall, they found Mad-Eye Moody and Remus Lupin. "Showtime?" the old Auror asked.
"It is," Harry said solemnly. "If I should fail, work with Sprout to take care of any who remain. Guarding the front doors is your responsibility."
"Aye," Moody said. "Potter, don't forget that this is war. Anything goes; don't hold back."
"I've never held back when fighting the Death Eaters and I'm not starting now. If you'll excuse us, company is coming soon and we need to welcome them properly," he said with slight smirk.
"Good hunting, lad!"
"Be safe, Harry," Lupin told him.
"As safe as I can be and still get the job done," Harry told him as he led the three out.
The main doors were sealed after them with a wave of McGonagall's wand. "The alarm on the main wards just sent off. What do we have waiting for us?"
"According to Tonk's message, only about a dozen Aurors."
"That's all?" Flitwick asked in surprise.
"That's all she knows about for sure from the Ministry. She also said rumor has it that the Dementors have been moved, McNair was out visiting the giants, and then there are the unknown number of Death Eaters." Harry looked at the two professors - each wore grim expressions. "I truly appreciate your help, but you don't have to stay if things go badly."
"But we will," McGonagall told him resolutely.
"Yes we will," Flitwick agreed.
Harry was serious they didn't have to, but he was also greatly relieved they weren't backing out. "Any last minute questions?"
Flitwick said stoically, "None that you can answer, Mr Potter. Don't you forget that no plan really survives first contact with the enemy."
"True, but I really don't have much to do other than to kill anyone or anything that comes at us," Harry replied. "I'm more worried about you two, especially you, Professor Flitwick. I really need to you be able to help me at the end since you said that you'll be closer."
"I'll be there, and if not, Professor McGonagall can do the task as well as I can," Flitwick told him as they came around the final bend and could see the gates in the distance, gates that were already under attack.
"Everyone be safe," Harry told them as he pulled out his Invisibility Cloak and put it on. Beside him, both professors faded from sight with the help of Disillusionment charms; in the current minimal light and later in the darkness, they would be completely invisible.
Harry walked to a set of large trees, which he'd prepared for use as shields. He knew McGonagall was to his left behind some large rocks, ready to keep the group from spreading out and to harass the attackers. Flitwick was on his right, responsible for slowing the attackers down as well as taking out any that he could while not being seen. That would mostly be done via traps that were in place that the little professor would spring. From their planning sessions, Harry was sure that Flitwick had more traps than they'd originally planned.
Best as he could see in the fading daylight, there were nearly fifty wizards with black cloaks and masks, not as many as Harry had feared and he hoped that his work of reducing their numbers during the attack at Hogwarts when Dumbledore had died and during the summer at the Bones' house had kept that number lower than it otherwise would have been. There were also nearly a dozen men dressed very shabbily, about half with clubs and half with wands - werewolves he assumed. There were no sign of Dementors, but the two giants couldn't be missed. 'Damn!' he thought.
Looking a little harder, he noticed three more wizards around one of the gate posts casting spells: most likely the Curse Breakers. The five masked wizards standing behind them with wands out indicated that the Curse Breakers were probably not there of their own free will. Perhaps they'd escape; if not, well, there wasn't much he could do to save them. If they stayed outside and didn't come in, he'd let them go; if they came in, he'd treat them like every other combatant.
It took a moment, but he finally found who he was looking for. He was the only one without a mask and he was standing at the back of the attacking group - figures. Harry could kill that body right now, but Harry was also quite certain that was not the best plan. His plan called for leaving Voldemort for last and being alive at the end. Getting rid of the Death Eaters would help clean up society.
Nearly ten minutes later, the wards protecting the main gate finally came down. They had never been meant to keep the attackers out, merely delay the group until Harry and company could get into position.
Looking out from behind a tree, Harry saw a sudden flare and then a ring of light start to expand quickly. He pulled his head back so it was behind the tree and let the magic pass. He hoped the others had done the same. Waiting nearly half a minute more in case another Human Revealing was done, Harry finally stuck his head back out and saw that almost the entire group was inside the gates.
It was at that moment that the first unexpected event happened. From out of the trees came a swarm of Dementors rushing at the gate. Not wishing to show his hand just yet, he withheld action and hoped McGonagall responded quickly.
— — —
Moody and Lupin were the only two outside of the castle, having flown down from the Astronomy Tower after the main doors had been sealed. They were at the last bend in the road behind a transfigured rock they had raised out of the ground. The two men ducked behind the rock, although Moody's special eye tracked the magic. As the Human Revealing spell passed overhead, he said, "I hope Potter really does know what he's doing because we're not going to be able to help from here."
