Final Goodbyes – my final chapter!
It was a sunny Saturday and Harry was in the study at Potter Manor, working on answering a letter from a concerned parent. Neville and Luna were on weekend duty at Hogwarts (they alternated to make sure there was always a headmaster or headmistress on the grounds), and Hermione was playing wizard chess with Griphook. It was early October, and leaves were blowing outside and scratching against the windows.
"Harry, could you come here?" He looked up to see his mother calling him from her canvas. After moving to Potter Manor Harry had removed all the painting in the study and replaced them with his folks, Sirius, Aunt Joan, Potter Manor and Godric's Hollow, and his grandparents. He smiled at her and walked over.
His mum and dad were sharing a canvas, holding each other, and Sirius and Aunt Joan were doing the same. "Darling, it's time for us to go back." Lily said softly, tears shining in her eyes.
"Back?" Harry cried out in bewilderment. He stared at the four of them. "But I thought you would, I mean, I didn't know…"
"We didn't know either, son" his father spoke sadly. "Not to sound cliché, but our work here is done. We were given a special gift of spending time with you, but it's time for us to return."
"Don't fret, cub" Sirius smiled, an arm draped over Aunt Joan's shoulder. "You will still have our wizard portraits; it's just that our souls need to go back where they belong."
Aunt Joan smiled, her face radiant and expectant. "I've spent too long on earth. I know now that I was waiting for Sirius. I'm ready to go."
James looked over Harry's shoulder at the Goblin and daughter-in-law who were sitting with stunned expressions on their faces. "Thank you, Griphook, for being a father to Harry, and giving him the training I couldn't."
Lily joined in "and thank you for giving him the hugs we can't. Hermione – thank you for everything – for Godric's Hollow, for being the perfect wife for my son."
Tears were flowing freely now. "Mum, Dad, Sirius – I'll miss you! I, I don't want you to go." He grabbed the edges of his parent's frame, as if he could stop what was happening.
"We love you Harry. We will see you again in the future." The three portraits blew kisses while Aunt Joan waved gratefully. Then the figures walked back to their proper frames, and stopped moving for a moment. Harry jerked his head back and forth in panic, while Hermione and Griphook came and held his hands.
The figures vibrated slightly, and then moved again as normal. But they were gone – the souls of his parents and god father. The portraits still moved and spoke, but they were never quite the same. Harry missed them deeply, but he didn't mourn too much. He knew they were all right.
The Founders had been in office about a month when they decided to visit Moaning Myrtle one night after curfew. Harry felt a bit guilty for not visiting very often, as she had been a huge help to him in his 2nd and 4th years.
They walked into the girl's bathroom, after checking with Hogwarts to make sure it was empty, and locked the door behind them. "Myrtle, are you here?" Hermione called out.
The ghost of the weepy girl flew out from her favorite stall. "What do you want? She asked in her most annoying manner. She spied Harry in the group and changed her attitude immediately. "Oh, it's you Harry!"
"We just wanted to visit" Harry laughed. "I always said I would, but never had time. Now that I'm headmaster, I'll make time!"
"You are headmaster now?" Myrtle gushed.
"Actually we all are – a founder thing you see." Harry chuckled. He and his friends sat down on conjured chairs and Dobby popped in with tea.
"You mean you don't want anything from me?" she said suspiciously.
"Not a thing" Luna shook her blond head, "except to get to know you better."
Myrtle sniffed and sobbed, genuinely touched. "Nobody has ever come here to talk to me before, unless they wanted something. Or to tease me."
"Myrtle, I need to properly thank you for your help in the past" Harry smiled at the ghost who was wiping her glasses on her translucent robes. "You really were a lifesaver with the chamber of secrets and the mermaid puzzle." She sniffed and smiled a genuine smile back at Harry. "If it's any kind of help, Tom Riddle, the boy responsible for your demise, is dead now."
"Really?" Her eyes grew large, and she spun around glaring into the corner of the bathroom. "And why didn't you tell me that?" she yelled at an unknown figure.
