And now, the end is near.

And so I face the final curtain.

My friend, I'll say it clear,

I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.

I've traveled each and every highway...

But more, much more than this,

I did it my way.

– Frank Sinatra

And so at least we reach the end of my saga. Keeping with tradition, it's over 10K words, so enjoy it. I will save the long speech for the end, and instead put concrete information on my next work out. It will be entitled Fawkes' Gift, the sequel to Ahn Na Blue's 'What It Costs To Save The World,' and the story premier will be on April 29th, the Friday after I return from my vacation in Detroit. It has been a long and wonderful road, and I hope each and every one of you enjoy the end of this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Chapter 17: A New Beginning

A dull thud echoed in Harry's head.

Then it happened again.

Forcing his brain into conscious thought, he determined after a few more thuds that he was listening to his heart beat. Figuring he was alive if his heart was beating, he tiredly opened an eyelid to see where he was.

'Nighttime. Hospital wing,' he thought, recognising the ceiling even in the darkness. 'Figures.'

"Harry."

The voice startled Harry and if he hadn't been so drained or exhausted, he would've jumped at the noise. He made to turn his head to see the speaker, but was cut off before he could make the movement.

"Do not tire yourself, Harry," the voice said. "You've had a busy day. For now, just rest."

And he did just that.

When he awoke the next morning, Harry squinted at the bright light coming in from the windows. Using his hand to shield the glare, he saw the tired but smiling form of Albus Dumbledore sitting on a chair next to his bed.

"I trust you had a good night sleep?" Dumbledore asked. "I thought about telling Mister Weasley and your fiancee when you regained consciousness last night, but you seemed rather exhausted."

"Where's my wand?" Harry asked, looking around. "Voldemort's wand?"

"Right to the point," Dumbledore said. "They have both been sitting on the nightstand next to the bed since you were brought here."

"How long have I been here?" Harry asked, fearing that he might've been out for another three months.

"Twelve hours," Dumbledore replied, causing Harry to relax slightly. "A bit less than your last episode, to say the least."

"Yeah..." said Harry, running his hand through his hair. "Speaking of which, where is Hermione?"

"I insisted that she have some breakfast and get cleaned up," Dumbledore said. "None of us smelled too clean after that battle yesterday."

"She's okay then?" Harry asked.

"A bit of a bump on the head, you pushed her rather hard," Dumbledore said with a small smile. "But nothing that time won't heal."

"And Voldemort...is he really..."

"Gone?" Dumbledore asked when Harry trailed off. "Yes, Harry. He is gone. Whilst there are many ways to end someone's life in the wizarding world, sometimes none can be as effective as some of the muggle ones."

"What did you do with his body?" Harry asked.

"For the moment, it is still residing in my office, so none have to bear witness to the rather...gruesome state you left it in," Dumbledore said amused, causing Harry to bow his head in shame slightly. "But since you have sacrificed so much to end this war, I thought it fitting that you should be the one to decide what happens to Tom Riddle's remains."

"Bury him in a muggle cemetery," Harry replied instantly. "I don't care where, but I'll be damned if he gets to rest with others of our kind."

"A fitting response," Dumbledore said. "I will personally take care of it tomorrow."

"How did I kill him, anyway?" Harry asked.

"You cut his head off," Albus replied bluntly, though it was with a smile.

"I mean before that," Harry said. "With the energy."

"Your power is derived from love, Tom's from hate," Dumbledore said. "In the event that the two meet and clash, love will always win."

"What about the priori incantatem effect?" Harry asked.

"It is a very strange and wonderful phenomenon, the brother wand effect," Dumbledore said. "But the 'brother wand effect' is not the correct term, even though it is the one that most people use. 'Brother magic' is more accurate. For you see, Harry, magic does not come from the wooden sticks that we point at objects and people. It comes from within. Like blood, it also has its own unique signature in people. Normally, nothing of this sort happens when magic-related people send spells at each other. But that is because they are using wands, and their magic isn't pure. When you and Voldemort each used your own sources of power, yours being love and his hate, and sent them at each other, the magical signatures locked, much like they will when brother wands meet. What happened afterward, you already know." Harry nodded solemnly as Dumbledore finished his explanation. "Is there anything else you wish to ask me?"

"Professor, how come you didn't tell me that you were a phoenix?" Harry asked. Dumbledore considered him carefully for a moment.

"First of all, Harry, I will not have you calling me 'Professor', like you are just some inferior student," the headmaster said. "I have always hated the titles that are given to adults simply because they are adults. Humans are humans, and should treat each other with the same amount of respect, regardless of age, status, or knowledge. However, many do not share my views, as you well know." Harry smiled at this. "You have proven in the past twenty-four hours to be much more of a man than many who address me by my first name."

"All right...Albus," Harry said hesitantly.

"Much better," Dumbledore said with a smile. "I've always liked my first name, anyway. Has a rather nice ring to it, don't you think?"

"Um...sir –"

"Albus, Harry. Albus."

"Albus," Harry corrected. "Now I know how it feels to be Dobby." This prompted a chuckle from both of them.

"You want to know why I kept my animagus form a secret from you?" Dumbledore asked. Harry nodded. "Well, I do confess myself rather disappointed that you had to find out the way you did. I had rather hoped you would get to find out some day in the future, when you were much older."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Because it directly relates to a story that is the true reason the prophecy was made in the first place."

"I thought prophecies couldn't be planned," Harry said. "That they only happened at the spur of the moment."

"What I mean is that without what I am about to tell you happening, it is very likely that the prophecy would never have been made," Dumbledore revised.

"Oh," Harry said.

"The phoenix is a magical creature, Harry," said Dumbledore. "Very few have animagus transformations that are magical. In the past millenium, there have been in fact only four wizards or witches that could turn into magical creatures, including yourself and Hermione."

"You were obviously the third," Harry said. "But who was the fourth?"

"The fourth was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather," Dumbledore said. "Like myself, he too could turn into a phoenix."

"Who was he?" Harry asked.

"Do you really need to ask that question?" Dumbledore countered. Harry started into the headmaster's twinkling eyes for a moment before the truth hit him.

"Gryffindor..." he breathed. "You're the heir of Gryffindor."

