Disclaimer: The rights of Harry Potter belong to JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I am making no financial gain from this story whatsoever.
A/N: Final chapter. Nothing to say, but here goes...
For You To Be Free, First I Must Not Be
A thousand years ago, when the Normans finally took over England, Helga Hufflepuff, the final living founder of Hogwarts watched the scene with the deepest of apprehension and wishing her co-founders were here to see this with her. Salazar's fury would know no end had he found out that Norman wizardry had help force England's wizardry to fall under muggle monarchy, and this time Godric would not stand in his way. Even her own beloved Wales would surely fall to the Normans, and Rowena's Scotland would have to deal with them.
Hufflepuff went personally to the Norman wizards in the southern coast of England, despite the difficulties it caused her extreme age of two hundred and twenty-three, to appeal to have a talk with their magical leaders (she would not dare go to appeal to muggles). Hufflepuff's renown crossed far beyond Europe, and the Norman wizards overruled the muggle King in engaging in direct negotiations. They told the present Duke of Normandy, but soon to be King of England, that the idea of rebuffing Helga Hufflepuff would cause such furious from wizards and witches from the top-most corner of Scotland all the way to the lower borders of the powerful magical nation within Egypt. They warned him it was most unwise to infuriate so many magical people, and the consequences of such an act could result in devastating results.
As the highest leadership of wizards and witches in Normandy sat in the exquisite tent, sent from Normandy just to host Hufflepuff, waited for Hufflepuff's arrival, they discussed the honour they gained from meeting her in person. Wizard nobility from France, Norway, Flanders and Brittany showed up merely to observe the meeting and to go back to their people and tell them of her. The Norman wizards, keen to show of such connections, welcomed the other magical leadership with open arms. There was far too much gold and silk in the tent than was even commonplace for those of such wealth.
When Hufflepuff walked in, however, she wore a simple cloak and held a staff for support. She refused any assistance into her seat, struggling to reach it in her elderly state, nor did she not acknowledge the many nobles who stood up in her entrance and did not sit until she sat. Nobody in the room dared speak until she said her first bit, which came after a long, drawn-out, pause.
"I wish to speak as plainly as possible," said Hufflepuff slowly. "We are all magical people here. We are tied together through magical bonds that go beyond blood, wealth or status. The mere notion that one magical land falls to the hand of muggles due to the hands of other magical peoples' assistance is not only most troubling but a betrayal that will reverberate for centuries. For millennia."
"Lady Hufflepuff, we work with the muggle leadership, not under them..." began the Norman head, who swiftly shut his mouth at Hufflepuff's raised hand. She was not finished.
"You have made your actions," she said. "The judgement will come later when your lands fall under muggle leadership because another magical people descends to the level of servants for the muggles. Salazar would've had your head before you opened your mouth. Rowena would've been fine with your entrails, and Godric... who knows what he would've done?
"But what is done, is done," said Hufflepuff. "What I am concerned about is the welfare of future magical people here."
"The King has assured us that no harm would come to them," was said before another quick silence.
"And can he make an assurance his children will not harm them?" asked Hufflepuff softly. "Or their children? Or the descendants?"
There was silence in the room.
"The first thing I wish to say is that Hogwarts was built with some of the most powerful magic these islands has ever witness," she continued. "It will not fall under muggle control. They will do nothing to it. If I had my way, they would not know it existed."
"That is unacceptable," a Norman said.
"I didn't not ask for your blessing," she said angrily. "Only your most powerful wizards and witches would be able to face a castle so formidable, and I have already contacted your most eminent wizards in Normandy," and then nodding to the foreign dignitaries, "France, Brittany, Russia, Spain and many other places. Not one replied to say they would assist you in attempting to seize Hogwarts. Is it still unacceptable, I now ask?"
There was another silence.
"As I expected," she said. "They know the fall of Hogwarts as a symbol in these islands would risk the symbols in all of the wizarding world.
"Coming to the next point," she said. "What precautions have you placed for us in case the muggles become oppressive?"
"Precautions?" asked the Norman wizard noble.
"Something that removes us from control," explained Hufflepuff with a sigh. "Do not tell me you have not even considered this?"