To everyone's shock the ghost of Albus Dumbledore was sitting on a sink in a dark corner of the room. The ghost shrugged and said dryly "I was enjoying your company."
"What are you doing here, sir?" Hermione asked with a great deal less respect than she used to show in her voice.
The ghost of Albus floated nearer. "It appears I have been tied to this bathroom for a while – presumably to atone for the death of Miss Henderson here. It was, after all, my fault that young Mr. Riddle got away with so much during his time at Hogwarts."
It would be hard to say who was more shocked – Myrtle or the founders. Myrtle spun around a few times and chortled "then I'm free – free to either haunt as I wish, when I wish, or free to go beyond!"
"What will you do, Myrtle?" Neville asked her, brimming with curiosity.
The ghost smiled at him. "I think I'll visit every room in the castle that doesn't have plumbing, say goodbye to the other ghosts, and then I'll come and bid you four fare well. This might take a few days." And with a giggle, she floated through the closest wall.
Harry eyed Dumbledore over. "Well, Albus. Are you tied to this bathroom now?"
"No, Harry my boy. We can go to my, er, your office to chat if that's more comfortable." The ghost Albus' eyes still twinkled, even in the afterlife. Harry swiftly charmed his own to do the same, and stood up. "Fine – back to the office – I do have some questions for you."
The four made their chairs disappear and popped back to the office. Sitting in their lounge area where the telescope use to be, they watched Albus' ghost float up through the floor, and Hermione giggled as the former headmaster received a fat wet raspberry from several of the portraits including his own. Fawkes, who had just settled on Harry's shoulder, turned his back pointedly to the ghost.
The ghost chuckled dryly. "I deserve all that and more, I'm afraid. I can't say I like what you did to the office, my boy. Where's my telescope?"
Harry twinkled his own eyes at him. "I gave it to the astronomy tower, Albus. It was purchased by a rich alumnus for the school, not for you personally I found out. The library has all its books back, and your personal books and stuff we sent to Alberforth."
Dumbledore nodded, twinkling back. Hermione interrupted. "Tell me sir, what is it like being a ghost."
"Hmmm" Albus pondered, floating comfortably in front of them. "Brutally honest. You can't help but be honest in all your answers and dealings. With no flesh and blood there is no deceit for some strange reason." Harry recalled every conversation he had with ghosts over the years and decided it must be true. "And I must say how nice it is not to have joint pains all the time. I do, however, miss my muggle sweets."
"How long have you been back?" Neville asked with curiosity, and more than a touch of distrust.
"A couple days" the ghost answered simply. "I think I'm back to make what amends I can, but perhaps not. I really don't know yet." He glanced over at Fawkes. "I'm really sorry, Fawkes. I never knew what you were. You tried to tell me over and over. I wish you would at least look at me." There was simple heart felt sadness in his voice, and the phoenix did turn about and face his former companion with a pearly tear in his eye.
With a deep shuddering breath the ghost looked up from his misty lap and faced the founders. "All right then, fire away. What questions do you have for me?"
"OK, Albus" Harry broke right in. "Why me? What was the deal? What is the true story of the Boy-Who-Lived from your perspective?"
"Harry, there isn't one of you I haven't wronged, but your wounds are the deepest. In my defense, I did start out as a good person, and started using the philosopher's stone for good and pure reasons, but it quickly warped me. It was many, many uses of it before I lost complete control, but up to that point I could have backed out and died with my dignity intact." Albus sighed and gave Harry and Neville a sorrowful look. "Anyway, I did give you a partial truth – Sybill did give me a true prophecy during her job interview, but it was not overheard by anyone." Mimicking Trelawney with amusing accuracy, he repeated the prophecy told to him by the goblins:
One who comes is evil incarnate
He seeks to destroy all that is not wizard pure
He marks the child
Who's parents thrice defied him
The child born when summer's moon is waning.
