Chapter Twenty One: The End and Beginning
"Oh, look... it's Potter," the snide voice dripped sarcasm.
"You son of a..." Harry stepped forward.
"Severus and I were just having themost interesting conversation, Harry," the short man stepped forward, grinning. He sniffed as he stepped over the body of a woman on the floor in front of him, the woman who had just taken a death curse. "Silly Millie, never could control her own wand..."
Harry glanced down to see an older, heavier Millicent Bulstrode laying on the floor between Snape and the advancing figure of Peter Pettigrew. There were eight others in Death Eater robes in the room.
"I've had enough of you, Pettigrew..." Snape snarled.
"I'm sure you have, Snivellus," Peter laughed. "Ah, Remus. Remember the fun we used to have with Snivellus? Wonderful times, weren't they?"
"Peter, you and I never had wonderful times together. You were never more than a..." Remus' eyes widened with shock. "A thorn in our side. James and I..."
"Ah, yes. The brave Gryffindors... how wonderful. James should have been sorted properly. We both would have been, had it not been for that idiot mother of his... and mine, too, of course. Women should never be allowed..."
With that, a snapping of electrical energy came from behind Harry, missing Pettigrew by several feet.
"Ah, Miss Tonks, I presume?" Pettigrew laughed, keeping his wand trained on Snape, showing his teeth. Dental care obviously was never on the priority list. "How's the tummy, Nymphadora? Anything to bellyache about?"
"Pettigrew!" Harry shouted. "You and I have a score to settle."
"You?" Peter laughed. "You must be joking, Potter? I levelled your parents with a single curse, and you think that I'm worried about you?"
"I faced Voldemort. I faced Mahood. You want to take me on, feel free..." Harry stepped forward.
"Oh, Potter, don't make me laugh..."
"I'm not laughing, Wormtail."
Pettigrew immediately sobered. "Do not call me that, Potter. Never call me that."
"Why not?" Harry taunted. "Why shouldn't I call you anything... anything I like?"
"I am far more powerful than you can imagine, Potter."
"I'm afraid I'll have to see some evidence of that, Wormtail," Harry spat.
"You still don't get it, do you? Do you think that it's just coincidence that I've been standing next to Voldemort, then Mahood for all these years? Do you think that both of them would have the same second in command? Are you stupid, Potter?"
"Are you trying to tell me that you've been the one in charge all along?" Harry laughed. "Still having the delusions of grandeur, there, Wormtail?"
"Delusions? I think not, Potter... by the way, I must thank you..."
"Well, it was so nice seeing your parents again at Halloween, and the return of my finger was long overdue."
"My finger, Potter. Surely you know the story? I lost a finger the day I relegated your parents to hell... the day I paid James Potter back for every humiliation he ever visited upon me..."
"What are you talking about, Wormtail?"
Harry's use of the derogatory nickname seemed to spur the man on. "You mean you haven't told him the story, Remus, old boy?"
"Harry..." Remus began.
"Oh, no... please, let me!" Wormtail grinned evilly at Lupin. "Your father was supposed to be my friend. So, being his friend, I tried to urge him to leave that muggle bitch he was infatuated with alone... but no. He felt the need to marry her. Marry her! Can you believe it?"
Harry knew there was more to come.
"I tried to tell him. I tried, didn't I, Lupin?" his wild eyes turned to Remus, but didn't wait for his confirmation. "I told him, and told him, and told him... sullying the pure blood of the Potter family... it shouldn't have been allowed!"
"So, I tried to do the next best thing... show James what kind of woman he was marrying. But she wouldn't play house with me..." an evil grin began on his twisted face. "So I had to show her, in detail, what I intended. She didn't like it much."
Harry felt rage begin.
"So the bitch bit me! Bit me!" He held up his hand. "But I got it... a nice replacement, don't you think?"
Harry looked to the hand held up. All the fingers appeared to be normal, except for the index finger... it appeared to be...
"Do you like it? It's your father's," Pettigrew laughed. "I figured it was the least that he owed me, don't you think?"
"You sick bastard..." Harry heard Ron say.