"Correct," Dumbledore replied. "It was Tom's reason for my being the 'only one he ever feared'. Riddle was always of the opinion that only the heir of Gryffindor would kill the heir of Slytherin and end the battle one thousand years in the making, but it was never to be."

"What battle?" Harry asked.

"The Founder's War," Dumbledore said. "It is something that is not taught in History of Magic classes anywhere around the world anymore. It was the first and only world war in the wizarding world. And it started with the founders of this school."

"Between Gryffindor and Slytherin," Harry said.

"Yes...and no," Dumbledore replied. "There was a point in time where the founders were inseparable, much like yourself, Hermione, and Ron. However, love, while it can create and hold strong bonds between people, can break them just as easily. To make a long and boring love story short, Gryffindor and Slytherin entered an argument one day over a woman. Rowena Ravenclaw, to be exact."

"They each fancied her?" Harry asked, fascinated.

"No," Dumbledore replied. "Salazzar fancied her. Godric, however, was in love with her, much like you are with Hermione."

"Oh."

"You understand, of course, that Salazzar Slytherin was not a man who liked to lose at anything. So when it became clear that Rowena did not reciprocate his feelings, he started a sort of personal feud with Godric."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

"It started out as small competitions," Dumbledore said. "Who would get Rowena better gifts on holidays, who could instruct their pupils to do better...petty and rather ignorant things that only served to anger Salazzar further, because Godric never lost. Godric didn't even know he was in a competition until it was too late."

"Too late?"

"One day after a especially vicious argument between Rowena and Salazzar, the head of Slytherin sneaked into Godric's quarters and murdered him in cold blood," Dumbledore said gravely. "They say that the founders were divided because of their views on teaching muggle-borns, but that really isn't the truth. The Founder's War started because of the murder of Godric Gryffindor."

"If Gryffindor was murdered, how can you possibly be his heir?" Harry asked.

"Rowena became pregnant with my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather two weeks before the murder," Dumbledore said. "On the night he proposed to her, I believe. Anyway, after Godric's death, Rowena vowed to avenge him no matter the cost. Salazzar, hearing of this, fled the school to gather an army and take it for his own."

"Did he manage it?" Harry asked.

"Of course not, my dear boy," Dumbledore replied with a laugh. "If he had, none of us would be here today. War broke out across the continent, culminating in an epic battle, perhaps a thousand times larger than yesterday's, which was fought on these grounds a few months later. Tens of thousands of wizards, creatures, and machines of war gathered here and fought."

"What happened?" Harry asked.

"Merlin," Dumbledore replied. At Harry's inquisitive stare, he continued. "Many people know Merlin for his accomplishment's as Arthur Pendragon's primary advisor and friend, but that was not his greatest accomplishment. The battle I speak of took place fifty years before Arthur's birth, and was ended by Merlin, who, growing tired of the incessant fighting, destroyed half of the armies on both sides with a single curse and forced all those who were left to see reason. Unlike Rowena, Slytherin refused to accept his terms, so Merlin banished him to the far east, where he had his only child with a Japanese witch. Rowena gave birth six months later. Merlin, however, spent his next five decades in a small wooden hut, resting from the feat that easily saved all of wizard-kind, before a young servant boy by the name of Arthur wandered across his hut."

Well...that's a really interesting story," Harry said, once it became apparent that Dumbledore was done speaking. "But what does that have to do with me or why you didn't tell me about your animagus?"

"If you knew about my animagus, either you or Hermione would have undoubtedly researched the roots of it, and in turn, uncovered the story I have just told you. I did not want that to happen. I wanted you to hear it directly from me, the truth, and not from the dusty, rotten pages of some book that is over a thousand years old."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"I told you, in the explanation of why you triumphed over Tom Riddle, that it was because love will always defeat hate that you killed him," Dumbledore said with a sigh. "While that is true, it is not the only reason you ended this war."

"I don't understand," Harry said.

"Magical transformations are extremely rare," Dumbledore repeated. "Hermione Granger is the first muggle-born in history to have a magical animagus. You, however, are not muggle-born. Your lineage not only gives you the power to turn into a Singa, but it also gave you the power to end wars. It is your ancestry that was the source of the magic behind the prophecy."

"Are...are you saying that I'm related to...to Merlin?" Harry asked, piecing the puzzle together.

"Indirectly, but yes," Dumbledore said. "Merlin himself never had children, but he did bestow all of his powers to a peasant before his death. That peasant was your great-great-great-great-great...well you get the idea. Although not by blood, you are, by magic, the last of Merlin's line. Until you and Hermione procreate, that is."

"Did my father know?" Harry asked

"No," Dumbledore replied. "It is not a secret that should be divulged easily, Harry. Being part of Merlin's line...imagine the kind of publicity that would create. I only know because of my relation to Godric. I am telling you because you have done things no typical wizard or witch could ever accomplish. You deserve to know the reason for your power."

"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Harry asked breathlessly.

"I did not want to tell you such a thing before you defeated Voldemort," Dumbledore said. "I always knew you had the ability to defeat him, but I did not want to give you the idea that you were invincible. Such a thing could perhaps have turned you into the next dark lord."

"All I wanted was to be like everyone else," Harry said with a sigh, looking at the sheets on his bed. "All I wanted was to live a normal life."

"There is no such thing as a normal life. There is only life. And you get on with it," Dumbledore said with a sad smile. "Remember, though, that the destination is never to be expected. That makes for a boring story, a boring tale, a boring life. It is the unexpected that makes us who we truly are."

"I suppose," Harry said heavily.

"Remember that closure always comes eventually, whether it be in the form of love, or death, or something greater. Just as no peace can last forever, neither can despair. Time eventually heals all wounds, and though we never forget them, they make us stronger in the end. You would do well to not forget that, Harry."

"I won't," he replied, strengthened somewhat by the headmaster's words.

"Now, I think that Hermione is returning from her breakfast, so I'll leave you two in peace to work everything out. I dare say, I'm rather famished myself, and could definitely use some of Dobby's exquisite cooking."

"He's okay then?" Harry asked as Dumbledore stood from his seat.

"A few scratches here and there, but none worse for the wear," the headmaster replied with a smile. "Due to the excellent planning of a certain someone, we had a medical team on standby for anyone who got injured, and only suffered five casualties, three elven, two human. And you already know who the humans are."