Lupin growled at the obvious, frustrated he couldn't come up with an idea to help either.
— — —
McGonagall watched from around the large rock she was behind. As the wave of magic went by her, she eased her head out from behind the rock on the other side. You-Know-Who entered the gateway and stopped, preventing her from closing the gates because he had to be on the inside for them to have a good chance of ending this.
A rush from hitherto unknown Dementors startled her, but she had to hold her hand no matter how frustrating it was. She had counted eight Dementors inside before He turned and walked in. The second she could, she triggered the ward to slam the gates shut and then lock with wards that would take Him many minutes to take down thanks to some special ward work by Babbling and Potter. She had no idea why Babbling was spun up like a schoolgirl going to her first dance in regard to these wards, but she'd never seen her friend this excited, all because of some power runes Potter had come up with.
The gates slamming had kept the remaining thirty or forty Dementors out. Not being able to come in made them swarm over the Curse Breakers who'd remained outside. There was nothing to be done for them, she knew.
That part of the plan in place, she triggered the gate lights to come on before she reached for a Mokeskin bag that she'd been carrying around everywhere she went for the last few days. Opening it up, she pulled out the first handful of shrunken toy animals she had created. As the toys grew to full sized animals and came to life, she smiled as they ran off in the direction she commanded.
— — —
Flitwick had slid into his illusion covered pre-made hole and then ran through the tunnel, glad he was as short as he was. At the other end, he clamored up the stone steps, pleased he'd remembered the ways of his ancestors. Poking his Disillusioned head through a hole and into an illusion of a very prickly shrub. All was as it should be and he waited, still trying to decide what order to spring the traps in.
When the Human Revealing spell was cast, he dropped back down in his hole and waited for a moment. When it seemed safe, he rose back up to see what was going on and almost squeaked to give away his position as a foot from one of the giants almost stepped on him, just missing the illusionary shrub.
Dropping back down, he waited for a moment again. As he was about to rise again, he felt the Dementors and had to descend his steps back into the tunnel as casting a Patronus would have given his position away. He mentally cursed for being momentarily taken out of the fight.
— — —
As the gates slammed shut, causing Voldemort to whip around and look at them, Harry struck. An air-spear went into an eye of a giant, causing it to step backwards as it cried in pain. Three Death Eaters were following that giant a little too closely and were kicked. One ended up being crushed by the giant stepping on him, but the other two flew into the small group of Dementors that had made it inside. Unbeknownst to Harry and luckily for him, the one trampled was McNair - the one who was supposed to be directing the giants.
That gave Harry an idea. He used very controlled gusts of air to hit a few other Death Eaters and cause them to fly into the arms of the Dementors. Harry was pleased by the extra chaos; no one knew how this was happening because his air weapons were practically invisible in the fading sunlight and the dim gate lights.
Meanwhile the second giant was watching the first hold his face and shout in his guttural way about being hurt; not knowing what to do and not finding the wizard who was supposed to help him, the second giant just stood there.
One of the Death Eaters tried to cast a spell at a Dementor to defend himself and Harry saw the spell being cast. Nudging the Death Eater's arm with a block of air, the spell was sent not at a Dementor but at the second, uninjured giant. To Harry's good fortune, it has been a Fireball curse. That enraged the giant and caused him to go after the wizard - through the group of werewolves. The werewolves fared no better than the Death Eaters, trampled and kicked through the air without discrimination. With "food" being thrown at them, the Dementors that were inside and had been promised souls started a feeding frenzy.
Chaos increased as multiple wild animals slammed into the group, mauling anyone they could. The group as a whole only survived thanks to quick wand work from a few wizards in the back. Harry still couldn't do a thing about Voldemort yet, despite that he was the one killing most of the animals, but Harry sent an air-spear at a tall Death Eater near Riddle. The wizard lost his mask as his magic ended, showing the world that Lucius Malfoy was no more. The next air-spear hit a "wizard" who gave a very brief high-pitched scream, causing Voldemort to look at her as her mask fell off. Harry felt no remorse, only a small flare of satisfaction with killing Bellatrix Lastrange.
"Forward!" roared Voldemort, trying to save his group.
A few Death Eaters tried to run away when most of them suddenly started to sink to their knees. Harry knew that was Flitwick's doing, although he wondered why the man had taken so long to do that. With most of the group thoroughly slowed down, Harry concentrated on those not in the shallow swamp, sending air-spears at each of them, taking them out as fast as he could.
The Death Eaters responded by casting curses in random directions, not being able to tell where their adversaries were. None of the spells even came close to Harry's team.
