A/N – NOBODY got it! I was so sure that I gave it away, too... well, read on. Harry will have it explained to him what, exactly, Daisy was...
Chapter Thirty Five: The End
"Harry?" A soft voice called. "I think he's waking up."
"Bloody hell, Gin... should they let him? I mean, will he be able to..."
"He'll be fine, Ron. I'm absolutely certain that he'll be fine."
"How can you...?"
"Because he had the power... he did it, and, as Dumbledore said, he survived. That's the promise Dumbledore made..."
"How are we going to tell him...?"
"He already knows," Harry croaked.
He slowly opened his eyes, looking at the group around his bed. Sitting on one side was Ginny, her hands wrapped around one of his. On the other, Ron and Hermione... their arms around each other. Ron had a black eye and cuts down one side of his face. Hermione...
Hermione's hair... her bushy, beautiful mane... was gone. In its place she had short brown curls.
"Hermione?" Harry blinked at her.
"It's okay, Harry..."
"What happened to your hair?"
"Umm... I kind of singed it," she said with an embarrassed grin.
"Burnt it completely off, you mean..." Ron scoffed.
"She jumped in front of an incendiarus curse," Ginny explained. "Meant for Dumbledore."
"But you're okay?"
"Yes... I'm fine, Harry."
"You'll note that she's standing upright... and you're the one flat on your back, mate," Ron said.
Harry turned his eyes on his best friend. Something was different there, beyond the obvious injuries. Ron was... different. There was a darkness in his blue eyes... a shadow...
Harry suddenly understood. "I'm sorry, Ron."
Their eyes locked, and they knew... they both knew what Harry was saying. It was over, but they had lost so much. Their childhoods had been lost to Voldemort, to this fight. They'd never been able to simply be students... teenagers. And now, they never would.
The look in Ron's eyes was the look of a man who had seen too much death. Harry knew his own eyes held the same look.
"Colin didn't make it, did he?" Harry said softly.
Hermione sobbed, unable to stop herself, and turned into Ron's arms.
"Harry..." Ron's eyes clouded, then he shook his head.
"I saw him... flew past me fighting... throwing curses... he took out..." Harry nearly choked on his words, he felt the burn of tears in the back of his throat, but held back. There would be time to grieve later. For now, he had to find out how many...
"Thirty-seven," Ginny whispered. "Dumbledore analyzed his wand... Colin took out thirty-seven Death Eaters before..."
There was a moment of silence. Harry was amazed. He wouldn't have thought it possible.
"Who else?" Harry asked softly.
"Who else, Ron? Because I know how many Death Eaters there were out there... and I know that we didn't come through the final battle with only one casualty!"
"Several students..." Ron said, his voice strangled. "Three fourth years... a couple of fifth..."
"The Twelve?" Harry demanded. "The Dirty Dozen?"
Ron swallowed, meeting his friends' eyes, his pain and anger apparent in his own. "Susan. Terry. Blaise. Ernie."
Harry's eyes closed with pain.
"And the others? The DA?"
"All the others... the other students... were members of the DA. Twenty two, all told. They... they fought really well, Harry... all... all of them did well, and immobilized so many..."
"She's fine... took a while to come out of it, but..."
"She woke up a couple hours ago... the battle was last night. If it weren't for Pansy... she called the Order, then she called the twins at the shop... they got the word out to Lee and others... there were a lot of people came to help with the fight, Harry."
"Your family? I saw the twins..."
"They're fine," Ginny soothed. "Everyone is fine, Harry... the twins arrived just as you went through the barrier... they're both fine..."
"Your Mum and Dad? They... and Remus..."
"Harry..." Hermione turned back to him, her eyes red. "There was..."
"We found her body... after."
"Your aunt, Harry... Daisy... her body... her body was in the field... where she went through the barrier..."
"I knew she was dead," Harry said dully. "I knew."
Ginny held him close as the tears came, and long into the night.
It took several weeks for things to calm down in the Wizarding world. Harry was touted as some sort of saviour, along with those who had fought at his side.
Ron was offered a job immediately in the publicity department of the Chudley Cannons as the pictures that surfaced of them, after the battle, showed him wearing one of their Tshirts, torn and dirty, but visible all the same. He had one arm supporting Seamus Finnegan, his wand in the other, blood dripping down the side of his face as he helped Seamus in from the field where the battle had taken place. The photographer had caught him looking up, a look of pain and determination on his face. The Headline accompanying it read 'The sort of bloke this team needs'.
