Disclaimer – Harry Potter is not ours. We just let our imagination play in JK Rowlings world.

Reminder: This was all plotted out long before HBP came out and is definitely an Alternate Universe story. Actions and behaviors in the Half Blood Prince are not the same as here.

Chapter 23 Epilogue

Everything kept fading in and out. Sounds would impinge on Harry's brain loudly and then quickly fade away like an out of tune radio, but he couldn't understand what the sounds meant. He could tell by the smell that he was in a hospital room, but it was too quiet for the Hogwart's infirmary. Pain started to register in his brain. He just wasn't sure where it was coming from. Finally the sounds reduced to more realistic levels. The foggy blackness that surrounded him lightened. The pain started to condense to an area in his back.

"Harry? Are you still with us, my boy? It is time for you to wake up if you are."

Harry knew that voice. Dumbledore. That figured. It must be the end of a school year then. It always seemed that something happened that would land Harry in the Hospital Wing with Dumbledore at his side at the end of the school year.

"You've been sleeping for over two days, Harry. You're going to miss this celebration, as you missed the last one, if you don't wake up soon."

Celebration? What celebration? Was there a Quidditch match? Who won?

"Come, Harry. Open your eyes now."

His lids felt heavy but he tried. The light was bright and he flinched away from it.

"Harry?" He said his name again with a bit more hope and encouragement in his voice.

Harry tried again. Dumbledore must have dimmed the lights somewhat. It wasn't as painful. Everything was blurry. He couldn't see anything. Glasses were placed on his face and the worried features of his old Headmaster came into focus.

"Harry? Are you still with us? Can you understand me?"

Harry blinked. He tried to speak but his voice didn't seem to want to work. Harry swallowed and tried again.


A huge smile spread across his Professor's face and his eyes brightened with a twinkle. Harry just realized it had been missing before.

"Well done, my boy! Do you remember what happened? The battle at Hogwarts?"

Harry frowned and blinked a few times as memories started to return. The alarms sounding. The teachers leaving. The attacking students. Plans to help fight…Dumbledore down and Voldemort about to kill him….

"You were down and he was casting a curse…. Are you alright, sir?" Harry's voice came out in a rasp.

The smile widened again underneath the long snowy beard. He handed Harry a glass of water to help sooth his dry throat. "I am just fine. I'll need a cane to help prop up my old bones for a while, but I shall recover in full."

"Ron? Hermione? Ginny?"

"They are all fine as well. They are awaiting your return at Hogwarts."

Harry frowned in confusion and looked around. The room was a small private room. He recognized the cluster of crystal bubbles on the ceiling as what he'd seen at St. Mungo's.

"I'm at St. Mungo's? What's wrong with me?"

Dumbledore pulled on his beard as he scrutinized the young man before him. "There was a fair amount of spell damage, but the main reason was you would not awaken and there were some concerns for your…mental…health. Now that you have been so obliging as to open your eyes, we can plan the arrangements for your return to Hogwarts."

A voice from the door interrupted their conversation. "You'll not be making any plans on moving anybody just yet. By your words I'm assuming Mr. Potter is awake?"

Harry looked up to see a sandy-haired man in lime green healer robes with the St. Mungo's crest on them. The crossed wand and bone emblem verified his location.

The healer started to speak slowly and enunciate each word as if speaking to a child as he faced Harry. "Mr. Potter, do you know who you are?"

Harry frowned in confusion. What was this man's problem? "Ye-e-e-es?" he replied just as slowly.

Albus Dumbledore started to chuckle at the by-play between the two. "Harry seems to be just fine, Healer Kegg. His memories are quite clear on recent events."

The healer looked surprised. "Oh, really?" He blinked rapidly a few times. "Well, I guess the Unspeakables were mistaken, I'm glad to say."

Harry looked at him questioningly.

"They said you would most likely become one of our long-term care patients. I am so pleased they were incorrect."

Harry blinked a few times in return. "So am I." He looked over to his Headmaster. "What is it lately with people wanting to put me into the long-term care ward?"

The Headmaster just laughed as he moved out of the way of the healer. The healer held his wand above Harry and started muttering some words under his breath as he checked Harry over. He had Harry flip over to perform the same spells over his back. A spike of pain shot through Harry's back shoulder blade during the turn. Harry hissed in a breath.

"Hmm. Well, most of the physical damage has been set right, though I imagine a pain relieving potion wouldn't be refused, eh? The nerves are back to normal after the Cruciatus damage was repaired. Your scapula, though, is a bit of a mystery. We are reading that it is broken and is a source of pain, but there is no readable injury that we can see or heal." The Healer scratched his nose. "Yes, quite the mystery…." He seemed to snap himself out of his musings. "Now then, I imagine there are a good deal of people who would like to speak with you since you do seem capable of responding." The Healer went to a cupboard and muttered an incantation with his palm against it. Harry realized it was a recognition spell. The cupboard opened and the Healer brought out a vial. "Take this pain relieving potion. When you are through, I'll leave you be and start on your paperwork. You, Headmaster Dumbledore, should not stay above another half an hour."

Albus Dumbledore inclined his head as Harry took the potion and the healer headed out the door. Harry looked intently at his old Professor. "Sir, you are okay, aren't you? I wasn't sure I got to him in time."

The venerable wizard smiled reassuringly at his young protégé. "I am, indeed, fine, young Harry. It will take these old bones some time to recover, but I am alive, which I must confess, I had some doubts of being after that fight." His face came alive with a sudden thought. "Oh! I almost forgot. I have something for you, my boy." The old wizard pulled a wand out of one of his pockets. Harry's wand.

Harry took it reverently. The warm feeling he always got from holding it washed through him again. "Thank you, sir."

Harry had a lot of questions. He badgered his Headmaster with them for the next half hour. Yes, his friends got by with only minor injuries that were quickly healed by Madam Pomfrey. Remus had gotten to the fight only after the wards were re-established, which was a very fine piece of magic, by the way. The wards had never been so strong in Dumbledore's lifetime. Remus had been one of the fighters outside of the Hogwarts gates. No. No students had died. There were some injuries, of course, but no student deaths. Harry felt the Headmaster was holding something back, but knew from experience he wouldn't get more information at that time. He moved on to his next question. The students who had attacked the rest of the student body were to be expelled. Professor Snape was fine. Dumbledore cut off his questions as he started asking about other Order members and mentioned that it was time for him to leave. He would return at a later time and check on Harry again.

Harry dozed after the Headmaster left. He awoke again when the Healer returned. He was given the all clear except for the strange injury to his scapula. The all clear meant he could receive more visitors. Harry was positioned sitting up in his bed when the next group filled his little room to capacity.

Albus Dumbledore, Amelia Bones, an auror, a scribe and another man and woman crowded into Harry's room. The auror stationed himself near the door. Professor Dumbledore conjured three squashy armchairs for the two unknown people and the Minister, while the scribe sat on the hard, wooden chair provided by the room. Professor Dumbledore settled himself on the edge of Harry's bed.

Professor Dumbledore started with the introductions.

"Harry, I'm sure you remember our Minister of Magic, Amelia Bones." The witch slowly nodded her head at Harry. Harry gave her a short smile in return. That was as much as he could do with the butterflies running rampant in his stomach. "Next to her is Ms. Schmidt, a court scribe, Madam Mafalda Hopkirk from the Misuse of Magic office and Mr. Artemis Oldridge, from the Unspeakable Department."

Minister Bones gave Harry a smile. "Mr. Potter, I want to thank you on behalf of myself and the entire wizarding world, for your efforts in the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The safety of our world and future generations has greatly increased by your, and others, actions." Harry gave another nervous smile. He just had a feeling there was a big 'but' in there somewhere. "However," There it was. "there have been some inconsistencies in the reports of what has happened."

Harry glanced nervously at the auror placed at the doorway. Softly he spoke to his Headmaster. "Am I on trial for something, sir?"

Madam Bones raised her monocle to her eye. "No, Mr. Potter. You are not on trial. We do, however, have just a few questions for you if you don't mind answering them."

Harry relaxed a little, though not completely. "I'll try."

