Chapter 6: Epilogue
(Tue 1 Aug)
Harry was having breakfast with the Weasleys. He had enjoyed a wonderful birthday party at The Burrow last night, and Sirius had let him spend the night. While he might have stayed in Bill or Charlie's old room, he had slept in the same room as Ron for the first time since last December. He was willing to bet it was because Mrs. Weasley felt that was more proper since Ron could keep an eye on him, though she had not used those words. She had said she thought he would be more comfortable there, but he was sure it was for her comfort. He supposed it was the price to be paid for dating her daughter.
As they were finishing up an excellent breakfast, four owls came in the window and settled on the table. The four Weasley teens removed letters from the owl's legs. "Our school letters!" Ginny exclaimed, before she looked at Harry.
Harry shrugged, not particularly concerned over the lack of a letter. "Mine's probably at home."
"Well, go get it; I'll wait," she told him.
Laughing at his girlfriend's demand, Harry jumped up and Flooed home. When Harry returned less than a minute later, he noticed that the twins had already ripped open their envelopes, but he had expected as much. They had no need or desire to wait on him. Ron waited with his sister, though Harry thought he saw a sad look on Ron's face. It looked like Ginny was also aware of her brother's peculiar expression, and he thought she might be about to ask him about it, but his return interrupted her.
Mrs. Weasley was standing there, obviously waiting for the report. "Well?" she asked as Harry sat down.
"Sorry, Mum," Fred started.
"We're in seventh year next year," George continued the joke.
The woman rolled her eyes at their antic and let it go. She looked eagerly to the other three.
Spying Harry's slightly thicker envelope, Ginny urged him, "Well, go on Harry, open it." As he looked at her, she stopped his question. "No, you first."
He shook his head while rolling his eyes at her, but that got him lightly smacked on the back of the head while he opened his letter. As he pulled the report out, a badge with a large 'P' on it also came out.
"I knew it!" Ginny squealed and threw her arms around Harry. "Congratulations, Harry."
He smiled at the prefect badge, although he was somewhat surprised to see it.
The twins started teasing him until their mother glared at the pair. "Congratulations, Harry," she told him. Harry thought that she sounded faintly disappointed that Ron was not picked, but he thought that after the events at Christmas, she probably had not really expected Ron to become Prefect. Harry also knew that Ron did not keep his grades up enough, though he tried to hide that fact from everyone. Ginny had mentioned to him in the spring that McGonagall had visited her mum, telling them that Ron was still struggling with his work.
"Your turn, Ginny," Harry told her.
Nervously opening the envelope, she said, "I bet Hermione got picked as the girl's prefect. We'll have to owl her and see." Hardly breathing, she pulled out her letter and started reading. After a moment, an ear splitting scream erupted from the petite girl and she again threw her arms around Harry.
Harry knew that meant she had been successful in her plan and stood. Picking her up, he twirled her around. He set her down with a quick kiss before telling her, "Congratulations, Ginny! I knew you could do it!"
"What? It's not that hard to get into the fourth year," Ron sullenly commented, his letter still sealed in his hand.
Ginny, still beaming, handed her letter to her mother. While the woman was occupied, Ginny stole a longer kiss from her boyfriend, which Harry was happy to succumb to.
Looking up, Mrs. Weasley had something between a confused look and a smile on her face. "I assume you want to do this, Ginny?"
"Absolutely! You have no idea how hard I studied to do that," his girlfriend exuberantly exclaimed. "Not only did I have to study really hard, but I had to take twice as many exams."
George reached up and pulled the letter from his mother's hand. A short moment later, he and his twin had scanned it. "Blimey, Gin!"
"Crikey!" Fred added.
Ron grabbed the letter and scanned it. "Oh, bloody hell!" he said despondently.
"Watch your language, young man," his mother reprimanded as she also rapped her knuckles on his head. "It's rare someone gets the chance to skip a year. Now open your letter so we can see how you did on your exams."
With obvious dread and what Harry thought was simply fearing the worst, as he had not had Hermione to help him for most of the year, Ron slowly opened his letter. Pulling it out, he scanned his letter. Emotionlessly, he put it on the table and got up to leave.
His mother quickly grabbed it and read it. "Ron?" she called after her youngest son.
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked back at her. "I'm sorry, Mum. I tried hard, I really did." He then continued up the stairs for his room.
Ginny looked at the letter on the table, quickly scanning it. "Oh, poor Ron," she said with real sympathy for her struggling brother. "He's having to repeat the fourth year."
The twins looked at each other, and for once, they did not tease their brother. That would have been beneath them, and Harry knew that everyone in Gryffindor had seen how hard Ron had tried, how many late nights he had put in studying by himself. Harry knew they would make fun of him for a lot of things, but not for this.
"Well," Mrs. Weasley finally said, breaking the extended silence, "I suppose I need to sign your permission slip, Ginny, so you can go forward. I'll even take it to Professor McGonagall for you. I think I need to speak with her to see if I can do anything to help Ron over the summer."
"Thanks, Mum," Ginny said and gave her mum a hug. "I'm going to go over to Harry's for the day. Sirius said we're to start redoing the library today, so I'm going to help them pick out colors."
"All right, dear. Please stay with both of them."
As Ginny was leaving, Molly heard her daughter say, "Just think, Harry, we'll have all the same classes now and get to spend that much more time together." Thinking about what that might mean, coupled with Sirius's comments at the beginning of the summer, Molly almost stopped her daughter from going. It finally occurred to her that Sirius must be right for her daughter to have put in so much time and effort to jump ahead a year. That also meant that she and Harry would be graduating from Hogwarts at the same time, which meant they could easily be married immediately after Ginny's seventeenth birthday, if that was what her daughter wanted to do. Molly could not decide if that made her happy for her daughter, or sad for herself at possibly losing her daughter so soon. Of course, that would also mean that she would gain Harry as a seventh son, so maybe the situation did have a bright side.
Shaking her head, she turned her thoughts back to her youngest son and walked over to the fireplace to call Minerva. Maybe there was something she could help Ron with this summer so he did not have to repeat the fourth year.
(Mon 7 Aug)
Harry and Ginny were buying their school supplies under Sirius's watchful eye, though it was not nearly as watchful as Mrs. Weasley's would have been. He seemed to be quite blind whenever Harry would pull Ginny behind some bookshelf to snog her briefly but thoroughly.
Neville and Hermione had joined them for the day's excursion. To no one's surprise, Hermione was the other Gryffindor fifth year prefect. Neville held her hand as they walked around, as he also held all of her new purchases. Neville confided quietly to Harry that he was very thankful his Gran had let him buy a "Nearly Bottomless Bag(tm)," so he was able to carry around Hermione's tower of books without too much effort.
