Disclaimer: This story is based on the Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling. All characters created by J.K. Rowling are owned by J.K. Rowling. The few characters created by me (i.e. Persephone, Hotchet, Kagome…) belong to me, but are available for use in other fics as long as I get credited as their creator. None of us are making any money off this and no infringement is intended.
Level 1.10: The Last Train Ride
The Goblins had been responsible for the large flash of light. No one at the Ministry was ever able to puzzle out what spell they had used, but it had knocked out all the remaining giants. The dementors had slinked away as dawn broke. Luna had been disappointed. Her research group had worked out a theory of how to deconstruct them. Unfortunately, the process took a good hour, and no one had figured out how to make one hold still for that long. A handful of Death Eaters had escaped, but the Ministry managed to round up most of them.
Harry finally understood why the Ministry had had so much trouble sorting out the Death Eaters the first time around. With Voldemort dead, the dark mark had vanished.
The skull masks and cloaks however had not, and there were plenty of witnesses for those who remained.
The Ministry was having a bit of trouble deciding what to do with the Death Eaters who had been turned to stone. Victoria had developed a lapse of memory as to the counter curse. No one was too fussed about it, but there seemed to be a bit of a debate as to whether it was worth the effort to haul the statues to Azkaban or if they should simply be kept in the Ministry in London until they could be returned to normal and fit to stand trial.
Shortly after dawn, the students were sent to the dormitories to make room in the hospital wing for the injured. Harry was anxious for news on how bad the casualties had been, but Professor McGonagall muscled him away. Harry did not make it as far as his bed. He, Ron, and Hermione had sat down in the Gryffindor common room to compare notes and passed out there.
Harry had woken to a sea of soft green and slowly realized his head on Hermione's lap. She was drooped over the arm of the sofa. On the opposite end, Ron was sprawled with his head resting on the back of the sofa. His mouth was hanging open and his nose pointed towards the ceiling. Harry lifted his head and noticed a couple of second year girls giggling quietly at them. He had meant to get up then, but he must have fallen back asleep. He woke up again, fully stretched out on the sofa, with Hermione and Ron gone.
He tried to leave the common room to get some news, but two Aurors had been posted at the door to keep students inside. Harry growled at them a bit, but he was not up for another fight. Before he could head back through the portrait hole, Tonks came to collect him.
They wanted to ask him questions of course. Dumbledore had brought all the important people, the Minister of Magic and the head of the Auror office among them, together so that Harry could explain to all of them at once. It still took hours and hours to answer all their questions. Harry got the impression that they were reluctant to believe that Voldemort was dead. He could not blame them for that. He had been there when it happened, and it still had not completely sunk in.
There were a few nervous minutes where they started talking about the legal ramifications of what Harry had done. Dumbledore stepped in to point out that Harry may have bent a few school rules, but he had done nothing illegal.
"Still, a boy dead, Dumbledore-"
"And an Auror too. But had the students not been so well prepared, I think we might have had many more deaths."
Harry tried to take comfort in Dumbledore's words, but he felt numb. Dean was dead. The worst was later, when he was alone with Dumbledore, and the Headmaster asked him why had not told the teachers.
"You would have tried to protect us," Harry said lamely.
Dumbledore had paused for a long time and finally said, "Well, it's done."
He sent Harry back to Gryffindor Tower, where Ron questioned him about his questioning. Hermione was uncharacteristically glum. She listened, slumped down in an armchair, staring at the low fire, but did not ask Harry anything. Harry wanted to say something to Ginny, but she had holed up in her dormitory. The other sixth year girls told him that it was better to leave her alone right now.
The next morning the Gryffindors were allowed to leave their tower for breakfast in the Great Hall. Everyone swarmed to swap stories with the other houses. No one seemed to care too much where they were sitting. Several Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins had clustered at the Gryffindor table in hopes of hearing Harry's account of things. He gave them a brief one, not enjoying all the stares, and demanded news before answering any questions. He learned from Chessann that Persephone was still in the hospital wing with Professor Snape.
Charles Bulstrode appeared to ask if he could have his wand back. He seemed pleased that his name had gotten laced in with Harry's story, even if his wand had not been as helpful as he might have hoped.
Students began disappearing as the day progressed. The story about the battle had been splashed all over the Daily Prophet, and many parents were coming to collect their children early. Aurors were still stationed about the castle and patrolling the grounds, but the remaining students were allowed to go outside. There was a giddy sort of energy among the younger students. They practically exploded onto the sunny grounds when the great front doors were open.
The elder students hung back to avoid being trampled.
Harry along with Ron and Hermione went to visit Snape and Persephone in the hospital wing. Snape was propped up on pillows. Persephone was sitting beside the bed and had both of her hands wrapped around Snape's right as though she never intended to let go.
"How are you feeling?" asked Hermione.
"Like someone plunged a knife into my gut, then crucio-ed me," Snape said in what passed for a good humor with him. His black eyes examined Harry. "You?"