Sudden screaming from multiple men grabbed everyone's attention. Harry just grinned as he watched a dozen alligators take to the swamp and start biting; he also mentally vowed to never piss off Minerva McGonagall.
The rampaging giants were blasted with two hexes and fell, crushing several werewolves in their fall. The swamp also started to reverse itself, all thanks to Voldemort.
As the land became dry again, the dozen or so remaining followers suddenly started to howl and dance, thanks to another of Flitwick's surprises - very aggressive fire ants. Harry knew the man was a little hampered as he had to remain unseen until the end, but even these little things helped to keep the attacking group in place and not really advancing.
Voldemort was waving his wand around and doing his best to do something that made a difference in what was blindingly obvious a trap. "Come out Potter and face me like your father!"
Harry replied by shooting air-arrows at the followers as fast as he could. By the time it was down to only four Death Eaters who could stand and another pack of animals arrived on the scene, Harry knew it was time.
Shooting his air-shotgun, Harry sent many little balls of air at Voldemort's legs. The first few hit and knocked the Dark Lord back stumbling and then limping. Further balls were deflected off of some shield Harry couldn't see. He switched to air-arrows and then air-spears. Neither worked as they bounced away, but it also kept the Dark Wizard occupied in saving himself; his follows were all now on the ground thanks to McGonagall's work.
His next move was to start the air swirling in several miniature tornados to pick up objects from small rocks to sticks to bodies and throw them at the Dark Lord. All items continued to bounce off whatever shield the man had, although they did drive him around a bit, staggering with each step on injured legs.
Another wave of magic from another Human Revealing spell pulsed out as Voldemort searched for him again.
Harry easily stepped behind the tree again as he considered how to end this. As he stepped back out, a second wave from yet another a Revealing spell hit him and he pulsed red. A Killing Curse came his way but missed him by a meter because the whirlwinds prevented proper aiming.
Frustrated he had been found and that Voldemort still was standing, Harry decided combine all of the little whirlwinds and sucked Voldemort into the middle. Voldemort may have found him, but Harry could make sure the wizard couldn't aim as he spun around, allowing Harry to walk towards another tree to be in a different sheltered spot. Harry had no idea how fast the tornado was turning with Voldemort spinning in the middle, but he held the winds for a couple of minutes until he forced the winds to suddenly stop.
Surprisingly, a cut and bloody Voldemort was still conscious, but he only took one step sideways before he fell over straight on his back, his powerful shield now gone. Harry caused a thick blanket of air to cover the wizard and then harden so all but the head was covered. He even made it force the air out of the man so he couldn't breathe.
"Now, Flitwick!" Harry yelled. A second later, a pale beam shot low to the ground. As it hit its mark, the body started to turn a bluish-gray. When the entire body, robes and all, were the same new color. Harry walked out from behind his cover and advanced.
Halfway down, Harry realized the small group of Dementors who had entered were all huddled against the gate. He thought of Susan and cast his Patronus. The stag herded the foul creatures away and towards the Forbidden Forest; they could be taken care of later.
As Harry approached the body, he took off his Invisibility Cloak and saw Flitwick rise up through a bush not too far away and then walk over. The two looked at the now solid rock version of the Dark Lord. "He's not so scary now."
McGonagall joined them a few seconds later. "I would agree, Mr Potter." She gave him a curious look. "I believe I can now understand why you wanted few witnesses to this and our agreement to keep silent on how you did this. You're an Air Elemental?"
"Not according to the books I've read, but I suppose that doesn't matter as your description is how people would see me and I'd really prefer not to be known that way." He looked at each of them and received an understanding nod.
"Professor McGonagall, if you don't mind, I'll leave it up to you to bring Moody, Shacklebolt, and any other Ministry employees down here to clean up this mess. I don't think you'll find many survivors to put on trial, but one never knows. Personally, I think I'd prefer it if they all died from their injuries to cleanse society from their 'Blood Purity' views, but I'll leave that up to you and them."
"I'll take care of it, Mr Potter," she told him, looking pleased at his decision.
"Also, if you'd open the gates please?" Harry turned to the other professor. "Professor Flitwick, if you'll join me for a short trip, I'd appreciate your company." Harry shrank the statue down until it was doll sized and picked it up. "This needs to go on a very special one-way trip."
"I believe I understand and I'd be delighted to accompany you," Flitwick told him with a beaming smile.
Knowing he really had to do one more thing before he left, Harry sent his Patronus racing for the castle before he said "Meet me at the Apparation Point in the Ministry of Magic." He put his Cloak back on as he walked out the gates before leaving with a slight crack, followed closely by Flitwick who'd Disillusioned himself again.
