Chapter Nineteen- Where the heart is
Harry stared in utter disbelief, unable for a moment to accept the truth- it was over. Voldemort was gone. It was…it was...oh, not over, he realized with a fierce, overwhelming joy, it was only just beginning. He laughed in delight with tears in his eyes, hardly daring to belief.
The light of the Foundations flared brilliantly, one final time, then died down to their normal, serene hum. He spun around.
"Ammy, Ammy, did you-"
He stopped, staring, for where the wolf-girl had been there was now in her place a shining white wolf with benevolent eyes gazing up at him, tail waving happily.
So that had been what that last surge of power had been.
"Oh, oh Ammy, is that? Are you…it's all over then." His voice saddened, for he had become quite attached to her, and now she had changed again…
He swore she was laughing at him.
He began to feel a little stupid.
"I suppose you're right. You're still here and you're still you." Then he threw dignity to the winds and threw his arms around her neck, laughing wildly.
Waka wandered over, skirting his lightly glowing blade, small smile in place.
"A much better ending," he breathed, letting his hand rest on shining fur for a moment.
Flaring eyes rolled up at him, and his smile widened.
"Yes, much better."
Harry frowned slightly.
"Waka, what do you mean? Did you…did you see something?"
The swordsman didn't answer for a moment, stroking the wolf's head while Issun leapt to her fur to do a victory dance. Then he turned his head to regard him and the breath lodged in Harry's throat as the swordsman's eyes met his then turned away.
"You really don't want to know. Let's just enjoy this happy ending, shall we?"
The wolf surged forward to lick their faces quite thoroughly, despite their protests.
"I'm so glad you agree."
Draco was beginning to show signs of real life again. His first thought was sheer relief that he was still alive.
The second was a sort of horrified disbelief that he in part owed that fact to…a Weasley…something Malfoy-ish in his soul shuddered. But all in all, Draco was just happy to be alive. He looked at his stunned and bound father for a moment before getting to his feet and deliberately turning his back.
"It's over, then," he offered.
"So let's get back to the castle- I know the way to the kitchens now…"
Hermione tugged gently on his sleeve, frowning.
"Wait…what about Harry?"
"What do you me- of course. He's around here too, isn't he? Brilliant, trouble really does have his forwarding address…Let me guess, we find the Dark Lord and we find the Boy Wonder." There was no malice in the teen's voice, only a sort of deep amusement and a weary fatalism.
Ron and Hermione shared glances.
"I think he's beginning to get it, Hermione."
"I knew he would sooner or later, Ron," the witch joked a little nervously as she eyed the Order of the Phoenix as they milled about taking wands on the battlefield.
"Um, who wants to be the one to, uh, tell Dumbledore and the rest?" Draco snorted at the redhead.
"I vote for Granger."
The witch shot him a deep glare.
The debate was broken up, however, as Kingsley came by Lucius Malfoy's unconscious form, giving a double-take as he saw the three mussed but thankfully mostly unwounded trio.
"Merlin, where did you three come from? Don't you know how dangerous it is out here?"
In a moment of absolute understanding the three teens exchanged rueful glances.
"Never would have guessed."
"You don't say."
The auror blinked at their flat remarks. He opened his mouth again, but Ron bet him to the draw.
"Took you guys long enough. Have you found Harry yet?"
The tall, dark man paled, fingers clenching around his wand.
"What do you mean have we found him? Harry's up in the school, probably still asleep…"
Hermione and Ron couldn't help it, they burst into laughter.
Before the auror could say anything else, though, all movement on the bloody hillside ground to a sudden halt as if everyone was stunned, and the ground seemed to shift beneath their feet.
Then, as the sun continued to glance rays across the now-still battlefield, there was a massive impact to the air, a powerful roar that swept up out of nowhere with a triumphant cry- and then there was nothing.
As the echoes of the cry died away, the watchers stared in awe as Hogwarts glowed a deep, blinding white for an instant before it too died away and all was as normal.
Hermione clutched Ron's hand tightly.
"You don't think…Harry?"
"He does have the worst luck."
In the end, getting out of the super-secret cavern was more than a little difficult. In the end they simply tried to retrace their steps, which was easier said than done. Harry had relied upon his wand's connection to Voldemort to draw him to the cavern. Waka had relied upon his connection with Amaterasu to find his way. And now with his wand lit by a powerful lumos spell, Harry stood gaping at the absolute maze of tunnels branching off into Merlin-knew-where.
"Oh, come on. How the hell did Voldemort know where to go?"
"He was evil, Harry, who ever knows why or how they do anything?"
"What sort of answer is that?"
"I'm sorry, you were looking for an answer?"
"Whatever. How do we get out of here?"
