Chapter 24

Ann turned away, embarrassed at the flood of emotion that filled her face. She didn't know what to believe anymore, but more importantly she didn't care. She had had enough.

Harry put a comforting hand on her back, but she barely felt it.

"I think she's a bit disappointed with you, Severus," sneered Lucius Malfoy.

"Ron," whispered Hermione under her breath.

"What," he whispered back.

"Check out Malfoy."

"What about him?"

"Oh my God," she breathed.

"What," hissed Ron.

"Malfoy," she shouted, then she turned and ran.

"Girl, stop," shouted Malfoy. He lifted his wand and pointed it at Hermione.

"No," shouted Ron throwing himself between Hermione and Malfoy.

"Impedimenta," shouted Malfoy. The spell hit Ron, who dropped to the floor. Hermione heard him fall, but kept running. Malfoy took off after her.

Remus pushed Harry and Ann into the wall and pulled out his wand and aimed it at Severus. "Expelliarmus," shouted Remus.

Snape dodged the spell and threw one of his own back at Remus. Remus managed to perform the shield charm and deflected the spell.

"Harry, you and Ann get out of here," shouted Remus.

Snape through another spell that hit the wall above Harry and Ann. Chunks of the wall broke away and dust and rock showered down on Ann and Harry. "Ann help me," shouted Harry above the noise of Remus and Snape exchanging spells. He crawled to Ron, but without his wand he couldn't revive him.

"We have to get him out of here," he grunted.

"What about Hermione," asked Ann.

Harry pulled Ron up and wrapped his arms around his chest pulling him up. "I don't know," he said in frustration. "We have to get Ron out of here."

"I'll go help her," said Ann quickly.

"No," said Harry. "Stay with Ron. I'll find Hermione." He grabbed her hand and pulled her down. "Stay down and out of sight. I'll come back for you."

Ann nodded, her eyes full of fear. "Be careful."

"I will," said Harry squeezing her hand. "I'll be right back."

Harry stayed low, avoiding the wand fight between Remus and Snape. He ran down the hallway in the direction where Hermione and Malfoy ran. His heart was pounding and his lungs felt like they were going to burst. He kept having flashbacks of the last time he'd been forced to run through hallways in search of his friends.

"End of the line, girl," Harry heard Malfoy growl. "Avarda Kedavra."

Harry stopped dead. He felt all of his blood rushing to his head and he felt light headed. "Hermione," he whispered. Slowly he made his way to where he had heard Malfoy. He almost didn't turn the corner he was so afraid of what he'd find. Then he heard a small whimper and he ran.

Hermione was leaning against a wall with her arms wrapped around her knees and her head bowed. Harry rushed to her and threw his arms around her. She barely moved.

"Hermione, are you ok?"

She didn't answer, she just shook in his arms.

"Hermione?"

"Is he dead," she whimpered.

Harry turned and for the first time looked around the room. Malfoy was lying on the floor halfway across the room. He got up slowly and approached him. Malfoy was very still, so still Harry wasn't sure if he was alive. He knelt next to him and put his hand on his neck. Though faint, he could feel the flutter of his pulse.

"He's alive," he said softly.

Hermione sobbed. "Oh thank God."

"What happened?"

"Malfoy had Snape under the Imperious Curse, couldn't you tell."

Harry shrugged.

"Remember Moody's classes? Remember how he said that there was something in a person's eyes when they were under the Imperius curse? I saw it in Snape. He would never do what Malfoy said he did."

Harry was unsure, but didn't want to interrupt her.

"I knew I had to get Malfoy to release Snape from the curse, but the only way I knew how, was to destroy his wand. I knew he'd never release Snape on his own."

Harry looked around. A few feet away from Malfoy was his wand, snapped in two. "I don't understand," said Harry. "I heard him throw the killing curse."

"He did, but he missed and I lunged for the wand right when he was about to throw another curse and I heard it snap and he got thrown back."

"The spell must have rebounded on him. Remember when Ron's wand was broken, how all his spells shot in crazy directions. Remember the slugs."

Hermione laughed lightly. "Yeah, I remember."

"You did really good, Hermione," said Harry seriously. "You always do."

"I don't want to be in here anymore," said Hermione tensely. "Can we go?"

"Sure," said Harry walking back toward her and helping her to her feet. "Let's hope Snape is acting a bit more normal."

"Not so fast."

Harry and Hermione whirled around to see Draco Malfoy standing in the doorway. He was pointing his wand at them and staring between them and his fallen father.

"Malfoy," began Harry warily.

"Shut it, Potter," growled Malfoy.

"It's over, put the wand away."

"It's not over," said Malfoy. "It'll never be over until all you Mudblood's are dead." He raised his wand a little higher.

Hermione had Ann's wand out as well. "Put it down, Malfoy," she demanded.

"Or what, Mudblood? You don't have it in you to do it."

"Don't test me on that one, Malfoy."

"Avarda Kedavra," shouted Malfoy.

"Expelliarmus," shouted Hermione.

The two spells met in mid air with a deafening bang. Harry ran at Hermione and tackled her to the floor holding her down as the spells ricochet around the room. With a sickening thud Malfoy fell to the ground. The air was still and there was no noise, but neither Hermione nor Harry moved. As soon as he was sure things were safe Harry slowly made his way over to Malfoy. As he had done with his father only minutes before, Harry placed his hand on Malfoy's neck, but this time he felt nothing.