"You... you were the one who desecrated their graves..." Harry said quietly, his rage building.
"Desecrated? Hmmm... I wouldn't have thought of it that way, but I can see how you might. Voldemort really had no idea of what I..."
"You haven't one tenth the power of Voldemort, you worm..." Snape said quietly.
"I was Voldemort's power, Snivellus!"
"I guess I'd require proof of that, Wormtail," Harry said as he moved one hand behind his robes. He hoped that the others noticed. He sighed with relief as he felt them slowly fanning out... Ron to his left, Bill to his right, and the others moving slowly into position.
Hopefully, Pettigrew wouldn't notice.
Peter Pettigrew's eyes narrowed. "Proof? Very well..." he turned towards Snape, and lifted his wand.
However, as Pettigrew lifted his wand, Snape lifted his own, and before Peter could curse the old Slytherin, Snape had spoken the words to an ancient incantation, and Peter Pettigrew was no more. At least, his body was gone in a puff of yellow smoke and with a swift scream.
But simultaneously, a beam of red light came, seemingly out of nowhere, and hit a very surprised Snape directly in the back. Harry witnessed the man's stunned look as he fell forward, and yelled out as his body met the floor. Behind him, Remus' voice screamed a curse at the Death Eater standing behind Snape. It hit full force and, in seconds, the man was collapsed in a pile of robes on the floor, unmoving.
This seemed to wake something in the other Death Eaters, who immediately attacked, but they should have given it up before they started, as it was over in minutes.
Several of them were dead, the rest stunned and in the process of being secured by the others, as Harry ran over to where Snape lay on the floor.
"Sev?" Harry knelt beside him.
"It's okay, Harry..." Snape's voice was weak. "I've done what I came to do."
"It's not okay, Sev!"
"The prophecy said that he must sacrafice all, Harry. I've done that. You... you don't have to. You go home, and take care of your children... and Ginny. I did this for Lily..."
"Lily needs to see you while she grows up, Sev... don't you dare give up now!"
"Not that Lily, Harry..." Snapes face contorted in pain. "Your mother. She was my salvation. I joined the Death Eaters the day she married your father, a silly, emotional reaction... but I left the day you were born. She was my friend, Harry..."
And as Harry's panicked glance darted around the small room, looking for help, he felt Snape tense as he took in a sharp breath, then relax totally.
"God damn it, no!" Harry screamed.
But screaming didn't help.
Birthday cake and balloons were the order of the day. To an outsider, it might appear that they had gone overboard with the decorations, but Harry had insisted, and Molly hadn't had the heart to tell him that it was too much. Enchanted balloons danced throughout the house, and a cake was currently magically singing "Happy Birthday", which everyone but Harry, apparently, thought was taking it just a bit too far.
But Jamie and Lily Mione were in toddler heaven.
"Present time?" Harry grinned at them.
Harry turned to see his obviously pregnant wife shaking her head at them, but she had a smile on her face, a smile Harry would never tire of seeing..
"Hey, it's not every day our babies have their first birthday!"
"No," Ginny agreed. "But I think the racing brooms you got them might be a bit much, love."
"That's just their 'one to grow on' present," Harry smiled at his children. "The real present is in the yard, isn't it?"
"In the... yard...?" Ginny looked defeated. "Oh, Harry, you didn't..."
"I did, Mummy. I most certainly did!" He grinned.
"I told you..."
"Come on, Gin. How long are they going to be children for? Not long enough. And..."
"Harry! We have no room for it!"
"Gin-gin... we have nothing but room since everyone moved out on us."
"Come on," Harry lifted his son and daughter into his arms and, grinning at his wife, headed out the door. "I bet that Grandma Molly is ready to cut that cake!"
"Oh, Harry!" Ginny gave up, threw her hands in the air, and followed him. "Fine! But you're feeding it!"
"I wouldn't have expected anything else, love!" Harry called back over his shoulder.
"Good bloody thing, Potter..." she grumbled, following him into the kitchen.
