Chapter 30:

End of Term

Voldemort was dead, and now all that Harry wanted to do was get engaged to Ginny the first moment he saw her, but he ought to have known that in his world, nothing was so simple as all that. Harry noted with some embarrassment that he didn't technically have a ring for her, but this would turn out to be the least of his problems. He had gathered from passing conversations throughout the years that the engagement ring was not quite as big of a deal in the Wizarding world as it was in the muggle one. Usually, the guy in the relationship did get the woman an engagement ring, but unlike with muggles, the wizard often decided that it would be more simple to get engaged first and let the witch pick out the ring once she had already agreed to accept it, as she would probably know quite a bit more than the wizard about the topic of jewelry.

Besides, it was worth whatever amount of breaking with tradition Harry would have to do to accomplish his goal of asking Ginny to marry him almost immediately after he had defeated Voldemort. In his mind, it would be perfect timing, even though he knew they would probably not have the ceremony until a bit over a year later, once Ginny had properly finished with school. Still, Harry knew that, of all witches, Ginny would be one of the most unconcerned with whether or not she had already gotten a ring.

Thoughts of Ginny were partially obscured, if only for just a moment, by the celebration that erupted outside Voldemort's lair once the snake's head had opened again to allow them to see Harry, who was levitating the corpse of Voldemort behind him.

The first reactions of each of them were somewhat fun to watch.

Lupin grinned. Tonks smiled widely as if she'd known all along that this would happen. Shacklebolt nodded in a way that suggested that this all made a whole lot of sense to him, as well. McGonagall looked primarily as if she was feeling exceptionally relieved. Hermione let out a small gasp, almost as if she'd been holding her breath for the whole time Harry had been in the cave. Ron, however, gave out a shout as if he were a spectator at a Quidditch match.

"All right Harry!" he shouted. "You did it! You killed-" there was a moment of hesitation here but then Ron shouted, "Voldemort! You killed Voldemort!"

"Congratulations on saying the name," said Harry.

"Ah well," said Ron, "there's no point being scared of a dead man, is there?"

"I guess not," Harry said.

Hermione was the first one to ask the question that he imagined everyone must be wondering. "You decided to kill him with the sword, then?" The fact that he had been killed by the sword instead of a wand was quite obvious due to the fact that there was so much blood staining Voldemort's cloak. Wands, of course, didn't produce bloodshed, except when certain specific curses were used.

"Actually, no" said Harry. "He did it himself. He put me under the Imperius Curse."

McGonagall nodded. "I rather expected he might not allow himself to be captured. And he was still able to use the Imperius curse, because hate isn't necessary to produce that one, and he wasn't doing it to harm you."

Hermione and Ron still looked a bit concerned that Harry had been under the control, however briefly, of the now-dead dark lord. "Why didn't you counter the curse?" asked Ron.

"I was too exhausted, after using the love-spell," answered Harry.

"Wow, it's a good thing that you didn't have to fight anyone else in there with him, then," said Hermione.

"Yes, yes it is," admitted Harry, who, frankly, still felt quite tired.

"I can't believe the war's finally over!" said Ron.

Harry knew that this might be a bit of an oversimplification. There were still Death-eaters, after all. Although they would probably dissipate almost entirely rather quickly, especially since this time there was a body which could prove that Voldemort really was dead.

"I guess this means the curse of the Defense Against the Dark Arts professors is over now, too," said Shacklebolt. "It looks like I'll actually be able to come back next year."

"You reckon we should apparate back to Hogwarts, then?" asked Harry. The others seemed like they were ready to start their celebration right there, at the entrance to Voldemort's lair. But he personally would rather celebrate somewhere closer to Ginny.

"Yes, we might as well," agreed McGonagall.

McGonagall took over the task of levitating the corpse of Voldemort behind them. Harry briefly wondered what would be done with the body. Would it be set in public display to prove to the wizarding world that the enemy of decency was finally dead? Or would it be given a proper burial, leaving the rest of the Wizarding population to go on faith?

However, Harry decided that, for once, he would be able to let some decisions regarding Voldemort be made without him.