— — —
Moody and Lupin walked up just as the two disappeared. "What the hell was all that?"
McGonagall spun with her wand pointed at the two she didn't know were there and only lowered her wand when she recognized them. "Did you see any of that?"
"Aye," Moody answered as he looked around. "I'm impressed and thankful for what he did, but how did he do that?" Lupin looked to be in full agreement of that question.
"I'm afraid you're going to have keep that to yourself, or else be Oblivated," she told them, her wand now pointing at Moody since he had his wand out and Lupin didn't.
"Sorry," she told him. "Harry made us give an Unbreakable Vow and I know he'll require it of you two as well now that you know."
"He's an Air Elemental, isn't he?" Lupin asked.
"The label doesn't matter," she answered. "He protected us all and I think he deserves to be protected in turn."
"Aye," Moody agreed as he slowly put his wand away, "I can understand that. I wished a few others had protected me better years ago. I'll take the Vow and keep my memories."
Lupin agreed and between the three of them, the other two completed their Vows as a small crowd from the castle came running down the path, led by a teenaged girl with strawberry-blonde hair.
— — —
As they popped into the Atrium at the Ministry, Flitwick whispered, "Let me take care of him."
Harry walked very slowly and quietly. By the time he was halfway to the guard, the guard suddenly slumped over.
A few seconds later, Flitwick whispered, "The alarm is off. To the elevators I assume?"
"Correct," Harry answered in kind and started walking his normal pace through the atrium of the Ministry that was half lit.
The call button seemed to push itself. A moment later, the two were inside and the "10" button lit.
"It appears you've guessed as to what I'm doing," Harry said quietly. He realized it would have looked like the elevator was talking to itself and found that amusing.
"After you'd given me your clues, it wasn't too hard. It's rather ingenious actually," Flitwick answered.
"Have you been down here before?"
"A few times for consultation with the Research Unspeakables." Flitwick paused. "Just the once for you?"
"I'll handle the spinning room then," Flitwick volunteered. "I'm very pleased and a little surprised the fight went as well as it did."
"We had surprise and complete control of the battleground." Harry shrugged. "I think he was stupid for fighting me like that, but as I said before … his ego forces him to do stupid things."
"Perhaps his time without a body did something to make him mentally unstable?" the professor suggested.
"It's as good of an explanation as any I can come up with," Harry replied.
A few minutes later they were standing in front of the Veil of Death. Harry could hear the voices a little more plainly than last time, but he still couldn't quite make out what they were saying, not that it really mattered he supposed. As he pulled out the little statue, he stopped for a moment, smiling as he had an idea.
"Professor, would you do me a small favor and throw this through the archway?" Harry held out the statue.
"Me?" Flitwick returned in surprise. "I thought you'd want to do it, Mr Potter. He did kill your parents."
"I know it's odd that I'd ask, but it would mean something to me, sort of on the level of a joke. That's probably not the best reason for me to ask, but it's what I have at the moment." Harry continued to hold out the small statue.
With a shrug, Flitwick took the stone object and tossed it through the Veil where it disappeared. "Anything else you have planned?"
"No, Professor, at least not for tonight. I told my girlfriend I'd be back soon so I think we should leave. Beyond this, I just want to get back to being Harry and have a normal live," he confessed.
"That's certainly understandable."
"By the way, when's your birthday?" Harry asked as they left the room.
The Disillusioned Flitwick laughed quietly. "Ah, now I understand. I was born in October, so I don't believe that matches the Prophecy."
"No it doesn't," Harry said with a smile.
"However, I only assisted; you defeated him."
"You got rid of him permanently, that's what counts in my book," Harry said with his smile growing as he held his laughter inside.
They left the Ministry just before the first of several smoky apparitions were pulled screaming into the Ministry. The sleeping guard woke as the last one entered the Ministry and sped by him, causing him to hit the alarm. The few Aurors who responded found nothing amiss because by the time they had responded, the soul fragments had already disappeared through the Veil of Death to complete the soul.
— — —
Back at Hogwarts, Harry was greeted with cheering by everyone and a passionate hug and kiss from Susan. It took a while for all the well-wishers to thank him for what he'd done to protect them. Susan stayed with him the whole time.
McGonagall was able to take them to the side, eventually, for a private conversation. "Mr Potter, I thought you should know that Alastor Moody and Remus Lupin witnessed the fight." At his alarmed reaction, she hastily added, "I've sworn them to secrecy."
He relaxed and then gave her a hug to surprise her. "Thank you, Professor!"
"Mr Potter," she admonished him, although with no real force to her objection.
