D/C: I don't own Harry Potter.
Hello! I'm back with my final chapter! Took a bit longer than usual this time, didn't it? Anyway, I had fun writing this chapter, and I hope you enjoy reading it!
At once, they all backed away from the monument and continued to walk away until Harry told them to stop. Then, he murmured an incantation under his breath and pointed his wand in the direction of the floor. A bolt of pure, white energy seemed to hit the stony floor, and started to produce what appeared to be a deep hole, which then stretched out in width and length. It stretched up to three metres in width, but it seemed to elongate endlessly, forming a canal from the point where Harry's spell had hit the ground out through the great oak doors of the entrance hall and onto the castle grounds beyond. Then, in the other direction it circled around the new, white marble monument and proceeded into the Great Hall.
At that point, Professor McGonagall seemed to break out of the trance which the formation of the canal had rendered her in. "Potter!! What on Earth do you think you're doing?" she screeched. "You're desecrating the castle! We've brought you here to help fix the place, and not dig up holes in it! Stop right this instance!"
"Professor!" he cried desperately, when he saw that she was pulling out her wand. "Didn't I promise you this will be good? Can't you just give me the benefit of the doubt for a few minutes?"
McGonagall hesitated, but then she lowered her wand and watched him intensely.
As Harry continued "digging up holes", the sound of gushing water was soon heard. His four companions turned to look towards the oak doors, and gasped as water filled up the canal and the circle around the monument, before proceeding to fill up the canals in the Great Hall, which had wound its way between the four House tables.
Just as suddenly as it had started, the gushing effect ceased and the water became still. Harry pocketed his wand and beamed proudly at his handiwork, while waiting for applause from his friends. However, they all still seemed too shocked to be able to say anything. It was again, Professor McGonagall, who made the first attempt at speech.
"Care to explain, Mr. Potter?"
Harry nodded eagerly. "See, what I've done is create a canal that reaches to the Lake, and hence the source of the water, and stretches to form little ducts between the House tables," he explained. "The canal is about four feet in depth, so there's really no danger of anyone drowning in it…unless they fall face-down, that is."
McGonagall's face remained impassive. "And the point behind all this?" she demanded.
Harry sighed; he had expected this. "Professor McGonagall, please listen to me," he said. "Professor Dumbledore was obviously thinking of something when he made those moving staircases."
"Yes. He was thinking of using up our entire stock of Skele-Grow."
"No, Professor; he wanted to make the whole learning experience fun," he told her. "So did all the other builders. They all added something to Hogwarts in the hope that it would make the students' stay more exciting and enjoyable...all aside from Salazar Slytherin, of course. I mean, take the Room of Requirements for example! Do you know who built that? Godric Gryffindor. Yes, Hermione, it's true; I'll lend you the book later on," he added at Hermione's surprised expression. "The point is: he built it to spark up Hogwarts. They all did. And how will a little water canal harm anyone?"
"It won't; I just can't see the use of it, Mr. Potter," she retorted. "Unlike you, all the other builders actually had a purpose behind their work. The Enchanted Ceiling was to inform the inhabitants of the castle about the form of weather of outside, or the time of day. The Room of Requirements had multiple uses, including providing a meeting place for illicit Defence Against the Dark Arts classes."
All four Gryffindors cleared their throats significantly.
"And much as I hate to admit it, the moving staircases save a lot of time which otherwise would be spent wandering about in corridors and passageways," she continued. "But, and unless I'm so near-sighted, I can't see the canal providing any particular benefit."
Harry was getting agitated, and was about to open his mouth in protest, when Ginny spoke up in his favour. "It's so that the First-Years can enter the Great Hall in a grand fashion, and be made to feel welcome, isn't it, Harry?" she said, smiling at him.
He started to voice his agreement, when Hermione decided to add her two cents. "And during winter, it would turn into ice, and everyone would be able to skate on it, isn't that right, Harry?" she offered.
He beamed at the two girls. "Yes!" he exclaimed.
"And...erm..." Ron ventured, determined to make a contribution, as well. "When Filch runs of water to clean the castle, he can always fill up buckets from the canal."
They all stared at him, bewildered.
"Yes, my thoughts, exactly. Thank you, Ron," Harry said uncertainly, before turning his attention to the Headmistress. "My friends were able to see the uses of my canal, and I'm sure there are many more. What do you think, Professor McGonagall?"
There was a momentary silence where McGonagall seemed to be having an inner debate with herself, all too aware of the expectant gazes on her. Finally, she cleared her throat and tried to maintain a solemn expression. "I must be out of my mind, but...the canal stays," she announced, and allowed herself a tiny smile when the youngsters burst into cheers and applause.
