Chapter Three: The End
"Oh, Harry, it's perfect!" Hermione squealed. "I can't wait to move in!"
Harry looked around at the tiny lounge they stood in. The largest thing in the entire house was the lounge hearth, which they had entered with the estate agent earlier.
"I just don't understand," Harry said. "Why can't you stay with me?"
"Harry, I love you for giving me a home, really, I do!" Hermione hugged him tightly. "But really, I need my own space. This is mine, Harry. Do you understand?"
Harry sighed. "I suppose so. But I'll miss you."
"I'll miss your cooking," Ron said from the kitchen. "Because you won't be using this cooker to do much other than boil water, Hermione. This thing is ancient."
"Ron!" she rolled her eyes. "Is all you think about food?"
"No," Ron denied, walking into the room munching a biscuit. "Sometimes I think about sex."
"Please tell me that you brought that biscuit with you?" Hermione looked askance at him as the remainder of the biscuit was popped into his mouth.
"Because this cottage hasn't been lived in in nearly four years, Ron, and anything you found in the kitchen..."
"Relax, Hermione..." Ron shook his head. "I'm not stupid. Mum always makes sure I've got a biscuit or two."
"Or a dozen," Harry smiled at his friend. Molly had been sending home packets of biscuits and other treats with Ron since he had begun spending the odd night at the Burrow after the end of their training. Harry had yet to return there.
"Well, I like it, Mione," Ron said. "But you need some furniture."
"I've already got an order in," Hermione smiled, returning to her normal efficient self. "And the few things that I've got from home..."
"Take whatever you need from the house, Mione," Harry said. "You're welcome to anything you want."
"Yeah," Ron said with a grin. "Take the cooker... we won't be using it."
Harry was late. He knew he was late, and he could probably have worked up enough emotion to care, if he really thought that he would be missed.
Actually, Hermione and Ron would miss him. But he couldn't help but think...
It was time he got over it. He knew it. It had been two years. She wasn't interested. She'd been seeing Dean Bloody Thomas since three weeks after...
She was over him, and it was about bloody time that he got over her. He'd start tomorrow. Lavendar Brown was single, and judging by the way she'd shaken her assets in his face the last time he and Ron had run into her in the Leaky Cauldron, she was also interested. Why shouldn't he be?
Rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt, Harry nodded decisively. "Tomorrow, I'm going to call her. Ginny be damned."
And he took a breath, and disapparated into Hermione's flower garden.
The entire Weasley clan, and many, many people from their years at Hogwarts were milling about. Harry looked around, and got his bearings.
"Harry!" Ron called from the other side of the garden. He stood beside Dean and Seamus, holding a butterbeer in one hand.
Dean. Dean Bloody Thomas.
But he was over her, or was about to be. It wasn't Dean's fault. Harry pasted a smile on his face and headed towards the trio. He wouldn't ruin Hermione's housewarming party, he would control his temper.
He still had a job to do. That hadn't changed. Nothing had changed.
Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting on her front porch, three weeks later, when Bill Weasley popped into the yard.
"Ron, Harry... we need you to come..."
"Bill?" Harry stood. "What is it?"
"What about him?" Ron stood, as well, Hermione picked up their empty lemonade glasses and hurried into the house, hurrying back out again in seconds.
"The safehouse was attacked."
"Ginny?" Harry asked, his voice strangled.
Since Percy had come to Dumbledore with information on a spy in the Ministry, he had been living in an Order safehouse somewhere in London. They weren't allowed to know where, but Ginny and Molly had gone to him. Dumbledore had assured everyone that they were safe, and there was no stopping Molly. Ginny had gone along because she was a much better duelist than her mother, or Percy for that matter, and felt that they needed some small protection.
Harry, despite his misgivings, had stayed out of it.
"Mum?" Ron asked.
"They're fine... look, just come on... I don't have all the details. Dumbledore is meeting us at Headquarters."
Within minutes, Harry was striding into the war room, to be confronted by the woman he'd been avoiding for over two years.
"Oh, Harry!" she cried, standing up from where she'd been crouched next to McGonagall on the sofa. She ran to him, throwing her arms around him. "Harry, it was horrible!"
"Gin, it's okay," he stroked her back. "You're safe...where is your mum?"
"In the study with Dad and Dumbledore... she's not well, Harry."