"Normandy has won," said the Norman noble loudly, getting to his feet. "We consider what we wish."
"I am not discussing Normandy and England," said Hufflepuff, with absolute disregard to the Norman's display of anger. "I'm discussing wizardry and non-magical."
A murmuring came from the foreign wizards, and the Norman noble, remembering who he was talking to, sat down quietly. In the silence that followed, all in the tent heard a Norwegian wizard tell a French one that the Norman was most fortunate to sit down, as he said he once saw Hufflepuff defeat thirty-three elite Norwegian wizards, and this was when she was an old woman of one hundred and seventy-three in age. A chuckle came out of most of the people in the tent at that. Hufflepuff still had her eyes focused on the Norman noble expressionless.
"I demand a precaution be set," she said, " to completely sever any bond made upon your rule should the muggles go beyond an acceptable line in dealing with the magical population. And this precaution must last for as long as necessary, disregarding whatever muggles take over the time's muggle leadership, until the magical population will one day be free from all rule."
"Why should I accept?" asked the Norman noble.
"To refuse," said Hufflepuff, "would not only show Norman magical enslavement to the non-magical leadership, it would also send a warning to other magical populations that the Normans wish to put magical populations in chains. Nobody would dare wait until the Normans become strong enough to defeat them."
The Norman head did not know to feel insulted at the first part, or cautious of the second. He noticed the foreign wizards and witches nodding in approval to Hufflepuff's words. One of the Brittany wizards was the first to speak.
"This would go down terribly back home," he said. "You'll find Brittany harder to keep if you antagonise the magical population."
"Especially when Hufflepuff goes there and appeals in person," said a French witch. "She is more beloved in France than my father, and he rules the magical people. They will not forget her assistance almost two centuries ago in saving half of France from the immense evil of Marquis Delanort. If she tells them they are in danger, they will believe her."
"The rest of the magical populations who can act could be convinced by her over you," said another wizard. "Even I do not understand your reluctance."
"We are all her bonded by magic," said a Flanders witch. "I find it dangerous that you speak like you're unaware of this."
The Norman leader was left with no other choice to talk with the new King of England. He offered to let Hufflepuff to speak to him, but she swore she would never exchange a word with him. After the Normans left the tent, Hufflepuff talked warmly with the foreigners. She had met and interacted with most of their parents, some of their grandparents and a few of their great-grandparents. After a long time, where Hufflepuff dined with them, the Norman noble returned.
"I have finally gained a reluctant concession from the King," he said.
Hufflepuff waited without comment.
"If there is an absolute betrayal on the parts of the muggles," said the Norman noble. "Then there would be an avenue for breaking the bond."
"Why not let the bond break the moment the betrayal happen?" asked Hufflepuff.
"The King wanted... a sacrifice," said the Norman noble. "To end the bond."
"What?" asked Hufflepuff.
"The sole wizard and witch to end it must give up his or her magic," he said. "For life."
For the first time, Hufflepuff expressed her power as the sparks that came out of her staff burst into six fires around the tent. "That is unacceptable. First, an absolute betrayal would mean the direct attack of muggles on all wizarding locations, including Hogwarts. And second, this sacrificial magic is more worthy of a Dark Lord."
"The King says there shall be no better offer," said the Norman noble.
"So be it," said Hufflepuff after a pause. "Get the arrangements made for a sanctuary for the wizard or witch to make the sacrifice in. I shall personally place spells on it to ensure safety for them."
The Normans used a cave high up in a rocky hill nearby as the sanctuary. Hufflepuff weaved as much magic on the place as she could come up with. And, to the Norman's ignorance, she applied a protection on the cave that no muggle could ever enter the cave , nor that the muggles could ever effect any harm on the location regardless of what power they utilised, be it magical or muggle, so long as the magical population remained in the bond.
It was only when Hufflepuff disappeared under a strong breeze was when the Normans, being a means utilized by the muggles, could not enter the cave.