Once they had apparated back to Hogsmeade, McGonagall said, "I'm going to take Voldemort to the Ministry so that Moody can decide what to do with him. The rest of you, go back up to the castle. I won't tell you not to tell anyone what's happened, but... refrain from personally waking anyone up, if you can help it. There will be plenty of time for celebration in the morning.

The walk back up to the castle was quite a raucous one. Everyone seemed to erupt into relieved laughter at regular intervals. Harry wasn't quite sure what the rest of them were laughing about, but he knew why he was laughing. He kept realizing that he had finally fulfilled the prophecy, and he wasn't dead. And the fact that he kept being so amazed at the revelation that he was not dead struck him, for some reason, as quite hilarious.

"You know what's really kind of funny, Harry?" asked Tonks, when everyone had temporarily quieted down. "In two weeks, you're going to have to start taking your N.E.W.T.s so that you can become an auror. You just killed Voldemort, and you've still got to pass your NEWTs before the ministry can let you start Auror training."

"Hey, these two helped, too. And Ginny did, too," Harry pointed out.

"So modest," Ron pointed out. This, for some reason, seemed funny to everyone, too, more because of their excellent spirits than because of any actual humor content.

"Anyway, I don't think passing the NEWTs will be any problem now. I mean... We defeated Voldemort, we can pass a handful of tests," said Harry.

"We shouldn't get overconfident," said Hermione. And the fact that Hermione, the girl who would no doubt get the highest NEWT scores of the decade, was saying that actually was relatively funny, so they all laughed even harder than before (even Hermione, who couldn't fail to see the humor there, as hard as she might try).

When they got up to the castle, it became quickly apparent that waking people up would turn out to be a non-issue. The first thing that happened when they opened the door was that Nearly-Headless-Nick asked, "Where are you lot getting back from. Does this have something to do with You-Know-Who?"

Harry glanced at the others quickly, but then decided that there was really no reason to keep any of this secret. "Yes. He's dead," said Harry.

"Really?" asked Nearly-Headless-Nick, who's demeanor was at this point as close to happy as Harry had ever seen him.

Everyone in the group nodded. "We even saw the body," pointed out Tonks.

"How did it happen?" asked Nick.

"I put him under the Pathei Emou curse, then he put me under the Imperius curse, and made me use Gryffindor's sword to kill him," said Harry. Since his mission had been accomplished, there was now no reason for him to keep the whole plan secret anymore.

"Why would he do that?" asked Nick, who had apparently never heard of Pathei Emou before.

"The Pathei Emou spell meant that he couldn't do anything to hurt me... He knew it was either kill himself, or be captured. Apparently, he chose the former," said Harry.

"Oh, well, everyone must know about this," pointed out Nearly-Headless-Nick, and he quickly began floating in the direction of Gryffindor Tower.

"No, wait!" said Hermione, who apparently intended to keep McGonagall's orders of not waking anyone up.

"Don't worry about it, Hermione," advised Ron with a laugh. "She just told us not to wake anyone up. She said nothing about stopping ghosts from waking anyone up. Besides, don't you think everyone deserves to know?"

"I suppose," conceded Hermione.

"I'm going up to Gryffindor Tower," said Harry, who was still hoping that he might be able to catch Ginny, who was no doubt still waiting for them to return, before anyone else would be around. Maybe then they would be able to have a private conversation, in which he would be able to ask her to marry him. He supposed that he would technically be able to ask her in front of everyone else, but to him it just seemed more like a marriage proposal should take place in private.

But he was beginning to understand, as he was followed by Ron, Hermione, Tonks, Lupin, and Shacklebolt, that he would probably not get much of an opportunity to be alone with anybody for awhile.

Before they even got to their own common-room, he noticed Peeves, who had apparently encountered Nearly Headless Nick on his way back to the Gryffindor Common Room. He was singing a song that he had apparently just come up with, in honor of Voldemort's recent passing.

"Harry Potter killed the dark Lord,

Impaled him on Gryffindor's sword,

And I can see nothing wrong with it,

Since the Dark Lord was kind of a git!"