"And Percy?" he asked gently.
Her eyes brimmed with tears. "He just walked out. Mum and I tried to stop him, we knew they were in the neighborhood – we could feel the Dementors... Oh, Harry, Percy is dead! He left the safehouse to keep them from finding Mum and I..."
Bill and Charlie came into the room, to stop dead at the sight of Ginny in Harry's arms. Bill glanced behind him, and Harry had enough sense to begin to pull away before Dean rounded the corner.
"Ginny?" Dean said, glancing between Ginny and Harry.
"Here," Harry moved away, gently pressing her towards the other man, the man of her choice, before turning and leaving the room. "I have to talk to Dumbledore."
And he didn't look back.
"So, it's beginning?" Harry asked.
"It's begun, Harry," Dumbledore paced in front of the fire in Hermione's lounge. "Attacks have been happening all over the country for the last two days. Percy's death..."
Ron flinched, but didn't move from where he sat on one of Hermione's fashionable overstuffed armchairs.
"So, what do we do? When will he come, and to where?" Harry asked.
Suddenly, from the distance, they heard the loud, sudden noise of an explosion.
"The school..." Hermione said, in an awe-struck voice.
"Yes, Miss Granger..." Dumbledore turned his eyes onto her. "It would appear so. Perhaps you should change..."
Hermione looked down at her summer dress and nodded, heading out of the room to change.
"Harry," Dumbledore turned to him. "It looks as though your question may have been answered. I had hoped that Voldemort wouldn't choose to attack the school, but I doubt very much that he would have authorized his Death Eaters to do so without him, if in fact that is what this is..."
He peered out the window.
"Yes..." he nodded, turning back to Harry and Ron.
"Prof..." Harry began.
"Harry... people are going to die. You know that."
"Yes, sir," Harry said quietly, looking into the blue eyes of the man he had followed for eight years. They were no longer twinkling as they normally did. They looked... sad.
"People are going to die around you, Harry. It's not going to stop, until you stop it. You cannot allow their deaths to be in vain, or to distract you from your goal. You understand?"
Harry swallowed, glancing at Ron, and Hermione as she reentered the room.
"Yes, sir." he nodded.
"No matter who it is who falls, Harry, promise me, you will continue on to your goal. You must finish this."
"Then I would suggest..."
At that moment, several bodies flew out of Hermione's floo. A tangled heap consisting of Neville, Luna, Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas, Bill and the twins.
"Bloody hell, gerroff!" Fred yelled.
"Well, the backup appears to have arrived," Dumbledore smiled. "Bill?"
"This is it, Dumbledore. I've just been at Headquarters... we think they're planning on attacking the school tonight... Snape told us..."
"I believe, Mr Weasley, you are behind the news," Dumbledore nodded again. "The attack began a few moments ago... are we ready?"
"Dumbledore..." Harry began.
"Later, Harry. Right now, we must attend to the school. Before that, nothing else matters."
Harry nodded, pulling out his wand. His eyes lit on Dean Thomas.
"Dean?" He couldn't help himself.
"Yeah?" Dean looked up from where he was adjusting the buckle on his boot.
Dean looked at him a moment. "I made her stay with her mother," he said quietly.
"She's safe, Harry," Dean nodded. "I promise."
"Then let's get this done, shall we?" Harry said firmly, striding out the door to be followed by the others.
There was a Dark Lord to vanquish. Then, he could disappear.
The south road into Hogwarts, leading from the village, was dark. Harry didn't think that sneaking in was the way to go. Brazenly, he lit his wand.
After a moment's hesitation, the others did the same.
It was surpising. In the mile or so to the gates to the school, they managed to pick up dozens of others. Mostly people they recognized, from the village, and from school. Students, people older and younger than Harry, Ron and Hermione. They all had their wands drawn, at the ready. Harry smiled. They might not win. After all, anything was possible. But they wouldn't go down without a fight.
As they rounded the last turn in the lane, they saw them, spread out before the gates. Hundreds of Death Eaters. They were outnumbered. Many, many times over.
Dear Merlin, Harry thought. Now what?
"Remember our training," Harry said absently. Ron immediately moved to his left, to stand about ten feet away, his body slightly turned so that Harry could defend his back. Hermione, seeing this, moved to the other side, thankful to Tonks for the advice she had given her on appropriate battle wear. Hermione had bought the tight lycra gym gear months before, in preparation for this. It felt as though she was barely wearing anything, but she was fully covered and, to some small degree, protected by the charms she had put on the outfit.