Ron's injury, sustained when he had head-butted a Death Eater before binding him, healed, and Hermione's hair grew back quickly, helped along by a potion that Parvati provided, smiling and tearful. Strangely, it grew in in soft ringlets which Ron was still drooling over.
Dumbledore analyzed wands and pieced the sequence of events back for the Ministry. Each of the 'Dirty Dozen', as they were now unofficially being called, were being lauded as top duellists as the information came out. Even Neville, at one time considered by some one of the weaker links in the chain, had managed to bind, stun, or otherwise incapacitate twenty of those attacking the school.
Overall, they had done very, very well.
Harry spent several days in the Hospital Wing, his leg healing, along with some burns he hadn't known he'd sustained, and what Poppy Pomfrey termed 'the worst case of magical exhaustion I've ever seen in a student'. During that time, there were many visitors, although Madame Pomfrey's gimlet glare discouraged most from hanging about for too long.
The first was Pansy Parkinson, who entered quietly, silently kissed Harry's forehead, and left. Harry hadn't been able to say anything to her... the tears in her eyes had bothered him, but he understood. Pansy had lost a lot in the battle... perhaps more than most. She'd lost her childhood and any dreams she had ever dreamt about what her life might be like as Pansy Malfoy. And she had to live with the thought that she had killed someone that she knew... that she had loved.
The second visitor, who made Harry equally uncomfortable, if for different reasons, was Dennis Creevy.
"Dennis..." Harry said as he spied the younger boy sitting by his bed as he awoke from a nap one afternoon.
"Harry," Dennis nodded solemnly. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm... much better... how... how are you?"
Dennis smiled, but Harry could tell it didn't touch his heart. "I'll be okay."
"I know," Harry sat up.
"I wanted to..."
"I'm sorry..." they both spoke at once.
"You don't have to be sorry," Dennis said, looking down at his hands. "Colin... Colin did what... what he needed to do."
"Harry... thank you."
"Yes, thank you," Dennis nodded. "For giving him the tools to get thirty seven of the bastards before he went down."
"We both know that Colin was going to be in that fight, no matter what. By asking him to... to train with you and the others... you at least gave him the tools to do what he was determined to do well. I... I'm grateful for that."
Harry was silent for a moment before looking back at Dennis. "If I could have changed it, I would have. Colin was my friend... our friend... and..."
"I know," Dennis said as he stood. "I have to go... they haven't cancelled classes... can you believe that?"
"Um... I... I didn't figure you'd need flowers or anything to cheer you up," Dennis said as he made for the door, opening it before he turned back. "But Colin would have wanted you to have that."
He nodded at Harry's bedside table before pulling open the door and leaving quickly. Harry turned to see what it was that Dennis had indicated. He felt the tears well up again as he gazed at Colin Creevy's camera sitting next to his water-glass.
Dumbledore came that afternoon, as well. Looking tired and drawn, he strode through to come to stand at the end of Harry's bed.
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry smiled. "You... you're okay?"
"I am... in good health," Dumbledore nodded, tapping the floor with his staff.
There was silence for a moment, before Dumbledore sighed and came to sit beside him. "Harry... there are perhaps..."
"Is it over, then?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore's eyebrows rose. "I would imagine that that would depend on your idea of 'over'."
"Is he really gone?"
"Yes, Harry... he is really gone."
"I don't understand why Aunt Daisy left the forest... she knew that she wouldn't be able to go back."
"The reason why most people do things, Harry... love."
"She didn't know me... how could she love me?"
"Perhaps it wasn't for love of you... but for love of an ideal."
"I don't understand what happened to her... what..."
"Harry, are you familiar with any of the mythology of ancient Greece?"
"That's Hermione's thing, Professor," Harry smiled. "I'm... well, I know the stories of Hercules, and that sort of thing..."
"Have you heard of the Eumenides, Harry?"
"Three sisters, said to be the children of Uranus, born of Gaia... they were originally the Erinyes... Goddesses of punishment and wrath, sent to punish those who betook violence to cause suffering... and violence for violence's sake... sent to punish those who..."
"Who caused suffering to the innocent."
Dumbledore nodded, and continued. "Three sisters, they were originally known as the Erinyes... or the Furies... one does not want to fall before their wrath, Harry."
"But Aunt Daisy was... my Aunt Daisy. She wasn't born of Gaia... or Uranus..."