"Yes sir."

"Albus, Harry. Albus." Harry nodded and smiled at the headmaster who warmly returned the grin before walking out of the hospital wing. Harry had just heard the door shut when it burst open again, Hermione flying through the double doors and into his open arms.

"You stupid, stupid, man," she said into Harry's chest, holding him as tightly as she could.

"Nice to see you too," he replied. Hermione looked up at him and he saw there were tears running down her cheeks.

"Why did you have to go and fight him alone?" she asked. "I woke up and they told me you were fighting Voldemort in Dumbledore's office...I couldn't even talk to you through our link –"

"Hermione."

"I was so scared that I was going to lose you..."

"Hermione," Harry said more sternly cutting her off. "Listen, my first priority was always to make sure you were safe, no matter what happened. My second was to kill Voldemort. I accomplished both, and I didn't even come out of it that badly. If you want me to apologise, I will, but I cannot say I regret the outcome of what's happened in the past twenty-four hours."

"I...I'm sorry," she said looking away. "All this time you knew it was going to be you and Voldemort in the end...I haven't exactly made things easy on you, have I?"

"Hermione," Harry said, turning her face to look at him. "I would not have survived these past two years without you. We both know that I'd have given up hope a long time ago if you hadn't made me realise I was in love with you."

He didn't wait for a reply. Instead, Harry simply lowered his lips onto Hermione's in a single kiss, trying to convey all the love he felt for her.

"Harry..." Hermione breathed. "I want to be your wife."

"I want you to be my wife too," Harry said with a grin.

"No," Hermione said. "I want to be your wife now." It took Harry a moment to register what she really meant.

"Now?" he asked. "Isn't that a little soon?"

"I don't care anymore," she replied. "I want the rest of the world to know that there will never be another man I love as much as you."

"Well then how about tomorrow?" Harry asked. "Give me at least a little time to set up the wedding of your dreams."

"I think I can handle that," Hermione said, kissing Harry again. "I suppose having it today would be a bad idea anyway, since we've both seen each other."

"How in the name of Merlin are we going to get all the invitations out in time?" Harry asked smiling at his soon-to-be ('Take that Voldemort!') wife.

"I think I can handle that," a voice from the doorway said.

"Ron!" Harry and Hermione exclaimed at the same time.

"You were perhaps expecting Snape?" Ron joked. At the look on Harry's face, Ron's mood dampened slightly. "Still too soon, eh?"

"He saved all of your lives in sixth year," Harry said. "Including Luna's."

"I suppose," Ron said, looking at the closed curtain behind which the bodies of Snape and Malfoy were lying. "Guess I owe him for that."

"I wish I could've asked him a few things before he died," Harry said. "I always like hearing stories about my parents."

"He hated your father, Harry," Hermione said. "I don't think his stories about him would be too kind."

"Well, my mum, then," Harry revised. "Anyway, you were saying you could help with invitations, Ron?"

"Sure," Ron said. "Fred and George have the floo alert system down pat because of the business. I can just ask them to tell me how to mass deliver a message, or in this case, letters."

"Speaking of letters," Hermione said jumping up. "I have to alert my mum and start hunting for a wedding dress."

"All right," Harry said, kissing her when she leaned over his bed. "Does this mean we won't be seeing each other again until sometime tomorrow?"

"I suppose," she replied. "Don't stay up too late having a party," she added, looking at Ron.

"Don't worry, I'll want to be well rested for tomorrow."

"Could you two stop that before I dry heave?" Ron asked, though he was smirking.

"I'll stay at the Burrow tonight," Harry said, ignoring Ron. "You can stay at Grimmauld Place or here, wherever you want."

"I'll stay at home," Hermione said. "Going to have to talk to my mom all night, after all."

"Of course," Harry replied.

'See you later,' Hermione said silently before leaving.

"I think I'll leave and start on those invitations, then," the ghost said, floating towards the doors. "Everyone you know, right Harry?"

"Might as well," Harry replied. "I don't think there's anyone left that I really don't like anymore."

"Crabbe and Goyle?" Ron asked.

"Thanks for ruining my moment," Harry deadpanned, causing Ron to laugh.

"Oh, and after I'm done with that, we're going out with Remus and the twins to celebrate your last day of freedom."

"More like my first," Harry said.

"Yeah..." Ron said, smiling at Harry. "Must feel good not to have a dark lord hanging over your head all the time."

"Speaking of which," Harry said turning to the nightstand. "I promised you something." He felt Ron tense up as he produced Voldemort's wand and laid it on his bed for the ghost to see. "I promised you that I'd get it."

"The tool that killed Luna," Ron said in a shaky voice. Silently, he raised his left hand, causing the wand to hover off the bed. The ghost closed his eyes and suddenly the air in the room started to crackle with magic. Without warning the wand exploded, the shards of wood not having time to do damage, having evaporated into thin air. "It will do no more harm in this world." He turned and faced Harry. "Thank you."

"It was the least I could do," he replied. "I was hoping I could get a favor from you in return, though."

"What's that?" Ron asked warily.

"Would you be my Best Man tomorrow?"

"Harry, mate, I'd love to," Ron said. "Now, let me go alert Fred and George. There are invitations to be sent, and parties to be had."

"All right," Harry said with a smile. "I should probably go and talk to Dumbledore about using the Great Hall anway."

"You do that mate," Ron replied. "I'll meet you at the Burrow in a few hours, all right?"

"That's fine," Harry said. "Oh, but don't send Remus an invitation. I want to pick him up in person."

"Sure thing. See you around."

Harry nodded as Ron floated out of the hospital wing. Amazed that in the span of twenty four hours he'd killed Voldemort, found out he was the heir of Merlin, and then decided to get married the day after, he got out of bed and proceeded to throw on some decent clothes. He had just finished getting dressed when the doors opened and, to Harry's surprise, Ginny walked through.

"Hi, Ginny," he said brightly. "Have you heard the news?"

"Yeah," she responded with a smile. "Hermione found me and asked me to be her Maid of Honor."

"Great," Harry said warmly. "I'm just off to see Dumbledore about the Great Hall for tomorrow."