The child will grow alone, unknown
Betrayed by one the wizards love
When he comes into his own
And learns of his betrayal
He will start his true path of learning
The child yet not-a-child will learn
The king of his time is corrupt
The king will work against him
And then will rise against him
But will not win.
The boy will learn the ways of the goblins
The ways of the elves,
And the ways of the wizards.
He will have power the Dark Lord knows not.
The young man will find
Three close friends
They cannot be parted.
They were together at the founding of the school.
The young man will find
Four not-of-the wizards.
They will unite the magical worlds once more
They will defeat evil, betrayer and king
And peace will rule at last.
"We know it, Albus. The Goblins gave it to me a couple years back." Harry looked at him pointedly. "Why the false prophecy?"
Dumbledore was taken aback. "How did they learn it?" He asked, stunned.
"They have seers too, Albus." Harry answered a touch smugly.
"Right then, "Albus shook his ghostly head. I created the false prophecy as a diversion, and put Sybill under an imperious to quote it back to me; and obliviated her afterwards. I wanted to be the hero again – I missed the fame and accolades, I'm ashamed to say. In my pride I refused to believe that a half-blood squirt" he nodded at Harry, "or a chubby mama's boy," he nodded at Neville, "could possibly save the world like I had against Grindelwald. I had convinced myself that only I could do the job."
"So by leaking a false prophecy you basically forced Riddle to mark Harry, and put the wheels of the true prophecy in motion" Luna mused.
"Yes, but I had also hoped, in my stone-distorted ego, to force Riddle to kill the two boys at some point, leaving the job of defending the world to myself." Albus stared at his misty lap in guilt and misery. "When that wasn't working, I let Hogwarts start to slide in academic excellence, knowing if Harry and Neville made it this far, they wouldn't be much of a match for Riddle. I made sure Neville wasn't matched with a proper wand or proper house, and picked on by relatives and classmates, and I ensured that Harry would be kept in the dark about the magic world and abused." He paused and they could see ghostly silver tears trickling down his cheeks. "I am not proud of what I did."
"Why did you take so much money from my parent's vault?" Harry asked, shaking with sorrow. "You do know I got it all back the week before the final battle, don't you?"
"I don't know why, Harry. I think it was just a childish thing – I did it because I could. I didn't need the money. I was furious when I found it was paid back to your account, but a bit relieved too." Albus truly looked miserable.
"You let Voldemort's true identity remain a secret all this time to discredit Harry and make sure you became the hero?" Hermione asked in stunned disbelief. "Why didn't you stop Harry from competing in the Tri-Wizard tournament? You had to have known that Crouch was Moody!"
"I did" the ghost confessed simply. "I also knew he was working hard to ensure Harry won. I wanted Riddle brought back to a body because I had no idea how to defeat him as a spirit. I used Harry for that reason."
The Founders were shaking their heads in disbelief. This was a lot to swallow.
"How did you ever get my father's cloak?" Harry asked with curiosity.
"The night your parents died I took it from their home, after dropping you off at the Dursley's. Sirius was searching for Peter, and the home was deserted. I was poking around hoping to find it – it's a very rare and useful thing."
"Then why give it back to Harry?" Neville asked with a frown. He was getting quite angry – he didn't mind being put at risk all those years as much as he really resented what Dumbledore had put Harry through.
"Simple. I had obtained one of my own by then, and thought it was a great way to put you in danger – allowing you to run around the castle at night." Albus looked more and more sorrowful by the second.
"So you used your own invisibility cloak to sneak up on me when I was at the mirror of Erised?" Harry asked in shock.
"Harry, you have no idea, but when I stood there and watched you gazing at nothing in the mirror more than your family, I almost confessed and repented that night." Albus sighed again. "But the poison was too deep in me by then, and my terrible pride won out."
"What about Sirius? I know it was really you that murdered him. Why?" Harry shook with emotion, recalling the agony of that summer when he blamed himself.
"Sirius knew, Harry. He never totally trusted me, even as a student. He started keeping too close of an eye on me, and started to convince his friends to question my doings. I had to obliviate people left and right to stay 'blameless' in their eyes. I saw an opportunity at the Ministry of Magic, and I took it."
