From the Ashes
Harry has just left the Headmaster's office after hearing the full details of the Prophecy. Trying to come to grips with the loss of his godfather and the devastating news about Ron and Hermione, Harry seeks solace on the grounds. He is joined by a couple of the members of the DA where he discovers that what he really needed was someone to talk with.
Warnings: Spoiler alert for all seven books! This story will be full of mature themes related to the harsh realities of life.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and no money is being made from this story. I am thankful to J.K. Rowling for creating such a wonderful universe for her fans to enjoy.
Chapter 1: The Aftermath
It was early morning on a beautiful day in June. The temperature was a comfortable twenty degrees Celsius and the tree branches were swaying in a light breeze. There was a mist floating above the surface of the Great Lake and drifting through the trees at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The moisture on the grass glistened like diamonds in the rays from rising sun. After a harsh Scottish winter the grounds were alive with growth and it showed why the Highlands of Scotland were one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Down by the lake shore there was a darkened hut with a pumpkin patch and an empty paddock. The large stump next to the front door still had an axe embedded in it as if the owner would be coming right back to chop some more firewood.
Harry Potter was sitting on the steps of Hagrid's hut hoping that the gamekeeper would return soon. Originally, he thought that he wanted to be alone. Now, he realized that he needed a friendly face to talk too while his best friends were laid up in the Hospital Wing after the disastrous affair in the Department of Mysteries. Hagrid had always had an interesting, yet simple, way of looking at things that usually helped Harry put things into better perspective.
During their flight from the Death Eaters, Hermione had taken a curse that he had never heard of before. She was lucky to be alive and even then it was a close thing. It had been touch and go for a few hours before Madam Pomfrey declared her stable. Harry thought that those were the longest hours of his life. He didn't know what he would do without his best friend by his side, especially since it was his lack of planning that had almost cost Hermione her life.
Unfortunately, she would never be the same again; too many of her internal organs had been damaged beyond repair. Since they were cursed with dark magic, the only thing that Madam Pomfrey could was remove the damaged portions of some organs in the hope that the remainder of the damaged organ would sustain her. Because they were so compromised, Hermione ended up losing her spleen as well as her uterus and ovaries.
Harry made Madam Pomfrey promise not to tell Hermione about her inability to have children unless he was present. He knew that she would need someone to lean on when that terrible news was delivered and he felt that it was his duty to be there for Hermione. Just thinking about the turmoil she was going to go through brought tears to his eyes.
The injuries Ron sustained from the brains were a very difficult thing to gauge. His forearms were covered in long ropey scars that stood out bright white against his pale, freckly, skin. Madam Pomfrey was unsure if he would ever fully recover. The mental damage inflicted by the brains was much greater than the scaring on his arms. Only time would tell how much of a recovery Ron would make.
Ginny, Luna, and Neville had escaped the running battle with just a few minor injuries among them. Madam Pomfrey had them all patched up a few minutes after their return with the exception of Ginny's broken ankle. It was the worst of their injuries and the only one that required a stay in the hospital wing for a few hours.
In addition to worrying about his friends, Harry's emotions were also a bit frayed from the loss of his godfather, Sirius, and learning that he was prophesized to face Voldemort in mortal combat. He was so lost in his thoughts of Hermione, Sirius and the prophecy that he didn't see two members of the DA walking towards him.
Hannah and Susan had been walking along the shore of the Great Lake searching for Harry while discussing their OWLS and their summer plans when they finally spied him sitting on the steps to Hagrid's hut. Immediately, they changed direction and made their way over to him. When the two Hufflepuffs sat down on opposite sides of Harry he flinched in surprise.
The two girls shared a look of concern with each other before Susan softly spoke, "Harry? Are you okay? We heard that Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were all in the Hospital Wing and went to visit. While we were there, Hermione asked us to come and find you."
That was news to him. Surprised, Harry rose to his feet and asked, "She's awake?"