Ron and the twins had not come to Diagon Alley. Ron stayed behind because he did not need any new books and he was trying to redo his notes from the last year to make the coming year easier. The twins seemed to want to go with their father for some reason unbeknownst to anyone else. Ginny had said she thought her mum was going to interrogate her dad thoroughly about that before she let them go.
With a little bit of help from Neville, Harry convinced Hermione to keep Ginny in the bookstore a little longer, while he and Neville went out to take care of some "boy stuff". Harry dragged Neville a few shops down and they went into the Quidditch Supply store. As fast as he could, Harry bought the new Nimbus 3000 and arranged for it to be owl delivered to Ginny on the 11th of August. He knew there probably would not be a Chaser position open this coming year, but he hoped he could talk this year's captain, Angelina he assumed, into letting Ginny be a reserve player and at least get in on the practice sessions. He was already anticipating Ginny's reaction to the gift, let alone the chance at being on Quidditch team in any capacity.
That done, Harry and Neville hurried back to the bookstore with no extra bags to give Harry away. Ginny appeared to be none the wiser about what had happened, and Harry hoped she thought they had just gone to another section of the bookstore while she and Hermione had looked at romance novels.
(Fri Sep 1)
After the usual enthusiastic greeting from Ginny when he met her on Platform 9 ¾, the five friends found a compartment together. The train started moving promptly at eleven, whereupon Hermione dragged Harry forward to the prefect's meeting. Harry had made Ginny lock the compartment door, in case Malfoy came by, so they would have a few extra seconds to draw their wands if they needed to. He was sure that if they had their wands out, Ginny and Neville could protect themselves handily. Ron's presence would give some extra security, as that would make it three on three.
Harry thought it was a very boring meeting with Trey Yancy, the Head Boy, conducting most of it. Harry was pleased that Malfoy was not in attendance, although he was rather surprised Snape had not made Malfoy a prefect. The fifth-year Slytherin prefects were Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass. Not seeing Malfoy in the compartment made Harry even happier he had badgered Ginny into locking their compartment door.
That made Harry think about Snape, and his desire to do something about the man this year. In talking with Sirius about it, his godfather gave him advice that he had not expected, telling him not to worry about the greasy git. Strangely, Sirius would not say anything more. In addition, when Harry asked the man what he would be doing now that the house was mostly livable and happy, thanks to a lot of help from Ginny, Sirius had only said that he had something lined up. The rather large mischievous grin on his godfather's face left Harry dubious about whatever hare-brained scheme was the latest pet project in development, but no matter what Harry tried, he could not worm the information out of Sirius.
Still, all in all, it had been the best summer of Harry's life in his own opinion. There were no Dursleys, and for once Harry had felt a little like he was a normal teenager. Once he got over his nightmares at the beginning of the summer, with Ginny's help, he had had a lot of fun. He had enjoyed having Ginny, Hermione, and Neville visit for a sleep over a few times -- something the Dursleys would never have even considered letting him do.
In some ways, Harry had felt sad for Ron. Not only was Ron having to repeat a grade, but he was more like a distant friend than anything to Harry. Ron's requirement to repeat the fourth year was only going to make it harder to try to overcome the distance between them. They were becoming friends again, but it was definitely a slow process.
On the other hand, Harry thought Ron's sister had made up for that spectacularly. He could not imagine a better girlfriend. After the promise she had whispered in his ear at her birthday party, about how she had a gift for him later -- and that was before she had even received her new broom and given him several very happy looks -- he was very much looking forward to finding a secluded place at school soon.
As Harry and Hermione stood outside their compartment so they could watch the hallway, part of their required patrolling of the rail car, the end door opened and there stood Draco Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle as usual. Harry looked at his fellow prefect as he drew his wand and held it by his side. "You'd think he'd learn to stop doing this, wouldn't you?"
Hermione raised her voice slightly. "I don't think he can learn from his mistakes, Harry. He's not intelligent enough. You know how small a brain ferrets have. He's doomed to keep coming to bother us, just as he's doomed to keep getting hexed."
"Why, you filthy Mudblood," Malfoy started off, obviously not hearing the door behind him open, since he did not stop his tirade. "The only thing you're good for is to practice spells on. I'll bet you're not even any good in bed, though maybe I'd do you if you paid me."
Hermione did not bother to retort, she just smiled, and Harry knew she was enjoying the thought of what was about to happen, just as he was. On the walk back, she had quietly agreed that the Head Boy was a bit boring, but she had immediately followed that with how he was very nice for a Hufflepuff.
"Mr. Malfoy," Trey Yancy said coldly from behind the Slytherin trio, "I've heard about your feud with Potter and his friends here, but I really don't understand how you can be so stupid as to antagonize them. Have you forgotten that Potter won the Triwizard Tournament last year against three seventh-year students? And Miss Granger, who I just heard you insult, is at the top of your class for a good reason. So you really don't want to be on her bad side. Now, return to your compartment immediately and I'll make sure to talk to your head-of-house so you get only one week of detention to think about all that."
"You don't scare me," Malfoy sneered, foolishly in Harry's opinion. "Snape won't do a thing to me."
"As you wish, you can have two weeks detention," the Head Boy said as if he was discussing the weather, though he also drew his wand. "Now, are you going to leave and stay in your car, or do I get to make you?" The look on his face seemed to indicate he would have preferred Malfoy not to go quietly. Unfortunately, in Harry's opinion, Malfoy strode past the Head Boy, back into his own rail car with his two goons following him.
Yancy looked at the Gryffindors. "Well, no promises, as I can't be everywhere at once, but I'll try to help you out with him this year. I'm so tired of his supremacy attitude and how he treats others." The Head Boy then chuckled to himself. "He's going to be in for such a surprise. See you later, Potter, Granger." The tall seventh year turned and went in the direction Malfoy had gone still chuckling to himself.
"That was interesting," Ginny said, apparently having heard it all through the open compartment door.
"Very," Neville agreed.
"I wonder what the surprise is," Ron commented. No one had an answer.
As the friends walked into the Great Hall for the Sorting and Welcoming Feast, Harry stopped dead in his tracks, causing Neville to run into the back of him.
"Oi, mate! What's wrong?"
Harry just stared and pointed to the head table. There, grinning at all of them, was Sirius Black.
Ginny laughed at her boyfriend. "I think he did that to you on purpose, Harry. Yeah, look at him laugh, definitely so." She pulled on his arm and got him walking again. "You know, we could prank him for not telling us," she suggested.
An evil grin came over Harry as he sat at the long Gryffindor table. "Excellent idea. We can't do it immediately as he'll be watching for it, and we'll need to plan carefully. He's hard to prank. Only one of my pranks from this summer actually worked on him."
"The twins are still planning their joke shop. I bet they'd love to help and would have some good ideas too," she said conspiratorially.
"Hmm, good idea..."
Professor McGonagall chose that moment to walk in with the first years. The Sorting Hat sang about unity, though it indicated that friendships could come from unusual places. The new students were divided up, almost equally between the houses.