After a pause Hermione spoke up. "OK, Albus, why? We've heard all kinds of motives – the Minister's job, fame, wealth – you tell us." She looked confused and hurt.
"Motives are rarely straight forward or easy to understand – by the individual or others. My primary motive was the power from Hogwarts. As you know the castle feeds the headmaster or masters with amazing amounts of raw magical energy on demand. I could never have defeated Grindlewald if it wasn't for being as close to Hogwarts as I was. Like dark magic, even light magic in large enough doses can be addicting." Albus looked at them sadly, letting them digest his answer for a moment.
"Also" he continued, "the philosopher's stone is dark magic to some degree. Nicolas Flamel seemed to immune to its negative aspects – possibly because he made it. I, on the other hand, found myself warped by it more and more as the years went by. Under its influence I found myself craving the fame and accolades of the people, and looking down on the weaker not unlike Tom Riddle in many ways. I never wanted Fudge's job, never needed the money I stole."
The former headmaster took a deep shuddering breath. "Harry, I have no right to ask you to forgive me. My crimes are too severe and too many. But I still will ask because I must – I know you have every right to refuse." Tears were streaming down the ghost's face, repentance billowing off the ghost in waves.
Harry gazed at the specter for a long time, his chin cupped in his hands as he leaned on his desk. His three friends and Fawkes all watched silently, each pondering how they would handle the situation themselves. Finally he looked at Albus and spoke.
"Albus, I forgive you. Not so much for your sake, but for my own. If I don't take his opportunity to do so, it would allow bitterness to poison me the rest of my life. You took a lot from me – trust, innocence and a childhood. I refuse to let you take anything else, so I forgive you, thereby freeing myself." The expression on Harry's face was both stony and resolved.
With that Dumbledore collapsed into a fetal-like ball, howling in relief and misery. When the ghost had cried himself out, the founders found there wasn't more to say. They thanked Albus for his honesty, and found where the philosopher's stone was hidden, and did destroy it for once and all. Nicolas Flamel had passed on several years back, thinking that Dumbledore had already disposed of it. Albus came and went around the grounds and castle, apologizing to all who would hear him out. And when the last person was confessed to, he said his good byes to the Founders and went beyond, arm and arm with Not-Moaning-Anymore Myrtle.
Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom naturally returned to Longbottom Manor from St. Mungos. They had discussed living with Neville and Luna after the wedding, but quickly decided that was too much of a strain on a new marriage. They developed a close relationship with their son and his odd yet enchanting wife, but it didn't happen overnight. There was years of catching up to do, the terrible wish to nurture and be nurtured, and a stubborn unconscious refusal to understand their little baby was a man. They all ended up learning if you pour enough love on it, the fire of contention will go out.
Neville's Gran, the matriarch of the Longbottoms, lived long enough to see her 'almost a squib' grandson grow into a powerful yet humble man, be knighted and named heir by Helga Hufflepuff herself. She lived long enough to see the final defeat of Riddle, and she lived long enough to have her son and daughter-in-law returned to their senses and come home. But she didn't live long after that. Within the year, on a fine spring morning, her beloved house-elf found Mrs. Longbottom still in bed, her sightless face turned toward the window and a peaceful smile on her face. Her family mourned the passing of Gran, but celebrated her life and accomplishments, as we all must do when we lose one dear to us.
Neville, Luna, countless fairies and a green house full of exotic plants moved to the Weasley's former home, and named it Huffleclaw Manor. They loved teaching and staying at Hogwarts almost as much as they loved each other. Neville took many weekend jobs on the side doing hero work – the aurors valued his strength and power, and women and children in distress adored his humble and gentle nature. Luna didn't mind sharing him in the least – heroes are in high demand but short supply.
