-Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all characters wizard, witch and muggle alike are the property of JK Rowling.
I have at last found a proper Beta for this piece! YAy me! Many thanks to DukeBrymin for all your work on this wonderful mess of mine!
Special notes: 8/19/09 I recently got a very ugly review from someone in regards to this story and it hurt me very deeply. I would ask people when reading this to please keep in mind, this was MY VERY FIRST attempt at writing anything from the Harry Potter universe of any length, and only my second ever Harry Potter fiction. When I wrote this, I didn't know the characters as well as I do now, I had only read through the series once and hadn't seen any of the movies. Were I to write this piece now I would likely write it quite differently.
So, all I can say is, cut the writer some slack, okay? I admit I had timeline problems and at times it does jump around, it also does at times seem more George and Luna, this was unavoidable because I was introducing a uncanon pairing with NO HISTORY. So, I needed a couple chapters to write a history for them. But if you read on, you will find that there is Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, along with some Seamus and Lavender.
-The Eighth Year
-A Walk In The Forest
Harry Potter woke with the memory of Ginny Weasley's hair and scent, and the picture of it blowing around them as he kissed her for the first time in nearly a year. He opened his eyes and was overcome with disappointment in finding that it had only been a dream.
In his anxiousness to visit Dumbledore's office, he had reluctantly put off going to see Ginny. Now, with a deep breath and a glance over his body he knew he would have to put it off for a bit longer. He was covered in mud, dirt and blood. Some his own, some not, and some belonging, he knew, to Ginny's own brother, Fred, who had died valiantly fighting in the battle to defend Hogwarts from the greatest evil ever known.
To some he had been "You-Know-Who", to others "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". His Death Eaters had called him the Dark Lord, and Albus Dumbledore, and, at the very end, Harry, too, had called him by the name given him at birth, the name of his Muggle father...Tom Riddle.
Up until Harry had learned that using the name was a way for him to be traced, Harry had called him by only one name:
No matter what name they chose to call him, Voldemort, You-Know-Who, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Tom Riddle...he was dead, killed by his own killing curse, the killing curse that had been meant for Harry.
Harry took a deep breath, knowing that he would be needing a shower before he even thought about speaking to Ginny. A sharp pain in his ribcage reminded him that the killing curse that had sent Voldemort to his death hadn't been Harry's first. He shook his head, knowing he would have to tell the others about that. Surely they would have questions...but he would much rather not think of that now. If he started to think about how close he had come to losing everything, he would fall down crying and never get up.
With a groan, he forced himself over onto his side. His eyes immediately fell on the four-poster next to his own, coming to rest on his two best friends. Ron Weasley lay sleeping, his mouth open with a most ungraceful line of drool running onto his pillow. Under his chin, precariously close to the puddle, lay the ever-bushy head of Hermione Granger, her back pressed up against his chest.
Taking care not to wake them, Harry pulled a blanket over them both, then carefully placed a finger under Ron's chin and closed his mouth. The redhead looked ready to wake, but instead he nuzzled his nose into Hermione's hair and was once again still.
A glance at the end of his bed showed that someone had been kind enough to leave him towels, toiletries, a change of clothes, and a first-aid kit. He gave a smile, seeing that the clothes were his school robes. For some reason it felt right to put on Hogwarts robes this day.
Harry picked them up and he couldn't help thinking of how kind the people in his life were, particularly compared with the hellish life he had lived with the Dursleys. He hadn't seen the Dursleys in nearly a year. If there had been anything positive about his life during that horrible year, it was knowing that he never had to see them again.
Still, he couldn't help but remember Dudley's odd, but touching, farewell the day they had parted. He was filled with a restless curiosity about how they had fared through all this. Harry wondered if he should stop by the Dursleys', just to check in on them and make sure that they made out okay. He might even let Dudley know how to reach him.
Harry smiled a little as he thought. He skirted the bed and made for the door to the showers, noticing that George and Charlie Weasley were asleep in the beds across the room that had once been Dean's and Seamus's. Bill and Fleur were in the bed that had been Neville's. He smirked at the sight. It looked like they hadn't even bothered taking the time to expand it, but didn't seem to mind sleeping that close together.
