Chapter 24 & Epilogue
No one had ever prepared him for the "and after that?" part of his life. Harry felt like he was walking around with a fist-sized hole in his own chest. Honestly he had no idea how to fill it. He wondered how many more Death Eaters he would have to kill to ease his own pain.
He walked out of the castle to the train station and apparated to his home.
Ears still ringing, Minerva decided that she needed some time to regroup before resuming school for the children. She contacted the school governors who immediately agreed, and announced a two week recess before second term would resume. The students would be sent home the next day.
Harry asked Dobby to go back to the school and bring him both of his pensives. With a pop, the little elf was gone. A moment later he returned. Winky would stay at Grimmauld Place with Harry, but Dobby had business back at the school.
At 11PM Hermione came into the entertainment room at Grimmauld Place, found Harry, and asked if she could stay for a while. She told him that school had been put on hold for two weeks, and most of the students would be going home the next morning. Harry didn't think he would be very good company, but invited her to stay as long as she wanted to.
They sat by the fireplace watching the fire in silence, drinking. Hermione put on one of the CDs, The Goldberg Variations, and they sat in comfortable silence listening to it, each lost in their own thoughts.
When it finished an hour later, Harry said, "I can't imagine how he did it."
It seemed like a rather open ended statement. Hermione didn't have a clue what he was referring to. Softly she asked, "Who?"
Harry replied, "The Professor. I don't understand how he could turn his rage on and off again, just like that."
She replied, "He had plenty of time to perfect it before we came along. Maybe it took him a lot of years to get it right. He was in his nineties in 1945. We're teenagers"
Harry said, "Dumbledore must have felt the same thing. He mentioned the rage that he felt after killing Grindelwald when we were talking last week. It wasn't just something that could be turned on or off like a light switch."
She said, "Maybe he didn't. What did he leave you in your pensive? I haven't finished looking through mine yet, but there's been some really useful stuff. Maybe we should take a look."
Harry replied, "Maybe. Dobby brought them over just before you came. I'll go get them." Harry came back a moment later with the solicitor pensive. He tapped it with his wand and poked around at the memories until one felt right. He tapped the start rune. The images came up and displayed like an eight-foot hologram.
A fifty year younger Albus Dumbledore much like the one that he'd previously seen in Riddle's diary had slipped into a castle in Bavaria in early 1945. Dumbledore had used his wand with a slashing movement much like Dolohov, dissecting anyone who got into his way.
Climbing what seemed like hundreds of stairs, he stopped outside a large wooden double door. He silently drew a .45 automatic from his pocket and quietly opened the door. Grindelwald was seated at a high backed leather chair watching a fireplace. He never noticed Dumbledore slip in. Dumbledore aimed carefully and fired, hitting the wizard in the back of the head. He walked up to the dead or dying man and fired seven more times until the man no longer had a head.
A moment later, Dumbledore set fire to the room and the rest of the rooms as he walked purposefully back down the stairs. When he got to the front door, he sealed them shut and lit several more fires to the building, torching it.
He apparated several miles away and cried uncontrollably for several minutes until Professor Dippet appeared next to him and told him that it was over. Dumbledore had done his part, and that it was time to come back home to the castle. The image faded.
They sat in silence for a moment, trying to reconcile the profound level of violence that they had witnessed for the last half hour against the kind and loving man that they had almost always seen.
After a few minutes, Hermione asked, "Why do you suppose that he left you that memory? It was obviously very painful for him and it must have been in his nightmares for years. Merlin, it gave me the creeps just watching it, knowing that it really happened. He must have killed about fifty people and one evil son of a witch that night." She was visibly shaken, and tears were rolling down her cheeks.
"Maybe to let me know that it was possible to get through it, but to let me know that he didn't do it alone. I dunno."
"Can I sit by you?" she sniffed.
"Please." Harry put his arms around her, to comfort his best friend. For several minutes, they just sat in silence, each afraid to let go.
A few minutes later Hermione asked, "Do you want another butterbeer?"
"Please. Do you? I'll get them."