Madam Bones nodded to the older woman with quite a few wrinkles on her face. She looked down at clipboard she had with her and started to speak. "Good, good. Mr. Potter, we have heard various accounts from several people on the happenings at the battle, but a few things are still unclear. There were reports your changing into an animagus form at approximately fifty-six minutes after eight in the morning of said attack. The penalty, if found guilty, for the failure to register as an animagus is not less than thirty days in Azkaban prison and destruction of your wand. There is also a second intelligence of a second form at approximately seventeen minutes after nine…" She looked up, slightly confused. "As no other second form has ever been reported if this intelligence should be confirmed, I'm not sure if the sentence would be consecutive terms in Azkaban or concurrent."

Harry was panicking. His fist tightened on the handle of his wand which was still under his pillow. This wasn't being on trial? There was no way he was giving up his wand! He looked to the Headmaster. Dumbledore calmly drew the attention to himself. "Ah, yes. Mr. Potter and his friends have recently become animagi. Everything has been documented properly. I happen to have the said paperwork with me." Dumbledore reached into one of his many pockets inside his robe and pulled out several parchments. He handed them over to Minister Bones. "I just haven't found the time, until now, to properly file them with the Ministry."

Madam Bones peered closely at the paperwork. "These are dated quite a while back." She lowered her monocle and raised a thick eyebrow in question.

"Yes. As I said, I have been quite busy lately."

The look on the Minister's face was clearly skeptical, but she let his comment pass. She handed the paperwork to the scribe who set it under the clipboard. She turned her attention back to Harry. "As the forms are completed, there will be no further pursuing on this matter." Minister Bones gave a severe look at Madam Hopkirk. The witch just nodded in acknowledgment. Minister Bones returned her attention to Harry and asked in her deep voice, "Mr. Potter, we are quite clear on what happened up until the accounts of your change. Would you tell us in your words what happened?"

Harry took one more quick look at Dumbledore who gave a slight nod. Harry swallowed nervously and started. "My friends and I were out on the lawn and had just gotten past a group of Death Eater's with Peeves and Fred Weasley's help, when we saw Headmaster Dumbledore on the ground and Voldemort," slight shudders ran through most of the listeners, "standing over him. He called Snape," the Headmaster's voice sounded low 'Professor Snape, Harry', "over so he could gloat some more. Professor Snape then tried to kill Voldemort which really ticked him off and he blasted him back. He then was about to kill Professor Dumbledore. I was too far away to do anything so I transformed to Shadow. Shadow is extremely fast and strong and I was able to knock Voldemort," shudders, "over. He obviously had a form as well, because when I had him pinned he transformed into that occamy thing."

Madam Hopkirk leaned forward. "So You-Know-Who had an animagus form as well? An occamy?"

"Yes. At least…I think that's what they're called. Wings? Snake body? Human legs?"

Madam Hopkirk nodded. "Yes. That is the description. So he was a magical creature." She shuddered. "He was very powerful. I suppose that is not surprising." She looked at Harry again. "What was your form? No one seemed to catch a good look at it. You called it 'Shadow'? Was it some sort of bird? There were reports of an air fight."

Harry ducked his head. "Er…no. Not a bird, really. Umm, we don't know what Shadow is." Harry's look darted back to his Headmaster.

Dumbledore leaned forward and intercepted the confused look of the department head. He reached over and teased the papers out from beneath the scribes clipboard. "I must concur that we do not know what Shadow is, besides extremely useful." He flipped through the animagi paperwork and pulled one out. He handed it to Madam Hopkirk. "As you can see, we had to leave the section for 'type of animal' blank. At most, we have to assume he is some lost relative to the Thestral family."

Madam Hopkirk's eyes widened more and more as she read through the paperwork. She would flip to the sketch and then read more on the attributes listed under 'Powers'. She looked up once more. "This is real? This is not some sort of joke?"

Harry could feel his face start to flush. Dumbledore interjected, "Shadow is very real."

Madam Hopkirk turned curious eyes on Harry. "Would you transform so we could verify?"

Harry closed his eyes. "Are you sure? Nobody except Hagrid really likes Shadow at first. Even I didn't."

Before Madam Hopkirk could confirm or deny, Dumbledore interrupted. "I think you are forgetting Mr. Potter is currently residing in St. Mungo's for a reason. Before he does anything it would need to be approved by his Healer."

Madam Hopkirk nodded her head. "Then let's get the approval. Who is his Healer?"

"Healer Timothius Kegg."

Minister Bones nodded to the auror who abruptly left the room. "All right. Until the Healer comes can you continue with the story. You-Know-Who turned into an occamy while you were some other thestral-like creature."

Harry nodded. "Things started moving pretty fast then. I remember flying and noticing the fighting outside of the gates, then he knocked me out of the sky. I landed and we both turned back to human form. We fought for a bit and then he got my wand and pulled my friends near. I think that's when Draco Malfoy showed up and threw some curses at him. Draco mentioned he had loved his father and that reminded me of that room in the Department of Mysteries."

Mr. Oldridge stopped him at this point. "How did you even know about that room?"

Harry bit his lip. "You know about last year? How my friends and I were lured there?"

Mr. Oldridge nodded.

"Well, in that room of doors, there was one we couldn't open, even with my knife."

Dumbledore asked, "Knife?"

"Er, Sirius had given me a knife that could open anything, but it melted in that door."

Mr. Oldridge pinched his nose. Harry could hear him muttering under his breath. He was muttering something about "schoolchildren" and "didn't know what they were getting into." It reminded him strongly of Snape.

Harry pulled his attention away from him and continued with his story. "Later Professor Dumbledore had said that Voldemort couldn't keep possessing me because of my feelings. Then he mentioned a room that was locked that harnessed just such a power. A power that the 'Dark Lord knows not'. So I started thinking if I could just get him in that room, maybe that would do something to him. So I changed to Flame and flashed him there."

"Did you even think about what could happen to you in that room?"

"Yeah. Briefly. I mean, Remus had said that no one had ever come out of that room the same, but he was going to kill us all anyway. If I could save my friends, I didn't really care what it would do to me."

"You would give up your life…?" Mr. Oldridge was cut off by the Headmaster.

"There is no greater love." It was said very quietly, but the reaction on the Unspeakable was like a hammer.

Meanwhile, Madam Hopkirk was obviously thinking of something. She still had the animagus form in her hands and was scanning through it in confusion. "You said you 'flashed'. I don't see anything about a 'flash' on here."

Dumbledore got a small grin on his face and pulled out another animagus paper. "Oh, no. Shadow cannot 'flash'. Harry must become Flame to 'flash'," and he handed over a second animagus sheet. "It is believed this form is Harry's natural animagus form."

Madam Hopkirk's eyes bugged out even further. "It's true? Two forms? Two magical forms? How can this be? You could show us two forms?"

Harry was ready to crawl back underneath the covers. Dumbledore seemed happy to explain their supposition that Harry acquired several 'talents' when hit with the unforgivable curse as a baby. As he'd already had an animagus form, he was given a second. Harry was glad Dumbledore seemed to be enjoying himself. Harry was not. He hated having such strange things happening to him all the time.

The auror returned with Healer Kegg. It was briefly explained that Mr. Potter was being requested to change into his animagi forms. After just a moment of being startled, Healer Kegg took the request in stride. He ran his wand over Harry again to get an updated reading. "I'll leave it to Mr. Potter's judgment. His health is fine except for the problem in his shoulder blade."

Harry looked at the expectant faces of his interrogators, especially Madam Hopkirk, and then turned to his Headmaster. Dumbledore just shrugged. Harry grimaced and started to focus on transforming into Flame. Suddenly Harry stopped.

"I-I can't transform."

"Whyever not, Harry?" His Headmasters voice only held curiosity.

"When I transported, I burned. The injuries, crucio and transporting was too much. If I transformed, it would only be to the hatchling state. I can't do anything in that state."

Madam Hopkirk was beginning to look disbelieving. Dumbledore, however, was just looking thoughtful. He turned his attention to Madam Hopkirk and Mr. Oldridge. "Have either of you studied phoenixes?"

The two Ministry workers looked at each other then back to Dumbledore.

"I have," Madam Hopkirk answered. "I've studied the anatomies of most all animals, magical and non-magical."

"I have as well," Oldridge said. "I've studied all creatures and items known to wizardkind that have light tendencies. As a phoenix is the lightest of them all, yes, I have studied them as well."

Dumbledore stroked his long beard. "Then you are familiar with their hatchling state?" At both nods he turned towards Harry. "I do not think they need to see the powers associated with the form. They should be able to tell that you are, indeed, a phoenix and that should be enough." At Harry's grimace he continued. "You will be completely safe here. No one shall harm you."