Harry smiled as he realized that, apparently, even Peeves could find no fault with what he had done. No doubt, he was off to wake up the students in the houses other than Gryffindor to tell them of the news, in terms as loud as possible.

When Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the others made it to the Common Room, it was obvious that Nearly Headless Nick had made it there several minutes beforehand. This was odd, because Harry hadn't really been aware that ghosts could move that much faster than a person's walking pace. About fifteen people had already made it down to the common room, apparently trying to figure out whether Nearly Headless Nick's news was accurate.

With all the people down there, most of them attempting to question Harry as soon as he came into the room, Harry actually had a bit of a hard time finding Ginny at first. When he did find her, he ran over and gave her a hug and a kiss, ignoring for a moment all the people who were asking him whether he had killed Voldemort and how he had done it.

Ron and Hermione simply told everyone that they had in fact seen Voldemort's dead body, but they apparently figured that Harry would be better equipped to tell everyone how exactly it had happened.

Harry, of course, was much more concerned with the prospect of how to get Ginny alone. He still thought that asking her to marry him in front of all these people would be a little less than appropriate. It'd be quite a lot of pressure on her, even though Harry was almost completely sure that she would say yes. But in the back of his mind, he wondered whether she would think it was stupid to get engaged now when they would not actually get married until after Ginny was done with her own last year of school. If that was the case, Harry didn't want her to say yes just because he was asking her in front of everyone else.

So, he was beginning to contemplate whether he might somehow be able to get out of the room without being seen. He was beginning to wish he had his invisibility cloak with him.

People kept asking Harry to tell them exactly what had happened, and Harry kept trying to delay it, by saying that he needed a minute to gather his thoughts. This was true, although his thoughts were not really directed toward telling the story.

At one point, someone in the common room, which was now nearly filled with what seemed like everyone who was still attending Gryffindor House this year, suggested that everyone should move down to the Great Hall, and find a way to get the people from the rest of the Houses down there as well.

Harry assured everyone that everyone from the other houses had probably already heard the news from Peeves. And he decided to go along with the suggestion that they move down to the Great Hall. After all, even though it was now well past curfew, McGonagall could do nothing about it if the whole school ended up there, and she would most likely not care about it, given the recent death of Voldemort. His motive for going down to the Great Hall was the thought that it might somehow be possible for him to slip away with Ginny from the rest of the House on the way down.

This turned out to be impossible, since, not surprisingly, under the circumstances, everyone was keeping a close eye on Harry.

Once they got down to the Great Hall, they found most people from the rest of the Houses, as well as a few of the Professors, there already.

The rest of the school came in soon enough, and when McGonagall got there, she simply smiled. Apparently, she had left Voldemort's body with Moody, and he would figure out what to do with it.

Meanwhile, people were not letting up on the idea that Harry ought to reveal exactly how Voldemort had been killed. Ginny seemed eager to know as well, and it was eventually her nudging that convinced him to get up and tell how it had happened.

After he was done, the rest of the students seemed rather amazed, but mostly just relieved about the fact that the Dark Lord had just been toppled. Of course, none were as thrilled as Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione.

It took almost two hours before the rest of the students started taking enough of their attention from Harry that he was able to sneak off with Ginny to the Room of Requirement to ask her to marry him.

When they walked in, there was a nice bouquet of flowers on a love-seat. Harry handed the flowers to Ginny and they sat down on the love-seat.

Harry found himself oddly nervous at the prospect of actually proposing. He was starting to feel less confident that this was really such a great moment to propose. After all, they had been dating for just over a year, with one short break during that time, and the fact that Voldemort was now dead, and Harry was now largely safe, took away from the urgency of the situation.

"So, why'd you bring me here?" asked Ginny eagerly.

Harry wondered tentatively whether the eagerness was due to Ginny knowing what Harry was planning to ask.

"Well," said Harry, "after defeating Voldemort tonight, I can only really think of one way that I want to start my new life as a man free from the dictates of prophecies and mortal struggles with the most dangerous Dark Lord in history."