"Harry," Hermione grinned at him as he entered from where Ron was helping her sit in a straight-backed kitchen chair. "I don't think there are quite enough balloons in here, love..."
"That's not what Ginny keeps saying," Harry leaned down and kissed his 'sister's' cheek. "When did you arrive?"
"Oh..." Hermione sank into the chair. "Just now. Not being able to floo sucks."
"Hermione, you know what the doctor said, love..." Ron began, only to be cut off by his short-tempered wife.
"'If you fall out of a substandard hearth...' yadda yadda yadda..." Hermione said in a rather nastily taunting voice. "Ron, would you please stop treating me like a child? Get me a drink."
"Yes, love..." Ron stood.
Harry grinned. Hermione wasn't proving to be any more patient carrying twins than Ginny had been.
Ron returned with a tall glass of lemonade for Hermione, sitting it in front of her and leaning down to kiss her cheek.
"Have I told you today that I love you?" he said softly.
She smiled, her mood immediately lightening.
"Yes. When we woke up, in the shower, at breakfast, at morning tea, when you nipped into the kitchen for a snack before lunch..."
"Well," Ron smiled. "I do."
"I do, too," she looked up at him, her eyes soft. "More than anything."
"Cut it out, you two..." George walked into the room. "I swear, the two of you are so sweet it's sickening."
"You could take a pointer or two from your brother, there, my love," Angelina gave him a look. "You know, I can't remember the last time you told me that you loved me."
George wiggled his eyebrows, and turned to his wife. "Don't you? But I thought I showed you every night, love."
"Oh..." Angelina deadpanned. "Is that was that three minutes every night is about?"
The room erupted with laughter at the look on George's face as he mumbled something and made a quick exit. Angelina came to the table, leaned down and gave each of the twins a kiss before handing them small, wrapped packages.
"Happy birthday, babies," she crooned.
"Not so much babies anymore, Auntie Angelina..." Harry said, distracted as Jamie tried to rip the paper off his gift while Lily Mione was busy whacking her father in the head with hers.
Jamie finally succeeded in getting a corner ripped, and then it was seconds before he realized that there was something under the paper...
He finally, with his Uncle Ron's help, pulled out a tiny replica snitch.
"They'll fly over their cribs, and sound an alarm if anything is wrong..." Angelina smiled. "They're a kind of baby monitor."
"A snitch?" Ginny raised her eyebrows.
"Well," Angelina blushed. "Their father was the best seeker Gryffindor ever had. I thought it wasn't too soon to get Jamie and Lily Mione thinking..."
Ginny laughed, shaking her head.
At that moment, the door to the hallway opened again, and Molly bustled in, Arthur behind her.
"The others are here, Ginny, love. Do you want to bring in the cake?"
"The singing one, or the normal one, Mum?" Ginny said ruefully, casting a glance at her blushing husband.
Molly laughed. "Leave him alone, love. It's his right as their dad."
"Is it his right to get them that... thing... in the back yard?"
"What thing, love?"
"Look," Ginny said, leading her mother to the kitchen window that looked out over the kitchen garden.
"Oh, my!" Molly said, surprised.
"What is it, Ginny?" Angelina said.
"A dog," Ginny said. "A great, huge, black, smelly dog."
"It's a Newfoundlander, Ginny," Harry said. "They're very protective of children."
"It's beastly, Harry," Ginny said. "And it smells."
"It's not," Harry said firmly. "And it doesn't."
"You're feeding it," she said.
"Fine," Harry agreed, shrugging good humoredly.
"And cleaning up after it," Ginny picked up the cake and headed towards the door.
"No problem," Harry nodded.
"And it is not coming in this house!" she shot at him as she exited the room.
Harry looked shocked for a moment, then his face fell. Following his wife into the hallway, the others heard him say, "But, Ginny..."
"Harry Potter, that thing is not coming in this house!"
Those left in the kitchen burst out laughing.
"How long?" Ron asked.
"Three weeks," said Angelina.
"Three weeks?" Hermione snorted. "I give it three days. It will be sleeping on their bed in three weeks."
Ron helped her up from her chair and led the two women into the War Room, where the remainder of the guests were assembled for the cake-eating.