Harry was surprised at the Headmaster's perception of the fear associated with the total helplessness in that stage. But maybe he had been with Fawkes long enough to get an inkling of Fawkes' emotions at the different stages.

Harry drew in a breath and closed his eyes. He transformed into Flame and could feel the others rise to inspect him. Harry lifted his head. He'd never transformed at this point. He looked curiously down at himself. His neck was long, but he could move it around. His body had patchy clumps of feathers and down all over it. It brought home how long he'd been unconscious. He was probably about half-way through his re-growth. He didn't look terribly impressive, he thought. The down was gray, with longer golden-red feathers growing out in clumps at odd spots. He itched, too. His back still aching as well. Professor Dumbledore gently picked him up, and held him on his lap stroking his feathers so the others could to examine him.

The healer stepped forward. "I'm just wondering…Headmaster, would it be all right if I could examine Mr. Potter in this form? His injury has baffled us, but we did not know of his animagus form. I'm wondering if he sustained an injury in this state if it would carry over to his human form."

The Headmaster gently set the almost-fledgling-sized bird back on the bed for the Healer to scan and held him still. Harry was trying to rub his neck against the fingers of his Headmaster. There was an itch he just couldn't reach…. The healer frowned at whatever reading he was getting.

"It's a little more difficult since bird anatomy is different from a wizards', but…I think…I'm reading the same thing. An injury showing where there is no injury."

The old Headmaster set the bird back to the top of the bed. Harry transformed back into himself, panting slightly. He arched his back trying to relieve the ache, and to scratch that last itch.

The healer stepped forward. "How are you holding up, Mr. Potter?"

Harry shrugged, and then winced. "I'll be fine. I'd probably not refuse another pain potion when this is done, though."

The healer nodded and stepped back. Professor Dumbledore caught Harry's attention and asked, "Are you up to a second transformation, Harry?"

Harry nodded, and then paused. He turned to the others. "Can you see Thestrals?" At their nods, he continued. "Shadow is something like a Thestral except crossed with a wolf instead of a horse. The eyes tend to freak people out, but he's not dangerous at all."

Madam Hopkirk had the animagus sheet in front of her and was scanning through it. "Venom?"

Harry shrugged. "Well, I'm not about to bite any of you, am I?" At the brief nods of the others, Harry transformed into Shadow. Instantly the pain in his back intensified. He never even noticed the commotion around him as he focused inwardly on the pain in his back wing. The scream from the young scribe as she knocked over her chair trying to get away, while parchment and quills went flying from the ever-present clipboard went unnoticed as did the follow up of Amelia Bones quickly moving back to try and calm the hysterical woman.

The other two reacted differently. Both jumped to their feet, Madam Hopkirk leaned forward to get a better look, Oldridge away to distance himself from the creature. He, at least, wasn't screaming. The healer just stood still in shock.

Harry tried to move his wing out to a different position to see if it would stop the stinging ache. Unfortunately, it only increased and Harry let out a low growl in his pain.

Dumbledore's focus was on the commotion in front of him and didn't see the reactions of young auror near the door. The auror had been trained well. He obeyed his orders. His job was to protect the Minister. He knew when to hear conversations and when to not hear conversations. He always watched for threats. At the initial sound of a scream, his attention snapped back to the conversation taking place. His eyes widened as he saw the Minister diving back for cover away from a dark, skeletal creature. When the black creature growled and seemed to grow in size, the auror assumed it was about to pounce. His mind flashed back to the Diagon Alley attack with the werewolf. He'd been there. His wand was out in a flash and a silver dart streaked towards the dangerous creature. His dart hit right below the back ribs. As the creature yelped in pain, the old wizard next to it whirled around and before the auror could shoot again, he was trapped in a full body-bind sent by Albus Dumbledore. The power and anger in the magic the elderly wizard wrapped around him was something he had never felt before. The auror felt his wand summoned away as he fell against the wall, watching helplessly whatever would happen next.

Moving faster than his age should have allowed Dumbledore cradled the creature's head in the palm of one hand while his other stroked the animal's head. "Harry. Harry, are you all right?"

Shadow had been trying to deal with the increased pain from his wing when he felt something like a knife suddenly plunged into his back and stay there. He yelped in pain. His mind was starting to focus only on fight or flight responses. He wanted to get away. He started to look anxiously around the room for some shadowy protection when his muzzle was firmly taken hold and his head turned toward an older wizard. Dumbledore. Shadow could feel the strong emotions in Dumbledore, but could sense that he only was defending him. A gentle hand stroked his head, calming the panic and hurt he was feeling. Shadow started to relax. Dumbledore sat back down on the bed and removed the hand under Shadow's chin and Harry lay down and put his head on the Headmaster's lap with a slight whine.

The auror watched with disbelief as the old Headmaster tamed the beast, while the healer seemed to snap out of his shock. He looked around at the chaos of the room, shaking his head as if he were just waking up.

An auror was frozen, the Minister was helping a young woman who obviously was in need of a calming potion, a gentleman was standing back against the wall while another woman was crouched on the floor watching the animal and old man curiously. The animal was obviously injured. Harry Potter was obviously injured. The healer moved forward.

"Forgive me. I thought I had just misunderstood when more than one form was mentioned. Will you let me check you, Mr. Potter?"

The animal looked up with peculiar green eyes with no pupils and his tail gave a brief thump. Healer Kegg took that as agreement. He cautiously made his way forward. He didn't want to startle him with any sudden movements. He ran his wand over the injured animal. Harry just closed his eyes. When the healer touched the wing and tried to extend it, Harry flinched and his breathing increased but gave no other sign of the pain.

Finally the healer finished. "You definitely have a broken wing and we'll need to remove the dart from your back." He gave a brief glare at the auror who injured an already injured patient.

The Headmaster asked, "Would it be all right if Harry transformed back now? His injuries seem to bother him more in this form. I believe the dart can be removed while he is human. He has had a similar injury before."

The healer agreed and Harry transformed right where he was. He felt a little embarrassed that he was lying across his Headmaster's lap with his Headmaster carding his fingers through his hair, but he was just too tired and sore to move at the moment. The Headmaster didn't seem phased by it at all and just kept on.

The healer quickly sealed and bandaged the wound and moved on to give a calming potion to the scribe. She had never seen a thestral before and hadn't known what to expect. Dumbledore released the auror from the body-bind and panic seemed to grow in the aurors eyes as he realized he had just attacked Harry Potter. The Harry Potter who had defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The panic increased as he saw the blood staining the back of the boy's hospital gown where his dart had injured him.

Minister Bones heaved a sigh. "Mr. Potter, do you wish to press charges against Auror Jones for his attack?"

Harry just wearily shook his head. "Of course not. I told you, people just don't like Shadow at first sight. Auror Jones was just trying to protect you. Doing his job."

"You are very generous, Mr. Potter." Harry just gave a half shrug, trying to be careful not to use his injured shoulder or move his back too much.

The healer stepped forward. "I'm going to have to ask you all to leave. We need to remove the dart from Mr. Potter and figure out how to heal his wing." Harry had to admit, that sounded strange.

Professor Dumbledore spoke up. "If I may make a suggestion? Our Care of Magical Creatures professor, Rubeus Hagrid, is an excellent healer of animals. He may have several suggestions on how to heal his wing." The healer nodded in acknowledgment.

The Minister looked to her colleagues. "Ten more minutes, please, and we'll be out of your way." The healer looked at his tired patient, who nodded, gave a short nod himself and stepped back.

Mr. Oldridge came forward. "My field of study is that locked room. We have many more questions. So far, you are the only person known to have come out of it 'intact', so to speak. Could you set some time aside to go more in depth on what happened in there? Or maybe go back in again?"

Harry was getting awfully tired. His Headmaster was still 'petting' his hair as one did for a small child. He was lying on his side with his head pillowed on the old man's thigh. He could almost imagine he was his grandson. His back was beginning to feel like it was on fire as the brief numbing charm seemed to be wearing off.

"I'll talk to you about it. I'll even show you in a pensieve what I saw. But I don't know if it will do any good. It was more about emotions felt than about what I saw. I won't go back in there."

"But why not?"

Harry frowned, trying to figure out how to say what he somehow just knew. "It wouldn't end the same. You get…judged… on your motives and actions. If I went in deliberately, the judgment would be different."

