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Chapter 60: The Wizarding War's End

"Uh, is he dead?" Fred asked. It was perhaps the first time anyone heard him speak when he was not making a joke. His brother, however, picked up his slack.

"Yes, Fred, he's dead. It's a consequence of being hit with the killing curse."

"Well, that's settled. I'm hungry. Let's go eat." Ron said.

Hermione still managed to tut at him while looking at the Dark Lord's still body with sheer and utter relief.

"I'm done." Harry whispered. He, like Hermione, was staring at Voldemort's body. "We did it." As he slowly looked up at his friends, the happiest smile they had ever seen lit up his face. "We did it." he screamed.

Hermione suddenly realized the depth of what they had done. Harry, after fifteen years, was finally free. As she grabbed both her best friends, they fell down hugging each other and laughing.

All those who witnessed the downfall stood mesmerized by the trio. Those that fought for the light were relieved, while Voldemort's minions were distraught. Not one of them tried to fight when the aurors came to round them up. They knew in their hearts that this was not like last time. Their leader would never be returning for them again. If they needed further proof, they had only to look on their forearms; the dark marks they all had were nothing more than shadows now.

Remus watched sadly as the werewolves were gathered by the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. They had seen first hand that Remus had been telling the truth about their fates but it was too late. They did not have the time between Peter's and Voldemort's death to switch sides. All that mattered now was that the war was over, and the werewolves were part of the losing team.

Ministry officials were also searching for the gelfs, watched by the twins, Ginny, and Bill..

"They won't find them." Fred whispered to Bill and Ginny.

"Why?" Ginny asked worriedly.

"I took care of them." replied George.

"What is that suppose to mean?" Bill asked.

"Look, Mad-Eye said we should kill if we have to." reasoned Fred. "They were fighting with You-Know-Who."

"I just did what I had to." George added. "Besides, we created them."

Madam Pomfrey, who had been working with the unharmed D.A. members to gather the wounded and assess their injuries came over to Albus. "I've transferred Aberforth to St. Mungos. It's too soon to tell what damage has been done. The spell cast on him was ancient. I don't really understand it. I'm sorry."

"Thank you, Poppy."

"Is he going to live?" Minerva asked.

"I don't know. I'm sorry."

Albus sighed. "Very well. You should tend to the children and those others that you can help. Continue moving all others to St. Mungos. Minerva, if you could assist her"

"Very well, Albus." McGonagall answered and moved to follow the mediwitch to Zacharias.

"Hey." Ron responded as the three finally managed to untangle themselves from each other. "I'm still hungry. When can we go eat?"

"Oh, Ron." Hermione sighed as she wiped a trail of happy tears off her face.

"Let's go now." Harry said. "No one here is going to miss us."

Indeed, the crowd assembled on the grounds of Hogwarts all seemed too busy celebrating to miss the departure of the three that had given them their reason to celebrate. All but two.

"Where do you suppose they are off to, Albus?" Moody grunted as he indicated the three teenagers.

"I don't know. I certainly hope they are not going to act as if they have been in Grimmauld Place this entire time."

"Yes, their disobedience in this instance was very well witnessed and documented." the old auror agreed before adding under his breath "Thank God."

It was suprisingly easy to sneak down to the kitchens. Once there, the elves quickly served steak and kidney pie and chocolate mousse. Hermione nibbled on hers while Harry and Ron ate as if they had not eaten in a year.

Harry was beginning to feel weighed down by varying emotions. He was more relieved than he could ever remember being. He was filled with love toward his two best friends who had stuck by him until the end. The end that, while bitter and filled with death, was not nearly what Harry had feared. His friends did not have to follow him to the grave, though they proved themselves willing to. Harry considered himself lucky to have two such wonderful people in his life. Indeed all his friends from his house and the D.A. made him feel like the luckiest person in the world.

He was also dreading the moment when the wizarding world at large heard of what had happened. He only hoped Hermione and Ron would get as much credit for vanquishing the Dark Lord as he himself did. He didn't want to be the hero of their world again, but thought it might not be so horrible if his friends were also recognized for their valour.

The trio was just contemplating the idea of searching for the D.A. when the kitchen door opened. Albus came strolling in and sat down with them while the elves fixed lemon tea for their four guests.

"I know you are all probably anxious to find your other friends, but I fear I must ask you something first. It should not take long and then you can be on your way." the headmaster said.

"You want to know what we did." Hermione said, matter of factly.

"I am indeed most interested." was Albus' answer.

Hermione handed him the book she had taken from Grimmauld Place. "The page we used is marked."

Albus read for a few short minutes before looking up. "You bound your souls together?"

"Yes." Hermione answered before Harry quickly added "They made me do it. I told them it was too dangerous. I told them they could die."

"Which we obviously already knew. It says that in the book." Hermione said. It was painfully obvious that she was resisting rolling her eyes.