"Don't let me hold you up then," Ginny said, though Harry detected that her tone was perhaps a little subdued.

"Is something the matter?" he asked. Ginny's eyes suddenly started shining brightly, and Harry gathered that she was holding back tears.

"No," she said, her voice quavering. "Nothing."

"It's Malfoy, isn't it?" Harry asked.

"No!" Ginny said a little too quickly. "I mean...I..."

"You can go and see him if you want," Harry said, pointing behind the closed curtain. "I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to." Ginny sniffled once before smiling and wrapping her arms around him in a hug.

"Thank you," she said softly.

"I'll leave you alone," Harry said, picking his wand up and stowing it in his robes before walking to the doors of the hospital wing. He turned around when he reached them and saw Ginny walk behind the curtains, sniffling slightly. Sighing, he exited the ward and walked towards Dumbledore's office.

"So we're all set for tomorrow then?" Harry asked, still slightly amazed that Dumbledore had managed to clean up his office already.

"Of course," he said. "I'm sure the house-elves will be more than happy to help out with the decorations. Everything will be set up for eleven."

"Thank you Albus," Harry said, standing up and shaking the headmaster's hand. "This really means a lot to me, especially since it's such a spur of the moment thing."

"I'm being completely honest when I say that it's the least we could do for you, Harry," Dumbledore replied, "given what you've done."

"Yeah..." Harry said absently. "Well, I'm off to grab Remus. Ron is insisting that I have some form of bachelor party before tomorrow."

"I'm sure he won't mind," Dumbledore said. "You may use my floo if you want."

"Thanks," Harry answered, walking over to the mantle and grabbing a handful of floo powder. He was about to throw it in the fire when he saw something and stopped. "Albus?"

"Yes, Harry?"

"Do you think I could have that?" he asked, pointing at the sword of Gryffindor. "I'd like to give it to a friend of mine." Dumbledore smiled.

"I think that can be arranged. I'll have Dobby drop it off at Grimmauld Place later tomorrow." Harry smiled and nodded at the headmaster before dropping some floo powder in the alcove and yelling, "Ministry of Magic, Visitor's Entrance."

When he arrived there a moment later, Harry brushed himself off and made his way to the lift after showing his identification to the security wizard. Humming slightly to himself, he pressed the number '4', and the doors clanged shut. When he arrived at his destination, Harry was once again greeted by Jacob Dells and his dog, Brutus.

"What do you want?" Dells asked.

"I'm here to see Remus," Harry replied.

"Go on then," the man growled. Harry nodded in thanks and walked down the aisle to Remus' cubicle, only to find it empty. Standing on his tiptoes, he scanned the room to see if Remus was somewhere else. Harry's surrogate godfather was definitely not on the floor though, so he walked back over to Dells.

"Do you know where Remus is?" Harry asked. "He isn't at his cubicle."

"Hmph," the man huffed. "Figures. Probably taking an extended lunch."

"Er...thanks," Harry said as he walked away towards the lift. He didn't notice the man's eyes follow him the entire way, or how he quickly walked towards the lift on the other side of the floor when Harry had turned his back.

Harry arrived in the atrium a few minutes later only to find that it was empty, save for the waitress who was cleaning tables.

"Excuse me," he asked her politely. "Has anyone been in here recently?"

"Not in the past half hour," she replied. "Who are you looking for?"

"Just a friend," Harry said, turning around and walking away.

Worry started to lace Harry's thoughts as he made his way to the reception desk. If anyone knew where Remus should be, he was betting that Rose McClellan would.

"Excuse me?" he asked the receptionist (who was doing her nails). "Could you tell me how to get to Rose McClellan's office?"

"Ms. McClellan is the Senior Assistant to the Minister," the receptionist replied without looking up. "I can't let anyone just go up and see her." Although he hated using his name to get what he wanted, Harry decided that now was as good a time as any.

"And Harry Potter is just anyone?" he asked, crossing his arms. The receptionist visibly balked upon looking up and seeing the Boy-Who-Killed-Voldemort standing there.

"Oh, Mister Potter I'm so sorry," she said, ruffling through a drawer for a pass. "Here. Take the lift to floor ten. Third office on the left."

"Thank you," Harry said rolling his eyes as he made his way back to the elevator.

When Harry arrived on the tenth floor, he wasted no time in walking over to Rose's office, only to find the door unlocked and ajar. His auror senses kicking in, he drew his wand and edged inside the office. It was empty save an elegant mahogany desk by the window.

'It's too quiet in here,' Harry thought to himself. Deciding he would snoop around for clues a little bit, he erected a ten foot perimeter charm around himself so he would know if anyone was approaching. Harry took one step and felt it go off.

Whirling around he saw the door slam shut behind him. When he turned around again he expected to be facing a death eater, and was surprised when he was still facing an empty room. Assuming there was more to the room than he could see, Harry pointed his wand at the ceiling and said, "Dispelium."

"That certainly took you long enough, Potter."

The masking charms on the room disappeared and Harry felt his heart, lungs, and stomach all plummet through the bottom of his feet at the scene that was revealed in front of him.

Remus was tied to a chair, bound and gagged, and presumably unconscious. Standing behind him was Rose, wand drawn and pointed right at Harry.

"It was you," he said menacingly.

"Me," she spat at him. "You should have figured it out so much earlier, but thankfully your stupidity exceeds your arrogance."

"I'm sure you would know a lot about arrogance," Harry countered. "After all, you worked for Voldemort."

"DO NOT SAY HIS NAME!" Rose screeched. Before Harry could react she had flicked her wrist and sent Harry into the wall, while summoning his wand. "I should kill this filthy half-breed in front of you just to hear you plead with me."

"You wouldn't," Harry replied, getting up slowly. "You already know that it was my 'righteous anger' that finished off your lord in the first place."

"Hmm...yes, and now I take his place," Rose said. "After all, when you're related to the Malfoys and Lestranges, you always do rank high among death eaters."

"You were related to them?" Harry asked.

"Bella's second cousin," Rose replied.

"That's a lie," Harry countered. "The ministry does background checks. They never would've promoted you."