When he made to head up to the castle, Susan stood and grasped his hand before calmly saying, "No, she was asleep when we left. Madam Pomfrey gave her a light sleeping draught to help her heal. We were able to talk with her for five minutes before she fell asleep though."
As Hannah stood up to join Harry and Susan, the early morning sunlight illuminated the honey colored strands in her lustrous dark blond hair as they walked down to the lake shore to continue their conversation. She had never seen Harry looking as lost as he did right now. It was even worse than their second year when the student body thought him to be the Heir of Slytherin. To her eternal shame, she had been one of the students that had condemned him without getting to know him first.
Moving up next to Harry, Hannah laid a hand on his shoulder to stop him from walking further. He flinched slightly under her gentle touch before he turned to face her. Sincerely, she said, "Harry, I wanted you to know that I'm really sorry for what happened in our second year. I shouldn't have doubted you." She felt that she needed to apologize for her role in suspecting him back in their second year, especially with the state that he was in currently.
Harry looked up into Hannah's eyes, searching for any sign of deceit. Finding none, he gave her a half hearted smile and whispered, "Thanks. Apology accepted." He didn't have to ask her what she was apologizing for. He remembered the incident in the library as clear as if it were yesterday.
Turning in silence, the three teens resumed their slow trek around the lake. Each of them lost in their own thoughts. Susan and Hannah were thinking about Harry and all of the things that he had been rumored to have been through in the past four years.
Harry was curiously thinking about what Hermione had said to them in the Hospital Wing. When he couldn't contain himself any longer, he pleaded, "What did Hermione say to you two?"
Spying one of the benches that littered the walking trail around the lake, Susan led them over to it and sat down making sure to place Harry in the middle. Looking at the young man in their midst, she quietly spoke, "She asked us to find you and keep you company while she is recovering. Hermione didn't want you to be alone right now."
Sitting there by the lake on that beautiful June morning, Harry Potter's stoic resolve collapsed when Susan told him what Hermione had sent them to do. Even in pain, she cared more for his well being than her own. Unbidden, tears began streaming down his face as he silently cried for Hermione's loss and the death of his godfather.
When Harry began crying, Hannah and Susan were shocked. It was the last thing that they had expected to see and they were both dismayed that he cried silently, as if he had learned that behavior at a young age.
Tentatively, Susan slowly pulled Harry into a gentle hug and began rubbing his back while Hannah whispered calming words in his ear while rubbing his shoulder. She felt Harry flinch when she touched him initially. She had only ever seen Hermione regularly touch Harry before and his reaction confirmed some of her suspicions about his childhood.
Susan had been observing Harry closely during each DA meeting and meal times for most of the year. She discovered that he didn't like to be crowded or touched and he usually stood in such a way that would minimize the chances of that happening. Often, he stood between, and slightly behind, Ron and Hermione using them as a pair of human shields.
Another thing that she had noticed about Harry was that he rarely touched other people. During the DA meetings, he seemed reluctant to correct the wand movements of a member if it meant that he would need to touch them. She was impressed with his resolve when she saw him take a deep breath and do what needed to be done even though it clearly troubled him.
Hannah knew that her friend harbored feelings for Harry and she had to admit that he was very fanciable once you got past his moodiness and other quirks. He was powerful, smart, loyal, and a natural leader. She also knew that Harry spent a lot of time with Hermione and that he loved her, even if he didn't recognize those feelings for what they truly were.
Moving closer to the pair, Hannah asked a question that had burning in her mind ever since she laid eyes on him, "Harry, why do you wear those old clothes that are way too big for you?" She knew that he had money; the Potters were a wealthy family that could trace their ancestry back hundreds of years in Godric's Hollow alone.
The question so surprised Harry that he stood up abruptly and took a few steps away from the bench that they were sitting on. It took the two girls took a couple of seconds before they realized that he was no longer between them. They quickly moved to join him, concern etched into both of their faces, as they returned to his side.