Harry grinned at her. "I had to do that at least once, but thank you for looking out for me."
"You're welcome," she said in her usual manner.
"Oh, a small favor if you would. When Dumbledore's portrait wakes, please inform him that the person who ended Voldemort's life was born in October. I think he'll enjoy that."
She looked at him for a moment before actually smirking. "I believe I'll enjoy it more, but I shall do so. Have a good evening. I'm sure that I and the other Professors will be quite busy all evening."
Harry looked at Susan as their Headmistress walked away and asked, "What did she mean?"
Susan's parents were coming over, so she only said, "I'll explain later."
— — —
When the impromptu party finally ended, Harry made his way back to his room; Susan was still with him and holding his hand.
"Uh, Susan, you need to go to your room so we don't get into trouble," he told her as they passed the corridor to the Hufflepuff dorms.
She just smiled at him as she kept walking with him. "Actually I don't, not tonight."
"Because McGonagall said so."
"I would assume because she noticed that I haven't let you go since you returned. Or maybe this is her reward for your efforts. Or maybe she just felt like being nice and breaking the rules for one night." Susan shrugged. "Doesn't really matter why. It only matters that I'll be able to ensure myself that you're really all right and safe. As the professor said, they'll be busy all night."
A few minutes later, Harry was again in bed with his girlfriend, again with nightclothes. He decided there was now little reason to delay asking her to marry him other than his nerves, and then maybe the nightclothes could go away.
Epilogue - The Aftermath
Harry woke the next morning to find Susan laying on him, one leg hooked over his, an arm across his chest, her hair down and around her face as well as his, staring at him with a relaxed look. He just had to smile contentedly.
"What?" she asked.
"You look so sexy like that."
"Me? Sexy?" she squeaked.
"Yes," he replied firmly. "I'm really lucky you said yes to being my girlfriend."
"Oh? That's not how I remember it. I remember a shy Gryffindor boy being asked by a brave Hufflepuff girl," she said teasingly.
"Whatever," Harry said good-naturedly before kissing her. "I suppose we have to get up."
"Sadly." She paused and looked at him for a moment. "You do know that you have to ask the next major question, and that you need to talk to my father first, right?"
"Is that what you really want, to be stuck with me?" he teased her, but she didn't laugh.
"Harry, I'm serious."
"I am too," he said as the smile disappeared from his face and he looked at her. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. I know you've said that you're fine with us being together, I still want to know that you don't have any doubts."
"I would think my coming here with you last night and that I'm still here this morning answers that. I wouldn't do this for anyone I wasn't completely serious about."
Harry struggled to lay still and not do more to this beautiful girl in his bed … it was a difficult battle.
"I love you, Susan."
"And I love you, Harry."
A banging on their door interrupted their kiss before a muffled voice shouted, "Hey you two, stop doing whatever you're doing and get out of there before you're found out!"
Susan broke the kiss with a giggle. "If she was a better friend she wouldn't have done that." Still, she rolled out of bed and grabbed her clothes. "I'll take the bathroom and you can assure her we're up."
Harry shook his head as he put his dressing gown on. Answering the door, he saw a worried looking Hannah there, as well as a smiling Neville in the background. "Yes, yes, I'm up and I'll be out in a few minutes."
"Susan better be as well and before any Professors come looking. I saw the way you two were hanging onto each other last night and knew she wasn't going to be letting you go anytime soon," Hannah told him.
"Be out soon," was all Harry said before he closed the door, smiling to himself as he thought of his girlfriend. The only real downside was that he knew he had to plan something special for her and he hadn't a clue as to what that would be.
— — —
As the four walked into the Great Hall, they found a loud and happy group. One glance at the newspaper explained it. There was a photo of Harry and the proclamation of "You-Know-Who Gone Forever".
Classes were cancelled for the day as the families would start leaving for their homes and many good-byes would be said.
Susan jumped up when her parents came over and gave them a hug. Harry stood and gave them a hug also. "Thanks for coming and bringing so much help, though I'm glad we didn't need it," he told Vince. He couldn't help but notice Vince giving him a pointed look as Susan was talking to Pat. He understood the silent question and softly said, "Soon".
Vince gave a nod and said, "You're welcome and I'm glad you didn't need us either." He started the medical team, along with Neville's parents, moving to return to St Mungo's.
Harry then sought out Professor McGonagall, who he found talking to Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Professor, Kingsley. May I interrupt and ask a few questions, since I believe one of you should know the answers."
"Of course." "Certainly." Both had answered at once.
"Considering the recent Minister of Magic's behavior, Pius Thicknesse I believe," Harry started, "is it safe for me to assume he will be replaced?"