They were also not informed prior to its casting that the final spell Hufflepuff added, with assistance from other wizards and witches while also manipulating the powerful spells the Norman's used with the muggle's agreement, was a far-reaching Obliviate spell that would affect every muggle in the islands. She was fortunate that she had known the witch who came up with that spell and had observed the intricate details in developing it, otherwise she wouldn't have known how to make it into effect. Hufflepuff dearly wished that she could've waved the spell right then and there to get rid of the accursed muggles, but unfortunately magic never worked that easily. It was the fact that the muggles had agreed to enter such an agreement, and that after a betrayal, the magical populations needed secrecy as a necessity that made it possible. Far more powerful spells are capable when the other side has agreed to it, even in part, to the circumstance. Thus sacrificial spells being the most powerful one of all. The wizard and witch needed to know he or she was giving up the magic for the cave to work, and Hufflepuff merely took advantage of that with the memory modification.
As the years turned to centuries, no magical person under the leadership could enter the cave. First it was nobility unable to enter, and then government. Wizards and witches who worked under the future Wizengamot or Ministry could not enter the cave so long as they remained in their jobs. At first, the cave enjoyed lots of visitors from all over. but as the centuries passed, it was left alone by all, forgotten by most.
After Voldemort's first fall, Dumbledore spent a time not working for the Wizengamot, spending it to rest after a weary many years. Before he rejoined the Wizengamot, however, he visited the cave to see the protection Hufflepuff left to the magical world. He walked towards a majestic stand that was erected in the centre of the cave, still free from the slightest of dust or dirt after almost a millennium.
On it were three vases, one made out of solid gold, one made out of marble and the last made out of clay. Underneath it was written:
Before one fixes something, sometimes another thing must be broken. We come from and return to the same source.
He admired Hufflepuff's magical abilities to produce writing whose words would change as the dominant language did, this was magic beyond what Dumbledore could do. Then Dumbledore grinned, as if privy to a hidden joke. And after realising he could not cross within a metre of the stand, he turned around with his purple robes billowing and white beard tucked in, and walked out of the cave.
Malfoy sat before the muggle general annoyed. Of all the people in the castle to talk with the muggles, he had to deal with them? For goodness sake, he didn't interact with muggles. Becoming a professor in Hogwarts kept him further away from the muggles too. Malfoy feared that he'd say something stupid and the muggles would attack again with a larger force. He didn't even trust talking to them at all, for fear of him being killed, so he demanded to speak to someone high up. And to keep his wand.
"Well," he said. "What would you like to talk about?"
"Negotiations on what to do," said the general. "We cannot continue this forever."
"Cottoned on that, have you?" snarled Malfoy. "Shame it was after you attacked every public wizarding institution in Britain. And after we gave your boys a beating you'll never forget. Care to try to send more people into the castle? Go on, we're waiting."
The general wasn't amused. "Things have gotten out of hand," he admitted.
"On your part, that is," shot Malfoy.
"But we need now to discuss what to do," finished the general.
"Right now, I have a castle full of furious inhabitants," said Malfoy. "We're not discussing anything. Get your men and leave. All of you. By the next few days, there will be no need to talk."
This muggle seemed to know a bit more than a muggle would be expected to know.
"You're going through with it?" he asked. "But the consequences..."
"Will be brilliant, for us," interrupted Malfoy. "Remember, we never wanted to get into this mess of a situation."
"We'll stop you."
"Go on and try," said Malfoy. Seeing the shifty look in the general's eyes, Malfoy laughed. "Do you think I would be sent here if I was also to do that mission? Please. Someone else will do it of course. And also, you have no idea how many spells I have cast since walking here. You take me down, I'll take with me a large number of your people. Wizards lose one person, you lot lose many. I'll take that."
Malfoy got up and left without another word. The muggles did nothing to prevent his walk back to the castle.
Back at the castle, in the Headmaster's office, Ron, Harry and Hermione were seated.
"So let me get this right," said Ron. "You both think that we can finally get away from muggle rule, and one of you needs to give up magic?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"And I never got a shot to offer to do the job?" asked Ron, his eyes narrowing.
"Do you think he gave me a shot to offer?" scoffed Hermione, but her eyes had no laughter in them. "He said he was doing it and that was that."
"Well, then," said Ron, folding his arms. "I'm volunteering."
"No," said Harry simply, who turned to his book.
"What?" asked Ron, his voice becoming louder. "Who died and made you king?"