They stopped cold at the look upon his face. It was totally out of place on his normally peaceful aristocratic visage. There was real anger there and neither of the young women was quite sure how to ask him about it.
Harry saw red when he thought of the innocent question that Hannah had just asked him. It brought back the memory of his meeting with Dumbledore in his office last night. The fact that the Headmaster admitted to condemning him to a hard life at the Dursleys destroyed his faith in the man. Dumbledore's tactical error had caused Harry to stay up all night reflecting upon his life and the events surrounding it and that is what led to his anger at Hannah's seemingly innocent question.
Susan tentatively stepped up to Harry, her concern for him overwhelming the feeling of fear that she felt upon seeing him so angry. Very slowly, she stretched out a hand towards him and rested it upon his forearm. In a kind whisper, she asked, "Harry, are you okay? What's wrong?"
They could both see Harry taking deep breaths to calm himself. After a few seconds he led them over to another bench along the path and, releasing a sigh, he sat down. Slowly, so as not to startle him, the girls each gently lay a hand upon one of his.
Harry looked down, marveling at the sensation of warm hands resting upon his own. It was an odd moment to relish the warmth of a kind touch and it gave him a sense of relief to know that life did go on even in the midst of tragedy. Giving the young women a half smile, he took a moment to formulate his answer.
His voice was scratchy from lack of use and crying but it was still strong when he finally spoke, "My godfather died last night in the same fight that Hermione and Ron suffered their injuries. Afterwards, I had a meeting with Dumbledore and he told me some things that he had done to me for what he termed the 'Greater Good.'"
The bitterness was easy to hear in his voice and it surprised them both. They thought that Harry was on good terms with the Headmaster. Sharing a look, Susan and Hannah vowed to help ease his pain if they could. Susan's voice was sincere when she said, "Harry, we don't really know what happened, but if you need someone to talk to you can come to us and we will listen." Very softly, so only he could hear her, she whispered, "I'll listen, I promise."
Emerald eyes bore into ice blue seeking confirmation of her statement. Sensing nothing but the truth coming from the auburn haired young women sitting next to him, Harry gave her an almost imperceptible nod of acceptance.
Suddenly feeling very anxious, Harry drew his wand and muttered, "Tempus." When the time and date were displayed, he stood up and said, "I think that I should head back up to the castle and see how Hermione is doing." Turning to his two companions, he asked, "Coming?"
Susan and Hannah shared a look and immediately stood up and took flanking positions next to Harry. The trio made for an interesting sight as they trudged up to the Hospital Wing. Both young women were taller than Harry by a couple of inches and, as a result, it looked as if he was being flanked by a couple of body guards, not two beautiful young ladies.
The minute that he stepped into the Hospital Wing, Harry knew that something was very wrong. The room was full of professors and they were all gathered around Hermione's bed. A feeling of dread swept through Harry and he rushed to her side.
Madam Pomfrey began herding the professors away from Miss Granger's bed so she and Mr. Potter could have a quiet moment to themselves. The group reformed around the two Hufflepuff teens, instinctively seeking comfort in numbers.
Susan and Hannah were watching the scene in front of them in horror. They thought that Hermione was out of danger when they left to find Harry. Seeking comfort, the two teens embraced each other and cried silently for their friends. During the course of the year, they had become quite close with Hermione as they got to know her better during the DA and the few classes that they shared.
Seeing her two students supporting each other, Pomona Sprout made her way over to them and laid a hand on each of their shoulders. In a whisper, the mild mannered Herbology Professor said, "Miss Granger has taken a turn for the worse. It's good that you brought Harry here when you did."
Horrified at the news from their head of house, neither teen could muster the fortitude to respond. They were too shocked to do anything but cling to each other in their despair.
When Harry arrived at her bedside, he almost broke down crying upon seeing Hermione in so much pain. His hand sought out hers as he sat in the chair next to her bed. Tenderly, he brushed a strand of hair from her cheek as he looked into her cinnamon colored eyes. Lovingly, he whispered, "Hey. How are you doing?"