"If you say 'a quidditch game' or 'a quick snogging session,' I will actually hex you," cautioned Ginny, who was unable to contain a grin. By now, Harry had a strong feeling that Ginny did, in fact, know exactly what he was about to ask.

"Ginny, will you marry me?" he asked simply.

Ginny's reaction was, in fact, almost the same as it had been when she had been put under the Pathei Emou curse. "Of course, Harry," she said, as soon as she regained the ability to speak, (she had, for a moment, been rendered speechless).

"Wonderful," said Harry, who was rather relieved that Ginny had not unexpectedly turned him down or suggested that they wait.

"So... When do you suggest we should do it?" asked Ginny, in a way that suggested she would be open to pretty much any option he suggested.

"Well... You should finish school first," said Harry. "There'd be no reason to get married and then have you go back to school for another year, so we might as well wait until a year from now."

"Well..." said Ginny uncertainly. "If we were to get married soon, we could still have the summer together before I went back to school. But, I suppose having that first would only make the separation during the school year harder. So, I guess you're right."

"Yeah," agreed Harry. "I suppose it's going to be rather frustrating during the school year. We'll have Hogsmeade weekends of course, and maybe you'll be able to sneak out every once in awhile. I don't reckon that security will be so tight next year, with Voldemort out of the picture. But, I don't really want to think about next year, right now."

"Well... Next year before the marriage, anyway," said Ginny. "Oh, I can't believe we're going to get married! I mean... it's frustrating that it's going to take so long, but... At least I've got a date to look forward to... How about two weeks after my last day of school? That'll give us time to get prepared and whatnot, at the Burrow."

"Good idea," agreed Harry.

"You know," said Ginny, after thinking for a moment, "I'm actually kind of jealous of Ron and Hermione, right now... They're both done with school now... They can end up getting married before us, if they want to. Do you think they will?"

Harry wasn't quite sure how to answer that question, as he had been spending much more time recently thinking about his own relationship with Ginny than the relationship between his two best friends.

However, three days later, he was privy to Ron's opinion on the matter.

"I think I might ask Hermione to marry me," said Ron. This thought was not nearly out of the blue as it might seem, considering that Ginny had announced that Harry and she were engaged almost immediately after the engagement had occurred, and it had been a topic of conversation fairly often among Harry, Ron, and Hermione, during their study sessions in preparations for the NEWTs.

Hermione was the one who usually brought the topic up, and when she did, it seemed fairly obvious that she was a bit jealous of Ginny on the grounds of her engagement. At least, it was somewhat obvious to Harry, although he wasn't quite sure if Ron had picked up on it.

"Really?" asked Harry, who was unable to conceal that he was rather excited about that idea.

"Yeah... Do you think she'll say yes?" he asked. So, apparently he hadn't picked up on Hermione's hints.

"I'm almost sure of it," said Harry.

"Hmm..." said Ron. "I'll probably do it soon, then. I just need to work a little bit on what exactly I should say..."

"I'm sure whatever you say will be fine," said Harry sincerely.

"Still," said Ron. "I should still wait for a little bit."

During a conversation with Ginny later on that day, he asked her, "So... I'm right that Hermione would say yes if Ron asked her to marry him?"

"Why, did he say something about it?" asked Ginny excitedly.

Harry wondered for a moment whether telling Ginny this would be betraying Ron's confidence, but he reckoned that he could trust Ginny to not let it spread any further. Besides, he was asking Ginny to divulge whether Hermione had said anything about it as well. So, he said, "You can't tell Hermione."

"Of course I won't," said Ginny. "That's Ron's job... But seriously, what'd he say?"

"That he's thinking of asking her to marry him," said Harry. "Has Hermione said anything on the topic?"

"At least once a day since you proposed to me," affirmed Ginny. "She kind of wants to know what's taking him so long. She says they've gotten so close over the past year, being brought together by the fear that either of them could die, she thought he would ask her to marry him right when they stopped having to worry about that kind of thing so much."