In the end it was relatively easy. But first Harry tried a point-me charm, trying to find Hogwarts…his wand imitated a cyclone, spinning frantically about to point at every angle of the Foundations until Harry screamed a finite spell.
After a while of wandering about, Ammy seemed to tire of their bickering, and with a yip broke into a trot, leaving them scrambling to follow.
With her leading, the finally found an exit, burrowing up out of the ground to find themselves at wand-point by half the Order.
"Oh, now you show up," Harry grumbled.
"He's dead? Really really dead?"
"All the way dead? Not, like, three-quarters, floating-around-somewhere-in-Albania dead?"
"Harry, my boy…"
Words finally seemed to fail the old Headmaster as he stared at his trouble-prone student.
Only took the destruction of the darkest wizard ever to terrorize wizard-kind, but hey, still a victory.
"Thanks to Waka and Ammy here,"
"Hey," interjected a furious Issun.
"And Issun, I suppose…"
"What's that supposed to mean?!"
"Sorry. So thanks to all three of them and the, uh, Hogwart's Foundations, Voldemort is, um, gone."
"I thought you said he was dead?" Tonks had regained consciousness.
"Then why did you say gone?!"
"Dead is gone! And I was trying to find a way to describe how he sort of…disintegrated…"
"I think we should finish this conversation inside."
Further conversation was cut short as Harry was mobbed by an ecstatic, weeping Hermione and a gruff, over-whelmed Ron.
Draco, Merlin be thanked, held himself back, giving Harry a respectful nod.
"This calls for hot-chocolate."
"Come on, Hermione, I think this calls for something a bit stronger than chocolate…who's up for a Firewhiskey?"
"Sorry, professor, I meant, a, er, oh, bollocks, I think celebrating the day Vol-Voldemort died is a damn good excuse to drink."
He ducked, expecting a clip under the ear.
There was a pause.
"I think you might be right."
Unfortunately, Harry was not left to enjoy his…hot chocolate…in peace. He had to retell what happened…over, and over again.
To everybody. While trying to fend off Madame Pompfrey.
"Enough, Potter! You tell me you died and you still try to get out of a checkup! Well too bad! Now sit still before I stun you and tie you to a hospital bed!"
We never said he was successful.
Confirmation of Voldemort's death was received, and message after message streamed out, carrying the good news. Parties had broken out in all the common rooms, jubilant aurors port-keying in to collect the surviving death eaters. Harry took it all in with a tiny smile, trying to take in the enormous sense of freedom enveloping him. Sorrow for Remus clouded his soul, but the future beckoned him for the first time.
Mom…Dad…Sirius, Remus….I miss you guys…
Waka smiled softly by the window, stroking Amaterasu's head gently as they sat by the window, staring out at the dawn and watching the fall of the light over the earth.
Issun, fascinated by the Firewhiskey, snatched a mouthful and went still.
Smoke shot out of his ears. Then with an eep the ponicle toppled over with a thump onto the table, twitching slightly.
He fell still.
Then he bounded to his feet with a whoop that caught everyone's attention.
"Whoa, give me more of that!" And threw himself into the cup- Ron's- like a snorkeler- but without the snorkel.
Draco played with the bandages around his arm, staring into his cup and contemplating the turn his life had taken.
Then he smiled, and drained the cup.
Somewhere outside, a young auror wept over the body of a still werewolf.
And yet…Everything was as it should be.
Waka lay on the roof of the tower, playing a random tune on his flute and watching the stars wheel overhead. The parties were only just now winding down, and drunken singing still floated up occasionally to mix with his music.
He lowered the instrument with a sigh.
"A much better ending," he breathed to the night, closing one hand around his fang necklace with a smile.
His expression darkened for a moment as his mind played over the images of what-could-have-been, but the glowing present banished the image and his smile returned.
And now their adventure was ended, he supposed. The Dark wizard was dead and everybody could continue their lives. Harry could finally go through a school year without someone trying to kill him.
But their mission here was ended, Ammy had resumed her previous form, everything was…normal. His prophetic senses almost hummed at the peace and prosperity clouding the future here.
It was odd.
Sadly, he was used to great evils and dramatic battles and everything balancing on the roll of the dice.
But just for this moment, everything was peaceful. It was nice.
The swordsman raised his flute to his lips and began to play again, a sweet, trilling tune that leapt like birdsong and lingered in the air.
"Issun, you know we can't stay here forever."
"Come on, you crazy prophet, why not? Think of all we'll have to leave behind- the babes, the jam, the alcohol, the jam, the magically filling plates, the jam, th-"
Waka flicked the ponicle off of Ammy's head, shutting him up.
"You can take some jam with you, you know. But we can't stay here."
The ponicle bounced sulkily back onto the wolf's head.