"Yes, I believe that's a safe assumption," Shacklebolt answered. "While I'm quite sure he really was under the Imperius Curse, he'll still have to resign; the political baggage will be too great for him to stay."
"Excellent." Harry felt a little better, but there was still so much more to do. "Do either of you know who is likely to be the next Minister?"
The two traded look, but it was Shacklebolt who answered again. "I plan to run for that position and I don't believe I will have any serious competition."
"Ah," Harry said with a slight smile, "you've saved me the effort of having to find you then. There are a few things I'd like to know. First, will all the laws from the last … oh, three years be examined and possibly thrown out. That was about when Voldemort returned to the country and started manipulating the Ministry through Malfoy and Fudge. I'd like to see everything for the six months tossed for certain." He saw Shacklebolt give McGonagall a surprised look, which she just smiled ever so slightly at.
"Yes," Shacklebolt said after a moment of hesitation. "The laws from the last six months will probably be summarily rescinded and we'll give a hard look at those from before."
"Very good," Harry told him. Not quite a definitive as he would have liked, but it would have to do for now. "Second, is it safe to assume that anyone who supported Voldemort and especially his Death Eaters will be questioned with Veritaserum to ensure no one escapes justice for what they've done to our country?"
"There are only two known survivors, but yes, Harry; that is a very safe assumption," Shacklebolt assured him. "I have no more desire to have to fight them again later than you do."
"I appreciate that, Kingsley." Harry looked him right in the eyes. "Lastly, we need to get rid of the root problem and that's the bigotry of the Pureblood movement. What do you plan to do about that?"
Shacklebolt now looked a little uncomfortable. "Harry, we can't control what people think."
"I'm not asking for that, but I do believe there are things that can be done," Harry pressed.
"If I may?" McGonagall spoke up. "While the changes at Hogwarts have been small over the last year, I plan to increase teacher involvement to help prevent the bigotry you speak of here at the school. I will no longer tolerate terms like 'Mudblood' being used here. Bullying will become a suspending offense, and possibly even an expellable offense. Also, the Wizarding Studies class that Mr Longbottom taught for Gryffindor last year will become an official school-wide class taught by his grandmother. Muggle Studies will also be brought up to date. I'm sure other changes will be implemented over the next few years."
Harry nodded. "Excellent news, Professor." He looked at Shacklebolt. "That's the sort of thing I'm asking about."
"I'm afraid I haven't given that topic much thought," the future Minister replied, "however, I am open to suggestions."
"Honestly," Harry answered, "I haven't given it much thought either, but there are a few obvious actions to consider. Start hiring and promoting more non-Purebloods. In fact, why not try to make the number of employees match what's in society? I don't know what the numbers are, but let's assume that each category is one-third of the population. That would mean about one third would be Muggle-born, one-third Half-blood, and one-third Pureblood … all approximately."
"We could aim for that," Shacklebolt acknowledged, "but that would also put a focus on people's ancestry, which we need to stop doing."
"I agree it would be good only for the short term and we should drop that after a time," Harry conceded, "but I'd like to hope it would lead us to the point that one day we no longer care what your parents were; only how good you can do the job."
"I'd like to see that as well."
"As another idea and I know this would be harder, change the Wizengamot so that at least half of the seats aren't hereditary and are filled by some sort of general election. Perhaps do that for the seats of those families where the head of the family was just found to be a Death Eater. That would be a punishment for them and a correction for the government," Harry suggested.
"That would be much harder," Shacklebolt said, "but I can see your point. I'll consider that and other ways. Perhaps you and your friends could consider it also and send me your suggestions?"
"We'd be glad to help in that way," Harry smiled and held out his hand. "Thank you, Kingsley."
"My pleasure, Harry," he said as he shook Harry's hand, "and thank you very much for your willingness to fight Riddle".
"Professor," Harry said with a nod and then returned to his friends.
"What was that about?" Neville asked him; his other friends look curious also.
"Just trying to help get everything back on track and trying to prevent the next war," Harry answered. "Or so I can hope."
Harry looked over the crowd in the Great Hall and felt very good about what he saw. Discounting the first couple weeks of the year, this was how he thought school should have been every year.
Susan walked up and put her arm around his waist. "Ready?"
"I am." He held up his arm and waved at the Headmistress, who acknowledged him with a nod. Permission given, he led Susan out.
"I'm a little surprised that she's letting us leave the school during the Halloween Feast, but I guess that's because you ended the war," Susan told him. "I'm also surprised she's letting me leave since she hasn't done that before."