During the Sorting, Harry noticed something else unusual about the Head table. One of the other usual professors was missing. Harry assumed he had been called away, but it was nice not to have to deal with the stares and sneers.
The Headmaster stood as the last firstie took her place and Professor McGonagall walked up to the head table. "Welcome everyone to Hogwarts, whether you are a returning student or a new student. Although I have several announcements, I shall save them for later, except for two very short but important ones to help you with your dining discussion."
That caused a slight buzz among the student population.
"I would like to make two introductions. First, for the recently exonerated and new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, please welcome Professor Sirius Black."
The students clapped, especially the Gryffindors.
"Second, due to a job swap, Professor Severus Snape is now at a research company, and from that same company comes our new Potions teacher and the new head of Slytherin house. Please welcome Professor Geoffry Talman."
The welcoming applause from the students was almost deafening, greater than what was normally heard at the awarding of House Cup. About half of the Slytherin table was being half-hearted about it, and Harry thought the other half seemed to be silently cursing their bad fortune. Everyone else in the hall, including many of the professors, were clapping as loudly as they could. The new professor shyly waved, while Harry laughed aloud at the almost universal dislike of the former Potions professor and spy.
Albus looked at all the cheering and yelling students, and let out a long sigh. When Albus had told Severus that Voldemort had been quietly apprehended and imprisoned in such a way that he would not be escaping, the hook-nosed professor had danced a jig and turned in his resignation on the spot. He had even promised Albus to find his own replacement, and in less than forty-eight hours, the very impressive resume of Geoffry Talman was on the Headmaster's desk. When he went to ask Severus about the application, he was dismayed to find that Severus had moved out of the castle completely, and surmised he had packed and left while the ink was drying on his letter of resignation. While the man was not his favorite person to be around, Albus was still a bit sad at the change of life.
As everyone finally quieted down, Dumbledore raised his voice and commanded, "Tuck in!"
When the Headmaster dismissed them to go to their respective houses, Harry thought he had ill luck at the misfortune to be near Malfoy as he tried to exit the great hall at the same time.
"You know, Potter," the Slytherin started, clearly trying something to get Harry into trouble too, after Draco's problem on the train. "It's too bad you can't really fulfill the little Weaslette. I, on the other hand, could show her everything you're not," Malfoy smirked at him and turned to his two sidekicks for them to chuckle with him.
As Harry was trying to quickly decide whether to hit or hex the blond Slytherin git, Ginny whispered something in his ear as Malfoy was not paying attention. He had no idea why she wanted that, but he would give it to her. "I really don't think you could do that, Malfoy," Harry said far too loudly so as many students as possible would hear him. The Slytherin finally turned back to look at him, with an expression of disdain on his face. "You know, the more I think about it, the more I think that your always having those two boys with you means something." Malfoy's look changed to one of confusion for just an instant, which was all his girlfriend needed to verbally pounce.
Ginny loudly gasped. "Oh my, Harry, you're absolutely right. There's no other explanation. Draco's gay!"
"W-W-What?" the boy in question sputtered.
Harry realized what Ginny was doing and did his best to keep up with her. "Yeah, it took me a while to figure out why he always had those two with him. I mean, they can't really do anything else for Malfoy other than to fulfill his, uh, manly needs, now can they? What do you think, Neville?" He could see his friend wanted in on this based on his eager expression.
"Sure, Harry, it's completely obvious now that you point it out." Draco stood there bereft of speech, his head shaking side to side in silent denial.
"I know I've always wondered," Lavender Brown joined in. "His hair is better than mine." She turned to Harry and winked at him.
Not to be left out, Ron added, "I always suspected that myself. I think it was his walk that did it for me. I've never seen a real guy strut like Malfoy does."
As Malfoy started to try to defend himself from a position that was normally looked down upon in the Wizarding World, Ginny cut him off. "It's really OK, Draco. In fact, we're proud of you for coming out like this. That took a lot of ... Oh wait, you don't have any of those between your legs. Uh, guts, yeah, that took a lot of guts. Good for you," she said to him in a fake encouraging voice.
Malfoy looked about wildly for a moment, and Harry knew his opponent saw a number of his fellow Slytherins now starting to slowly back away from him. "You're not going believe them are you? They're making it all up." Harry joyfully noticed that Malfoy's voice had gone up into the girly range and he was blushing furiously.
"Why do we need to make up the truth?" Hermione asked with a straight face. That seemed to seal the discussion, and now more people from the other houses started talking about how Malfoy was gay as they moved toward the exit from the Great Hall.
Looking around, Harry saw his godfather practically beating his head on the table, and the Headmaster was faintly smiling. The short Professor Flitwick was nowhere to be seen; Harry assumed he had fallen underneath the table in laughter. Even his stern head-of-house was holding her hand up in front of her mouth, which Harry suspected was to hide a very uncharacteristic grin. They all had to know how cruel Malfoy had been to everyone over the years, but none more than Harry. The best part of his girlfriend's spurious plan was that this would knock Malfoy down several pegs, at least temporarily, and they had not used a single bad word or hex.
"Gryffindor first years, follow me," Harry said loudly, smirking at Malfoy, and walked off with his girlfriend on his arm. He had no need to look back to know that his friends and the new lion students were following. As they reached the stairs leading to the Gryffindor Tower, the couple turned and looked at each other, an action they had both avoided for the last minute. Unable to contain themselves any longer, they burst out laughing.
"Hey Harry? Did you plan that?" Neville asked with a huge smile on his face. He looked like he had enjoyed getting back at the git who had picked on him for years.
Harry looked at his friend with a huge grin on his face. "Nope, totally spur of the moment. Ginny gave me the first line, she did the second line, and we had fun from there. Thanks for your addition, mate." Harry turned around and found the pretty blonde who had helped them. "Thanks to you too, Lavender, that truly was a choice comment." The girl blushed, though with pride. "You too, Ron," Harry added to his friend who was behind Lavender.
Turning the other way, he found the other prefect. "Hermione, I can't believe you did that, but good on you, too."
"I almost didn't, but then I considered how many times he's called me a Mudblood and I found I couldn't help myself. It was strangely satisfying." They all laughed, even Hermione.
Harry and Hermione helped the first-years into the Tower and gave them a basic explanation of the things they needed to know for the first day or two. With his responsibilities for the evening over with, he returned to the Common Room to find his girlfriend. Since they had nearly an hour until curfew, he grabbed her hand and pulled a giggling Ginny up from her chair by the fire. "Come on, let's go for a walk."
Hermione rolled her eyes at them, to which Harry stuck his tongue out at his friend, while Neville just smiled and patted the couch beside him for Hermione to join him. With a wave, Harry left them by themselves, wondering briefly if Ron was up in the fourth year dorm room getting to know Colin Creevey and the other boys from that year.