Luna bore her bearded husband two boys and then triplet girls. Neville's sons, Harry and Remus, were tall, strapping, brave and strong like their father. The girls seemed to have throwback genes to Luna's ancestry, because they had the solid black eyes of the fairy, the strange habit of glowing visible colored auras when feeling strong emotion, and their mother's outer-worldly dreaminess. They had daddy wrapped around all 30 of their fingers.
The calm and strange Mrs. Luna Longbottom contentedly stayed with her children until they were of age for Hogwarts, and then threw herself back into the school with renewed passion, teaching healing for the first time in centuries at the castle, and pulling numerous pranks on the deserving. The best part was nobody ever suspected her.
The Potter elves, as all of Harry's elves loved to call themselves, were probably the happiest elves in the UK. Tippy stayed with his daughter Cookie, who found a wonderful husband after the war. They kept Potter Manor spotless, and were visited often by the kind Master Potter-Black and his gracious wife. Many people visited throughout the year to see the birth place of The Chosen One, and Cookie always gave them the grand tour with pride.
Icy, Kiki, and Lolly, the former Malfoy elves rescued with Cookie from Narcissa, wore their Potter-Black uniforms with fierce price. They all found spouses and Harry built them their own homes on the Manor grounds – a first for house-elves. They had many children, and ended up being able to care for the manor and grounds without outside help from the elf network. The rest of the Elvin world was not happy about that, and occasionally a bored elf would show up and insist on helping anyway, so it all worked out. Icy even enjoyed being the Minister to the Elves. It wasn't so demanding of a job that he couldn't help Winky with polishing the floors or silver at the end of the day, after all.
Dobby and Winky, happily married, ended up turning Godric's Suitcase into a private apartment and keeping it in the laundry room next to the master's chambers. Harry couldn't convince them otherwise. Dobby had restored his reputation from being a 'pervert' when he saved Harry Potter's life over the wishes of his masters, the Malfoys. He wore his house uniform with pride and honor,
Winky did most of the meal planning and was Harry and Hermione's constant companion. The master trusted her over everyone and everything to deliver letters, and tend to his personal needs. She took a short time away to have twin babies, a boy and girl elf which they proudly named Grangy and Padfoot, and then went right back to work, following her beloved masters between Hogwarts and Potter Manor, children in tow.
Dobby and Winky still had mock fights as to who was the happiest elf in the world, much to the other elves' amusement. Everyone one knew all the Potter elves were so.
And what about our main characters, Harry and Hermione? Happily ever after is a strange cliché – it seems to hint that there was never a temper or cross word, which is silly. Of course they had the occasional spat, but they always made up. And naturally their hearts were occasionally broken by the randomness of life. Ten years after the war saw many changes in our couple, but their love and commitment to each other remained firm. Harry and his friends brought Hogwarts out of its slump of mediocrity, and Harry finally outgrew the majority of his childhood traumas. He was mature, confident, and balanced.
Power such as his was a valuable commodity, so Harry, like Neville, was in constant demand for special tasks, which he undertook willingly the first few years. He especially loved to teach advanced magic to gifted students, and formed several clubs at Hogwarts to promote dueling, defense, and the like. The only subject he would never teach or even discuss was animagus training. It still galled him after all those years to have the animagus form of a robin, but he did secretly love to fly with Hedwig and Fawkes when no one was looking.
Hermione re-vamped the Muggle Studies for Hogwarts, taking it over for a time herself. She insisted that when she wasn't teaching it, the professor had to be at least muggle raised, otherwise it was silly. She started the practice of field trips to muggle movie theatres and restaurants, much to the delight of Hogwarts students.
However, Hermione had also discovered she had a huge talent during their time in Godric's Suitcase. She was quite the artist, and studied for a time under a wizard master. She then brought the skills to make the wizard portraits back to Hogwarts, and introduced art classes to the curriculum. When not involved with her family or Hogwarts, she was in constant demand as a painter.
Harry and Hermione had three children, all very powerful. They named the eldest son Godric Griphook, their second child, a daughter, Rose Emma, and the last, another boy, Salazar Daniel. They were not extraordinarily handsome, nor unnaturally well-behaved (especially when around their 'uncles' Fred and George), but were typical children. And Harry couldn't have been more pleased.