"If the minister himself ordered the promotion, who would dare go against it?" she asked with a cackle. "Oh yes, Harry. Now you piece it all together," she said at Harry's shocked expression. "I had Weasley under Imperious from day one. It was the reason that Dumbledore wanted Draco close to him. He was always suspicious...but when you thought that Draco was the spy, that was priceless. Talk about giving me free reign."

"That's how you knew about Sirius' commemoration ceremony," Harry breathed. "You bloody planned it all!"

"Of course," Rose replied. "And that attack on the Burrow was so well timed. Just after Draco dumped that Weasel brat, and just after he had been inducted. Everyone thought he was to blame, so why does it come as a surprise that Remus here failed to tell anyone that he had told me about his helping them move back?"

"He told me," Harry said shaking his head slightly. "Told me when we were having lunch."

"And it never occurred to you that it was that little bit of information that prompted the attack?" Rose asked. Harry just stared slack-jawed at her. "And they say you're the most powerful wizard since Dumbledore and the Dark Lord himself. Today, I have revenge for my master. AVADA – "

Harry cringed and prepared to roll out of the way, but found that wasn't necessary as the door to the office was blasted off its hinges and Brutus the dog flew into the room and started attacking Rose. The dog was followed by his master, who promptly stunned the startled witch and sent her to the floor, unconscious.

"You all right?" Dells asked, ropes flying from the tip of his wand and binding Rose's wrists and ankles.

"Yeah..." Harry breathed, walking over to Remus. "How'd you know where to find us?"

"I followed you," he said, walking over to the bulldog and patting him. "Had a feeling something was amiss."

"Why'd you come?" Harry asked. "Don't you hate Remus?"

"Don't hate him at all," Dells replied. "Just think that he's a bit of a slacker." Harry snorted. "Besides, it wouldn't do at all to just let my nephew get killed."

Harry did a double-take.

"Wait...what?"

"Yeah, that's right," Dells said. "Didn't your aunt or uncle ever tell you that Vernon had a brother?"

"You...you're Vernon's brother?" Harry asked incredulous, momentarily forgetting about Remus.

"Yeah," Jacob replied. "They always hated what I was anyway. Marge is the only one who even keeps in contact with me. Brutus in hers, in case you're wondering."

"I thought that dog looked familiar!" Harry exclaimed, looking at the bulldog who was now sitting back on its haunches licking its lips lazily.

"Yes, well, I'd better get her down to the holding cells," Dells said, nodding at Rose. "Why don't you take Remus to the hospital ward at Hogwarts so he can get looked at?"

"Er...okay," Harry said as Dells levitated Rose and started to float her out the door. "Jacob?"

"Yeah?" the man grunted.

"Thanks."

A lopsided grin not unlike Moody's spread across the man's face as he chuckled.

"Just don't tell Vernon I saved your life," the man said. "From what Marge tells me, he wasn't too keen on you."

"Isn't that the truth," Harry muttered as his uncle walked out of the office. Sighing, he turned to Remus and shot a spray of cold water on his face. He immediately woke up and started to struggle against his bonds before noticing that Harry was looking at him and calmed down.

"Harry...I'm so sorry," he said breathlessly. "I should've seen it, I should've known, I should've –"

"Remus, shut up," Harry said with a laugh. "It's over. She was captured."

"What?" Remus asked. "How?"

"It's a bit of a story," Harry replied, finishing releasing Remus from his bonds. "Are you okay to come with me?"

"Sure," Remus said. "Where are we going?"

"My bachelor party," Harry replied.

"Your...wait, bachelor party!" Remus asked. Harry nodded.

"I'll tell you all about it on the way there."

It turned out that 'getting there' was trickier than Harry thought. He was swamped by reporters on the way out of the ministry asking him what had just happened, and how he had defeated Voldemort. Deciding certain things were better left to someone else, he delegated the task of answering questions to Jacob, who had just reappeared from the holding area.

That night was one of the most enjoyable for Harry in a long time. Fred and George had originally wanted to hire muggle strippers, but Harry put his foot down, saying that it would be a waste of money. The twins had countered by saying it would be enjoyable for them, but Ron silenced the argument by saying that this was Harry's party.

So instead, the night was spent drinking butterbeer and playing Exploding Snap while talking about anything and everything (thought it seemed that the topic of the hour was the Marauders, something Remus was more than happy to reminisce about). Everyone finally went to sleep at around one in the morning, all giddy with excitement about what the day to come would bring.

"Harry. Harry! MATE WAKE UP!"

"I'm up Ron! What do you want?"

"I want you to get up, unless you want to be late for your own wedding." Harry bolted out of bed and looked at his watch. The hands read 10:22.

"Blast, we were supposed to be at Hogwarts an hour early to get ready!" Harry shouted, throwing on whatever clothes he could find.

"Everyone else is already there," Ron said. "I sent them ahead. We just need to get moving."

"All right, I'm ready," Harry said. "Where's the portkey?"

"Right there," Ron replied pointing at an old quaffle sitting on the besides table. "It'll go off when we both touch it."

"Let's get to it then," Harry said, putting his hand on the quaffle. The moment Ron's transparent hand touched the rough, red surface of the ball, Harry felt the familiar yank from behind his navel and was whisked away in a blur.

"Glad to see you two made it," a familiar voice said when they landed in Flitwick's classroom (which he had graciously let them use to get ready). Harry turned around and saw Remus looking at them through a mirror while fixing his tie, while Fred and George were in the corner consulting amongst themselves.

"Don't mean to be rude, but I have to get changed and write my vows," Harry said, grabbing the tux laid out for him on a chair and disappearing into the storage closet.

"A little on edge, isn't he?" Remus asked Ron when the door closed.

"It's his wedding, I can't really blame him," Ron replied.

"There's going to be hell to pay at the ministry tomorrow," Remus sighed. "We violated at least a dozen protocols when we just left yesterday."

"I thought that Jacob fellow took care of it," Fred said.

"Yeah, but he can't do everything by himself," Remus replied as Harry walked out of the closet, fully dressed.

"That was fast." George remarked.

"So I used magic," Harry said with a grin. Just then there was a knock at the door.

"Are you all decent in there?" a familiar female voice shouted.

"Yeah, come on in," George yelled back.

The door opened to reveal Tonks, who was sporting straight, light pink hair and a matching bridesmaid dress.