Dumbledore came to the rescue again. "It makes perfect sense," he said mostly to himself. "His motives before were protection of his friends, based on his love for them, even to the point of self-sacrifice. He was judged accordingly. If he went in again, the motive would only be curiosity." Harry nodded fiercely, and then raised a hand to his head. He felt a headache coming on.

"So You-Know-Who…?"

"Was, obviously, found lacking." The Headmaster sat back with his twinkle going in his eye.

With the additional injury, Harry's visit extended several more days. In total, it was just over a week before he was allowed to transfer to Hogwarts and he still needed to get his wing healed. Hagrid had stopped by and it was decided that Hagrid would do better in healing the wing as he tended all the medical needs of the thestral herd at Hogwarts and had some experience with it. He had been overjoyed to see Harry and even more excited to see Shadow again.

He'd been allowed a few visitors in his time in the hospital. The man from the Ministry, Mr. Oldridge, had come back with reinforcements and a Pensieve. Harry had been right. The Pensieve hadn't been much help. It showed what happened, but not what he felt. Harry described everything he could in as much detail as possible, but they weren't pleased. Again, requests for him to re-enter the room had come up and Harry, again, refused. It wasn't until his healer came in and made them leave that they let up the pressure on him.

Justina dropped by. She was very congratulatory on his defeating You-Know-Who. With that out of the way, she got to her real excitement, the progress of her long-term care research. It was going very well. Neville's parents, especially his mother, had made great improvements in their condition. Alice had even been able to speak a few words.

Remus also visited. He had been in a meeting with about twenty werewolves when news of the fight had broke out. They had gotten there too late to join the battle inside the castle wards, but had fought on outside. They had been badly outnumbered until a fresh wave of aurors had arrived. Seven of the werewolves had died to silver dart spells shot by the Death Eaters. Another two were in St. Mungo's and weren't sure if they would make it. Remus, himself had been shot by one, but it hadn't affected him any worse than a knife wound. He had an arm in a sling, but otherwise seemed fine. He'd also been hit by a curse that shattered his whole left side. The Skelegro potion re-grew the bones, but he needed to take it easy on his arm for a while. The sling helped remind him not to use it often.

Remus let him know of the panic that apparently ensued after a worker literally stumbled over the two bodies in the room of doors. Harry laughed picturing someone just walking in and falling over an unconscious boy and the dead body of the darkest wizard in a century that had been just lying across his path. Specially cleared security and healers had been summoned and they had quickly brought Harry to St. Mungo's.

Most of the Death Eater's inside the wards of Hogwarts had been captured. A few had been killed. Harry asked about escaped Death Eaters and Remus started to laugh. The Order and the Ministry didn't think there were too many left. Evidently, the goblins offered their help to the Ministry (for a fee, of course). They had, as Dumbledore had speculated, invoked banishment on any carrying the Dark Mark. It seemed they could also direct where the banishment transported the banished. Any Death Eater who tried to enter goblin held lands were instantly transported to a holding cell at the Ministry. There they were held for trial and if they claimed to be under Imperious, were tested with Veritaserum. So far, no claims had held true. The goblins then received the recovery reward for any captured Death Eaters convicted.

Harry laughed at the cleverness of the goblins. He had to admit he was impressed. They had managed to protect themselves pretty well and make a profit to boot.

Remus also told Harry some not-so-happy news. Harry had known Elphias Doge had died in the battle. He hadn't known Kingsley Shacklebolt had as well. Professor Sinistra had not made it past the next day and had died of her injuries. Several other people Harry knew also sustained injuries. Professor Flitwick had lost the use of both of his legs, but had already charmed a chair to levitate him wherever he needed to go. He had been released from St. Mungo's the previous day and Remus had Harry in tears of laughter describing the sight of the small Professor zooming around the castle. The small Professor's squealing laughter while going up and down stairways had Harry imagining that Flitwick also loved the minecart rides of the goblins. Harry was glad the irrepressible professor never seemed to let things get him down for long. Harry hoped if things ever turned that badly for him, he could take a lesson from him.

There were more injuries and deaths, but Harry didn't personally know the people. Two more people had been kissed. Four had succumbed to spider poison, not including those that fell to the Death Eaters.

On another day Remus brought Ron, Hermione and Ginny for a visit. The visit couldn't be for long though. Ginny needed to get back to school to study. End of year tests had been canceled again, but not for OWLs or NEWTs. She had wanted to see Harry, though.

For old times sake, she brought him a singing get well card she'd made herself. It wasn't quite as shrill as the one from his third year after his fall in Quidditch, but it was close enough. Harry laughed, shoved it under a pitcher of water and gave her a hug.

Ron had covered his ears. "She did that to you before and you still wanted to go out with her? Are you nutters?"

Hermione hit him on the back of the head and Ginny blushed. "I knew I should have waited and given it to Harry in private."

"Private? I bet they could hear that thing two floors down!" Ginny just chucked one of Harry's chocolate frogs at Ron. Ron snagged it and started eating. Ginny apparently knew the secret to shut her brother up. Food.

Harry changed the subject. "So what's been happening?"

Hermione sat on the edge of his bed. "Well, things are finally settling down. Classes had been canceled, but they start again tomorrow. Most of the students are out of the infirmary. Well, of course, Cho and Michael aren't back yet, but I heard they'll be returning within the week, too."

Harry frowned. "What do you mean, 'of course, Cho and Michael aren't back yet'? What happened to them?"

Hermione looked surprised. "You didn't know? Oh, I'm sorry!"

Harry looked between his friends. "Tell me!"

Ginny looked at Hermione, then back at Harry. "You were right that the Death Eaters tried to attack the Quidditch Pitch once they figured out that was where the Patroni were coming from. Michelle Avery was able to give warning of their movements and they were held off for quite some time, but eventually they started sending flame curses to the base of the pitch and it grew out of control."

Ron broke in. "There's nothing hardly left of it now, mate. Just a burnt out shell. It'll have to be totally rebuilt."

Ginny glared at her brother for his interruption. "Anyway! Once Cho had realized the Dementors could actually be destroyed, she was…obsessed I guess is the right word. She and Michael worked as a pair. Colin said she had tears just streaming down her face, but also the widest smile he'd ever seen. I think her happy thought was destroying her father's attackers or something. There had been upwards of two hundred Dementors on the grounds. Colin reckons she and Michael destroyed most of them themselves. Well, once the fire took hold, others were abandoning the stands. Cho wouldn't go, though. There were still a few Dementors left. She wouldn't leave until they were all gone. She did it, too. She and Michael were brought here with burns and injuries they got when that section of stands collapsed. It was pretty bad. Fortunately, some house elves kept most of the fire away and were able to get to them quickly after they fell and bring them to the Hospital Wing. Otherwise I don't think they'd have made it."

Hermione added, "Actually, the house elves did a lot. They popped all over the place, even in the battles, to get the badly wounded out. They were the ones who drove back the acromantulas to the forest and held them there until the centaurs came."

Harry's ears pricked up. "The centaurs? They came?"

Ron grinned. "Yeah, I reckon you were gone by then. They came! You had just disappeared with You-Know-Who when this loud crashing sound comes out of the forest. Grawp and Minno came storming in followed by the herd of centaurs. Grawp sort of lets loose with this roar and starts tearing into the trolls still beating on Hagrid. Minno helped him out. Let me tell ya, two giants can do a lot of damage to trolls when they work together!"

"Hagrid's okay, though, yeah?"

"Oh, Hagrid's just fine. Well, it took him a bit. Looked a lot like he did last year when he first brought Grawp, ya know? Still does look that way yet, actually."

Hermione nodded at Ron. "Like he said, the centaurs came and mainly battled the giant spiders. Then, afterwards, they brought Firenze away. Dumbledore said they would be better able to care for his injuries than we could."

Remus stepped forward. "Professor Dumbledore told us last night that he met with them earlier in the day. Eldroi, their leader, apologized for Bane's actions against the small child. He said those actions started an interrogation of Bane's activities in the past year or so. Bane admitted to meeting with Death Eaters. For the promise of becoming the new clan leader, Bane promised to keep the centaurs antagonistic towards Dumbledore and all other wizards."

Ginny was curious. "So what will happen to Bane?"

Remus' face became guarded. "Dumbledore said the centaurs passed their own judgment on him."