He took his time in the shower, letting the hot water course over his battle-weary body. There were few spots that weren't damaged or inflicted with some kind of wound. Cuts, bruises, scrapes and burns were everywhere. The worst bruising, as he had suspected, was on his chest where Voldemort's killing curse had hit.
He had felt, since he had killed Voldemort, that he would need to visit the clearing in the forest. He thought that perhaps seeing it in the light of day might remove some of the ghosts from his mind. But he also had another hope...if he was close to the Resurrection Stone again...just maybe....so even though he had decided the night before to not go looking for it, he decided to set off.
He sighed deeply, a tinge of dread creeping into his heart. In spite of the possibilities, Harry was far from ecstatic at the thought of returning to the place that he had "died."
But instead, Harry thought, he could look at the clearing the Forbidden Forest in different terms. He had also been with the people he loved the most, aside from Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. He had seen those he had lost to death, and they had been with him in the forest that night; they had come to calm and comfort him in his most darkest hour.
Harry smiled now as he applied a final thin piece of Steri-Strip to a small cut on his cheek, donned the light spring robe and glanced in the mirror.
"Bloody hell, I'm a mess..."
He shook his head at all the cuts and bruises that were still visible. He should visit the Dursleys soon if he was going to at all, as the sight of a cut-up and battered face would be a sure bet to cheer his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.
With a light chuckle, Harry stepped from the bathroom and returned to the dormitory for his wand, socks, and shoes; then, as quietly as possible, continued down to the common room. He was about to plop down on the large sofa when he spotted a splay of bright red hair. Ginny.
Harry softly tiptoed around the sofa and covered her again with the blanket that she had obviously kicked off some time in her sleep. He bent down and kissed her temple, hating the idea of leaving her behind again, even if it was only for a very short time. He picked up a slip of parchment from the desk near the window and scratched out a note telling her he would be back soon. He rolled it up and placed it inside her hand, then made another copy and slipped it inside her shoe, just in case she dropped the first one.
He brushed his finger down her cheek, wanting her peaceful face as a memory to take with him while he looked for the Resurrection Stone. He smiled softly, remembering how she had already been there with him once, at least, in his mind. It was only right that this beautiful image of her be with him now.
He quietly closed the portal door as he left, leaving the Fat Lady to groan with annoyance at being woken so early in the morning.
"People coming and going all day and all night! I was not meant to tolerate such goings on, I tell you! I shall...Oh! Harry Potter, it's you!"
"Yeah, it's just me."
"Well then, that's alright! The paintings are all a flutter. Your name is on everyone's lips!"
"Must be awful boring," Harry laughed then turned to head down the stairs.
"Hardly my boy, hardly. Yoo hoo!...fare thee well! Fare thee well!"
Harry stopped walking for a moment and peeked into a large room just off the Great Hall. With such limited space in the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey had turned it into a makeshift hospital extension for the least injured. The worst of course, had been taken to St. Mungo's. Of those, there had only been five, all of which were adults. And three of them were Death Eaters. Upstairs, in the Hogwarts Infirmary, there were a few moderate burns and concussions, and multiple broken limbs.
Downstairs was used for the nasty scrapes, minor cuts, and knots on the head. Nothing huge, but things Madam Pomfrey felt better being able to keep an eye on. All the other students, and the few handfuls of parents who had arrived to the battle, had been taken to the abandoned dormitory rooms. Some, like Molly Weasley, stepped in to help Madam Pomfrey with small medical spells and bandaging. She heard the door open, saw Harry and smiled sadly and lifted a finger, the universal signal that she would be just a moment more.
When she came to Harry she offered him a tired smiled and fierce hug.
When he finally pulled away, he looked at her, almost unable to keep his tears at bay.
"I'm sorry I didn't come sooner," Harry whispered.
"No need for an apology, dear. I understand, you've been sleeping for nearly forty-eight hours now, you know."
"Yeah, I..wait, forty-eight hours?"
"Yes dear. I reckon with all that you've been through for the past few years, it all finally caught up with you," she said.
"Ron and Hermione are okay?" Harry asked.
"Yes, but I suspect you've seen that for yourself. They followed you upstairs after an hour, and have been sleeping since."
"Is everyone else... I mean..." Harry blushed profusely, "is everyone else okay?"