Finding a secret passage the map had told him of, Harry pulled his favorite girl into it. As he pulled her close, she surprised him by throwing her arms around his neck and jumping up so she could wrap her legs around his waist. Without thinking about what he was doing, Harry reached down under her to help hold her up. He decided immediately that he liked this.
"You, Miss Weasley, have a very nice bum. Did you know that?" he asked and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
She laughed and started snogging him. "I do try," she said eventually. "And Harry, that is your new limit."
He squeezed what he was holding. "This?"
"Uh-huh." She nibbled at his lower lip before starting to kiss him again.
Managing to get his lips away from hers, he started trailing kisses up and down her throat, causing her to moan. "If I knew," he started between kisses, "that I'd get to do this," he nibbled some more, "for buying you a broom," he found her ear, "I'd have bought you a broom a long time ago." He lightly laughed in her ear making her squeal.
"I'm glad I know you're teasing me," she told him, "or I'd think you thought I could be bought."
He stopped kissing on her and playfully asked her, "Are you saying that the broom had absolutely no bearing on me getting to touch you a little more?" The teasing smile was still on his face.
Her grin widened. "Nope." At his questioning look, she added, "OK, maybe it made me feel better about the timeframe a little, but the fact that you specifically gave me a broom really didn't change my mind."
"So what made you change your mind? Or what was it that led to this, if you like that better?" he honestly inquired. He pulled her up a bit and repositioned his hands as they had slipped a little. He still liked what he felt.
"I was ready for a little more anyway, first of all. Secondly, it's not the broom per se, but what it represents. I know it's expensive, but that doesn't really matter, even though it's nice to get an expensive present. It's that you knew that would make me happy, and you arranged to get it for me without me knowing about it. At my party, you didn't make a big deal out it. I could tell that you gave it to me just because you wanted to make me happy, because you like me."
"Sorry Gin, but if you want me to be honest, I'd have to say I didn't give it to you because I like you." Harry could tell Ginny almost lost her grip around his neck as his words registered. "It's taken me a long time to figure this out, but I gave the broom to you because I love you and want you to be happy. There's something about you that seems to fit with me, like we were made for each other."
"You, you love me?"
Harry was surprised she had asked that. "Yes. I thought you felt the same way..."
Ginny pulled herself closer and kissed him again -- a long, lingering, soulful kiss with plenty of moving lips and tongue, which Harry gladly returned in kind. After she had to come up for air, she rested her forehead against his. "I've loved you for a long time, Harry. I've just been waiting for you to admit it."
"You could have told me," he good-naturedly complained. "That would have sped all this up."
She gave him a tender smile. "No, I didn't want you to feel pressured. I wanted the love to be real. I had you as a boyfriend so I didn't mind being patient, letting you discover it on your own."
"I'm sorry, Gin, but I've never really known love before I met your family. It took me a while to figure this out."
"You do realize that this is not the first time you told me that you love me, don't you?" she asked with an impish grin.
Harry felt confused and struggled to remember any other time he had uttered those words. Coming up empty, he could only shake his head and wonder what she was referring to.
A very serious look came over Ginny. "It was during the third task last year, just as Wormtail was about to attack you. You don't remember, do you?"
Again, Harry shook his head. "I ... I remember trying to tell you good-bye, but I don't remember what I said I was so scared."
She nodded, apparently understanding. "I thought as much," she finally told him. "Still, even if you were under a lot of stress and not fully aware of what you were saying, I knew that you cared for me and that too helped me to be patient and wait for you to truly realize how you felt about me. I love you Harry, and I know that somehow, someway, we'll find way to be happy together."
"I know we will Gin. I also know that the reason I'll be happy is because I have you." He gently kissed her as if to seal his feelings.
Ginny enjoyed the emotionally intimate moment immensely. We have three years to wait, she thought to herself, though she knew she could not say that. "It's all right, Harry. We're both in love now and that's good. We also have time to work things out." Deciding words were no longer important for the moment, she pulled herself closer again and starting snogging him.
They barely made it back in time before curfew started. Ginny felt it was going to be a wonderful year, despite it being their OWL year.
(Mon 1 Sep 1997)
"Harry?" Sirius called from the doorway. "This is your last warning. If you don't get up now, you will be sorry."
"Right," The-Boy-Who-Lived mumbled in response. "You and whose army?" He rolled over and saw two fuzzy forms in the doorway to his room, one of which had a lot of red on it.
"He's all yours, sweetheart," the voice said and started to walk away.
Before either of the figures could react, Harry pulled his wand out from under his pillow and cast, "Accio Ginny!" The girl shrieked as she was pulled through the air and landed on the bed. "'Morning gorgeous," he said before he kissed her.
"Eew, morning breath," she said although she did not back away. "It's ten o'clock, Harry. We're supposed to be leaving in half an hour, so get your lazy arse up out of bed."
"Why just me? Look where you are -- in bed, and my bed at that," he teased her. Since she was by the wall, she reacted by using the wall for support and shoving him out of bed. He landed with a thump on the floor in only his boxers, ivory with maroon lions on them. "There's just no pleasing some people," he said as if to himself while he found his glasses and put them on.
"Oh, I don't know, I'm pretty pleased right now. You took a shower last night?"
"Yeah," he replied as he headed for his trunk. "I packed last night, too." He opened his trunk, knowing that his clean clothes for the day were on top already. He pulled the jeans off the top of the neat pile.
"Nice assets you've got there, Potter," she coyly teased him as he bent over the trunk.
He shook his bum a little as he searched for the good shirt. "That reminds me, I need to set a goal for this school year. I think," he stood again and leered at her while still standing in just his boxers and holding his jeans, "getting my hands on two of your best assets is what I should try for."
She laughed at him. "You already play with my hair and my bum, Harry."
"Not the ones I meant." He looked up and down her sixteen-year-old body, his gaze stopping on her chest. She blushed prettily for him.
"They're all yours a year from now, Harry." Apparently spying his shoes on the floor, she slid out her wand out and cast, "Accio black socks! Accio Ginny's green shirt!" A pair of black socks and a green T-shirt came flying out of the trunk. She deftly caught them and laid them on the bed. She grabbed his reading book off of the nightstand and tossed it in his trunk as she got up. With a flick of her wand, the trunk closed. "Hurry up and get dressed and you can have breakfast before you go. Don't forget to brush your teeth, too." With one last spell, she walked out the door to his bedroom, his trunk following her.
"Damn, she's hot," he said to himself.
"And don't you forget it!" he heard from the hallway, followed by a laugh.
Harry quickly got dressed with the clothes she had left him and then visited the bathroom for his morning ritual there. With twenty-five minutes to spare, he hustled two floors down to the kitchen.
Harry had barely walked into the room when he heard his godfather's voice. "Stop! Let me see that shirt. This must be another Ginny Weasley special." Harry stood there because he knew he was not going to get out of this. He heard his godfather read:
"Turn around, Harry," Ginny sweetly told him as she held her cup of tea she had been slowly sipping. The cup tried and failed to hide the huge grin on her face.