She laughed. The boys had always drooled over a seemingly oblivious Tonks and her wonderful figure clothed in her stretchy tights with jeans thrown on over top. How funny to know that, for Tonks, it had simply been the most convenient work clothes.
Hermione moved, angling her body to back against Harry's only ten or so feet away. The others, taking their cues, moved around.
And then, it began.
Curses flew, and the trio realized quite quickly that no amount of training could ever have prepared them for this. Harry watched as Ernie MacMillian took a death curse, falling to the ground, only to have Susan Bones stand over his body, and take out three Death Eaters.
They had long since given up on being nice, and with silent agreement, the students of Harry's year, and the other members of the DA, had begun to use Death Curses and Crucios to the best of their ability. It was that, or die.
Harry turned to find Bellatrix Lestrange advancing on them from his left, in Ron's direction, but couldn't do anything about it. Three Death Eaters were standing in front of him, and one was raising his wand...
With a sudden rush of power, Harry lifted both his hands and levelled all three. Hermione gasped before turning to her own challengers.
Somehow, Hermione fell behind. Harry spared her a moment's thought before being distracted by yet another group.
"It's Potter! Get him!" a shrill voice screamed.
Harry glanced over to see Ron battling Bellatrix, and taking a Crucio. Bella did like to play with them before...
"Harry!" Seamus' voice came from his right as he death cursed three separate Death Eaters. "What say we finish off this lot and go find us a drink?"
With Seamus beside him, and Ron on the other side dealing with Bellatrix, Harry saw what was ahead of him. It almost seemed as though a path had cleared in the crowd, and directly ahead of him stood Voldemort.
It had finally come.
Hermione looked up, panting, from the dead Death Eater laying on the ground in front of her. Susan Bones lay dead next to him. She saw Ron battling with Bellatrix Lestrange... one Death Eater who seldom wore the mask... and Seamus and Harry...
And then, out of nowhere, Draco Malfoy, advancing on Harry from behind...
"Harry!" she screamed, throwing herself forward. "No!"
She felt light... carefree, even with the reality of what was going on around her. This didn't matter... she was free.
She turned, to look into the gleeful silver eyes of Draco Malfoy.
"Well, well, well..." he said. "Look what I caught. This is going to be better than I imagined..."
Oh, Dear Merlin... Hermione thought. He's cast the Imperious...
"Now, mudblood, turn, and do as I command..." Draco's voice came through, although she knew he hadn't actually spoken.
As she turned, she idly wondered what would happen, what was Draco making her do... and then she realized. Dumbledore stood in front of her, twenty feet away. She raised her wand...
No! I won't!
"Oh, but you will," Draco said. "Now!"
Her wand hand raised again, but somehow, tears rolling down her cheeks, she managed to turn it away from Dumbledore and towards herself. She was crying uncontrollably. She didn't want to die, but she knew what Draco intended for her to do, and she wouldn't be able to live with herself if he succeeded.
But the wand began to turn back... she heard the words chanting in her brain, she could feel the wand turning back and she couldn't stop it.
"Ron!" she screamed. "Ron, please kill me! Please... please kill me before..."
She looked up into Dumbledore's eyes. They were sad, looking at her, still twinkling, but...
You are forgiven, Hermione Granger. I forgive you. If you remember nothing else, remember that.
And the headmaster of Hogwarts, the greatest wizard in the world, fell at the wand of Hermione Granger.
"Is she okay?" Harry asked.
"We need to worry about you right now. Let me see that arm..." Madame Pomfrey said.
"It's fine," he said dismissively. He'd been caught by a stray cutting curse, but he knew the difference between a scratch and a debilitating wound. "I want to see Hermione."
"Not now, Mr Potter," Madame Pomfrey said firmly.
Harry's eyes narrowed, "Now."
The look on the school nurse's face would have been laughable if it hadn't been such a horrible situation.
"Bed three," she said quietly, recognizing the power behind the man who had just reduced Voldemort to a pile of dust.
After seeing Hermione's broken body, Harry retreated to the hall outside, where he found a chair and sat.