"Well, don't you all look handsome," she said beaming at Harry, who blushed.

"Thanks," all the men muttered.

"Nervous, Harry?" Tonks asked.

"I'd be lying if I said I was completely fine," he replied. "I don't really understand it that much, to tell the truth. I'll still love Hermione with all my heart, so I don't get why I'm so fidgety."

"Because you'll be together forever in the eyes of the people now," Tonks replied wisely. "You may already be married from the Universe's perspective, but you know better that everyone else doesn't really fall into that category. You're simply shouting your love for Hermione to the world, instead of just her."

"I guess that kinda makes sense," Harry sighed.

"How are your vows coming?" Tonks asked.

"Just about to start them," he answered, pulling out a small leaf of parchment and a quill.

"All right, well, I'll leave you boys in peace then," Tonks said.

"Wait," Harry said before she could leave. "Um...could you tell Hermione I love her?"

"You could tell her yourself, you know," Ron pointed out.

"I feel like it'd be cheating though," Harry said. "Since it's today and all."

"I'll be happy to," Tonks said. "And Remus, sorry about Rose."

"News spreads fast, huh?" Remus said with a wry smile.

"I take it you didn't read the Prophet this morning?" Tonks asked. "Well it doesn't matter. Lets just say they plastered her face all over the front page and gave all the credit for the capture to your boss. They didn't mention you or Harry in the story."

"How incredibly unlike them," Harry commented, staring at his blank page.

"I think Percy had something to do with it," Tonks said. "Probably wanted to give you peace and quiet before today."

"Does he know?" Harry asked, looking up. "About the wedding, I mean?"

"Are you kidding?" Fred asked. "When Mum found out she went nuts. Probably told half of England." Harry chuckled slightly at this.

"So Remus, do you think I could persuade you for a dance at the reception?" Tonks asked, flashing a smile at him.

"You can have the first," Remus replied in a gentlemanly voice.

"I'll hold you to that, wolf," Tonks said with a smile.

"Of course you will, Nymph," Remus countered, prompting Tonk's face to turn the color of her gown.

"I'm off, then," she said. "Don't be late." Tonks stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her. Promptly catcalls sounded throughout the room.

"Oh, lay off," Remus said turning back to the mirror.

"You know she's fancied you for quite a while," Harry commented absently. Remus spun around.

"Er...you don't say?" he asked timidly.

"Yeah," Harry said, looking at him. "And from the color of your face, I'd say her feelings aren't entirely unreciprocated."

"I...I, er...I'm going to see how the elves are coming along with the Great Hall," Remus said quickly and exited the room.

"They're smitten for each other," George said with a smile.

"Yeah, but Remus doesn't want to admit it," Harry said. "What with Rose and all."

"Any luck on the vows?" Ron asked, floating over to where Harry was sitting.

"None," he replied with a sigh, putting the quill down. "I've told her I love her so many times in so many different ways...I don't know how to say it again."

"Who says you have to tell her you love her?" Ron asked. Harry crooked his eyebrow at him.

"It's a wedding vow, Ron," he said. "I can't very well not tell her I love her."

"So finish with that," Ron suggested. "It is a vow, so you have to promise something to her."

"Yeah, all right," Harry said, thoughtfully.

"Why don't you just tell her what she means to you?" George asked. "I mean, I'm sure you could write a book on the subject."

"You know," Harry said. "That's not a half bad idea."

"I know it's not," George said. "I thought of it."

"Come on chaps, time to get moving," Remus' voice shouted through the door. "It's time."

"You ready, Harry?" Ron asked, as the twins got to their feet along with Harry and walked to the door.

"I'll be fine," he replied as they started walking down the hall. "I think."

"You know, Harry, James was in a right state before his wedding with Lily," Remus said with a smile.

"Really?" Harry asked.

"Oh yeah," Remus replied. "Never seen a man more nervous in my life. Not even more nervous than you were before Hogsmeade in sixth year."

"How'd he get over it?" Harry asked.

"It all faded away the moment he saw Lily walking down the aisle," Remus said with a grin. "All the fear just melted away from him, and got replaced by the largest dung-eating grin you ever saw."

"If I'm smiling like that, kick me or something," Harry chuckled.

"We'll be kicking you a lot then, because you won't be able to wipe the smile off your face," Remus said as they reached the Great Hall.

When Dumbledore had asked him what he wanted the hall to look like, Harry had contacted Hermione through their link and asked her if she had any preferences. In the end, he had just said that Dumbledore should have the elves decorate it as they wished, all that he and Hermione really cared about was the 'getting married' part. Once again, the house-elves (whom Harry suspected had been led by Dobby) had outdone themselves again.

The four house tables had disappeared and been replaced with many rows of white chairs. There was a crimson red carpet that led up to the head table, which had been turned into an altar. A beautiful ivory arbor was standing in front of it, adorned with white and pink roses that also covered the walls all the way up to the ceiling where there were almost a hundred doves perched on the rafters (Harry sincerely hoped there was some form of invisible barrier to prevent any of the guests from getting unwanted gifts from the birds).

"Wow," Harry breathed as he and his four groomsmen walked up towards the arbor.

"That's an understatement," Ron said, awed by the surroundings.

"Congratulations, Harry," Dumbledore said to him as they reached the head table. He was dressed in a white cloak as was wearing something that reminded Harry of a bishop's hat.

"Are you performing the ceremony today, Albus?" he asked.

"Normally a ministry official would lead the proceedings," Dumbledore replied. "But seeing as how there was a bit of...mayhem yesterday, they are all tied up at the moment, and so yes, I will be performing the ceremony today. Being the head of the Wizengamot has its advantages, after all."

"Thank you," Harry said in a hushed voice as wedding music (Harry had no idea from where it came) started echoing through the hall.

The first bridesmaid through the doors was Hermione's mother, which didn't come as a surprise to Harry. She smiled warmly at him as she took her place by the head table. Next was Tonks, who also gave all the groomsmen a smile (though Harry thought she perhaps held Remus' gaze a little longer than the others) before taking her place next to Emma. Ginny was next, and at this point Harry felt himself draw a breath as now there was no one left until Hermione.

"Relax," Remus whispered in his ear. "Trust me, just wait until you see her."