"Do you really want me to list that?" said Harry calmly. "Boy-Who-Lived, remember? The decision is final."
"Do you think we're just going to let you walk there and screw your life?" yelled Ron.
"No," said Harry, seemingly without a care as if they were discussing the weather of a pleasant summer day. "But surely you don't think I'd let any of you do so either?"
"Tough luck," said Ron. "I'm heading over to the others to see their views."
"And I'll ignore them too," said Harry. "This isn't a democracy. I didn't ask your opinion on this. I'm doing it and that's final."
"Sod off it's final," said Ron with disgust. "Give me one good reason why it should be you."
Harry's eyes flashed with anger. "You want one reason?" he asked. "Just one will do?"
"Because I have nothing to lose," said Harry, angrily.
"What?" said Hermione, choosing to join the conversation here.
"You heard me," said Harry, looking at Hermione now. "I have nothing to lose. The both of you have ties to the magical world."
"And you don't?" asked Ron.
"What do I have?" asked Harry.
"Us," Hermione answered.
"It doesn't count," said Harry. "If either of you were to do it, you'd lose me and the other one too. Each of us stands to lose the other two.
"But don't you see?" Harry continued, his voice getting a bit wild here. "I have nothing else. I can go on to be a muggle and insert myself in their world. Because I'd have to insert myself in the magical world regardless. It makes no difference. Apart from you two, I have nothing, not even my memories, and from what I've heard and seen I must've been one bored wanker because nobody has absolutely anything about me that's remotely interesting."
"That's not true," started Ron.
"What?" asked Harry. "You think because you spent a few years in the muggle world you can live there for the rest of your life? You were born into magic, you breathe it. To be away from it would kill you."
"I had as much a Muggle-born upbringing as you did," said Hermione confidently. "I can go right back."
"No," said Harry, "you can't. You dove head-first into this world. You've spent years, right from the age of eleven immersing yourself into this culture. I never did that. I only learned as I went along what I needed to know. You, on the other hand, have had so much to learn. To take it all away from you would devastate you. Sometimes, Ron and I know you better than you think you know yourself. I don't know if you enjoyed being a muggle as a kid or not, but the moment you found out you were going to Hogwarts, you were drinking in Hogwarts: A History and every other massive tome for light reading you could get your hands on."
"You don't have to be the one who has to do it again, Harry," pleaded Ron. "There's no prophecy. Let someone else sacrifice for once."
"It feels like my life was more prepared for this moment than any other," said Harry. "And that includes fighting Voldemort. Just think, almost every single person I could ever get close to was snatched away from me, and I lose my memory to make things worse. The whole thing seems planned."
"But-" said Ron.
"It has to be me," said Harry. "You're fighting out of stubbornness, but I know you know this. I'll do this and never return to the magical world.
"Why on earth not?" asked Ron, who finally gave in.
"Do you think I want to be constantly reminded of what I no longer have?" said Harry. "It'll kill me. No, I need a clean break from all this. A permanent one."
"Hermione's going with you at least?" asked Ron.
"Yes," said Harry. "I may need magical assistance to leave."
"Can I come?" asked Ron, who already knew the answer.
"We need someone to watch over the castle in case the muggles attack before we reach the cave," explained Harry. "I'm sorry."
"Will you come back to the castle?" asked Ron.
"For what?" Harry queried with a mirthless smile. "Everything I have here is magical. I've already sent a letter to Gringotts to send all my money to Hermione's vault. She'll convert it to muggle pounds and deal with the money transfer to a muggle bank. I would be able to do it on my own, the goblins would surely accommodate me, but I suspect I won't want to go back there either. Memories of when Hagrid first took me there and all.
That's another reason why it should be me: I'm bloody rich. I can spend time relaxing before I start doing something in the muggle world." This time Harry had a bit of mirth in his smile.
"So this is goodbye?" asked Ron, in shock.
"I'm afraid so, mate," said Harry, opening his arms wide. Ron went over and hugged him hard. Harry wanted to say so much, yet had nothing much to say. He could feel Ron's chest shake as he sobbed into Harry's shirt. He wanted to make a joke about Ron crying, but tears were in his eyes already.