Ron and Ginny accepted that at face value. Harry, on the other hand, glanced at Hermione and knew, from the look on her face, she was thinking the same as he. Bane would be considered a traitor to the herd. When Firenze was considered a traitor, they had tried to kill him. He imagined Bane was a victim to the others' hooves by now. Harry shrugged it off. It was their culture, their punishment. At least this time it was truly deserved.

Harry started asking about other students he knew had fought. When he got to Neville, Ron gave a snort. Hermione gave Ron a dirty look and Ginny frowned at him.

"What? What's happened to Neville?" Harry's heart started beating a little faster in worry. Neville had been one of the hardest working students in the DA. Harry knew he could produce a Patronus, but it was still hard for him and Neville had decided to join a group to fight Death Eaters directly.

Ron gave another snort. "Well, you remember how V…Voldemort told Bellatrix LeStrange to kill Snape? Neville's group just happened to be the closest at hand and they jumped in to defend him. Neville, Luna, Hannah and Ernie. Can you imagine how he must feel knowing that that lot saved him? His worst nightmare of a potions student, Loony Lovegood and two Hufflepuffs? I laugh every time I picture it! It's classic!"

Harry cut to the chase. "Neville went up against Bellatrix? What happened?"

Hermione took over. "Luckily, the Death Eater's never seemed to take us seriously. They always underestimated the students. LeStrange told the other Death Eater's to stay out of it and said she wanted the pleasure for herself. She did manage to hit Neville and Hannah with Crucio, but only for a few seconds. The others were always able to make her break it off by getting past her guard each time. Their fighting took them over near the trolls and Grawp and Minno. Bellatrix was about to cast another crucio when Neville hit her with a blasting curse on her arm. Her curse hit Minno, who'd been spinning in circles with a troll to give him a toss towards the lake. Minno dropped the troll and sat…sat…."

Ginny finished. "It really was awful to see, but you have to admit, in theory, it's rather funny, too. She hits Minno with a misdirected curse who ends up sitting on her. Squashed her flat. No more Bellatrix LeStrange."

It took Harry a moment to process that. "That happened right in front of them? How are they coping with it?"

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment. "There really wasn't time at the moment to react. Once the other Death Eaters saw what happened, they started attacking. The attacks weren't much, though. Wit h both Voldemort and Bellatrix LeStrange gone, the others seemed to lose most of their enthusiasm. It wasn't much longer before they started giving up. I think Ernie and Hannah are having a harder time dealing with it than Neville or Luna. Neville actually seems pretty calm about it. And Luna…well, how could you tell?"

"They've had mind healers coming in to Hogwarts to talk to anyone who felt they needed to talk." Ginny was pulling at a bit of Harry's covers as she spoke. "I talked to one myself, actually. I think it helped some."

Harry put his hand over one of hers and gave it a squeeze.

Ron gave another snort of laughter. "I just wish I could be the fly on the wall the next time Snape meets up with Neville!"

Fred and George Weasley stopped by for a visit another morning. Both seemed rather nervous about something. Harry smiled at them, trying to put them at ease.

"I'm glad you stopped by. I wanted to thank you for all you did at the battle. It was great! What was that Peeves was using that downed all those Death Eaters?"

The twins brightened for a moment. Fred started, "Our newest invention…"

"Courtesy of you, actually…"

"Couldn't have done it without you, true enough."

Harry laughed, but admitted he was confused. "What?"

"Bedtime Blowdarts!"

"We tried some things out with that venom you gave us…"

"Soaked some darts in just a bit…"

"Works like a dream, so to speak…"

"One hit knocks someone into la-la land for a good twenty minutes or so!"

"They wake totally refreshed!"

Fred looked a little confused. "Not exactly sure why, but it does work."

"Great for the quick cat-nap needed on demand!"

"Pretty safe, too. Hardly enough venom used to kill a gnome."

"We were able to use quite a few of our new inventions actually."

"Yeah, George and I used quite a few Quicksilver Quicksands. They were brill!"

"Better than I thought it would be."

Harry butted in again. "What did they do? I wasn't able to see much of what you guys were doing."

Fred's face lit up again. "You can load them to the end of your wand and launch them where you want."

"We shot them behind Death Eaters, of course."

"It forms a hole behind them that they can't see. Kind of like a trick step on the staircases."

"One step and slurp! Caught to the waist in quicksand!"

"They still had their wand, but without being able to move, usually got stunned rather quickly."

Harry started laughing, wishing he could have seen it in action. Though, it wouldn't surprise him if they started showing up in school as prank items. The twins were laughing, too until George suddenly seemed to remember something.

"Er…We have something to tell you, Harry."

Fred sobered quickly, too. "We're awfully sorry and we've brought it in to get fixed…"

"They say it will be just like new…almost…"

Harry looked at the twins in concern. "What?"

The twins looked at each other again and together said, "Your broom."

Harry's brain froze in shock. His Firebolt? His gift from Sirius?

"What happened to it?"

The twins shared another look before George started. "I was flying it and was dodging a hex…"

"He didn't see one coming from the other way, and crashed."

Harry looked sharply at George. Now that he was looking, he saw a hint of a bandage under George's robe sleeve. "Are you okay?"

George lifted his wrist and shrugged. "Yeah, I'll be fine. But your Firebolt…"

"Better my Firebolt than you. But, um…what is wrong with it exactly?" Visions of Harry's destroyed Nimbus 2000 was flying through his head.

"There was a crack in the handle. It didn't break totally, though. Quality Quidditch says they could send it to get fixed and it should fly almost as fast…"

Harry gave a short laugh in relief. He would still have it and it would still fly. "Good thing Quidditch season is done then, eh?"

Fred and George laughed in relief. "Yeah, good thing."

Finally the time came when Harry could leave. Professor Dumbledore entered the room just as Harry finished putting on his regular robes. The St. Mungo's house elves mended and cleaned them as best they could, but Harry knew he'd be dumping them as soon as he got back to Hogwarts.

Professor Dumbledore smiled at him as he entered the room. "Are you ready to go, Harry?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good, good." The elderly man paused as if trying to figure how he wanted to say his next words. "You know, Harry, floo travel has been deemed a little too rough for your condition yet what with your shoulder blade and other modes take too long. I have a portkey that will take us straight to my office." At Harry's look, the Headmaster continued. "Now port-key travel really is very safe…"

Harry interrupted. "I know, Professor. I know. Let's just get it over with."

The Headmaster looked closely at him then pulled out an old potions vial. Harry placed a finger on it and waited tensely.

The Headmaster tapped it with his wand, "Three…two…O-" Harry pulled his finger back at the last minute, changed to Flame. He just couldn't handle a port-key yet. He flashed to the Headmaster's office.

He got there just a split second before Dumbledore and transformed back. The Headmaster looked startled for a moment until his eyes landed on Harry. Harry gave a slight shrug and a sheepish look. "Better safe than sorry?"

Professor Dumbledore started to chuckle. "I had forgotten that mode was probably available again after those extra days in the Hospital. Now we should check in with Madam Pomfrey. I have arranged it that you will spend some time tomorrow with Hagrid. He believes that after a few hours, your wing should be fine. Unfortunately, you will need to spend that time as Shadow. Will these arrangements suit you?" Harry nodded.

As Harry entered the Hospital Wing he noticed the young Slytherin, Marco, was still there. He was sitting up, though, and seemed quite aware if moving a little stiffly. Seeing him brought the other patient to mind. Harry looked around but no other beds were in use.

Harry settled into a bed and Madam Pomfrey came out of her office. "Mr. Potter, glad to see you back at Hogwarts again."

"Madam Pomfrey, what happened to Draco?"

"His recovery was far enough along to be transferred to St. Mungo's. The Headmaster brought him when he came to get you."

For some reason Harry felt surprised. It must have showed on his face because Madam Pomfrey continued. "He had been expelled for what he did to Mr. Gunn, you know. Much less his second attack to get his wand from him last week."

At Harry's concerned look over to the Slytherin, Madam Pomfrey tried to calm him. "In wrestling for the wand, he managed a stunner. Mr. Gunn will be fine."

"Good. I'm glad for that. I just can't imagine actually be expelled and not being able to use magic for the rest of my life." That idea was frightening to Harry.