Harry looked around at the guests as he handed off Jamie to Ginny and then settled Lily Mione in her highchair. Each child had a huge cake in front of them, and their eyes were round with wonder.
Tonks was there, with Shack. Harry knew that they had arrived together, and that they would more than likely leave together. Despite their problems, Harry hoped that they could get it worked out. He wanted to see them both happy. Remus stood speaking with them.
Charlie and Amelia, Amelia's parents, and Bill and Janie were seated in the corner, Bill talking animatedly, using his hands to illustrate what he was saying. Charlie was nodding in agreement with whatever it was Bill was saying. Janie laughed, and Harry smiled. Those two would probably have gone with him into hell, if necessary, to protect their families.
The twins were standing in the opposite corner, with Alicia between them. Harry watched as all three smiled when Angelina joined them.
Molly fussed, making sure everyone had drinks, while Arthur looked on, a small smile on his lips as he watched his aging bride. Those two seemed to be more and more in love every day. Harry hoped that he and Ginny had the years together that Arthur and Molly had been blessed with.
Children raced around. Weasley grandchildren and David and Susan, it didn't seem to make a difference to the others that their adopted cousins didn't seem to be displaying any magic. Harry hoped they continued to be as accepting. He hoped, too, that with time, perhaps David and Susan would be able to develop their magical ability, that all had not been lost with what they had been through.
He watched as they raced around the far end of the table, bringing his eyes to the last of their guests. Minerva McGonagall sat, her back straight, a thin but happy smile on her face as she watched those around her, and responded to something Hermione said as Ron helped her sit down beside the aging Headmistress. And beside her, sitting comfortably in a wheelchair, the gaunt figure of Severus Snape.
Harry sighed. Snape's recovery hadn't been easy. The spell that had been thrown at him had broken his back, but luckily, they had managed to get him to St Mungo's quickly enough. He was still working hard at it, but the doctors had high hopes that he would walk again, if only with a cane. Harry had teased the older man that it would just lend that much more to his dark image with the students at Hogwarts.
Snape's eyes had danced with glee at the thought.
But they were there. All of them. They were together, and safe. In the past three months there had been absolutely no Dark Arts activity. Anywhere.
Harry didn't fool himself that, eventually, it would not begin again. But for now, all was safe. Peter Pettigrew's reign of terror, whether as leader or supplicant, was now over, and as yet, no one had dared step forward. Perhaps that had something to do with the notice that Harry had put out three days after the confrontation in the cellar of the muggle boarding school, that in his role as Minister, any type of violence against the innocent would be construed as a threat, and that that threat would be dealt with as he had dealt with the last three threats to their world.
As of yet, there had been no problems.
Yes, Harry looked around at his family. The policies he had initiated may not be what he would wish for in an ideal world, but to keep these people safe?
It was worth it.
Later that night, while Ginny put the twins to bed, Harry stood on the back porch, looking up at the sky full of stars. It was uncommon to be able to see this many stars in London, but it was a particularly clear night.
He remembered another night, standing out here with Ginny, speculating on the possibility of other inhabited worlds, and if their problems might be easier to take than the ones they had to deal with here.
Harry sighed. Ginny had shared her wisdom with him that night. She always had the right answers, no matter what he asked.
He felt arms go around him from behind, and let out the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding. Her soft hands linked together in front of him and he placed his own hand over them.
"Is it over, Gin?" Harry whispered, looking up at the stars.
"It's getting there, Harry," she responded, rubbing her forehead against his back.
He smiled, pulling her around to nestle in his arms, against his broad chest. Hugging her tightly, he sighed.
"I still feel like it's never going to be gone," he admitted.
"It won't ever be gone, Harry. We lived it, we'll carry it around in our hearts forever. But our children, Merlin willing, won't have to go through what we've gone through, lose what we've lost."
"Do what we've done," Harry finished, a brief flash of pain in his eyes. He felt Ginny nod. "But I hope..."
"I know," she whispered, smiling up at him, her brown eyes glowing. "Isn't it wonderful?"