"Possibly," he replied. "It might also be just because I asked her very nicely and we're both adults." Harry purposefully left out the real reason that McGonagall had forced out of him; but once heard, the old teacher quickly gave her blessing for his outing. "I'm also due to go check on the house and McGonagall did promise me I could do this on weekends and it is Friday evening."
"I can hardly wait to see it," she said excitedly.
Soon they passed through the front gates and Harry Apparated them to an area behind the house. The low sun brilliantly lit the large multi-colored tent.
"Wow! I didn't expect that," she said, her first time to visit since construction started. "Why the tent?"
"It's to hide the work, since they are using magic to build it. If any Muggle were to see them building it, it would be hard to explain stone blocks levitating, not to mention the house-elf they have as a helper," he explained. "Don't let go of my hand until after we're inside or you won't be able to go through the temporary wards that are installed."
"Look," she cried as they walked inside, "they've finished the first floor and are starting with the second."
"At least on this side," he said with a grin, "we do need to walk around it to see it all. Mr Diggle said they were slightly ahead of schedule since I allowed Dobby to come help out as an assistant too. See, the ground floor isn't quite finished here on the front," Harry said as they reached the other side. "Still, it does look like good progress. Let's go inside."
"I like it," she told him, her excitement not diminishing. "It's becoming easier to visualize the final result."
Harry led her into what would be the family room. The room was empty except for the large fireplace and a table with two chairs. The table held flowers, two candles, and place settings for two.
Susan gave him an appreciative and coy look. "I'd wondered if you'd arrange dinner here. You've scored some good romantic points."
"Thank you, I've had an excellent teacher," he teased her as he helped her into her seat before taking his own.
"You've been a good student," she teased back. "What about the future?" she asked, her coy look returning.
Dinner suddenly appeared. "Thank you, Dobby," Harry said in a normal voice before they each started to eat. "I'm very happy with many things right now, which should make for a good future. School is going well, much like I thought it always should be, at least after the first two weeks. I'm also very appreciative of no adventures this year, again ignoring the first two weeks."
"Yes, that is good," Susan agreed. "However, aren't all of your Runes classes an adventure? I don't know how you can take three of them."
Harry chuckled. "You know I'm only attending the sixth and seventh year classes; I don't have to do the homework or exams. I just want to be exposed to the knowledge while I can. Professor Babbling has been very good about it."
"I know, but I still find it amazing," she told him. "What else are you happy with?"
"Professor McGonagall has made some good reforms and I like the new class by Madam Longbottom on Wizarding Studies. It's a good continuation of what Neville started last year."
"I agree," she said. "I also think having a real teacher for History of Magic will be good for the school."
"Definitely," he said with a nod. "I really appreciate Bill helping me remove the Black Family book of magic from the old house so I can sell it soon."
"I won't miss that house," she agreed with a tone that expressed her dislike for it very plainly.
"Then at the Ministry," he continued, "I'm mostly happy with the work Kingsley is doing there. The clean up he's started is going well, even if it has been going slower than I'd like. He's also changed the hiring policies so that Purebloods don't automatically get jobs. That will have a positive affect."
"Auntie would have loved to see those changes," Susan said wistfully. "I can remember multiple times where she'd tell me - confidentially of course - how frustrating it was to have to take new Aurors just because of who their father was and not because they were actually good."
Harry reached over and clasped her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "There's progress and I'm sure it'll get better still." He really did believe that.
"I'm also happy to see that Hermione has started to date again, even if she is dating a Hufflepuff," he teased her with the last part.
"Hey, it's worked well for you," she retorted good-naturedly, going along with his humor.
"It has," he agreed with a smile. "Ginny is also dating, though a Ravenclaw now, and Ron's doing well despite having to repeat sixth year. All of our friends are doing well, yours too." She nodded her agreement.
Noticing that she had finished her dinner, as he had, he knew the moment had come. He had butterflies in his stomach from his nervousness, but he also knew he had to do this.
Looking at his girlfriend, he saw her look at him in curiosity. Her blue eyes held their usual mirth that accompanied her relaxed smile; her hair was pulled back in its usual pony-tail; she was "just Susan", and yet she was utterly amazing. "There is one more thing I'm happy about, actually, more than happy.
"Susan, you've walked everywhere in this house and we've designed it together; I'd like us to be here, together, forever.
"Marry me, Susan Amelia Bones?
Susan's eyes went wide and she seemed to start to hyperventilate, but she still managed reach out to him as she nodded. "Yes," she squeaked, "oh yes I will."
"Dobby has a selection of rings from the vault - if you don't see anything you like, we can have something made."