Madam Pomfrey just snorted, however. "I wouldn't concern yourself too much about Mr. Malfoy. He'll land on his feet, mark my words. As head of his family he can hire any private tutors he wants and I have no doubt he'll find some connections to get another wand. All the expulsion will possibly do is stop him from gaining as much public influence as his father did over at the Ministry."

Harry supposed she was right. Someone in Dung's line of work would be more than willing to 'help out' in obtaining a new wand.

That evening, Harry had a steady stream of visitors. Pretty much everyone who had fought passed through at some point. Some staying to chat, others just to touch base. Those in fifth or seventh year never stayed long. Tests had started after all. Either way, it was pretty late before the nurse chased the last of them out.

Early the next morning, Madam Pomfrey released Harry to Hagrid's care with a stern admonishment to see her for a final check up afterwards. Hagrid did truly look awful. Harry could bet that dragon meat had been liberally applied to the half-giant face again. His face was several different colors from the fading bruises and he had just a hint of a limp yet. Hagrid just brushed off Harry's concerns, though.

"Wha' abou' you, though. I hear yer back is still troublin' you summat fierce."

It was true. His shoulder blade didn't seem to be getting any better. If anything it seemed to be getting worse. "I reckon I won't be sad to get it fixed."

"Well, why don' we get you all comfortable in me hut and set ter work then." Hagrid led him into the hut and waited for Harry to transform. Fang greeted Harry enthusiastically as he entered.

Harry pet the enormous dog as he looked around the room. Hagrid had bandages and some salve in a large bucket set out on the wooden table. Harry braced himself for the increase of pain he knew he would have and transformed.

Fang yelped and hid under Hagrid's bed. The pain seemed worse than before in his wing. Harry lay on the floor panting. Hagrid crouched near him and started fussing with his injured wing.

"Got yerself a bit of an infection init now. Never shoulda waited so long ifin yer ask me. This salve should do the trick, though." Hagrid stuck his hand in the bucket and liberally coated Harry's wound. After the first initial touch, everything seemed to numb and the pain receded. Harry gave a huff of relief.

With the lack of violence or growls, Fang started to creep out from under the bed, sniffing the air tentatively. Harry noticed Fangs actions and gave his tail a slight thump. That seemed to settle it for Fang and he bound forward, sniffing and licking Harry's face.

Hagrid held out an arm to try to keep the excitable dog back from his patient. "Back Fang. Get back yeh dozy dog! Yeh'll have ter wait 'til I'm finished bandagin' him up b'fore yeh can play."

Harry sent a quiet "please" towards the large dog and got a flood of words back. Fang went back to his basket to wait but kept up a stream of barking and whiffling noises telling Harry more than he wanted to know about what there was to do and see around Hagrid's Hut. Harry idly wondered if this was what Pigwidgeon would sound like.

Finally Hagrid stood back up. "Tha' should do yeh. Another five hours or so an' yeh should be good as new. Now, d'yeh want to stay in the cabin or do yeh reckon yeh feel up to a visit with Grawp? Minno twisted her ankle in the fight las' week. I've had ter make summat t'help with the pain. Got the next dose righ' here." He patted a large barrel sitting near the fireplace.

Harry had to focus to hear what Hagrid was saying. Fang was still going a mile a minute in his chatter. Harry's wing was numb but he felt fine. He thought he'd rather go with Hagrid than be either alone or trapped with Fang for company. He got to his feet and looked at the door.

Hagrid seemed about to burst with pleasure. Fang also got up from his basket and eagerly started wagging his tail in anticipation of leaving the hut. Once again he eagerly came near Harry to lick his face. Harry had never appreciated before how much he appreciated his robes. That extra barrier protected his skin from Fang. Now when Fang drooled he couldn't just wipe it off. It stayed on his skin until it dried. Harry knew when this was over, he'd be a long time in the shower just to try to get the drooled on feeling washed away. Harry supposed he could just growl at him to make him back off, but he really did like the overgrown puppy and didn't want to hurt his feelings. Now that he thought about it, Harry supposed he felt the same as with Hagrid. Hagrid's rock cakes were truly awful, but Harry would never criticize them to his face.

Hagrid lifted the barrel and led them outside. His step seemed extra jaunty as the two black creatures walked at his side. Fang was larger than Harry and dashed to and fro wanting to show him all the wonders of his world (the best places to relieve yourself, the best places to dig, the hole where some rabbits burrowed).

Harry was quite happy to find that as Shadow he had no trouble keeping up with Hagrid's long strides. He didn't know if it was because Hagrid may be walking a bit slower with his limp or if it was his ease of movement in this form. He could easily jump over obstacles and move through any brush. As they moved deeper into the forest, Hagrid paused and looked rather sadly in the direction of the Acromantula den.

"Never would've 'appened if Aragog 'adn't died a month back. The rest o' his lot have bin moved ter the Black Forest. Not that there were many o' them left. Them centaurs are ruddy good shots." Hagrid shook his large head sadly. "Aragog would turn in his grave knowin' what his kin did."

Harry felt Hagrid was wrong there. Aragog didn't have any problems with his 'kin' eating Harry and Ron years back. He doubted he would have had problems with his children eating those captured. But maybe Aragog wouldn't have let them join the Death Eater's against Hagrid in the first place…. He'd never know.

Hagrid continued their walk telling Harry more of the battle from what he knew or had seen. Blaises' group had fought hard and had helped keep Professor Flitwick alive until one of the house elves had got him to safety. They had kept fighting the trolls Death Eater's even after Grawp and Minno showed up.

They arrived at Grawp and Minno's cave. Hagrid set his barrel down and set to work on Minno's ankle. Everything seemed a little surreal to Harry. They even had tea before they left.

Once again, on their way back, they were stopped by a group of centaurs. No arrows were pointed at them this time as they requested Hagrid…and his companions… to accompany them back to their village. Shadow garnered a few strange looks, but no hostility.

Once in the village, they were approached by Eldroi. Harry was happy to see Firenze was behind him, bandaged, but walking. He wagged his tail. Fang took that as encouragement and started to leap forward, but Harry issued a short bark which settled Fang back down and caused him to sit still. Hagrid even looked surprised as he had been preparing to try to hold Fang back from the centaurs.

Eldroi looked at him with bemusement. "Thank you, Mr. Potter." Harry was startled he knew his name. Eldroi turned to Hagrid. "This is correct? We have been hearing tales of what happened before we arrived at the battle and have heard Mr. Potter has returned to the school."

Hagrid nodded. "Tha' he is. He's in this form 'cause his wing was wounded. It needs to be exposed ter be fixed properly."

Eldroi nodded. "We just wanted an opportunity to apologize. Our herd allowed ourselves to be swayed by fear and misinterpretations of the stars to expand that fear. We listened to evil council. We forgot our warrior heritage. We thank you for bringing it back to us. The Sirius constellation has shown there is a change in eras. Venus is bright again. You shall always be welcomed in our herd." With that, Eldroi stepped back and, with the others in the herd, gave a nod of respect to Harry.

Harry bowed his dark head in acknowledgment. He actually was happy he was in the form he was. Shadow wouldn't be expected to respond. He didn't know what he would say if he could say anything.

Hagrid cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, I reckon we should get back ter the castle.

"Of course. Until we see you again." A group of centaurs walked them to the edge of the village.

Hagrid, once again, limped a little faster on the return route to the school. "The ruddiest things seem to 'appen when yer with me in the fores', Harry."

Harry spent the rest of the time recuperating following Hagrid and Fang around the paddock. Eventually he could turn back to himself and return to the school. Madam Pomfrey kept him in the hospital wing until dinner time.

At dinner that evening, the atmosphere was like a party. There were no assigned seating at any particular house table. Students mixed freely between the tables. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny sat at the Slytherin table with Blaise and Audra. A cheer went up when Cho walked in, helped by Michael. She had scarring on her face yet from the burns, but treatments would now be on an outpatient basis. Much of it could be healed yet, but not all. Some of the scars would last her lifetime. Michael stayed by her side and treated her as spun glass. She smiled gratefully at him in return. Harry was glad to see Michael didn't care that Cho's outward beauty had diminished somewhat. Cho also didn't try to hide her scars. She had changed a lot over this year. Ginny heard she was actually proud of what her scars told about what she did.