Rolling his eyes, he obeyed, as he knew he was not going to get out of this part either.
1 Sep 1991
There were three loud laughs and a blown kiss from the fourth person. Shaking his head, he grabbed a plate to get some food.
"Technically, he's only been yours for three weeks, Ginny dear," Mrs. Weasley said as she put her tea down and reached for a small pastry.
Harry watched Ginny look at her new engagement ring on her left hand, which he had given her on her birthday three weeks ago. "Legally, that's true, but I think I can claim him from the first time I saw him. He was mine then even if he didn't know it yet." That led to another round of laughter at Harry's expense. "Besides, he'll really be mine to do whatever I want in about three hundred and fifty days." She grinned evilly at Harry, and he was happy to blow her a kiss in response. Sirius grinned and Molly dropped her head and shook it, probably afraid for his future, Harry surmised.
"Is that the secret shirt you wouldn't let us see when she gave it to you for your birthday last month?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, this is the one. I guess I just thought I was going to hide it. It's so pretentious."
"And you're so modest," his fiancée quipped.
Ron groaned. "It's going to be a long year."
"Maybe," his sister said, "but next year will be worse for you when you're there alone."
Harry saw Ron look at his sister, who was going to be in the seventh year this year with Ron's old friends, while Ron was going to only be in sixth. Harry thought it was rather ironic for their positions to be reversed. "You have a point," Ron conceded, "but at least I'll have friends and won't be home alone."
"Am I that bad?" Mrs. Weasley asked pointedly.
"For a to-be eighteen-year-old boy next year, yeah." Fortunately, Harry thought, Ron had stopped being overly sensitive about his repeating a year, but out of kindness no one stayed on that topic.
"You ready, Pronglet?" Sirius asked Harry as he drained the last of his juice.
"I really wish you'd drop that -- Padfoot," Harry replied with an air of tried patience. "That's your generation. I'm just Harry, all around nice guy, and so forth, just like it says on the shirt."
Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "Leave the plate and go on with you. I'll see you at the school tonight."
"OK, see ya later." Harry helped his girlfriend up and walked over to their stack of trunks. Grabbing his trunk, he stepped into the fireplace while throwing some Floo powder in, and clearly said "King's Cross". He came out of the new Floo station built into the newly remodeled Platform 9 ¾. A moment later his fiancée, her brother, and her mother came out as well.
With an eye open for anything out of the ordinary, they looked around the Wizarding train platform. While Death Eater activity had been almost non-existent for the last year, it did still occasionally happen.
As they slowly made their way towards the train, the recently engaged couple got a number of waves, hellos, and a few laughs because of Harry's shirt. He took it all in stride, promising himself he would get Ginny back for that. Hopefully, repayment would be made in a broom closet, or perhaps on the Astronomy Tower. Of course, he would also have his own room now as Head Boy. He thought about that as he looked at the vivacious redhead next to him, knowing full well that he had a goofy grin on his face.
Mrs. Weasley started giving out hugs to her children, including Harry in the collection. He told her, "See you at Christmas, Mum." He knew she liked to hear that from him.
Getting on the train, they headed for the front and the large prefect compartment. Because she had skipped a year, this was the first year Ginny was a prefect, and only because Hermione was Head Girl. Just before they made it to their destination, he had the misfortune to run into Malfoy and his two ever-present goons.
"Hey scarhead? Want me to sign your shirt so it will be worth something?" the blond Slytherin taunted him.
Harry was still immensely glad Professor Talman had not picked Draco as a prefect. "Malfoy, the only thing I want you to sign is an Azkaban registration card so you can have the cell next to your Death Eater daddy."
"Malfoy!" Potter interrupted him. "Don't forget that as Head Boy, I can assign detention this year, and I do plan to enforce the policy on not calling people socially unacceptable names."
Malfoy looked at him with a sneer and then turned. The two Neanderthals with him followed along, probably not sure what else to do. Ginny smiled broadly at Harry as they continued on their way to the prefect compartment.
Soon the train was leaving and the 'all important meeting' was starting. Harry let Hermione run the prefect meeting, as he knew she was better at these things than he was. She was in her element, and he did not want to spoil it for her. He just held Ginny on his lap and made the occasional comment if needed.
What seemed like all too soon, they were at school and the Welcoming Feast was starting. It would be his and Ginny's last year here, and Sirius was still at the Head Table as the DADA professor. Harry wondered how long his godfather would teach after Harry left the school, given he was fairly popular with the students. Of course, Harry also wondered how long Dumbledore would still be Headmaster, as he was getting up there in age.
As the Feast ended, the Headmaster motioned to him, so he sent Ginny on to help the first years and went to see the Headmaster. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, Harry. We have one last piece of unfinished business with our friend Tom Riddle. I'd like to take care of that tomorrow afternoon, if you don't mind."
That surprised Harry and pulled him away from the world of normalcy that he had enjoyed for the last two years. He knew the final action with Voldemort had been postponed and that it would have to happen, but he was surprised for it to come now. "You have everything ready?"
"Yes, Harry. Meet me in my office after breakfast tomorrow, at nine. There are some things we need to discuss in private beforehand. You may bring Miss Weasley with you if you like. The actual task will not be until the afternoon. You may also invite Miss Granger and Mr. Longbottom, but if so, they should not join us in my office until one. Please tell Miss Granger that classes will be excused as needed. Have a good evening."
Harry nodded and left for Gryffindor Tower. He put the thought of tomorrow afternoon off until then. There was no use worrying about it, as he trusted the headmaster to have done what he said needed to be prepared before Voldemort could be forever destroyed. Instead, he much preferred thinking about his new room, and checking it out with his fiancée in hand. There would be no need for uncomfortable broom closets for snogging, unless they were out somewhere and just could not wait.
(Tue 2 Sep)
Harry had purposefully sat himself and his three best friends at the end of the table for breakfast. After they had their new timetables, Harry pulled out his wand and created a privacy area around only them. Hermione's eyebrows almost disappeared they raised so high at that action.
"Hermione, Neville? This afternoon, we are going to destroy Tom Riddle forever," Harry solemnly announced.
Neville's and Ginny's eyes went wide as they mutely stared at him. Hermione's eyes went wide too, but she also screamed, "What?!"
Harry grinned. "Good thing I put that privacy screen up. Professor Dumbledore told me last night that the ceremony would be this afternoon. Since you two know about him and his secrets, as well as helped research how to find the parts of him, we thought you might like to be there."
"I would. Where is it going to be done?" she asked.
"I don't know, but you two need to be at the Headmaster's office at one sharp if you want to take part. Your classes for the afternoon are excused," Harry explained.
"What about me?" Ginny asked.