Harry fell back, leaning heavily against the wall. Never did he think it would end like this. Hermione sat up and their eyes met from across the room. He shook his head slightly and her eyes slid closed.

"Harry," called Lupin from near by.

"We're in here," called Harry back.

Lupin and Ron ran into the room where Harry and Hermione sat waiting. Behind them was Snape leaning on and being supported by his daughter. Ron ran straight to Hermione and Lupin went to Harry.

"Are you ok," he asked?

Harry nodded. "Draco," he said under his breath. "He's dead."

"What about Lucius," asked Remus quietly?

"Alive," replied Harry. "Spell rebounded on him."

"What happened to Draco? Who threw the curse?"

"He did. Hermione sent the expelliarmus curse at him and the two spells met and they sort of ricocheted around the room and I guess it hit him."

Remus sighed heavily. "We better get everyone back to Hogwarts."

"Sir," began Harry. "How did you know where to find us?"

He smiled sadly. "I borrowed an idea from the past. A couple of weeks ago I made a map specifically designed to track Ann's movements. I thought it might come in handy."

"Looks like you were right," said Harry.

"Unfortunately."

Harry felt the reprove in his tone. He wanted to apologize for once again putting people in danger for his seemingly obsessive need to rescue people.

Remus seemed to know what Harry was thinking. "We'll talk about it later. Right now, let's get everyone home."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Things eventually got back to normal for everyone or at least it did on the surface. Individually the memory of what happened at Malfoy Manor lingered a long time.

School went on as usual for everyone. Ron, Hermione, and Harry took their N.E.W.T.s and got ready for graduation and life after Hogwarts. Ann spent all of the time she wasn't in class or studying with her father.

They seemed for a time inseparable, both knowing how close they came to losing each other.

There was a formal Ministry investigation into the death of Draco Malfoy. Ann's wand was seized and Hermione and Harry were questioned, but cleared of all wrong doing when Draco's wand revealed he was the one who had thrown the killing curse.

A few weeks after the incident, Lucius Malfoy was found dead in his home. The Ministry labeled the death a suicide, but Harry knew Malfoy didn't have it in him to take his own life. As sure as he knew his own name, Harry knew Voldemort had killed Malfoy.

The day of the leaving feast Harry was up in his dorm room packing his bags. Ann knocked softly on the door and Harry looked up. "Come in," he said smiling.

"Getting ready to leave," asked Ann, sitting down on Harry's bed.

"Yup. Not much left to pack."

"Where are you heading?"

"The Burrow," replied Harry. "Ron's mum and dad offered me a place to stay."

"You're not going back to your own family," asked Ann?

"No," said Harry in surprise. "I'm never going back there."

Ann looked at him quizzically.

Harry couldn't help but laugh. "We really don't know too much about each other do we?"

Ann shrugged. "I guess not."

"You know, I thought for a while there that I was in love with you."

"And now," asked Ann slowly.

"I realize that I don't really know you and I couldn't be in love with someone I don't know."

"I suppose you're right," said Ann a little sadly.

"I'm sorry," said Harry.

"Don't be," said Ann. "You're right, you know. It was silly the way we carried on. You can't build any kind of a relationship based on common pain. I lost my Mother, you lost your Godfather. We were both just looking to fill those holes in our lives."

"And now," smiled Harry.

"And now we go our separate ways," replied Ann. "But it really is a shame."

"What is?"

"That you and I, well let's just say that when I first saw you I thought I'd drown in your eyes."

Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably.

"What'd you think," she asked, "when you first saw me?"

Harry blushed uncontrollably as he recalled that first day at Hogsmeade station.

Ahead of him, waiting at Hogsmeade station, was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was standing looking around for something or someone. He had never seen hair as straight and shiny as hers. It was jet black and fell halfway down her back. Her eyes were blue and bright and her nose was slightly long with a small hook at the end, it gave her whole face character. She had an expression he recognized too, kind of sad and disconnected. It reminded him of the face that had often stared back at him from the mirror over the past year.

He cleared his throat again. "I thought you were beautiful," he said honestly.

Ann nodded and looked away. "We really screwed this up," she said so softly that he didn't hear her. "So," said Ann changing the subjects. "You and Ron can't get enough of being roommates?"

"Actually," laughed Harry. "Ron's not going home. He and Hermione got a flat in Edinborough."

"Really," laughed Ann. "That's great."

"Yeah, I imagine they'll be engaged before long," said Harry.

"Won't that be something," said Ann.

"Yeah," returned Harry. "Anyway, what are you doing this summer?"

Ann smiled widely. "Dad and I are going back to my house. We always spent every summer there together. It'll be hard being back, but it just seems right." Ann got off the bed. "I guess I better be going."

"All right," said Harry returning to his packing. Ann was at the doorway when Harry called after her. "Ann."

"Yes," she said turning.

"Would it be all right if I write to you this summer?"

Ann smiled softly. "I'd like that. And maybe, if you're not too busy, you could stop by."

Harry nodded. "I think I will."

"Good."

"Good."

"Well, goodbye Harry."

"Bye Ann," he returned and she left. Harry glanced down at his trunk, his heart felt considerably lighter than it had been only minutes before. If it was possible, Harry was looking forward to the summer more than ever.

The End