"She's... Ron..." Harry looked up at his friend, to see Dean and Seamus, Bill and Charlie standing with him. Neville stood a few feet away, looking lost.
"I don't understand..." Ron was nearly crying. "Why did she turn on Dumbledore?"
"Draco used the Imperious on her," Harry said blankly.
"She jumped in front of a curse he threw at you, Harry," Dean said, his voice shaking. "I saw it."
"Malfoy?" Seamus said, his voice low and dangerous. "That son of a..."
It was a good thing that Bill, Charlie and the twins were there, as Dean and Seamus turned as one to head towards the main doors.
"I'm taking that little pissant out, Weasley, so move it!" Seamus spat at Charlie.
"The aurors have him, and he's being taken to Azkaban, Seamus. Chill out," Charlie returned, grunting against the exertion of holding Seamus back. Harry stared blankly at the scene around him.
"Harry?" Ron said, moving to his side.
Harry sighed, stood, and removed his wand from under his robes. He took one look at Ron and turned to walk down the hall. Ron, after a moment of watching him sadly, turned and motioned to Bill and the twins who were standing next to Dean and Seamus, where Neville was talking to them in a low, urgent voice. Neville was proving to be very good at calming the other two down.
"Don't know," Ron said, moving down the hall. "Might be nothing, but I've got a bad feeling... come on."
The made it to the Entrance Hall just in time to see Harry raise his wand. Malfoy stood between two aurors who were busy binding him, and who hadn't noticed Harry's approach. A third stood to the side.
"Harry!" Ron yelled. The four people in the hall looked up, and the aurors immediately drew their wands.
"It's over, Draco. Azkaban is too good for you..." Harry said.
"Harry..." Ron said, running up next to his friend. "What are you going to do, take out Draco and three innocent aurors?"
"I won't have to if they'll just stand back. I'll even let them give him his wand back. It's not going to do him any good."
"Harry... come on..."
Harry turned, looking at Ron, and Ron gasped. There was so much hate in Harry's eyes. His green eyes glowed in a way that Ron had never seen, and he could feel the power radiating from him.
"Dumbledore is dead because of him. And Hermione...."
Realizing that they had better move quickly, the Aurors lined up around the bound Draco, preparing to apparate. Draco sneered.
"Next time, Potter!"
It was all that Ron, Bill and the twins could do to hold Harry back. Ron had hold of Harry's wand arm, keeping it down at his side, although he knew it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever if Harry remembered he could do wandless magic. He prayed that Harry was too upset to remember.
"I'll dance on your grave, Malfoy!" Harry said in a low, vibrating voice that carried through the hall., "Someday, somehow, you son of a bitch, I swear to all that is holy, I'll see you dead and dance on your goddamned grave!"
The sun shone down, hot, as Harry stood in the clearing. He leaned against the handle of a shovel, sweat glistening against his bare chest. He was wearing filthy jeans and heavy boots, and not much else.
The hole was eight feet long and four feet wide, and he was down nearly three feet. Having only been out here for a little over two hours, he was making good progress.
There was a pop, and Harry looked up to see Ron striding across the clearing towards him.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked.
"Digging," Harry said shortly, tossing another shovelful of earth over his shoulder and out of the pit.
"I can see that. Why?"
"Because I need to."
Ron stilled. "We could magic the shovels, Harry..."
"Ron," Harry paused, looking up at Ron. "I need to."
Ron was silent for a moment before he sighed, and stripping off his own shirt, grabbed the second shovel and jumped into the hole.
Silently, they dug the grave together.
After what seemed like hours, they got to where they felt it was deep enough. Harry climbed out, then held out his hand to help Ron out. They made their way to the edge of the clearing that looked down over Hogwarts, and sat. Harry handed Ron a bottle of water, and took a drink from his own.
"It's good here." Ron said.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, nodding.
"Harry, she's better off," Ron said quietly.
"I know, Ron."
After a moment, Harry turned to look at his friend. Ron was as dirty as Harry knew himself to be, and there was a pain in his eyes that Harry knew was reflected in his own.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Ron glanced at him. "Yeah. Some things just aren't meant to be, I guess."
"Maybe," Harry nodded. "Maybe."
"We need to get cleaned up. Funeral is in an hour..."
"Yeah, I know..." Harry looked over the hills to the school, where everything had begun for him, and ended. "It's time to move on."