Five years after the final battle Amelia Bones retired as the Minister of Magic. After much clamor from the public and begging from Ms. Bones and friends, Harry agreed to run, and was voted in by a landslide. He turned out to have far more patience for politics than he would have thought possible, and even got use to reporters. He was fair, just, and well-loved. He still spent a couple days each month at Hogwarts, as he was a founder, and because he simply loved to teach.
Fawkes lived contentedly with Harry. It took him a long time to get over Albus' slide into dark dealings, but get over he did. It was great, in his opinion, to have a wizard who was able to speak with him, appreciated him, and wasn't stuck on himself. When Harry's time on earth came, Fawkes would have to find another bond, but he wouldn't worry about it for many, many happy years.
Tippy finished dictating the final paragraph. Cookie had just glanced around the corner to check on him, and walked off to finish the dishes. He smiled at her retreating back – a day didn't go by he didn't thank his kind masters for rescuing his granddaughter and returning her.
He looked at the thick stack of parchments by his wheelchair. His book on the life history of the Potters was finally finished. It started out being hand written by himself, in neat and tidy characters, but as age caught up with the elf, he changed over to a dictation quill. It contained family trees, official records, amusing anecdotes – everything Tippy could give his beloved master. Tippy had found old friends of the Potters to interview, naturally he spoke long with portraits in Potter Manor, and did his very best to provide The Chosen One with the ancestry he had been long denied.
With a feeble wave of his ancient hand the elf levitated the thick pile of parchments and placed the final page on the bottom of the stack. His personal favorite chapter was the one devoted to The-Boy-Who-Lived, who overcame terrible odds and yet grew into a loving and caring wizard who defeated the Dark Lord. That chapter was not yet finished, and wouldn't be for many more years. But it would be someone else's job – his part in the book was over.
He steered the chair – the same one made by his Mistress for him years ago, over to the window and gazed at the grounds. It was strange, but he could swear there were two people standing out there, waving at him. But who could it be and why? Why not ring the bell and come in? As he sat there, squinting and pondering, the pair of humans suddenly came into focus, sharp and clear. It was Master James and Mistress Lily! And next to them, his beloved wife Giddy! Still so handsome and beautiful! And behind them were Master James' parents, his first Masters!
Then Tippy understood. His book was finished – they had come to take him home.
Final author notes:
The most common complaint about this story has been the lack of conflict in Harry's life. Honestly, I agree. I tried to write in major character deaths, a kidnapping or two, and a bit of angst in the story, but I just couldn't make it work. It does work better if you realize all the conflict poor Harry endured in books 1-5, and use this as simply an alternative 6th book.
My major drive for this story was to show a Harry that used his head more than his temper and luck. Harry, growing up with muggles, didn't grow up with the wizard's prejudice. Growing up abused and unloved, he found accepting love from a goblin much easier – the child craved a parent. By embracing the Goblins first, and then the elves, etc, Harry gains the maturity and healing he needed, and gets the knowledge and power that Riddle knew not.
I'm sorry that so many people turned out 'good' in the end. But how many truly evil people have you met in your life? I think most people, given a chance, are basically good. Harry has a talent of bringing that out in a person.
Many folks didn't like Dumbledore getting off 'easily' and croaking by a heart attack – they wanted a good old-fashioned battle with Harry opening a can of whoop-butt on him. Actually, I did write it that way at first, but changed it for a couple reasons. First, I felt it was wonderfully ironic that the 'most powerful wizard in the world' should die of a muggle ailment. And most importantly, I did it to spare Harry and his friends. Very few people in the wizard's world understand what Albus had become – 96 of the population still see him as a great hero for the light. It would be very hard for Harry to kill him and keep himself out of Azkaban.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave reviews and comments. And deep gratitude and thanks to my betas Spacegal19 and Romulus Magnus. They made this story so much more enjoyable.