As Harry and Hermione walked outside the castle to a spot where they could apparate out, Hermione was not letting the matter go.
"Harry," she said. "You don't have to leave us."
"Of course I do," he said. "You would do the same."
"I could go with you," she said. "We could give us a shot, without the magical world."
"Sorry, but unfortunately that won't work," said Harry. "It's going to almost kill me to give up magic; it's now like the air I breathe. To watch you cast spells, to merely know you can do so, will be a daily reminder of what I can never regain. Nobody should have to go through that."
Hermione's eyes were in tears when they were in the castle, and by now she couldn't stop crying. Harry looked away and tried to grab one last glimpse of the entire castle, despite the fact he'll be trying to forget the entire thing the moment he becomes a muggle. He felt her hand touch his and he closed his fingers around hers. They did not let go as they reached far out of the castle, and they apparated away.
Harry opened his eyes. They were high on a hill looking down at a large valley. Above them the clear blue sky bathed the entire valley in brilliant yellow light. Harry saw what seemed to almost the size of an entire division of the muggle army encamped in the valley, with a number of helicopters and, using a quick spell allowing him to see far distances, a large number of artillery some kilometres away. Harry noted ominously the military was facing directly at the cave.
"Unexpected," said Hermione, "but unsurprising, really."
"Let's get into the cave," said Harry. "No point waiting for it."
Entering the cave, the saw it empty except for a large stand on it, free from blemish, dust or dirt. Upon entering it, Harry could feel the magic brimming in the air. It felt like all the magic was concentrated in a small space and was burst to be let free. Hermione walked over to the stand and ran her fingers along it, reading the words engraved on the stone. Unbeknown to either of them, the barrier that had stopped so many magical people from approaching the vases before, was no longer there. Harry joined to stand beside her, his hand resting on her shoulder. She turned to him, almost forgetting he was there.
"It's unbelieveable, isn't it?" asked Hermione.
"What does that mean?" Harry wondered, reading the words again.
"I think it means we need to break something," said Hermione.
"Which vase, though?" asked Harry, picking up the marble vase. "And how do you break something made out of gold?"
"If it needs to be broken, it will be," assured Hermione, still observing the words. "We don't come from gold, nor are we returning to it."
"No, but do we come from marble?" asked Harry. "And I thought this cave had a large number of artifacts with unbelievable power."
Hermione turned to Harry to address his point, "It must be the other two vases only with all that power, or the cave itself. Either way, they're not what we've come for." She then turned to the clay vase she was holding, looking hard at it. "This isn't even meant to be a riddle," she mused. "I think it's merely telling us what to do in the plain words of that time which got muddled up in translation."
Harry was looking at the outside of the cave. "Well, whatever it means," he said, "we better finish this off quick. The muggles have seen us enter and they're moving units at us. The artillery should start shooting immediately..."
Harry's words were interrupted by a crash. He turned around in fury, knowing what he was going to see. The clay vase lay in pieces around Hermione's feet. She had a blank look on her face.
"What the blazes did you do that for?" shouted Harry, quickly figuring it out himself.
"It was simple, break clay, where we return to," Hermione said.
"I was supposed to do that!" Harry yelled louder.
"Oops?" shrugged Hermione, with a shadow of a smile. "You didn't really think I was going to let you do it if I could stop you, did you?"
Harry could feel the magic around him become disturbed. The magic started to leave the cave, a lot of it passing through Harry on it's way out. As it went through him, Harry momentarily became aware of so much information at once. He could see almost every muggle face in the valley, every machine they used, he could hear their shouts as they barked orders, and he could feel the magic beginning to work its effects on the muggles everywhere. But, inexplicably, Harry knew he and Hermione had to leave immediately, that the muggles will strike before their memories get modified. The entire cave shook as an explosion rocked the side of the hill. Debris began to fall onto the cave-floor.
"Let's go, Hermione," he growled. "The cave's protection is gone."
Yet Harry could not move, so much magic was around him. It was unbelievable. He felt magic flow through every vessel within him, he felt more magical than human. And still, magic continued to leave the cave.