"I told you that there was older magic than ours at work, Harry. Gaia doesn't forget... she takes, occasionally, one of our kind to serve... to become a disciple of the Furies... to learn their ways, to follow their path. To become Erinye. Your aunt was such a one."
"Your aunt, as a child, happened upon a portal in the Forbidden Forest. Being the very curious, and absolutely brazenly courageous girl that she was, she slipped through it, and became a Daughter of Gaia. During the search for her, I came upon the portal... I knew then what had happened, and called off the search. The centaurs confirmed it to me... they had watched her go through."
"And she's never come back?"
"There have been times when we have... run across each other. She is no stranger to the Forbidden Forest... nor am I. Hagrid has seen her, although he does not know what it is that he sees. Occasionally he has reported to me the presence of a White Lady... I think he believes her to be a ghost..."
"But she wasn't."
"No. She gave up much to come to us, Harry, to warn us."
"But I am certain she would not regret it. It was, after all, her calling."
Harry, remembering the way she had looked, confronting the army of Voldemort, could only agree.
Harry had another remarkable visitor as he was getting ready to leave the Hospital Wing a week after the battle. He was stepping out of the doorway, Ginny by his side, when he looked up to see Professor Snape standing there, staring at him.
"Professor... how are you?" Harry asked.
"I'm fine, Potter... but it doesn't look as though you are well enough to be out of bed... has Madame Pomfrey released you, or have you taken it into your own hands to decide what is best, yet again?"
Harry grinned. Funny how Snape's little digs didn't bother him much anymore.
"Madame Pomfrey has released me."
"Good. So I assume I will see you in Potions tomorrow morning, then?"
"Professor...!" Ginny began.
"Yes, Professor Snape... after all... I think I need that NEWT in Potions for Auror training... don't I?" he looked at Snape, his eyes dancing, as he said this.
And wasn't at all surprised when Snape's eyes sparkled with humor.
"Indeed, Mr Potter... shall I arrange for you to sit the Auror Entrance Exam?"
"I think I rather did that already, didn't I? It was a bitch."
"Yes..." Snape nodded. "It was."
Nodding, Harry and Ginny turned away, heading towards Gryffindor Tower.
"And Potter?" Snape called. Harry turned to look over his shoulder.
"You're really much more bearable than your father."
Harry chuckled and shook his head. "Thank you, sir."
As they made their way through the upper Entrance Hall, Harry took Ginny's hand and drew her towards the stairs.
"Where do you think you're going?" Ginny asked.
"I don't think so."
"Ginny, I've been stuck in with Madame Pomfrey for a week..."
"Don't you remember what happened last time you were allowed outside, Harry?" she teased. "Just what we need, you finding another Dark Lord to battle..."
Harry laughed. "Dear Merlin, I hope not. No... come on, Ginny... just a few minutes by the lake..."
"Oh, alright... but if Madame Pomfrey finds out, I'm going to tell her you used Imperious on me..."
They walked for five minutes before Harry paused at the side of the lake. One long tentacle of the Giant Squid could be seen waving above the rippling surface before it disappeared beneath with a plop and a spray of water. Harry sighed.
"Harry?" Ginny looked up at him, concerned, as he looked out over the lake.
"It's been a long road, Ginny," he said softly.
"Yes... quite the way to leave seventh year with a bang, Harry Potter."
"I would have preferred it to be different," he said.
"Hmm?" she nestled her head into his shoulder as she, too, looked out over the lake.
"I didn't think I was going to get through it alive."
"I know. But you did."
"You were a big part of that."
"Yes, you. You were what I thought of..."
"Harry, what are you talking about?"
"Ginny... the power... the power that everyone has been telling me that I have that Voldemort didn't have... I didn't really realize until I was standing there... it was positive emotion... love, caring, sympathy, joy..." he took a breath. "I thought of those things... the people who were important to me, and why they were important... and he flinched."
"He flinched," Harry confirmed. "Like he was in pain. So I did it some more."
Ginny looked at him in awe.
"And when I thought of you... when I thought of... being with you, being in your arms... it was very, very powerful, Ginny."
"I knew that," she smiled.
"I... I made a couple promises. To myself."
"I promised myself that if I got through this I was going to live. Really live."
"Good," she whispered, tightening her arm around him.
"And if I managed, through some miracle, to survive the confrontation with Voldemort... if I managed to do what I had to do... I promised myself that I was going to do something else."
"Ask you to marry me," he said softly, looking down at her.