He grabbed her hand and held onto it. "You and I are to go up there after breakfast. Apparently he has some other things to tell us, though I don't know what."
Ginny nodded, taking the announcement in stride apparently. Harry did not release her hand, however, but merely put it on his lap under the table. He knew he was silently telling his girlfriend that he was nervous about the meeting, but he needed her comfort more than his pride. Clearly trying to help him out, she smiled at him and whispered in his ear, "I'll be there for you." Harry squeezed her hand in silent thanks, before he took down the privacy charm.
When they had finished breakfast, Harry stood and tugged Ginny up next to him before they headed off. As Head Boy, he always knew the Headmaster's password, so they went straight up to the Headmaster's office.
"Enter!" they heard just as Harry was about to knock. Harry mused that the old man must have some sort of monitoring spell out here to be able to do that. He opened the door so they could go in, as well as closing it behind them.
"Ah, good morning Mr. Potter and," the old man's eye twinkled madly, "the future Mrs. Potter."
Ginny blushed. Harry knew she had not seen the Headmaster since their engagement, but he suddenly had a better understanding why she had been invited to the morning session, beyond what Harry had explained to the others. "Thank you, Professor."
The old wizard pushed a tea service tray towards them. "Please, help yourselves as you desire. I have several things to discuss with you; things that are probably best kept private, though some of it may get out eventually. Alas, I felt you needed to know everything before this afternoon, Harry."
Harry nodded as he handed his intended a cup of tea and took one for himself.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers, and let a thoughtful look come across his face as he began his story. "I suppose I should start this time with a confession. Harry, if you remember, at the end of you first year, you asked me a question as you lay in the hospital. You asked me why Voldemort had come after you. That question has been echoed several times since, and I have resisted answering it each time. I will now confess to you that I do know the answer."
"What?!" Harry shouted, almost spilling the tea in his hand. A few portraits on the wall protested his reaction, but Harry ignored them.
"The problem I faced was when to tell you the truth, for the moment I told you the answer, it would effectively have ended your childhood. So when was the right time?"
"Sir, I could easily point out that I've never had a childhood, at least as long as I can remember."
The headmaster sighed for a moment. "In one sense, I can understand that logic, and yet, at least while you were here at school, you had something like a childhood. So when was I to rob you of that somewhat carefree life, and replace it with the weight of the world? By the time your fourth year had started and you were mysteriously entered into the Triwizard Tournament, I purposed in my heart to tell you sometime in your fifth year. I could see the Tournament maturing you faster than normal, and my conscience was reminding me you did need to know the answer to your question."
"To do my training, you mean?"
"Yes. For once I answered your question, you would do nothing but training and ignoring a normal life, or so I feared. However, at the end of your fourth year, an event happened that precluded the need for me to answer your question, and because I had avoided the issue, you had also stopped asking the question."
"You mean the capture of Voldemort?"
"Yes, Harry. By his being imprisoned, the time constraints were removed. There was no longer any need to hurry to answer the question. I could attempt to let you have your desire: to be normal while I took care of other matters for you."
"So what is the answer?" Harry waited slightly impatiently. The build-up fueled his desire to know.
"A few months before you were born, a prophecy was made." Dumbledore quoted the prophecy, and the two teens were in shock.
Ginny came to her senses first and put her arms around Harry. Harry realized this was another reason she was here.
Patiently, the headmaster continued his explanations. "You scar is of course the mark, Harry. All of the prophecy has been fulfilled, except for one part."
"But, Professor," Ginny objected, "couldn't we say that it was fulfilled at the end of Harry's fourth year?" Harry nodded, still unable to speak, but he thought it was a good question.
The headmaster smiled. "Yes, it is an interesting question that I have pondered over many evenings and several bottles of most potent beverages. Alas, we really don't know. So my point in telling you this is to prepare you for the fact that you may have to do the last deed, Harry. I will attempt to handle it, to relieve you of the burden, but I may not be allowed to, or something may go wrong. I want you to be prepared to handle the situation, but only if it's required."
Harry finally found his voice. "What is the plan?"
"It's quite simple. Shortly after the capture of Tom, I introduced a law into the Wizengamot that condemned Tom to death. It allowed for his capture dead or alive, and if brought in alive, allowed for his immediate execution with no penalty to the executioner. Some might say I did that for myself, but actually I did that for you, Harry. I was preparing for this day."
"OK, so what do we do?"
"You remember the discussion about the cursed objects that stored parts of Tom's soul?"
Harry nodded as he answered, "Yes. Did he use the artifacts you had us research about the founders?"
The headmaster smiled. "Good deductive work, Harry. Well, I have tracked them all down over the last two years. They are in that box over there." Dumbledore pointed. "There is an artifact in the Ministry called the 'Veil of Death'. Anyone that passes through it will die. Therefore, we merely need to push the objects through the Veil, and then Tom at the end -- rather simple and quite painless for everyone, even Tom. I believe that will also be the easiest thing, conscience-wise, for whichever one of us has to push him through."
Harry thought about that for a moment. "But doesn't that still make one of us a murderer?"
"An interesting moral question," Dumbledore agreed. Leaning forward, he poured himself a cup of tea. After a long sip, he fixed Harry with a stare. "While arguing from analogy is always fraught with peril, Harry, would you say that a person that puts a rabid animal out of its misery is a murderer? Or is that someone actually helping the animal along, helping it out of its pain, and protecting society such that no one else becomes infected?"
Harry thought about that for a moment. Ignoring the obvious answer, he said, "I'd say it depends on whether we enjoy it. That's not the real issue, though. We're not talking about an animal, sir, but another human being."
Dumbledore smiled. "Ah, you have found the peril. Nevertheless, that aside, how would you answer the question?"
After more thinking, Harry finally answered, "It's helping the animal along for the greater good and protection of everyone."
"Exactly, and that's how I would like you to think of it if you must do this task. If you wish a different answer, I would say the root question is one of intent, as you suggested earlier. A murderer intends evil; someone, like an Auror, who is protecting others may have to kill, but there is no evil intent -- therefore it is not murder." Checking his twelve-handed watch, Dumbledore smiled. "We've covered the worst part and what I felt needed to be private, and we still have half the morning left plus lunch. Why don't I leave the rest of the time for you to ask questions, and I'll try to answer them as completely as I'm able." With a smile he added, "And you don't have to confine yourself to today's events either."
With a free-for-all question and answer time, Harry and Ginny smiled. Even through lunch, they asked questions about Voldemort, the first war, magic, the castle, and Harry even asked a few about his parents. Harry thought that both he and Ginny enjoyed the uninterrupted time with the old wizard.
At one o'clock, the Headmaster called out "Enter" even though there had been no knock, and his door opened to admit Hermione, Neville, Sirius, and Professors Flitwick, Talman, and McGonagall.