Mrs. Weasley chuckled softly. "Ginny is just fine, Harry," she said, knowing who "everyone" really referred to, "She was a bit anxious that you were still sleeping; we all were. However, Madam Pomfrey assured us that it is quite normal after expelling the amount of magic the three of you did..."
"I have something I need to do right away, in the forest," Harry stopped and cleared his throat, "I left Ginny a note...but could you tell the others I'll be back soon?"
"Of course, dear," She smiled and patted his knee, then rose and went back into the makeshift hospital.
Ginny Weasley began to stir the moment she heard the painting of the Fat Lady click back into its place after Harry departed. She hated the thought of opening her eyes, dreading what she would see. Had it all been a dream? Or was Voldemort finally dead at last? Then she remembered Fred.
Ginny's eyes stung as she realized that, had it been a dream, her brother would still be alive.
She sat up, not noticing the small scroll that had tipped from her hand, and pulled her feet up on the sofa in front of her. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her head in her lap. Long moments later, she lifted her head and her eyes fell onto the object she had missed, and she vaguely recalled feeling something near her hand when she had first awoken.
Instinctively, she guessed it was from Harry, causing a sense of dread to fill her heart. Had Harry left her behind again? He hadn't spoken to her since just after Voldemort's defeat, and even then it had only been for a few moments. She slowly unrolled the scroll.
I have important business to attend to
in the Forbidden Forest.
Will be back to see you soon.
Ginny smiled at his words. So her mother had been right. It was only the exhaustion that had kept Harry from seeking her out. She had been worried.
She looked around at the quiet common room. Dawn's first light was shining into the room, and now that Voldemort was quite dead, she felt no hesitation in the idea, so she quickly grabbed up her shoes and left the room.
Still, when she passed the Fat Lady and closed the door, she breathed a sigh of relief. It would be just like her family to treat her like a child and have her under guard, but that was the price one paid for being the youngest and the only girl, she supposed. She sat down to put on her shoes, smiling a little when she saw the second scroll, even though it said word for word the same as the first.
"And where do you think you're sneaking out to so early in the morning, missy?"
Ginny jumped a little when Peeves' voice sounded from behind her.
"Are you trying to scare a person to death?" Ginny glared at the ghost.
"Oho...Ginny Weasley. I know what you are about," he cackled.
Ginny narrowed her eyes, fixing Peeves with her most menacing glare.
"Why don't you just mind your own business?"
"You're out and about, running to snog Harry Potter, aintcha?!"
"Oh, do shut up." Ginny began down the stairs.
"Wot's this?! The little Weasley girl, sneaking out to snog Harry Potter?!" Peeves yelled louder, trying to catch anyone's attention.
"Shut up Peeves, you bloody git" Ginny said through clenched teeth, as she hurried down the stairs. She was followed by Peeves, who slid down the banister and kept up a steady stream of "Potter and Weasley Snoggin'" comments. Ginny finally found herself at the entrance of the castle and pushed her way into the bright sunlight. She then fell slack against the stone wall of the castle to catch her breath.
Damn that Peeves anyway....
Taking a deep breath, Ginny set off for the Forbidden Forest.
Harry arrived at the charred remains of a fire and immediately knew that he had found the right location. This was it, the place where he had died.
He felt a curious sensation along his scar. Not the horrific pain or tingle that he had always connected with Voldemort—this wasn't an unpleasant feeling at all—more like the gentle caress of someone smoothing his hair from his forehead. The way his mother, and more recently, Ginny, had done.
He wished that the tingling were a sign...he'd hoped that if he returned here, close to the stone...he might....
And he did.
He was hit in the face by a bright beam of sunshine, and when it cleared....
"Harry." Dumbledore smiled, "I am quite proud."
"He's really dead then? Voldemort won't ever be coming back?" Harry asked, his hand going to his scar of its own accord. He knew better than to be shocked at Dumbledore's sudden appearance.
"He won't be back," Severus, who had appeared, standing next to Dumbledore, said, as he stared into Harry's eyes, as if once again seeing Lily in them. "You got lucky Potter. I doubt any of your great talent had much to do with it." It was the usual drone from Snape, yet the corner of his lips had the slightest quirk.
"How can I ever thank you, Professor?" Harry asked, sincerely.