"That's OK. I'm up."
She put another CD on and picked four butterbeers from the icebox. When she came back, Harry was watching the fire again. After a few minutes he said, "We went bowling together a few weeks ago. He kicked my arse."
Somewhat surprised at his words, Hermione exclaimed, "I didn't know you bowled?"
Harry chuckled and replied, "I don't. I never had done it before that night. He was good enough to keep the game close without making it too obvious. We had a lot of fun together."
Still holding him, she replied, "I miss him too. The witches from your class were sure happy to see you this afternoon." She didn't want to talk about Dumbledore at the moment.
Harry nodded his head and smiled. "I was happy to be seen. I thought I was toasted when your shield deflected that blast and it hit me. I was lying there after I woke up, replaying the scene in my mind. I had been sure that I'd moved out of the way. It's a good think that Nikki made a good vest."
Hermione nodded, tears welled in her eyes.
He finished his butterbeer and started on another. Both of them were a little drunk. Harry continued saying, "It was so different from play duels when we were kids. I practiced once with Ron in third year. We must have gone on for fifteen minutes before either of us connected. The thing today lasted for what – four or five seconds? We fired. Men died. We fired again and finished it."
She sat in silence, waiting for him to finish his thought. After a minute, he said, "I understand why the professor shot him over and over. I wish I'd had the chance."
Hermione looked sadly at Harry and asked, "To kill him over and over?"
Harry nodded, and replied, "Yes."
A month ago, his words would have shocked and scared her. Now they made perfect sense. She said, "If it's any consolation, Moody did it for you. I'm sure Hagrid took some pleasure in lighting the pyre for you. It's OK to share the load. Susan, Tonks and Katie hit him too. He deserved it. Thanks for letting us help you. It brought a lot of closure for me, and I'm sure that it did for the others too."
Hermione continued, saying, "I wanted nothing more than to protect you. I felt terrible that my shield broke and deflected the blast to hit you. I'm so sorry."
Harry held her in comfortable silence for a minute then replied, "I'm fine. Don't worry."
It was almost four. They both had been quiet for a while. Hermione stood up and said, "It's late Harry. Let's get some sleep." She held out her hand to help him up. They went upstairs, got undressed and climbed into bed together. Hermione spooned up behind Harry, kissed the back of his neck, placed her hand over his heart and he immediately fell asleep. She whispered, "Good night, Harry." He finally stopped shaking.
A new day would soon be dawning.
. ---------- . ----------
Harry listened to Diggory, Moody, Amelia, Hagrid, and Minerva speak at the memorial service for Dumbledore on Monday. They each took a few minutes to offer their views of the great wizard and great man that he was. It really wasn't a sad occasion, so much as a remembrance of a man who had lived to see a fantastic amount of change in the world, from horse drawn carriages to Corvettes.
Harry was disappointed to see that Ginny and Mrs. Weasley weren't there. They hadn't spoken since Saturday night. Fred and George were evasive when Harry asked. "We're not sure, mate. They're probably not feeling well."
Harry went to find Arthur after the service. "Hi, Mr. Weasley."
Arthur looked uncomfortable. "Hello, Harry."
"What's wrong, Mr. Weasley?"
Mr. Weasley looked like he was trying to avoid saying something that would hurt Harry's feelings. He said, "Molly and Ginny are reacting badly to… They just need a… I really don't know Harry… Molly is very upset over things that she heard and hasn't sorted them out. Reporters from the Prophet and a dozen other papers or magazines are hounding them."
A moment later he continued. "I think they feel like everything is crashing down on them at once. This last year has been a lot to take in. I don't blame you for anything, Harry. I'm grateful for everything that you've done for me and my family. Ginny made some mistakes and doesn't know how to make them right. Perhaps you should try and see Ginny tomorrow for lunch."
"Thanks, Mr. Weasley." Harry went back home, not certain what to fix, or how to fix it. He missed Ron.
New Year's Eve 2000.