Blaise told Harry that it had seemed like a party ever since the battle. Classes were still being taught, but no homework had been given out. Audra and Ginny commiserated on the difficulties of taking OWLs and NEWTs in such an atmosphere, but even so, each girl had a large smile on her face. Several classrooms had been set aside for students who needed quieter areas for studying. Either way, the last of the tests would be done after the weekend on Monday, then they could join wholeheartedly in the festivities.

Professor McGonagall tapped her goblet and Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet. "I have an announcement." The hall quieted and all attention focused on the aged Headmaster. "Our esteemed Minister of Magic, Amelia Bones, has declared that on Wednesday you all are invited to an awards banquet to be held here at Hogwarts." Instantly, quiet chatter raced across the hall. Dumbledore held up a hand.

"If you please…. This is a solemn occasion and formal dress robes are requested to be worn. There will be many visitors and dignitaries on our premises for the occasion as well as reporters. Please be courteous to our guests. The assembly will begin at two in the afternoon. Thank you."

Excitement ran through the school. Talk of the banquet was rampant though the halls. Monday was the last of the exams for the fifth and seventh years and classes were over for the general student population. There was more laughter and joy than Harry had seen since his first year. He hadn't realized how the atmosphere had affected the students until it was gone.

Wednesday dawned and around noon, students (at least the females) started to get ready for the presentation banquet. About a half hour before the banquet was to start, the male students decided to get ready as well. Harry wore robes from his manor. The robes were a dark red with gold trim. The Potter crest was on the lapel.

He came down the stairs to wait for Ginny and the others. He was talking with Ron and Dean about what they thought the banquet would be like when the girls entered. Ginny looked beautiful. Her robes were a slate blue with heavy lace around the neck and sleeves. The Weasleys had gone all out and bought new robes for Ron, Ginny and themselves. Ron had told him the whole family would be attending tonight. Harry was looking forward to seeing them all. He approached Ginny and gave her a kiss. Ron was leading Hermione towards the portrait hole and Harry and Ginny followed. Dean was still waiting for Parvati.

The Great Hall seemed larger than ever. The house tables were gone, replaced by many circular tables. Banners and ribbons filled the ceiling and there were little fireworks that would occasionally burst into glorious color around them. It looked very festive. They were stopped at the doors and asked their names. When given, they were escorted to one of the front tables. Harry would rather have sat somewhere near the back, but his friends didn't seem surprised.

The Great Hall was filling rapidly. Also seated at their table were Mr. and Mrs. Granger, Remus, Tonks and all of the Weasley family. Mrs. Weasley fussed over all of them. Mr. Weasley pumped Harry's hand up and down. Fred and George slapped his back. Percy formally shook his hand. His date, Justina, gave Harry a kiss on the cheek as did Fleur, Bill's date and Tonks, Remus' date. Harry gave Remus a quirked eyebrow. Remus blushed but smiled. Remus, Bill and Charlie settled for a one-armed hug with Bill and Charlie adding a stern look to take care of their little sister. Harry enjoyed it all.

Looking around Harry could see things were about to start. There seemed to be many parents here as well as others Harry didn't know. He saw Michelle Avery sitting with her mother and little sister. She was pointing at him and talking very animatedly. He gave her a smile and a wave. Her mother looked to be in shock. Harry figured his secret was out. Ah, well, it shouldn't hurt anything now.

Finally Minister Bones stood on a raised dais. Her iron-grey hair was immaculately styled and her robes were very proper. She looked the perfect picture of what a Minister should be. She also looked very pleased. She cleared her throat to garner attention.

"Shall we begin? We are here this afternoon to honor those who have brought peace back to our world." She began a pretty speech on how the special efforts put forth deserved recognition. Harry listened with half an ear. He looked around the Hall. People were leaning forward in their seats and clapping in appropriate spots. Everyone seemed happy.

The Minister started calling people up for Honorable Mention awards. Ginny was called up to receive one as well as almost every student who had fought. Even some teachers had.

Once everyone was settled again, the Minister spoke up. "I also have the privilege to present the Order of Merlin – Fourth Class to Mr. Fred Weasley and Mr. George Weasley. Their inventions contributed greatly to the success of the battle."

Fred and George were bright Weasley red as they each rose to accept their medals. Loud catcalls issued from around the Great Hall. Fred and George were well liked by the students and their pranks were (mostly) fondly remembered. Mrs. Weasley had tears streaming down her face. Her smile wide as she dabbed a handkerchief to her nose.

"I also would like to present an Order of Merlin – Third Class to Mr. Ronald Weasley, Miss Hermione Granger and Miss Michelle Avery for their efforts in garnering more support for the battle, efforts well above and beyond anything expected of them. Also Professors Filius Flitwick and Rubeus Hagrid in their efforts against the trolls."

Harry clapped wildly for his friends. Hagrid's eyes were streaming almost as bad as Mrs. Weasley's. He loudly blew his nose before going up to accept his medal.

"An Order of Merlin – Second Class is to be presented to Professor Severus Snape. His contributions in this war could never be underestimated. A second Order of Merlin – Second Class goes to Professor Albus Dumbledore. His lead in the battle against Lord Voldemort," Harry was impressed that she had said the name. She seemed to swallow hard as the expected gasps traveled the room before she continued, "will never be forgotten. You have our gratitude, Albus.

"Additional Orders of Merlin – Second Class go to Miss Cho Chang and Mr. Michael Corner. Their untiring efforts to rid the school of the Dementors saved many people from getting Kissed. We shall not forget your bravery and determination in the face of opposition."

The clapping rose again as the two students and their Headmaster received their award. Harry's hands were getting sore from clapping so hard. Cho was openly crying as she stumbled back to her table where her mother and brother sat. They were crying as well.

"Finally, I would like to award the Order of Merlin – First Class to Harry Potter. Without his efforts and examples in leadership, our world would be a different place today." Harry blinked. His friends were shoving him from his seat and pushing him towards the stage. He walked in a daze. "Mr. Potter, there are no words to express the gratitude we, the wizarding world have for you." The Minister lifted a medal and placed it over his head. The room became deafening in the thundering applause. Flashbulbs exploded from every direction. "Would you say some words, Mr. Potter?"

A speech. Why did they want him to make a speech? Harry knew he should have expected something like this, but he hadn't. Well, if they wanted him to say something, he had a few more people to acknowledge. He stepped forward.

"Thank you. I appreciate the honor you are giving me with this award and the honor you've given the others before me with their awards, but I feel it is incomplete. I did my part, just the same as the others did theirs. But there are so many more that if they hadn't gotten themselves involved, things would have turned out differently, no matter our efforts. The ghosts and Peeves asked to help defend their home. Defend they did. Their distractions and information gathering helped immeasurably in keeping the attackers off balance. The werewolves who defended outside the gates. Several of them died protecting the school. Grawp and Minno, two giants, helped defeat trolls and Death Eater's at risk to themselves. Firenze, a centaur, helped bridge the gap in understanding between wizards and centaurs by teaching and reaching out to his herd. The centaur clan in the forest, with this new understanding, ably defended the school against the Acromantula that attacked. Dobby, a house elf, bravely asked other house elves to help in defending the castle or protecting the injured and getting them to aid at great risk to themselves. Gilly, another house elf, came up with a way to help protect the students remaining inside the castle. Then there's Kruge. You probably don't know much about him. He's a goblin. He sacrificed his life by facing Voldemort himself." Harry had to pause to let people get over him saying the name. "Kruge has to be one of the bravest beings I have ever seen. He is the reason there are so few Death Eater's on the loose today. His sacrifice is what brought such swift safety to the wizarding world."

The Great Hall was silent. Harry got the impression he'd just stunned everybody without even uttering stupefy. Harry just gave a small shrug and continued. "I just ask that when you think of what happened remember that it wasn't just wizards fighting. There were many intelligent beings who, even though not always treated well by wizards, consciously made the decision to fight for what was right. They did not take the easy choice and leave us on our own, but stood by our side. Without them, we wouldn't have won."

Harry stepped back and off the stage. It wasn't until he was almost to his seat the clapping started again. It started off slow, but grew to a thunderous ovation. Hermione and Ginny were smiling at him proudly as he reached their side.

The next day was a giant party. Harry had asked Professor Dumbledore if he could provide the food and refreshments as a thank you to all who helped fight. The Great Hall was open to any and all. Long tables were set up with an assortment of food all day long. Butterbeer, pumpkin juice and other drinks (even muggle) were supplied and house elves happily ran back and forth making sure everything was full. Harry just asked that students say thank you to a house elf when they saw one. For the house elves, nothing could have been better.