Suddenly, Harry's consciousness fixed on one shell that was in one artillery somewhere in the valley. He watched the artillery unit blast the shell out and watched it fly in the air towards the cave. Harry knew this shell would hit its target perfectly. He saw time slow itself down the moment he reached this realisation. But his movements were also slowed.
Harry watched Hermione across the room and knew, through all the magic still flowing through him, that there was no way he could reach her in time. For a microsecond, Harry was faced with a decision, which he decided upon immediately.
Quickly shouting the words of the Eurysaces spell, a shimmering silver globe surrounded Hermione. Harry continued to wave his wand as she looked to him in shock, realising what he was doing. She screamed a "No!", but Harry only smiled at her as she felt the world around her dissolve.
Before the world completely disappeared, Hermione saw the entire cave erupt in flames quicker than a blink of the eye, and Harry disappear in the golden blaze, still with that sad grin on his face.
A significant time later.
The hospital was very busy that night. A large accident happened in a road nearby with an overturned bus. Doctors and nurses rushed around the corridors to try to get to those who needed them most. Friends and families of the patients constantly asked for updates when they weren't pacing around the very crowded waiting rooms.
"Dr. Granger," said a male voice in the intercom. "Dr. Granger, you're needed at room 43 quickly."
A woman in a white coat, with bushy hair rushed from one room, blood on her coat, and quickly threw out the coat and gloves in the dirty laundry room, and picked up a clean coat and gloves as she rushed down the hall to room 43. There a patient was suffering from complications regarding the accident and the nurses needed help.
The night wore on like that until Dr. Granger left at 3:53 in the morning to go back home. As she left the building, she saw a red-headed man seated on a bench.
"You must be cold, Ron," she said. "How long did you wait?"
"Quite awhile," admitted Ron. "But you were way too busy to interfere with."
"Was there anything that you needed me for?" asked Hermione, continuing to walk, with Ron matching her pace.
"No, no," said Ron. "It's only been three years since I last saw you. I wanted to see how you were."
Hermione's eyes softened and she could no longer resist leaning to Ron and enveloping him in a tight embrace. "I missed you too," she said into his shoulder.
"I heard your daughter has just been admitted to Hogwarts," said Ron.
Hermione beamed. "Yes, she did," she said. "Helen Granger, Hogwarts student."
"How does the father feel about it?" asked Ron tentatively. "Being a muggle and all?"
"Well, given we were divorced since she was six months old," said Hermione, "I'm wondering if I should tell him at all."
"Tell him," said Ron. "You know you would've wanted to know in that place."
"You're right," she said.
"Look," said Ron, "Since it's been so long and you've made a life in the muggle world, I think it's time you renew some connections in the wizarding world. Especially considering you now have a witch daughter. He would've gone back by now, too."
Hermione sighed sadly, "Don't remind me," she said. "I still feel guilty spending the half of his inheritance he left me."
"Tell me about it," said Ron. "I still have a lot to go through. Harry was richer than even he ever let us know.
"But seriously, Hermione," he said. "You don't need to be so far away anymore."
Hermione seemed unsure for a few seconds, and Ron frowned, but then she smiled. "Yeah, I think it is time, too."
Ron beamed at her.
A/N: I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have. I had the ending in mind for chapters, but as I kept coming closer to it, I became resistant to it. I got attached to characters and I was tempted to finish things in a neat red ribbon. But the story was meant to finish this way.
I wrote this chapter out quickly as I didn't trust myself to not change my mind. Yes, the story merely ends right then and there, but it's deliberate. I'll leave the readers to each feel what life may be like after.
And that's it for this story. I'm preparing a new story, like I said earlier, but how did this story go for you? Writing this, I've learned from a number of errors in my writing and planning, and I think I have improved somewhat in the writing. But if you have any thoughts on the story or how I wrote, do share them as I'll make sure to keep them in mind for the next story, which again has nothing to do with this one.
Also, any final notes on the story as a whole would be appreciated. Any surprises? Anything you predicted was going to happen while reading the story? Anything you liked? Didn't like? Which characters did you feel I fleshed out well enough and which did you think there should've been more seen of?
Again, I hope you've enjoyed this story because I enjoyed writing it, and I also hope there was some originality in it which was the main thing I was going for.