"Well, you know, we're still kind of in danger... I mean, the rest of the death eaters could still try to kill us for revenge or something," said Harry.

"I really don't think that's why Ron hasn't asked her to marry him, yet," said Ginny. "Besides, I think after all we've been through, we can handle it if any Death Eaters try to take us on... Besides, their numbers have been rather depleted recently, and they'll probably lie low now for awhile... That's what they did when they thought Voldemort was dead the first time... And now we've got the body."

"True," said Harry.

It turned out that the beginning of NEWTs came before Ron's marriage proposal, and Hermione seemed quite annoyed about this. Harry had picked up on this because of how frustrated Hermione seemed during their study sessions in the week before the NEWTs. But, Harry wasn't too scared of Hermione's frustration. After all, he had faced Voldemort, so Hermione wasn't that much of a concern anymore.

Harry, as it turned out, had approximately the same attitude toward the NEWTs. He was pretty sure that he passed all the tests that he would need to in order to become an auror.

He was able to transfigure his quill into an almost perfect looking rat. His Defense Against the Dark Arts NEWT was not too taxing at all after the time he had spent researching for Dumbledore's Army. His Potions test was difficult, but he still thought he had done a more than passable job. Charms was also fairly easy for him. Even Ron came out of the tests pretty sure that he would be able to become an auror, and Hermione, of course, had done excellently, even though she wasn't quite confident of that fact herself. She was planning on trying to get a job at the Ministry for awhile, although she didn't see that as being a long-term career for her.

After the tests were over, there were only four days before the students were to leave the school. This time of year was normally supposed to be a very relaxing time of the year, and for Harry and Ginny, it was.

However, Ron and Hermione were each quite nervous and worked up until Ron finally plucked up all his Gryffindor courage and asked Hermione to marry him. It was the second to last day of term when he had finally done so, but afterwards, that day was perhaps the happiest day that the four teens had ever spent at Hogwarts.

At Hogwarts, there was no graduation ceremony as was standard at muggle high-schools. Since NEWT results had not been determined yet, there was no real guarantee that they had passed all their classes, so a graduation ceremony would have been out of place.

So, the closest thing that the Hogwarts students got to such a ceremony was the speech that McGonagall gave at the Year End feast.

"As you all know, this is the first time I've presided over a Year-end feast. I still feel as if I'm not quite suited for the job of Headmistress, but I feel that I have done as well as possible under the circumstances. Of course, we would all prefer very much if Dumbledore were still here to fill his usual role. But, I feel that I can speak for him in saying that he would have been very proud of all of you, if for no other reason than that you came to school and put forth your best effort while the world seemed to be going to hell around us. But now, we have made it through the hardest times that any of us will hopefully have to face. Those of you who are leaving this school today for the last time are leaving into a world full of hopes and possibilities. And those of you who are coming back to the school again will have a year that will be... if not normal, at least benignly abnormal. You have all shown that you have the strength to make it through the hard times, now I wish you all the best of luck as we start a new life of fresh possibilities."

The speech, Harry determined, was relatively good, but the feast was even better. After it was over, Ron, Hermione, and Harry prepared to leave Hogwarts for the final time as students.

It was a bittersweet time for Harry, as he had come to think of Hogwarts as his real home. But, as he left Hogwarts, with his arm around Ginny, he knew that he would soon start a new home with her.

For him, the end of next year could not come soon enough.

A/N: The end... I think I like the end of the last chapter more than I liked the ending of this one, but, oh well... I just posted the first chapter of my next fic, too... It's about the children of the various characters of the books, and I think it could be kind of interesting. So... If you liked how I handled this fic (which I assume you must have, if you got this far), then allow me to suggest that you read that, as well. Also... If you've gotten this far, you've spent a lot of time reading this, and so it really wouldn't take much time to review in addition. If you don't know what to say, just tell me what your favorite chapter was, or something. And, let me just say thanks to everyone who has read so far, and especially everyone who has reviewed, or put this story on alerts or on their favorites. Thanks!!! Also, special thanks to Wolf's Scream, who I believe has posted more reviews for this story than anyone else.