The doors opened again, and Harry made a mental note to let Remus know later that he was right.

Hermione was wearing an ivory a-line spaghetti strap dress that flowed just slightly out behind her. A three-tier cathedral veil sat elegantly on the top of her head, and she was holding a small bouquet of pink roses. Harry was watching her so intently that he barely noticed when she arrived at the arbor and her father (with whom she had entered arm in arm) kissed her on the cheek before taking a seat in the front row.

"Hi," Hermione said softly as she took Harry's hands in hers.

"Wow," was the only response he could make, eliciting a chuckle from her.

"Friends," Dumbledore began. "We are gathered here today..."

Harry didn't hear what Dumbledore was saying anymore. He was too amazed by the angel that was standing in front of him, smiling like she had just won the world as a door prize.

"Harry?"

"Hmm?" he asked, turning to Dumbledore.

"I was asking you if you would read your vows to her now," the headmaster said with a smile.

"Oh, oh right. Sorry," Harry said with a guilty smile. "Well, erm...to be honest I have nothing written down. Not because I couldn't think of anything, but because what I feel for you is beyond words, Hermione." Hermione's smile widened at this. "So I think it's best to start from the beginning. I lived too many years of my life with the Dursleys. They spent so much time making me feel unwanted and unloved, that I began to believe it myself." A tear rolled down Hermione's cheek when she heard this. "After Sirius died, you begged me to talk to you, to let me help you, but I pushed you away. For that, I'm deeply sorry."

"Don't be," she mouthed. Harry smiled at her in response.

"Then, news of what might be our impending deaths rolled around, and you confessed your love for me," he continued. "I think at that point, I was either too stupid or too stunned to admit that I felt the exact same way. Probably a little bit of both." This got a small chuckle from the crowd. "But a few good friends of mine helped me realise that I was being a prat. So I did the smartest thing I've ever done, and admitted that I loved you too. I've said it before, but I think that I probably loved you from the moment I saw you looking for a toad on the Hogwarts Express all those years ago. You've helped me through so much since we first became friends, even more so in the past year and a half. I have no doubt that I would be dead right now if it wasn't for you, Hermione. You have shown me how to love, and how to be loved, and I will forever be in your debt for that. I promise to you, that as long as I live, if there is something that will make you happy, I will do it. I love you."

There was a moment after Harry finished where he swore that Tonks had taken out a handkerchief and blown her nose on it. Tears were now quite visible on Hermione's face, and Harry reached up a hand to brush them away, only to have her bring her own hand up and press his against her cheek.

"Hermione, could you read your vows now?" Dumbledore asked with a gentle smile. Emma handed her a small piece of parchment, which Hermione took, albeit hesitantly.

"You know," she said shakily. "I had everything I wanted to say written down. But after hearing that..." Hermione ripped the parchment in two. "To simply say it, I don't know what I'd do without you, Harry. There were times when we were younger that I would end up pushing myself away from you and Ron just to keep you safe. I cried myself to sleep every night during the incident in our third year with your Firebolt, until the day it came back and you forgave me. It nearly killed me when I thought you never were going to speak to me again. Then in sixth year, when you said you couldn't love me back...I just wanted to run away. But I knew I couldn't. Because I knew you still needed me, even if you couldn't love me the way I wanted you to. You have no idea how happy I am that I stayed. You say you live for me, I say you keep me alive. I think I would die if you disappeared from my life somehow. Therefore I also promise, that if you ever wish me to do something just to put a smile on your face, I'll do it. I love you."

Harry was then forced to blink several times to keep his own tears from spilling.

"Harry, do you take Hermione to be your beloved wife? Do you promise to be a tender, faithful husband? Do you promise to love, honor, and cherish her, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, from this day forward?

"I do," Harry said, smiling.

"And do you, Hermione, take Harry to be your beloved husband? Do you promise to be a tender, faithful wife? Do you promise to love, honor, and cherish him, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better for worse, from this day forward?"

"I do," Hermione replied, beaming.

"Now that that is settled," Dumbledore said. "If there is anyone who believes that these two should not wed, speak now or forever hold your peace." Harry closed his eyes and prayed that the room would stay silent, which thankfully, it did. "Do you have the rings, Harry?"

"Erm..."

But Harry was not able to finish his thought for at that moment there was a crack and Dobby appeared next to them, holding up a small velvet box.

"Thank you, Dobby," Harry said. The elf gave him and Hermione a beaming smile before disappearing with another loud crack. He opened the box and took out his parents' wedding rings, and gave the larger one to Hermione.

"Place the ring on the fourth finger of her left hand," Dumbledore instructed. Harry smiled as he slid the ring on her finger. "Hermione." She also beamed as she slipped the ring on Harry's hand. "Harry and Hermione, having witnessed your vows for marriage with all who are assembled here, and by the authority vested in me by the Wizengamot, I pronounce that you are husband and wife. Harry, you may kiss the bride."

Hermione could wait no longer, she dropped the flowers and leapt into Harry's arms, crushing her lips to his as the entire assembly broke out in applause.

'I love you,' Harry said silently, not breaking the kiss.

'I love you too,' Hermione replied. 'So much.'

Although the reception was to be held in the Great Hall as well, the traditions were still held in place, and Harry and Hermione walked down the aisle arm in arm to tumultuous applause, before exiting the hall and re-entering to find that it had already been reconfigured into many smaller tables with candles on each.

"The newlyweds!" Dumbledore's voice boomed over the crowd as Harry and Hermione waved to the various people. "Let us celebrate with feasting and then dancing!"

The rest of the day passed by in a blur for Harry. There were probably a hundred people present, who all came over at some point in time during the day to congratulate him and Hermione. On more than one occasion, Harry pointed over to Remus and Tonks who were dancing in the middle of the floor, looking for all intents and purposes as if they were the only ones in the world.

"I'm happy for him," Harry said. "I'm surprised he got over Rose so quickly."

"He wasn't in love with her, obviously," Hermione said. "Tonks will be great for him."

"Yeah," Harry replied.

The reception started to die down just as the sun was setting. People had started saying their goodbyes, and house-elves could now be seen every now and then tidying up. Professor McGonagal had just finished saying her farewells when Ron floated over.