"But why not? We can still visit Nippon…why can't we stay here, prophet?"
He crossed his tiny arms.
The swordsman threw a glance to the heavens, sighing again.
"Because this isn't our home, my little bouncing friend, and like it or not, Nippon is the world we must protect. Ammy can't stay away forever, you know."
The ponicle continued to sulk.
"And there are so many other worlds to visit yet," the Tao master tempted.
"Worlds just full of treasure and foods you haven't tried yet, woman who don't know to run screaming from you yet…"
The ponicle smiled dreamily, then blinked.
"The point is we can't stay. But we can come visit now and then. Anyway, it'll take a day for me to summon the Ark here without disrupting the wards. So relax. Enjoy it for a little while longer."
Amaterasu watched the exchange with amusement. Issun opened his mouth to argue again but was cut off with a shriek as she snapped him expertly out of the air, shaking her head then coughing the ponicle out onto the floor.
"Ack! Ammy, what have I told you about doing that?! How can I attract the babes smelling like wolf slobber, huh?"
Waka smirked, fiddling once more with his necklace, admiring the shimmer of light off of the silver shine of the cord.
Sparkly, oddly familiar light…come to think of it…
He lifted the necklace into the air a little, squinting. Where had he seen that exact shade of silver-white? It was sort of like Ammy's fur, only…
He gaped, utterly still.
Only…unbraid the coils of the cord and you would be left not with wolf's fur but with impossibly bright hair. Hair he had seen not long ago, when magic had changed a certain someone's shape.
He stared into nothing for a long while, mouth still open, unaware of the voices calling his name.
His head swung around to stare at the wolf serenely scratching at an ear.
"You," he breathed.
"You, you've been human before! You have to have been! You gave me this necklace centuries ago- when you were a wolf!"
Memories replayed at lightning speed.
"When? Who did you make it for? Why did you give it to me? Why were you a person then? Can you change? What-"
A furry form tackled him, knocking him onto the stone floor with an oomph of expelled air. She licked his face, staring into his eyes, then huffed with amusement. She licked him again, gently, then pressed her cold nose to the hollow of his throat, staring at him meltingly.
He couldn't help it. He softened.
From somewhere to the left, there was a muttered "Sucker!" as Issun dried himself off.
"You made it for me? But that must have been before you met me! How could you-?"
She leapt off him, stretching, an air of smugness around her.
He narrowed his eyes at her.
"You're not going to tell me? Why you were human before?"
She scratched her ear again.
"I'll find out, you know. Somehow."
"I'm a prophet, I have my ways."
She circled lazily, then flopped onto the ground in a patch of sunlight, curling up into a ball.
"Fine. Don't tell me. But somehow, someday, you're going to regret this…"
She seemed to be asleep.
"Just you see…I foresee a trip to a world full of thorns…I know how you hate getting them out of your coat. Or a stint as a babysitter, I know you just love all those grimy little toddlers pulling your fur…"
The day of their departure dawned clear.
"Do you have to go?" Harry asked soulfully as he hugged Amaterasu again. She licked his face.
A fair percentage of Hogwarts had found excuses to be nearby as the odd trio made to leave. Waka waved a hand negligibly.
"Don't worry, Harry, ma petite will come back! But there are things to do, and you have to finish your schooling. You might even manage a normal year…"
"Is that a formal prediction?" the teen shot back.
The prophet laughed.
"Not for all the jam in the world."
The ponicle shot him a dark look.
The prophet ignored him.
"So…how are you guys leaving?"
"Watch and see."
On cue the air above then shimmered and suddenly, floating easily above the lake in casual defiance of all the laws of physics, appeared the Ark.
Then the watchers- who weren't even pretending to be innocent bystanders anymore- gasped, as a glittering rainbow path wove itself out of the air to finish at Amaterasu's feet.
"Your chariot awaits, ma petite."
She licked Harry again, danced around Draco and the twins, flowers following in her wake, then ran lightly up the rainbow path to disappear into the Ark.
There was a sigh.
"Well, I suppose that's all."
"We can't even begin to repay you," began Dumbledore, but Waka cut him off with a smile.
"Life should always be preserved, we were glad to help."
He suddenly stopped, and stared as the Ark seemed to shiver in the air.
"What by the Celestials…"
His eyes suddenly widened and he looked around frantically for a moment before wheeling about with a curse.
"Issun! Get away from those controls!"
And with a hurried goodbye the prophet sprinted up the rainbow path even as it began to disappear beneath him.
And so ends the tale of how Okami Amaterasu came to the magical world of Earth and helped defeat a great evil.
With a little help, of course.
The End! Of this story, anyway…Thanks so much to everybody who followed me in this- I hope you enjoyed it! Til next time, then.