As he took in her appearance, Harry realized that her lips had a bluish tinge to them and her skin had a waxy appearance. He stifled a sob and brought his hand up to caress her cheek lovingly. When she turned into his touch and kissed the palm of his hand, the dam broke inside of him and tears flowed silently down his cheeks unchecked.
Hermione knew that her time was fast approaching. Pushing aside her pain, she beckoned Harry closer. When he leaned down at her request, weakly, she said, "I love you, Harry. I have since our first year." She was too tired to say more but nothing was really necessary. She had finally laid bare her soul to the man that she loved and she felt at peace.
Harry's heart broke when Hermione said that she loved him. He had been in love with her since their second year but he never knew how to express it. Now that he knew that she felt the same way, he was going to lose her forever. Half sobbing, he whispered, "I love you too, Hermione." Slowly, he kissed her for the first time while pouring all of the love he felt for her into the kiss.
Just as the kiss was ending, Harry felt Hermione's body shudder. He looked into her eyes and knew that death had finally come to claim her. Her gaze never left his, even as she drew her last breath.
Softly, Harry brought his fingers up and closed Hermione's cinnamon colored eyes before placing a tender kiss on her forehead. His tears were splashing down upon her cheeks and he carefully wiped them away with his thumbs before pulling the sheet up to her chin and tucking it in before smoothing out the wrinkles.
She looked so peaceful that she appeared to be asleep. Burning the image of her lying there into his mind, Harry let the check that he had been holding on his emotions and magic go.
With an in inarticulate scream of sorrow and rage, Harry fell to his knees and a wave of magic burst forth from his body, flattening everyone in the room and tossing beds around like twigs in a heavy wind. The only thing unaffected in the room was Hermione and the bed that her body lay upon.
When the maelstrom ended, Harry Potter was on his knees at the epicenter quietly crying. With a huge effort, he got to his feet and turned to look at Hermione's body.
While Harry was gazing at Hermione's body, Susan helped Hannah to her feet before making her way over to the grieving Harry. Her own grief was palpable but she knew that it was nothing compared to what Harry must be going through. She knew how Hermione felt about Harry and judging by his reaction to her death, he returned those feelings.
Hannah was sad and terrified at the same time. She had never felt that much power before and while magnificent, it was very frightening. She was rooted to the spot when Susan left her side and went over to comfort Harry.
The teachers were picking themselves up from the floor in awe of the magical display that Mr. Potter had just put on. They noticed Miss Bones moving to comfort the distressed teen so they set aside their grief momentarily and went about putting the Hospital Wing back together while keeping a close eye on the Boy-Who-Lived.
Cautiously, Susan stepped up to Harry and stood next to him. They were both looking down at Hermione's body and crying. Still weeping, softly, she said, "She loved you, you know? She told me earlier this year."
Harry felt Susan come over and stand next to him but he made no move to look away from Hermione. Her words of comfort tugged at his heart and when he replied, his voice was laced with sorrow, "I only wish that we would have told each other how we felt before. We could've had years…" his voice cracked as a sob escaped him.
"You did have years together, Harry. Cherish them and remember how she lived her life." Susan told him sincerely.
Never taking his eyes from Hermione's body, Harry said, "Thanks, Susan. I understand and I will."
The magical backlash from Harry had alerted the Headmaster that something was amiss in the castle.
Before he could leave his office to investigate, one of the portraits spoke up, "Excuse me, Headmaster. You are needed in the Hospital Wing. Miss Granger passed away a few minutes ago."
Grimacing, Dumbledore got up from his desk and began making his way down to the Hospital Wing. About halfway there, he realized that the magical disturbance probably came from Harry Potter when Miss Granger passed away. He was not looking forward to the upcoming confrontation with Harry but he had duties to perform and tending to the death of a student was one of them.