"Enjoyed the day?" he asked with a smile.

"Couldn't be any better," Harry said.

"Well I don't want to dampen it, but I'd like to talk to you two about something," Ron said. "In private, if possible."

"Okay," Harry and Hermione said at the same time, standing up. They followed Ron out onto the grounds which were unseasonably warm for late autumn.

"I'll get right to the point," Ron said with a sigh, not facing them. "Voldemort's gone."

"It's time for you to go home, isn't it?" Hermione asked with a sad smile. The ghost turned around in air and there was a tear running down his cheek. "What about your family?"

"I already said my goodbyes to them before I came to see you two," Ron said. "I care about you two as much as any friend ever could. But seeing all of this...what I should've had with Luna..."

"It's okay, Ron," Harry said. "You don't need to say it."

"I'm going to miss you guys," Ron said, sniffling.

"We'll miss you too, Ron," Hermione replied, wiping her eyes.

The three of them stood there for a moment before coming together in a hug, even though Harry's and Hermione's arms passed right through Ron's body.

"Look after Ginny for me, will you?" he asked.

"Of course," Harry replied. "Tell Luna hi for us."

"Sure," Ron said, taking a deep breath. "Goodbye you guys."

"Goodbye, Ron."

There was a slight breeze as Ron closed his eyes, and a moment later his ghostly form disappeared, scattered by the autumn wind. Harry pulled Hermione close to his body as she sobbed lightly, grieving for the life of their best friend for a second time. A few moments later they composed themselves and stared into each other's eyes.

"Well," Harry said, taking a breath. "We have a reception to get back to."

"Yeah," Hermione replied. "We do."

"He'll always be with us," Harry said, looking at the dying sun. "Just like my parents, and Sirius, and Luna."

"I know," Hermione said. "Harry?"

"Hmm?"

"Let's go home."

"Yeah," he replied, smiling. "Home to our new beginning."

One Year Later

Harry stood in the backyard of the Burrow, staring at the single headstone that marked the grave of both Ron and Luna. Smiling, he knelt down in front of it and placed his hand on the earth.

"How are you two doing?" he asked the wind. "I wonder if you're off gallivanting all over the cosmos looking for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. Seems like something the two of you would enjoy doing. I've been meaning to do something for a while now, and now that I'm here, I think you'll like it." Harry reached for the sheath at his belt and drew the sword of Gryffindor from it. "I know I already gave you Voldemort's wand, Ron, but I thought you might like this too." He placed the sword on the earth in front of the headstone, the point facing him, and muttered a powerful protection charm on it. "I hope that it can guide you in the next life, the way it guided me so many times in this one."

Harry stood up and turned around to see Hermione standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Walking over to her, he kissed her lightly and rested his hand on the graceful swell of her belly that held their unborn son.

"All set?" she asked in a soft voice.

"Yeah," Harry said, looking at the grave one last time. "I think I'm ready to go now."

Epilogue

Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon decided to move to Australia for peace and quiet a year after the defeat of Voldemort. Harry never heard from either of them (or Dudley) again.

Albus Dumbledore died in his sleep peacefully of old age six years after Voldemort's defeat. At his funeral he was granted High Order of Merlin, the first inductee into a category created solely for him. As per his will, he was laid to rest in the Gryffindor ancestral burial grounds. The lone phrase on his headstone was 'To the next great adventure.'

Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy were both buried a week after the Potters' wedding with Order of Merlin First Class, and heroic achievement awards. Ginny Weasley was present at the funeral, along with Harry and Hermione.

Narcissa Malfoy (having been captured in the final battle) and Rose McClellan were sentenced to life in Azkaban under the guard of humans instead of dementors. Both became afflicted with insanity three years in, and committed suicide four years later.

Peter Pettigrew was memorialised at a criminals' cemetery even though no remains of his body were ever found. Harry and Hermione Potter were the only ones present at his funeral.

Ginny Weasley went on to live a normal life, eventually becoming the chief editor of Witch Weekly, and marrying (surprisingly) Neville Longbottom. They had three children together.

Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks were married two years after Harry and Hermione's wedding, and they also had three children of their own, named Harry, Sirius, and Andy (short for Andromeda, Tonks' mother) respectively.

Harry and Hermione Potter had two children, one by the name of James Ronald Potter, the other Lily Emma Potter. Neither Harry nor Hermione pursued a career in the auror field after the defeat of Voldemort, both having had their fill of dark wizards to last a lifetime. Hermione took up teaching Transfiguration when McGonagal assumed the position of headmistress, whereas Harry, after talking it over with Hermione, took up the sport of quidditch again. He signed as the seeker for the Chudley Cannons as a tribute to Ron, and led them to six league championships, along with leading the English national team to two world cups.

At the age of sixty, Harry retired from the sport and began teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, only to take the position of headmaster when Hermione refused it five years later.

Harry and Hermione Potter died together at the age of 152, on the same night. Upon arriving on the other side, they were greeted by Ron Weasley and Luna Lovegood, before being escorted to be reunited with their families.

The death of Harry and Hermione Potter inflicted the most sadness upon the wizarding world since Dumbledore's passing. Over 20,000 people gathered at the memorial service, where Hermione was buried with Order of Merlin, First Class, and Harry was buried with High Order, the only other person who would ever receive such an award. Their headstone read:

Finally, they shall rest in peace together, for all eternity.

And so they did.

THE END

My wonderful readers, it is done. I first started this trilogy on May 12th, 2004. Nearly a year later, it is complete. There is simply so much I would like to say here, but I don't really know where to begin. I'll start by thanking everyone who has ever reviewed, you were all wonderful. I'd like to thank everyone who voted for me in the Reader's Choice Awards back in January, I'd like to thank my computer for never once crashing on me while I was writing, my mother and father for betaing, my muse for never leaving me, J.K. Rowling for creating this wonderful world...the list is endless.

Like I've already said, my next work will be called Fawkes' Gift, and the first chapter will be posted on April 29th. It is now 3 AM, and time for me to sleep, so until next time, may all your ships be fluffy, and all your ships sail true (unless you ship R/Hr, of course :wink:).

Yours truly, from the H.M.S. Pumpkin Pie,

– Greg S.

aka TGF2K