Ginny's eyes widened, and she sucked in a shocked breath.
"I know... I know you're only sixteen... I know that it's too soon... but..."
"And I know that..."
"For the third bloody time, Potter, I said yes!"
The sun set over the lake at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... and as it did, an elderly wizard could be seen standing in a tower window, watching the rainbows created in the water droplets being flung up by the splashing squid. The couple standing on the shore were oblivious. They were much too involved with each other to notice such a thing.
Albus Dumbledore smiled, and turned away.
To each of you who have reviewed, to those who have reviewed every chapter, to those who have offered constructive criticism, and to those who have offered encouragement, thank you so very much.
BrittShrick: Thank you – I'm glad you've enjoyed it. I have some original stuff I'm working on right now, but I've been playing with the idea of a sequel... we'll see.
Larna Mandrea: Yes, some of Voldemort's lines in the last chapter were probably terribly OOC, but I suppose I don't see him in the same way others do. I've run across people "like" him – the type who represent this sort of personality in reality – and I've found, more often than not, they're pretty inconsequential when it comes down to it. I wanted to show him as a rather more accomplished, evil version of Lucius Malfoy. Which I think he is, as far as "reality" will take us here.
ImaQuidditchFan: You bloodthirsty lot, you "everyone else is fair game"? Well,I suppose a few of them got the chop (sorry Larna), but it's the way it came out...
Rdprice29: I don't do battle scenes well, so I tend to write about one person and what's going on with them – and of course, this one person has to be Harry, as the story really is about him.
Lourdes: Yep – had to work that in there somewhere...
Irishdancer61790: Chills? Cool!
Nightwing509: Thank you for reviewing, I'm so glad that you liked it – and thank you for being one of my most reliable reviewers!
Meg: Weird stuff like that sometimes happens on here... eventually it sorts itself out. It's odd, and annoying, but hey, it's free, so I guess I can't complain! As for the sequel... well, we'll see.
HarryGinnyluv4ever: Thank you!
AlliBaby: Don't I always? LOL!
GiGiFanfic: Nope – not a Guardian Witch... but close!
MrFirenze: Honored? I'm honored to have such great reviewers and loyal readers. I've been doing this for almost a year now, and I find it extremely surprising that so many people read my stuff! Thanks for being one of them!
ThundersShadow: Okay, I now have a new favorite catch-phrase... "Jesus tap dancing Christ"? That's... very visual, actually... LOL!
MeaghanPotter: THANK YOU for recommending my story to others – thank you, thank you! I love the fact that people are reading (and enjoying) what I write... thank you!
Shotgunn: Well... no wedding bells quite yet... but you know me – have to have that little dripping with romance scene at the end...
RinnaMarie: Glad you approve! There are only so many ways to write that final battle scene, you know...
SaintEmo: There were? Sorry – call it artistic license...
Gerie: Well, I hope THAT lived up to expectations.
SilverWarrior: Of course it is. Most of canon is depressing, when you think about it. In my heart of hearts, I hope JKR sees things the way most of us do, and it ends up with Harry seeing how great Ginny is, but in all honesty, knowing the audience she writes for, I doubt very much that there will be anything that "decided" by the end of book seven. I hope I'm wrong, but... hey, we always have fanfiction!
IrishCharms: Nope. No veil. Good guess though. I almost had Lily working in the Dept of Mysteries in the room with the veil... and a whole storyline... oh, well. It didn't work, so it didn't happen, but it would have been interesting to find out exactly what that thing is all about...
Weboflies: Don't think I haven't considered it. We'll see.
Bobmin356: Sorry – this is it!
Beney: There you go – final chapter.
Weselan: Okay, now you're scaring me. Would you believe that I've been listening to that while writing for about the last two months?
Padfootlives101: No more patience required... that's the final chapter – in this one, anyhow!
Dbz-swimmer: Nope – not an ascended being. Close, though...
Kordolin: Veil guardian? I should have thought of that. That would have... well, never mind. She is what she is...
Heather: Maybe not a sequel... maybe some one shot spin offs...
Orla Potter: Thanks!
WolfsScream: You think? LOL! I think Harry et al ought to be exempted, don't you?
LilyNicolePotter: Thanks – I still need to take some time for some other stuff I'm working on, but I hope to be back here soon. I'm finding that fanfiction is a bit of an addiction!
Froboy: Last update on this one, I'm afraid!
And to all – thank you, thank you, thank you.