As he approached the entrance to the Hospital Wing, Dumbledore could feel the effects from Harry's magical outburst. If the wards surrounding the hospital had not been there to help contain that type of event, the damage could have been immense. Stepping into the room, he was surprised to see the amount of damage that had done to the room. The professors were silently putting the room back together as they cleaned up in the aftermath of Harry's outburst.
When Madam Pomfrey saw the Headmaster standing in the doorway surveying the damage, she made her way over to him so she could perform the hardest duty of her profession. Sadly, she said, "Miss Granger passed away about fifteen minutes ago, Headmaster. The curse that she was hit with grazed her heart and there was nothing that I could have done to save her. Mr. Potter was with her at the end so she wasn't alone." By the end of her report, Poppy was crying openly. She was always fond of the young Gryffindor and her loss would be felt by everyone whose life she touched.
Neither adult noticed Harry Potter as he walked up to them. When he spoke, his voice caused Madam Pomfrey to start in surprise and Dumbledore to take a step back when he saw the look of loathing that he was receiving.
Harry's voice was full of fury when he spoke, "Are you happy now, Headmaster?" Pointing towards Hermione's body, he continued ranting, "This is what happens when you keep secrets! If I had known what was going on from the beginning none of this would have happened!"
His anger spent, Harry bit back on a sob and said, "Who is going to tell Hermione's parents?"
Albus Dumbledore knew that his relationship with Harry Potter was beyond repair. The loss of Sirius Black was bad enough, but the death of Miss Granger had destroyed any chance of reconciliation. Sighing, Dumbledore said in a placating tone, "I will talk to Miss Granger's parents."
Harry's voice was as hard as granite when he said, "No. If Professor McGonagall can't do it, I will. She was Hermione's favorite professor and our Head of House. Plus, she has met her parents before."
Recognizing that it would only further damage their relationship, Dumbledore acquiesced, "Very well. I will ask Professor McGonagall if she will inform Miss Granger's parents." Before he could say anything else, Harry Potter had turned his back on him and walked back over to where Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott were standing near Hermione's bed.
Realizing that there were some things that she still had to do, Madam Pomfrey excused herself from the Headmaster and made her way over to Harry Potter. Pulling out the letter that Miss Granger had given to her, she held the envelope out to Harry as she spoke, "I'm really sorry for your loss Mr. Potter. There was nothing that I could do for Miss Granger. The curse grazed her heart. She wrote this for you when we realized that her heart was damaged."
Unable to speak, Harry numbly took the envelope from Madam Pomfrey and clutched it gently in his hands. The letter seemed to take the fight out of him and he began to hyperventilate and sob at the same time.
When Madam Pomfrey moved to help him, Harry backed away from her well meaning ministrations and into the arms of Susan Bones.
Turning him around in her arms, Susan wrapped Harry in a warm embrace and whispered into his ear, "It's going to be okay. I've got you." Looking over his shoulder, Susan nodded to Madam Pomfrey and began leading Harry over to a quiet corner of the room.
When they were seated in a pair of chairs facing each other, Susan held his free hand as she said supportively, "Why don't you open that in private later. If you don't want to be alone, I can sit with you."
Harry still couldn't speak but he squeezed her hand in acknowledgement while looking into her eyes.
There was a scraping noise as another chair was pulled over and Hannah sat down on Harry's other side. Tentatively, she said, "Harry, they are going to move Hermione's body soon. Madam Pomfrey wanted to know if you would like to say goodbye."
Nodding his head yes, Harry got up from his seat and went over to where Hermione lay in the hospital bed. He sat down heavily in the chair next to her bed and lay his head down on her side and wept openly for the first time since he was a small child. He felt like his heart had been ripped from his chest. Nothing mattered anymore because Hermione Granger was gone forever and his life was a darker place because of it.
The two teens from Hufflepuff stood in silent vigil as Harry Potter mourned the loss of his closest friend and the woman he loved.