"It's nice to know that even with You Know Who-" Ron began before being interrupted by Hermione.

"Ronald, he's dead. You helped kill him. Use his name."

Ron sighed patiently and began again. "It's nice to know that even with VOLDEMORT gone, you are still worried about our safety, Harry. It makes me feel special"

Albus chuckled slighly before speaking. "So, out of your love for Harry you bound your souls together knowing that if one of you died-"

"We all would." Hermione said. "It was the only way to be sure, absolutely sure, that Voldemort wouldn't be able to escape the killing curse this time like he did fifteen years ago. The power of all three of us casting the curse at the same time while bound together was sure to destroy him."

"Yeah." Ron agreed. "Something about our self sacrificing love for Harry, and the power of that. I dunno. I wasn't really listening that much at the time."

Hermione pretended to glare while Harry smiled.

"Yes, I've said before that Harry's power to love, and be loved, is his greatest strength." Albus said as his blue eyes twinkled blindingly.

Harry smiled again. "The prophecy."

"The prophecy, my dear boy, has been fulfilled. You need not trouble your thoughts with it anymore." his guardian replied, also smiling. "Now if you will excuse me, I need to get to St. Mungos."

"Who all is there?" Ron asked, between bites of biscuit.

"I am unsure how many people were moved. I, however, must go check on Aberforth. Do not worry, Harry."

Harry had gasped at the mention of his guardian's brother. Somehow, in the midst of the battle, he had missed Aberforth being in peril.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione left the kitchens shortly after Albus. As they entered the main hall, applause and shouting greeted them. They had been missing long enough for the story of the final battle to filter through the school. By now, all knew of what they had done. The trio was escorted to the Great Hall, where everyone had flocked to celebrate.

Everyone except the Slytherins. Once those students that attacked the castle from the inside heard of the demise of their leader, they had fled. Some had left the school, while others went to their common room. Those Slytherins not involved in the attack, mostly the younger students, simply went to bed choosing to believe that the day's events did not concern them.

It was very early the next morning when Harry went up the steps to Albus' room. His guardian had made an appearance shortly before midnight in the hall, but Harry had not been able to approach him due to the throng of people that seemed to always encircle him. He was at least relieved to see that his friends were getting as much attention as he was.

Harry entered and looked around. Albus stood at his pensieve, but turned to join his ward on the couch.

"How's your brother?"

Albus sighed. "Not well. It still can not be determined what spell hit him, which makes understanding the effects of that spell difficult. He is, however, not as pale as he was when he first arrived at St Mungos. So, hope is not lost."

Harry wondered if there had ever been a time in Albus' life when he had given up. He quickly decided the answer was no. Rather than dwell on Aberforth, Harry changed the subject.

"Thank you." he whispered.

"For what, dear boy?"

"Everything. Helping me, standing by me, while I did what I had to."

"You do not owe me your thanks, Harry. I'm just sorry you lost so much in the process."

Harry turned to look out the window. There was no evidence that anything peculiar had occurred on the grounds. Everything was as it should be.

"What happens now?" Harry eventually asked.

"The school year is almost finished. Then we will return to the cottage." Albus answered.

"You don't have to do that."

"You must return, at least until your birthday. Then you will be of age. It is my hope that you would feel comfortable enough to stay after that, but it is not required. You may always consider it your home if you wish."

Harry nodded and whispered "Thank you.", not trusting himself to be able to say anything else.

"Now, off to bed, Harry. I know you are exhausted."

Harry, too tired to walk all the way back to Gryffindor Tower, went to his bedroom in Albus' quarters. Ron and Hermione were now helping Madam Pomfrey and Mrs. Weasley care for those that were injured but remained at the school. Ron had not wanted to go, but was dragged off by Hermione, who considered it a golden learning opportunity. Harry had offered to go, but had been sent away by everyone.

"Sleep, Harry." Hermione had said.

"You did just as much as me today, Hermione."

"Sleep. Harry." the witch had repeated. "Sleep, and know that he will never haunt your dreams again."

Harry was now grateful that his help had been turned down. He didn't really feel like being around people at the moment. He had too much to think about: his parents, Sirius, Cedric, Charlie, Percy, Diggle, Cho, Peter Pettigrew, and so many other victims. Two wars' worth of victims. His thoughts eventually turned from the war and it's consequences to a happier topic, his future. A future that now, for the first time in what may have been years, he was sure he would have.

The End

A/N: Thanks so much to everyone who read and reviewed this. This last chapter was written and rewritten numerous times, but it is now the way I want it. (I think.) I am still doing the sequel for those who are interested. (Harry Potter: Learning to Live) It will start off on the first day of summer bach at the cottage, and includes a house guest that has been much requested. Thank you for all your interest, supoort, and reviews. I had a blast. cuddlebearlove