"I didn't do it for you, Potter," Snape still looked deep into Harry's eyes.
"No, you didn't. You did it for my mum," Harry had to wipe a tear away. "That means even more to me sir." Harry bowed his head in extreme respect to his former teacher. When he rose, Snape was very nearly smiling at him. Harry took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
"Voldemort is really gone."
"Your mission to destroy the Horcruxes was successful, Harry."
"What do I do now?" he asked the silver-haired man.
Dumbledore smiled. "Now...it's time for you to do what YOU want to do."
"What I want?" Harry shook his head whispering, "All I've worried about for so long has been destroying Voldemort...I've barely thought about what I might want."
"That only makes sense; from birth, your decisions were ruled by prophecy, and, now, that destiny has been fulfilled. The future is yours, Harry, it is for you to decide what you wish to do with it ...just as you have already chosen whom you wish to spend it with."
Dumbledore smiled and nodded. Harry turned and saw Ginny a slight distance off, walking towards him. When he turned around again, Snape and Dumbledore were gone.
Harry turned back and watched Ginny walking towards him, her hair violently red and bouncing on her shoulders in the way Harry knew would bring a whoosh of her flowery scent to his nose when they walked together hand in hand. He planned to do a lot of that, walking beside her, among other things.
With five older brothers, being the only girl, and being the youngest, Ginny had learned early that there was no room for cowardice in the Weasley household. As a result, she had never turned tail and run from anything in her life. Ever.
So why was it the minute she saw Harry turn and look at her she was ready to spin in her trainers and not stop until she had reached the Burrow? But then Harry turned away again and she took advantage of it and stopped for a second to breathe deep and steady her nerves.
Harry quickly turned around again and just stood there, watching her walk towards him and she was suddenly seized with the fear that she was going to trip over something and land flat on her face.
And then she caught his eyes.
In a flash the past eighteen months passed in front of her eyes. Harry, shocking everyone, particularly her, when he kissed her; the long walk they took that night hand in hand, with her finally being able to admit everything she had kept in for years; and weeks of bliss and stolen moments together when and where they could find them....
And then it all went bad. The night she found out that he had left with Dumbledore on some dangerous mission, Snape's betrayal, Dumbledore's death, and Harry refusing to leave his body. His breaking things off for his stupid, noble reasons...even though Ginny could still see in his eyes how much he wanted to be with her. In fact, it had probably hurt him even more than her.
Image after image, and occasion after occasion flashed through her mind. Kissing him on his birthday, fighting with Ron because she overheard him giving Harry grief about it, Bill and Fleur's wedding, and then the worst parts...going for days and days, and even a horrible gap of three months with no word about not just him, but everybody. Friends had been missing from school: Luna, Dean; and listings in the papers of more and more deaths. She always dreaded that she would hear Harry's, her brother's, and Hermione's name next. And always more and more rumors that they had been captured.
Three days ago...the battle...Remus calling out for Tonks and Teddy in his final moments...Tonks doing the same, George's horrific howl of anguish when Fred's body was brought into the Great Hall. And then ... Hagrid...walking out of the forest, and, held tight in his arms, a corpse. Another dead person had been added to the ever-growing list of people she loved who had died. But this one was....
Killed trying to run away....
Was that McGonagall? Screaming like that?
Neville's head covered by the sorting hat, the hat itself on fire, then Neville cutting the head off the snake.
"He's DEAD! Your chosen one is DEAD!"
Ginny looked up into the green eyes, and then slapped Harry as hard as she could.
Tears streamed down her face and pooled under her chin then fell to the ground like rain drops.
"HOW... COULD... YOU?!" she raged, fists still clenched, she reached behind her for her wand.
"Ginny..." he scrambled to his feet just in time to miss a bat bogey hex.
"Ginny..." he started again, but Ginny cut him off, firing another hex at him that he just managed to duck.
"How could you even think of leaving me here without you?!" she screamed, stalking toward him like a madwoman.
"You must know, I never planned..."
She fired off another hex. "I know you left the castle knowing you were never coming back!"
"Would you please stop trying to hex me?" Harry yelled, turning away to try to find his glasses. "I'm a bit sore, in case it escaped your notice, and you're hurting me."