"Excellent, everyone is here." Dumbledore smiled at the assembled. "As we all know each other, we can forgo the introductions. Everyone here has played a vital part that is leading us to the final destruction of Tom Riddle, which we will complete very shortly. If everyone will make themselves comfortable for just a few minutes, Harry and I will go retrieve the last and most important item for our task. Harry?" The man gestured for Harry to follow him. As they stood near Fawkes's perch, Albus held Harry's hand, and when Fawkes took off and flew over the Headmaster's head, the man grabbed a tail feather and the three of them flashed out.
As before, they reappeared in a completely dark place, which soon lit itself as the headmaster flicked his wand about repeatedly. Dumbledore walked over to the cauldron and looked in, where Harry joined him. The two stone pieces were still there as before. Harry stood back a bit as the headmaster removed the protection ward on the cauldron, before he shrunk it down to be hand-sized and gave it to Harry. Harry then watched the removal of the Fidelius Charm on the area. With a smile, Dumbledore grabbed Harry's hand again and Fawkes flashed them back to the Headmaster's office.
When they returned, Dumbledore looked at Sirius. "Please grab that box over there and bring that with you." The headmaster went over and picked up a Muggle broom that was in the corner and cast "Portus" on it. "Everyone put a hand on the broom, please?" When they did so, Dumbledore tapped his wand on it and said, "Activate."
Harry felt the pull behind his navel and then he was spinning through space and landed in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. In front of them was Madam Amelia Bones, head of the MLE, along with four Aurors.
The head of the MLE welcomed them. "Good afternoon, everyone. Albus, do you have everything you discussed?"
"Yes, Amelia, I do. Shall we get on with it?"
"This way, please." Madam Bones walked next to the Headmaster. "There is a small complication," she quietly told him while they walked.
Harry and Ginny were walking behind the two leaders and overheard the conversation.
"Oh?" Dumbledore did not seem either surprised or bothered.
"Somehow, Cornelius found out about this event and has insisted on being present. If I were to guess, I would say that he heard about the use of the room and hopes to reap political hay from the deed," Bones explained.
"Unfortunate," Dumbledore responded, "but not necessarily bad. We will need to get the word out that the deed is done, and I suppose we could let him be the mouthpiece. As long as the proper people get credit for their work, I don't care who tells the public."
The older woman chuckled as they came to a locked door. "The only thing I'm sure about with Cornelius is that he will want some credit too." She opened the door to a long hallway that led to a round room with many doors. She expertly opened the correct door and continued to lead the party. Finally, they came to a room with stairs that lead to an empty floor, a dais with an arch on it was in the middle of the room. The arch had curtains covering the opening. The Minister for Magic and a few other people were standing on the floor near the dais.
"Amelia? What's this?" Cornelius asked. "I thought this was to get rid of some criminal, but you've brought half of Hogwarts with you."
"Minister," Dumbledore greeted the rotund man in his most congenial voice. "We do have a criminal contained in a box here. I merely invited those who were most instrumental in his capture to witness his departure. You might say it's a victory party of sorts."
"But children, Dumbledore?" the Minister protested.
Harry bristled at that, as he was now seventeen. He noticed that Hermione, Neville, and Ginny seem to have the same feelings on the matter of being called a child. The headmaster seemed to blithely ignore the question and instead directed people to where they needed to be. He and Sirius were sent to the dais, where Harry would have almost sworn he heard very soft voices coming from the archway.
"Harry, if you would do the honors, please? Just step up onto the dais at the edge and toss each of the items in the box Sirius is holding through the center of the arch," Dumbledore directed. "There is a split in the curtain there."
As Harry stepped up, Sirius opened the box for the him. Harry first picked up an old diary. "This too, Professor?"
"Certainly, Harry. Just to be safe, you understand."
"What is this?" Fudge asked. "And who are you putting to death? I haven't seen any issuant from the Wizengamot lately."
"We just have a few cursed objects to get rid of first, Cornelius. As for the person, here's a copy of the decree." Harry saw the headmaster reach into his robes and pull out a rolled-up parchment, which was handed to the Minister.
Harry continued to toss item after item through the curtain in the veil. Emptying the box, he enlarged the cauldron and levitated the snake out.
Dumbledore stopped him. "Harry, put it near the curtain and set it down. I will reanimate it before you banish it through. I think that will be best." Harry followed the directions, and the headmaster turned the stone back into the snake. It immediately started looking around, but Harry levitated it and then banished the snake through the curtain. There was only the final piece left.
"Wait!" Fudge cried. "Are you sure this is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Positive," Dumbledore answered. "Harry, same procedure for the last piece."
"I don't know, Dumbledore." Fudge rolled the parchment back up. "Perhaps we should wait and have something more public for this. We need some reporters for this at the least."
The Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot shook his head. "I disagree Minister. Now that we have removed all the curses that held him to this earth, and since we already have his death warrant, I believe we need to get rid of him now. We can crow about the deed all we want afterwards." Harry gestured to regain the headmaster's attention, and pointed to the stone baby near the curtain with Harry at the ready.
"But how do we know that thing is really You-Know-Who? It doesn't look like the way he was described," Fudge protested.
"No, but it is him. You'll hear him in a moment, though he will be quite insane after having been in this transformed state for so long," Dumbledore explained.
"What?" Fudge cried. "You've had him for a long time and are just now doing this? Have you been obstructing justice?"
"On the contrary," Dumbledore responded, "I have been upholding justice. While we did capture and imprison Voldemort," Fudge shivered at the name, "two years ago, it has taken the group assembled here that long to track down all the cursed objects that anchored him to this earth."
"I'm still not sure about doing this right now," Fudge slowly said.
Harry looked at the minister. If he did not know any better, he would have thought the minister was stalling. "Professor, I'm ready."
Without waiting, Dumbledore turned and waved his wand at the stone baby, which came back to life.
"No!" came the high-pitched scream from the hideous baby that should not know how to talk. "I am Lord Voldemort! Bow before me! On your knees, or I shall curse you! Give me your wand and bow!" It continued screaming to be worshiped.
"Silencio!" Dumbledore cast, quieting the screaming.
"No!" Fudge called out. "As Minister for Magic, I command you not to do this!"
"Harry, do it," Dumbledore ordered as he trained his wand on the Minister, while also keeping an eye on the assistants. "You may not countermand the Wizengamot's decree, Minister."
Turning back around, Harry levitated the silenced, but still screaming, baby.
Fudge screamed, "No! Don't do it! He's human too!" Harry saw Fudge start to move forward before Dumbledore stepped in the way.
"Now, Harry, it has to be you while I guard your back," the headmaster said, and Harry thought he could hear a hint of sadness in the voice.
"Sendan!" Harry watched the baby go straight through the crack in the curtain and disappear forever.
Minister Fudge screamed and grabbed his left arm just before he collapsed to the floor. He lay completely still, not even breathing. Everyone was in shock.