He had never really to set things right with Ginny or Molly. Harry had lunch with them once about a week after the duel and tried to explain the situation. "We were under so much stress. How could you ever judge us without spending five minutes in our shoes?" His words fell on deaf ears, they both slapped him, and they parted their ways. Harry unsuccessfully tried for a month to make up with Ginny. Either she was set in her opinion that Harry should have somehow prevented her significant problems with the Ministry, or that he'd taken advantage of her somehow, or she had just cracked under the stress. They just couldn't seem to reconcile. She had broken up with him by owl several hours after the memorial service to everyone's sadness. Harry greatly missed the guiding hand that Dumbledore had provided in his life.
Molly insisted that Ginny return to the regular school program, and she finished out school with her class. She never completely got over the stigma of national traitor when people ultimately realized the seriousness of the information that she had given out. The story of Harry being prophesized as being the only one who could kill or be killed by Voldemort quickly came out. The importance of keeping secrets and the old adage, "Loose lips sink ships" continued to haunt her. When everything was sorted out, she had revealed the weapons that they had been training with and the armor that they had been using. It had been the worst day of her life and she had simply succumbed to stress and youth when she had run into Lavender.
Shortly after, there had been some movement within the Ministry to sack Arthur, but Harry publicly stood behind him, effectively preventing it from going any further. Harry never blamed Ginny for anything, as he understood the stress that they had been subjected to. Molly continued to blame Harry. She had grown bitter over the loss of Ron and for some reason transferred the blame to Harry. Harry was never welcomed back into Molly's home. He didn't blame them, and he would always help them in a blink if they ever needed it in the future. Ginny married Lee Jordan a few months after graduating and was expecting her first child.
Harry and the other apprentices, left school at the end of the school year. Susan went to work as a trainee at St. Mungo's. She married Neville immediately after he graduated. Katie married Seamus at the same time. She had asked Harry to give her away as her parents were dead.
Hermione went to post graduate school for two more years specializing in advanced charms. Like the others, she tried to get Ginny to reconcile with Harry, to no avail. She began dating Harry at the end of the school year. Initially they had simply accompanied each other to the dozens of functions and banquets that had followed the duel. Eventually their relationship progressed to more, and a year later, they were married.
Together they had two children and four Order of Merlin awards. They lived at the mansion together with the other witches and their husbands. The third floor training room had been converted into a children's play area. The young mums spent time in the park together and remained friends. Harry served the wizarding community as a justice for the Wizengamot. It wasn't more than a part time job, but it got him out of the house. Despite many offers, he had yet to find a permanent career.
Tonks remained close to the group. She stayed working in the ministry despite numerous offers from Harry to set her up in any business venture that she may have wanted. Simply spoken, she liked her work at the Ministry, and had been promoted to Senior Auror.
Hermione worked part time at the St. Mungo's spell research center. She was still close to her very supportive parents. She and Harry had a daughter and a son together. They were both beautiful little children. She was eternally grateful that her mum had advised her to "Go after him!" when Harry had left the dance that night. She realized that her decision to go and comfort him was one of the defining moments in her life. She occasionally regretted that she hadn't made up with Ginny, but kept trying to hold the door open.
With Harry's help, Katie had purchased and was managing the Chudley Canons. They'd completed their first winning season in Hagrid's lifetime. She and Seamus had two little boys together.
Harry did enjoy setting up his friends in profitable business opportunities. They hadn't all worked, but he felt like he was making the world a better place by trying to help people. His latest venture had been to set Neville up in a thriving herbology business.
Susan worked part time at St Mungo's delivering babies. She had delivered both of Hermione's and Katie's youngest. She and Neville had a boy and were expecting their second baby in the summer.
Amelia retired from the MLE directorship and was enjoying being a grandmother. Kingsley was heading up the group and was a very capable director.
Fred and George opened a few more shops and with some financing from Harry, and started a franchise operation. While heavily leveraged with Harry to fund the expansion, their projected revenue for the year 2000 was nearly two million Galleons per year.