She hugged him fiercely and he reveled in the feel of her against him and her sweet smell. "I love you, Susan."
She kissed him hard for a long moment before she broke it off and said, "And I love you, Harry Potter; I love you so much." Pulling her wand out, she surprised him by flicking it at her chair to move it over, then a transfiguration to turn it into a sofa. "Come," she told him as she pulled him over and sat on his lap.
An hour later, they still hadn't had dessert and Harry felt he now had a new Patronus-worthy memory. This Halloween, nothing bad had happened and he hoped every Halloween was this happy.
They also had just enough time to get back to school before the deadline McGonagall had given him. While he had planned to go to her parents' house tonight to tell them about the engagement, now that would have to wait until tomorrow.
Harry and Susan landed in front of his house and looked at it. "I like it. Dobby's work on landscaping is simply amazing," Harry commented as he continued to look it over, the first time ever without the tent being over it.
Susan squeezed his arm and sighed contentedly. "I like it all too, but there's so much work to do on the inside."
He chuckled as he started walking them forward. "There is all summer for that, my love."
Inside the front door, Jonathan Diggle greeted them. "Welcome to your new home, Mr Potter. I'm sure I'm a bit biased, but you have a lovely and well-built home."
"I like what I've seen on previous inspections; perhaps you could give us the final tour?" Harry suggest.
"My pleasure." Diggle showed them the entire house pointing out every feature.
When then reached the front door again, Dobby was guarding three crates, the last of the Black gold that hadn't been in Gringotts. Harry had brought it over on his last trip and stored it in the house Vault, which Dobby could access now.
"Here's your final payment, Mr Diggle."
"I appreciate your business. If you have further building needs, I hope you'll give me a call." Diggle called his house-elf, who started taking the crates of gold back to the office. "As I'm turning the house over to you, that means I will be taking the temporary wards down. Are you ready to bring yours up? I haven't seen a ward stone other than mine."
"I am ready," Harry said with a bit of pride. "They're hidden with family magic and have been charging since the first of the year and now merely need to be activated."
"Again, thank for your business." Diggle walked out as his elf took the last crate away.
Harry locked the front door after the man and then walked to a large closet that held the secret entrance to the basement and family Vault. Opening it, he walked down and then made his way to the ward room. "Dobby, is Mr Diggle off of the property?"
"Yes, Master Harry," the elf answered from the stairs. "He has taken his big magic stone with him also."
Harry touched his wand to the ward stone and brought the estate wards to life. He'd swear he could feel the magic in the air. Satisfied, he left the ward stone and found the main room of the Vault already a little easier to walk through.
Upstairs, a few pieces of furniture and paintings were already in place and Susan was directing Dobby where to place each piece as he brought it up. "It all doesn't have to be done today," he teased her.
"No, it doesn't, but I'd like it all done before I move in in August, and that's only four months away," she replied as she directed Dobby where to place the next chair.
Harry couldn't help but smile as he thought about being married in four months. "True, but we have another six weeks of Hogwarts, my love."
She gave him a 'get real' look. "Harry, we have so much to do. Besides getting the house ready, we have our wedding, you have your new job as an apprentice to Bill Weasley for a year, and yes, our NEWTs too. That doesn't count the myriad of other details."
It also didn't count the time they needed to look through all the memories Dumbledore had given him, which he still hadn't worked up the motivation to look at.
"All in good time," he told her as he wrapped his arms around her and being very pleased with life lately and going forward. "All in good time."
(A/N: I hope everyone who's stuck around has enjoyed this story. It was fun to write and a bit unusual as most Susan stories contain her Aunt Amelia as a major character and this one doesn't.
To be honest, I didn't come up with the idea of throwing Riddle through the Veil and having it also force the rest of the pieces to follow in order to end it all. I had forgotten where I read it, so thanks to Fenerath for pointing out it's "Public Safety" by Yunaine.
BTW, if I was too subtle, the Horcrux in Harry was removed by the possession in the battle of the DoM. The clues are in chapter 1. That removal was what unlocked the power in Harry.
Again, a huge thanks to Kokopelli for helping with epic, incredibly awesome (his adjectives :) beta'ing for the story, not only for his spelling and grammar corrections, but his suggestions too.
I also want to thank alix33 for her unofficial help with typos. I didn't ask her to help, but she's faithfully given me a review for every chapter with little things that I've overlooked.
Not sure when the next story will come out. I've promised Kokopelli some of my time, not to mention that I don't have a lot of time to write anyway. As usual, put/keep the Author Alerts on. You can also see what's going on with me by looking at my bio on this site; I do try to update the status there from time-to-time. - Kevin)