Dumbledore sighed. "I was afraid of that." He moved over and raised the left sleeve of the Minister's robes to reveal a bare arm with a black snake-head plainly visible. "I'll assume he had a glamour or something covering that. It explains a great many of his more questionable actions and decisions."
"I'll, uh," Bones started then stopped, still clearly trying to process it all. "I'll have to issue a press release for Voldemort's death, as well as explain that all the Death Eaters have died, including our Minister for Magic." She looked at the visitors. "Thank you, all of you for your service, especially you two, Albus, Harry." She swallowed hard as her gaze returned to the recently deceased Minister, disbelieve still written on her face.
"Certainly, Amelia," Dumbledore replied smoothly. "As always, I'm at the service of the Wizengamot. Please let me know when it meets and I shall be there to help with the election of the next minister." He looked to the people he had brought with him. "Shall we return to Hogwarts?" He did not wait for an answer, but turned and started back for the atrium. The others followed him, and Harry felt Ginny take his hand, offering silent support and comfort for what he had just done.
They took the Floo back to the Headmaster's office. As they returned, Harry saw the Headmaster suddenly lose all spring in his step and his face went very sad. "Oh bugger! Severus..." he exclaimed as he heavily dropped into his chair. A tear was already starting to go down the old man's face, Harry noticed. He decided the old wizard would probably desire some privacy, so he led the other students quietly out. When they reached the bottom of the steps, Harry found that all the professors had indeed stayed in the Headmaster's office. Knowing he and his friends could do nothing to help, he continued to lead them back to their Tower.
(Wed 3 Sep)
As Harry and Ginny joined Neville and Hermione in the Great Hall for breakfast, Hermione saw her friend was not quite his normally cheerful self. "Harry? Are you all right?"
The two newcomers sat and looked at their friends. Neville was working through a stack of pancakes, while Hermione had a bowl of fruit she was picking at and reading the Daily Prophet. There were a lot of smiles and laughs going around the school as everyone else read about Voldemort's quiet demise yesterday, except for at the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy was now an orphan as both of his parents had been Death Eaters and a handful of other Slytherins had lost their fathers.
"Mostly," Harry replied. The raised eyebrow from Hermione let him know she expected him to say more. "It's like I told you last night. I don't feel too bad about having to get rid of Tom Riddle and all the Death Eaters, but there is some guilt there."
"You seemed normal last night though," she retorted.
"I think I was still feeling the good news about removing all the evil people. But now," Harry paused to gather his thoughts, "now, I feel I understand what I did a little more. Yes, I helped to rid the world of evil, but even evil people have families and friends who did nothing wrong, people who will miss those who died yesterday when all the Death Eaters died. Those are the ones I'm concerned about."
Hermione considered that. "I think I understand. You should remember, though, that those people made a choice to become a Death Eater knowing it could affect their family, but perhaps this will help you more." She handed over her newspaper. "Be sure to read the whole thing. There are numerous articles about the Death Eaters not being here to terrorize the world anymore, and people are happy. They're saying that they can now live without the fear, they can go do fun things with their families in public. There are a lot of good things that can happen now, and it's all because of yesterday. Everyone has hope again, and it's because of what you did."
Harry took the paper from her and started reading. He was not sure he liked seeing himself being billed as a hero, as he did not consider himself as such, but Hermione was right. There were a lot of people, normal people on the street and some at the Ministry, who expressed hope. Between that and a hug from Ginny, Harry began feeling a bit better. It would probably be quite some time before he was at peace with it all, but he felt better now than when he got up this morning.
"Come, love," Ginny told him when they had finished breakfast. "Let's go to class and enjoy the school year. We can have fun, I'm sure we'll have many Hogsmeade weekends, and this is our last year here. Once we're done with school, we'll have each other forever come August."
"Thanks, Gin." Harry put his arm around his intended and walked her to class. He decided that in a way, she was exactly correct -- he would rather focus on her and their future, rather than the past.
(Sat 15 Aug 1998)
Harry danced with Ginny, happily lost in the feeling of being together. He was having the time of his life with his new bride, at least until that evening. He had not quite accomplished the goal he had set for himself a year ago, but he had come very close a couple of times when he had caught her in just her bra and knickers before she could cover up. Walking into her room without knocking had been fun and rather educational -- at least as long as he left before she could pick up her wand.
Neville was dancing with Hermione, and Harry was happy for his friends almost as much as he was for himself. They were recently engaged, though Hermione was in no hurry to have the ceremony. She had confided to Harry that she was thinking about advanced schooling.
Neville had a job lined up with the largest nursery in England for magical plants. It was an entry-level position, but he thought he might transition into research and development there, trying to create new plants. He was quite excited about his job prospects, and Harry thought he had every chance of success.
Due to the Potter fortune, Harry was in no real bind to get a high-paying job, so he and Ginny decided to start their own company. They thought it could be fun to do the opposite of what Bill did, so they would create wards with layered curses, and otherwise set up security for people. His name had already generated interest from many potential clients.
"Ron looks like he's enjoying himself with Mandy," Ginny commented. She continued to watch her old room-mate dance with her brother, so Harry glanced over at them. "I guess the question is will they be able to stay together."
Harry smiled at his wife, marveling that she was now his. "Well, they've been together for the last six months, which is the best he's ever done. My question to you is how long do you think we'll last, Mrs. Potter?"
Ginny pulled him closer so he had to stop moving for a moment, and that let her kiss him quickly. "That's easy, Mr. Potter. We'll be together until death do us part."
He reminisced a few moments more before he told her, "I'm glad you stopped to talk to me in my fourth year, when I was having so much trouble. If you hadn't done that, I'm not sure we would have been together like this."
A chuckle escaped her. "Sure we would, Harry. It just would have taken longer for you to discover me. I knew I was going to end up with you the whole time."
"Really..." Ginny pulled him in for another kiss. Given the shirt she had given him last year, Harry supposed there was no doubt in her mind, Harry had always been hers since the first of September 1991.
(A/N: If you haven't read "This Means War!" by Jeconais, you really need to (google for it). It's probably my favorite fanfic story (he's one of my favorite authors too). The gag with Ginny making fun of Draco and trying to take away his power by falsely accusing him of being gay comes from that story, so "Thanks Tim!" for sharing. I've taken the concept and written it to match what I needed here.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I also hope I surprised you in a few places as well. I want to again thank Josh (moshpit) for helping me by beta'ing this story. He has contributed more than he realizes with his ideas, suggestions, and pointers.
As for future works, I have a couple of shorter stories I'm working on. One will probably be about this size or a little smaller, and the other is a one-shot, but will not be SIYE compliant (I'll post it to my FF dot net account only). Simultaneously, I'm researching and putting together the notes for an "epic-sized" story. I have no idea when this larger story will come out, sorry. The next installment of "Unchampion" will probably come out while I continue to work on this longer story -- so there's hope there for those who have been waiting on more in that storyline. -- kb)