Remus still shared the defense teaching job with Moody, who continued to scare the crap out of the little witches and wizards. Both men liked their work, and got along acceptably with Headmistress McGonagall.
Hanna and Gretta continued to be best of friends. They were clever little witches with good hearts who enjoyed pranking people.
1 April 2000
Every spring, Minerva and the Board of school governors extended an invitation to Harry to take over as Headmaster of Hogwarts. Harry liked the idea, and always felt an attachment to the castle. This morning with Hermione's blessing, he had accepted her offer to take over in the fall term.
Harry's entire aspect changed. He began getting up earlier and the morning, and with Hermione's help, learned the basics of the subjects that he'd never taken. He found that he rather enjoyed runes and arithmancy. Some things never changed. He still found history of magic to be dead boring. The board of governors encouraged him to evaluate the curriculums being offered, especially muggle studies. They had finally begun to realize that the young witches and wizards needed much more information to be able to effectively integrate into muggle society.
1 September 2000
Harry was restless as he waited for the Hogwarts Express to arrive. The summer had brought many changes for him. Minerva had convinced him that his remarkable leadership and people skills would carry him until he acquired the actual experience to back him up. He'd hoped that he wouldn't mess up, either with the position, or with Hermione by being gone so much. She had quickly solved that issue and he was finalizing the arrangements to move his family to a lovely home in Hogsmede at the end of October. He would see her several evenings each week and on weekends. Harry finally realized why Dumbledore had left the memory in the pensive - They both found inner peace at the castle.
Ginny had delivered highly premature twin daughters earlier in the year. Hermione had convinced Ginny and Lee to allow them to cover the crushing medical bills and their relationship had finally righted itself. Both mum and the baby witches were fine and the Jordans had moved into the mansion to take advantage of the facility and the in-house healer that Harry had on staff. Molly never really changed her opinion of Harry, but he was on good terms with the rest of the rapidly expanding Weasley clan. Harry smiled, thinking that he would begin seeing an entire generation of Weasleys, Jordans, Finnigans, Longbottoms, and Potters in the castle within a few years.
Harry smiled again when the young witches and wizards came in. Hanna and Gretta, now fifth years smiled and waved at him as they walked into the great Hall. "Good evening, Professor Potter." Harry would always be their favorite professor.
Thanks for (re)reading my story. This is my fourth ending to the story, and I'm quite happy with it. Shippers are entitled to their opinions and writers are entitled to theirs.
At the core of the story was the amazing level of magical power that Harry and the witches who loved him could generate together. They used it to defeat the dementors, Voldemort, and to heal a badly wounded Harry after the battle. Each of the teens and Tonks volunteered to place themselves in harms way. None of them were to blame for coping as best as they could.
In hindsight, I see Molly Weasley's inability to accept Harry's power that he knew not and Dr. Granger's suggestion that her daughter seize the moment as positions that directed the ending of the story to work out like it did. Many parents suffering through grief never fully come to grips with their loss.
The story rightfully didn't end up in a harem situation. The story was never about sex; rather love, acceptance of responsibility and personal sacrifice while under tremendous stress. In this sixth year story, Ginny's age worked against her. She simply fell apart under the crushing stress of the war, and couldn't find a way to keep her relationship with Harry together. I hope that no one saw, Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Tonks, Katie, Susan, Ron, Luna or Molly as bad people. They just did the best that they could, each of them failing at some point along the way.
Dumbledore certainly sacrificed his own life to aid Harry during the duel. In turn, he was able to die with honor and dignity that few of our parents would ever see. The Dumbledore in this story is quite a bit different than my No Thanks story. We will find out in a few weeks if Harry and Dumbledore effectively mend their relationship.
In this story Hermione chose to defend Harry, even if she was less than successful at it. Throughout the years at least as far as we've seen, she has always stood by Harry. Up to this point, Harry hasn't been able to say that about any of the other characters.
I hope JKR has a happy ending in store for Harry, and I hope that he ends up as headmaster.
Thanks again for reading my story. Please give Abraxan's story, The Refiners Fire a look. It is a great story.
Until next time,