The next day was a complete blur, as everyone struggled to finish the construction work and preparations for the beginning of a new school year, a new beginning in the long history of Hogwarts.
Teachers and builders ran up and down the corridors, mending cracks, repairing torn drapery, oiling suits of armour. Many house-elves were actually spotted that day, too, as they scurried around, trying to provide clean bed sheets and pillows for the dormitories, lighting up fires in the fireplaces, and away from all eyes, down in the kitchens, preparing for the Start of Term feast.
Harry and his friends tried to offer help wherever possible, whether it was by rearranging library books, taste-testing food in the kitchens – Ron in particular volunteered his services for this, or by helping calm down an overly-frantic Cuthbert who kept being chased by a certain poltergeist.
By the end of the day, Harry, Ron and Hermione were tired and dirty and hungry, but as they stood by to observe the students – first the old ones, who marvelled at all the work that had been made over the summer, and took pleasure in splashing each other with water as the boats guided them to their respective House tables, and then the First-Years, cramped up in little boats, as they floated along the water canal, with happy and excited faces – they all understood why they had been doing this.
They had declined the offer to stay and dine with the rest of the students, for the thought of going back to the Burrow's warm kitchen was more inviting. Their trunks were packed and sent to the Hogwarts Express, and Ron and Hermione were soon standing just outside the doors of the Entrance Hall, bickering about something.
Harry, on the other hand, had already bid good-bye to Ginny, with the promise that he would come and see her on the first Hogsmeade trip. He was now standing next to the monument, gazing up at his proud parents, while listening to Professor McGonagall's speech at the same time. She went over all the work that had been done to the castle, and how hard everyone tried to make Hogwarts feel like home again.
"The war against Lord Voldemort has cost each and every one of us dearly, but we've been given a chance to start over, to rise up from the rubble and the ashes that had been left behind after the battle," she said, with a slight tremor to her voice. "Do not take your presence here for granted. You, or you, or even you...the one snoring...could've been dead, but it's due to the sacrifices that were made that we're all in this same room together now. Make the best of it."
Then she carried on with some new rules, some of which declared that the Ballroom was off-limits to all students, unless there was a special occasion at hand, and that the Student Lounge was not a place for inappropriate behaviour, and...no swimming in the canal after curfew hours, which made Harry laugh.
"Harry Potter, sir."
Harry looked around at the sound of the squeaky voice, and looked around for a moment before finally locating the source of the voice. He couldn't believe it; it was Winky. The little house elf looked the same as before, with the exception that she was wearing a uniform which was surprisingly clean.
Harry knelt down, and she shuffled awkwardly towards him. "Hello, Winky," he said gently. "How are you doing?"
"I is alive and well, thanks to you, Harry Potter," she said softly. Tears brimmed in her eyes, and she covered her face with her hands. "You...got...statue...Dobby!"
Even though her speech was rather incoherent, Harry knew what she meant. He gently patted the top of her head and offered her his handkerchief, which she gratefully accepted, blowing her nose on it loudly. He could guess what her cause of grief was; when looking at the monument, Winky probably saw Dobby.
"Harry Potter is great to have remembered Dobby," she whimpered.
Harry smiled at her. "I would never forget Dobby, Winky," he told her firmly. "He fought as bravely as any witch or wizard. He deserves to be remembered."
Winky sobbed loudly again, leaving Harry patting her head once more. She quieted down after a few minutes, and excused herself to the kitchen, to help the other elves with dinner. Sighing, Harry straightened up and, after taking one last look through the doors leading to the Great Hall, he turned and walked towards his friends, who stopped bickering once they saw him approaching.
"Shall we go now?" he asked tiredly, and they both nodded.
Two boats floated down their way, and they lugged their luggage into one, and they clambered into the second one. The boats turned on the spot, and drifted down the canal to the lake, which was now a shimmering blanket of gold, as the setting sun cast its warm glow upon it.
Hermione looked around at her two friends. "Well, we've seen off every obstacle, monster, and evil wizard the world could throw at us," she said.
Harry nodded. "That we have," he agreed. "And I shall be eternally grateful that we did it all together. That we're still together, at the end of this chapter in our lives."
Hermione smiled at him. "Well said, Harry."
"So, guys," Harry said. "What shall we do now?"
Ron was right on queue. "Let's go get dinner!"
A/N: So, what did you think? Did you like it? Thanks to all those who reviewed my story! I wouldn't have kept this going without you! Thank you so much!!
- S. N. B.