"GOOD! I'm glad, you stupid prat! Running off to die!" Ginny yelled, but her hand slowly lowered, and she put her wand away. Exhausted by emotion, she sat on the ground, her cheek resting on her knees.
Harry came from behind the tree and sat in front of her, his eyes watching her wand hand closely.
"I had no other choice."
"Another of your noble deeds, I suppose. Easy, just like dumping me,"Ginny ground out sarcastically.
"No," Harry shook his head and stared at the ties on his trainers "Walking to my death was easy compared to breaking things off with you. Breaking up with you nearly killed me."
Ginny shot him a look.
"I had to be sure, Ginny. I had to know that you would be safe...you of all people. I was so afraid that Voldemort would come after you, and if you had been hurt by Voldemort or his Death Eaters, I couldn't have taken it. I wouldn't have wanted to live anymore."
"Ginny, do you remember the Marauders map?" Harry continued.
"The map that shows where everyone is in Hogwarts?"
"What of it?"
"Before you left school at Easter, when me Hermione, Ron and I were still looking for the Horcruxes, I use to take the map out late at night."
Harry was blushing furiously. "I use to watch you. Your footsteps, I mean."
Ginny looked a little confused.
"Do you understand? I watched your dot because I missed you so much I couldn't bear it. It was a connection, sappy and pathetic maybe, but..." they both laughed a little. Harry decided the laughter felt good, really good.
"If it had been for my heart to decide, I would have never broken things off. I never want to be without you again." Harry pulled away and he bent his head to hers and kissed her.
It might have been a minute or an hour later before they finally began to hear loud yelling coming from the direction of the school.
"What do you suppose is going on?"
"I don't know," Harry tensed, worried that Death Eaters might still be in the area. "Come on Gin, we better get back."
When they reached the edge of the forest however, what they saw was not Death Eaters. It was much, much, better. The school and grounds were swarming with students, parents, and staff. Wands were waving and the air was filled with the cries of Reparo, as Hogwarts slowly began to be restored to its former glory.
"Ah, Potter, back to the world of the wakeful at last, I see. If I might have a word please?" Professor McGonagall was actually smiling happily as she walked towards them.
"It's okay. I'll see you later," Ginny said, then smiled and kissed his cheek and went off to join Percy and George where they were working on the outer wall of the Entrance Hall.
"I'm glad to see that you are well, Professor," Harry smiled, a slightly mischievous glint to his eyes.
McGonagall patted his shoulder. "You as well, Harry. You gave us all quite a scare."
"All part of..."
"Dumbledore's plan, yes, yes, I figured you would say that. I wondered, Potter, if your career choice is still to be an Auror?"
"I would love to, yes ma'am, however, as you know I was forced to leave Hogwarts without completing my seventh year. I don't have my required N.E.W.T's."
"That is easy enough to remedy, Potter--Return in September and complete your seventh year. Miss Granger, Miss Weasley and Mr. Weasley have already decided to do so. In fact, many students will be doing so despite Professor Snape's best efforts. And while he did try to provide a satisfactory learning environment, very little learning was actually accomplished this past year. "
Harry's heart leapt at the possibilities. The chance to be a normal student, with nobody wanting him dead. And a final chance to play Quidditch. He hadn't played a complete season since his third year.
"I think I'd really like that Professor," Harry smiled.
"Wonderful! Now, Mr. Potter, I understand you were the force behind Dumbledore's Army," McGonagall asked.
"Are you expelling me, Professor?" Harry gave McGonagall a cocky grin.
"Must you be so cheeky, Potter?"
"Sorry," Harry smiled his trademark grin that no one, not even McGonagall, could stay angry with.
"Now, Kingsley Shacklebolt, being the new Minister of Magic, has suggested we expand how our students are trained for Defense Against the Dark Arts. More practical instruction."
Harry just smiled and nodded slightly. It was a great idea.
"Kingsley would like to see us continue Dumbledore's Army, as an officially offered class. A chance to get a bit more instruction once a week for those who would like it."
Harry smiled. "I would be honored Professor McGonagall, there's nothing I would love more," he answered her unasked question.
"Very well then Potter, we will see you in September then."
"September," Harry agreed and turned and watched his classmates and their parents restore Hogwarts--his first real home.
September...he could hardly wait.