At mid-morning he was surprised to see a small contingent of goblins walk into the Great Hall. Among them were Ragnok and Griphook. He excused himself from Ernie and Hannah and walked over to greet them. He saw Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape across the hall also approaching.

"Hello," Harry smiled at the goblins.

Ragnok nodded his head in return. "Mr. Potter."

"Would you care for anything to eat?" The two professors had now joined them. Professor Dumbledore seemed quite curious at their presence, Professor Snape seemed rather reluctant to join. Several of the goblins didn't seem too pleased to see him either.

"Thank you, but no."

Professor Dumbledore broke in. "Would you care for a more private place to chat?" At their agreement, he led them to the small antechamber off the Great Hall. Professor Snape stayed near the door.

Ragnok cleared his throat. "Mr. Potter, we heard your speech last night." At Harry's surprised look, Ragnok continued. "It was broadcast over the Wizarding Wireless Network. We were curious. How did you know Kruge? As far as I knew, you had only seen him once and he never spoke in your presence."

Harry's eyes held sadness as he remembered the vision. "I hadn't met him beyond that one time." At the look from the goblins, Harry continued gesturing to his scar. "I had a connection to Voldemort. I could sometimes see visions of things that happened in his presence. I saw Kruge's response to his offer." Harry met the eyes of the head goblin directly. "I've never seen such dignity and bravery before. At the time I didn't understand why he seemed…triumphant…about what was happening. Later I asked Professor Dumbledore and he explained some of his history."

Ragnok nodded his head. "He was a friend of mine. He will be greatly missed. He rarely spoke since his family died and so we could not ignore his words when he offered this plan upon Lord Voldemort's request that we join him." The last words were spat out as if they caused a bad taste in the goblins mouth.

There was a moment of silence while each remembered the fallen goblin. Finally one of the goblins cleared his throat and said something quietly in another language. Ragnok shook off his momentary melancholia.

"Mr. Potter, we are here for more than just our curiosity. Goblins are a race who believe in vendetta. Kruge's family is no more. Before he was killed he asked that whoever would obtain revenge on his family's deaths would be the one to inherit his holdings. You, Mr. Potter, are the instrument of the revenge. You are to be the inheritor of his holdings."

"But…" Harry didn't know what to say. How could he inherit from a goblin he didn't know?

Ragnok seemed to understand. "It has never before happened that a wizard inherited anything from a goblin. Never has ownership of any mine or smelting plant been passed out of goblin control. Many had reservations on this happening…until last night. Last night you proved that you are different. Your respect for Kruge as well as other goblins and races have overcome any lasting resistance."

"But…" Harry still didn't know what to say. A wheezing chuckle snapped him out of his shock. Griphook was amused by him again. "Mr. Potter, as your financial advisor, I would recommend you close your mouth and finish listening to what you need to do to receive your inheritance."

Harry's jaw snapped shut with a click. More snickers could be heard and several goblins seemed to be fighting smiles.

"Mr. Potter, to claim the inheritance left for you, all you need to do is take the mark of Kruge's clan. The symbol will mark you as an equal of the goblins." Harry looked to his headmaster for guidance. He trusted the goblins but he didn't know much about their culture. His headmaster gave a nod.

"I don't know much about your culture or society. What all will this bind me to?"

Ragnok gave a small smile. "It binds you to nothing. Your life will continue to be your own. The mark will only be a sign of the acceptance of the inheritance and will give you some protections should you near a goblin settlement. We are more spread out than you would think. Most Death Eater's quickly learned to avoid the bank, but they failed to know where our mines or other dwellings are. Though some will be learning, over and over again." Ragnok gave a small smirk towards Snape. Snape's face was expressionless.

Harry finally realized why Snape seemed so uncomfortable near the goblins. He carried the Dark Mark. Though the power of the mark had faded, the mark itself was still there as a faint outline of a scar.

Before he lost his courage, Harry began. "Professor Snape actively worked against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Publicly during the last battle. He was almost the one to obtain the revenge by killing Tom Riddle. Professor Dumbledore said you can sometimes change a mark for marriage. Do you think you could change or remove his mark so he won't get the same punishment as the others?"

Harry could sense Professor Snape straightening up near the door. Harry knew he'd probably never be forgiven for this, but it would be worth a try. Ragnok looked from one to the other. He then had a brief conversation with those around him. Professor Dumbledore was smiling at Harry. His eyes bright behind his half moon glasses.

Ragnok then gave a nod to the other goblins and turned back to Harry. "You are certain?" Harry nodded, not looking at his professor. Ragnok turned to Snape. "You would be willing to take Veritaserum in front of us?"

Professor Snape's dark eyes glittered. "Yes."

Ragnok spoke to one of his entourage briefly and he quickly left the room. He gave a nod to Snape. "We'll use some from our own stores. In the meantime…Mr. Potter?"

Ragnok motioned for Harry to kneel before him. With just a touch high on his shoulder and a slight tingle, it was done. Harry looked to see the faint outline of a bird claw on his shoulder. It was small and wasn't that bad.

"You are now the holder of all the Kruge line of possessions. Griphook?" The goblin stepped up to his leader. "Will you explain to Mr. Potter what he now possesses?"

Harry's head was soon spinning with the mention of mines and partnerships as well as one of the finest silver collections in existence. Eventually his head started to ache. "Griphook, I'll trust you to stand for me in whatever needs deciding. I put you in charge of all of this inheritance. Hire whoever you feel should be hired to help manage everything. You know much better than I what problems might come up. I'd like to meet sometime this summer to go over everything better, but until then, you have total control." Even he could see the approval in the other goblins eyes. He thought it was a good move to put a goblin in charge of the goblin inheritance. Despite what was said about his being accepted as the recipient, he was sure not every goblin was happy about it. The less he tried to take control he thought, the better. He'd let them have some time to get used to the idea and he would take some time to read up on the goblins. Then he would take his lead from Griphook's suggestions.

In a low voice, Ragnok asked, "What about the Fund?" His voice wasn't low enough as Dumbledore and Snape's heads whipped up.

Harry shifted uncomfortably. "Keep it open until there's been a year with no activity. Then anything left can roll back under Griphook's control."

At that moment the goblin that had left, returned. Harry stood up. "If my part is done, I believe I'll return to the party. If you need anything, just let me know." Harry didn't want to be there when they questioned Snape. Well, part of him did, but more of him didn't.

Harry rejoined his friends. They were wide eyed as he explained what the goblins wanted with him. After some time, Professor Dumbledore joined them.

"That was a very kind thing you did, Harry."

His friends looked at him in confusion. Harry looked back at his Headmaster. "Did it work?"

"Yes. His mark is removed. Professor Snape has decided to return to his chambers. He never did deal well with excess emotions. He had never believed he would be rid of it." The old wizards eyes lit up. "By the way, Harry, what have you planned for this summer?"

Harry started to fidget. "I've been invited to spend time at the Weasleys. I'd like to spend my time between there and my house. I thought we could keep the trunks as a sort of doorway between the two and go back and forth. I've sort've thought Neville might be willing to stop by and look at my grounds, too, and get them in some kind of order."

The old wizard nodded. "If you would like, I could look into getting the floo connection hooked up. I would like to take another look at your wards, but I believe they would keep any undesirables away from your property and keep your privacy intact."

Harry took in a breath of relief. He was going to get to stay at the Weasley's.

The Headmaster suddenly looked very serious. "I ask you just one thing." Harry returned his full attention to his Headmaster. "If you need to go out in public, could you make sure you have at least one member of the Order with you? Just until you are of age and can freely use your wand? I'm sure if the Weasleys are unavailable, Remus would take the time. He will be having much more free time on his hands now."

Harry quickly agreed. As much as he didn't like a guard, it was only for a little over a month and he didn't think he'd have too many places he'd need to go in that time.

He made arrangements that he would go home with the Weasleys from the Hogwarts Express and meet with Dumbledore the next day to go over the wards. With a smile the Headmaster left.

That night, Harry decided he had it all. Neither could live while the other survived. This was Harry's time to live. He had Remus, Ron and Hermione, Ginny, the rest of the Weasleys and his house elves. He had family. He gave a short laugh as he thought he could almost add Griphook and Ragnok to that group. He had the best of friends and family. What more could anyone ask?