"I'm fine," Harry said and added when he sensed Snape's skepticism, "Physically." Snape only blinked in response, but he did not press further.
"I got permission to stay with Severus until Madam Pomfrey releases him," Persephone told Harry.
"What are you going to do once school is out?" asked Ron.
"We thought we'd go see my parents," Snape supplied.
Harry was surprised by that and not simply because Snape seemed confident that Persephone would be going with him. "You have parents?"
Snape fixed Harry with a look as though shocked by his idiocy. "Everyone has parents, Potter."
Harry felt a flush of embarrassment. "I meant. They're still alive?"
"Yes, they're alive. They disowned me after the Death Eater thing came out, but, as I've returned to myself at a point before the Dark Mark, I thought they might take me back. They're letting me visit at any rate. I think my mum's thrilled."
Hermione covered her mouth, and Harry had to admit there was something funny about hearing Snape talk about his mum.
"She likes me," Persephone teased gently.
"Everybody likes you," Snape said bitterly. "She's had more visitors than I have." He closed his eyes with a pained look, but Harry thought he seemed pleased all the same. Persephone just smiled as though he had said something charming.
"Dean's funeral will be soon," Hermione told them. "I'm going to try to go if I can find out the details."
"Me too," Ron said solemnly.
"I'll come," said Harry.
"I didn't know Dean that well," Persephone said, giving Harry an anxious look.
"Don't worry about it," Harry told her.
"I hope it was quick," she said softly. "That he didn't feel any pain."
Harry swallowed down the lump in his throat. "Have you heard what's going to happen to Thomas and Victoria?" he asked to change the subject.
Persephone smiled and glanced at Snape who still had his eyes closed, feigning a headache. "Their mother wanted to take them back, but Severus made arrangements for them to go an orphanage. It was their choice. It's not ideal, but I think they'll be okay now. Victoria seemed pleased. Thomas actually smiled."
It took a little coaxing, but Harry got her to step away from Snape for a private chat. "Are you really going with him?"
Persephone smiled patiently. "Yes, we've waited a long time, both of us—What's wrong. Harry?"
"It's just…I've never had real family before, and now, you're leaving me for Snape."
Persephone's touched his arm. Her silver eyes glistened. "Oh, Harry, how can you say that? You have such a large family. You should hear how they talk about you. Dumbledore and Hagrid, Remus, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and so many others. They love you so much. They adore you. Love is what makes a family, not bloodlines. I'm all Severus has right now, but you-you have a huge family. They've stuck by you for years, and they won't abandon you just cause you're leaving Hogwarts."
She hugged him and wiped her eyes. "Don't forget me though. I won't forget you," she squeezed Harry hand and returned to Snape's bedside.
Harry and Ron agreed to help Hermione bury Crookshanks that afternoon. Hermione lined a small casket in which she gently placed her cat. Ron offered to carry it down the stairs, but Hermione seemed unwilling to release the box.
Malfoy was milling about in the entry hall. He approached them with his hands in his pockets. "Is that Crookshanks?" he asked.
Hermione nodded. "We're going to bury him."
"Can I come with you?" Draco asked.
In all honesty, Harry did not want Draco to come. Hermione did not look thrilled, but she was not in a cheerful mood to begin with. She nodded, giving Draco permission to join them..
The four of them walked down to the lake in silence. Hermione found a place. Harry and Ron cut out a section of dirt with their wands, while Draco gathered stones to mark the grave. Hermione kneeled beside the shallow grave, but she paused there so long that Ron took the casket from her hand and placed it in the hole. Hermione, who had been on the verge of tears the entire time, gave a gasp and began to cry in earnest. She turned from the grave and came to sob on Harry's shoulder. Harry patted her back, wondering how long this numb feeling would last. With a flick of his wand, Ron covered the grave with dirt. He stood back, staring at the site solemnly.
Harry looked at Draco who was crouching to the other side of the grave and was shocked to discover tears streaming down the blonde boy's face. It was then that he realized Hermione's sobs were not just for Crookshanks but for everything they had lost. He held her tightly, feeling cold for not crying with them. But he could not escape the knowledge that, besides Dean's death, they had gotten off easy. It could have been so much worse, and things might get better now.
"The magic we learn inside these halls is magic old and near
The home we've made inside these walls grows dearer year by year
Oh Hogwarts teach us, mold us, reach us, leave us the best of friends.
Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin."
The students gathered for the Leaving Feast applauded as Indigo Stump's soft, clear voice faded away. Her entry for the new school song had received the most votes and would be presented to the governors over the summer for consideration.
"Music," Dumbledore said to the room as Indigo took her seat. "Harmony. I think there is nothing more beautiful or more welcome. A single voice raised in song lightens the spirit, but a choir of hundreds joined in purpose is a wondrous thing to behold.
"If you take no other lesson home from this past year, I hope you will remember that we are strongest when we set aside our differences and work together. Let us raise our glasses together in memory of one who showed the courage of a true Gryffindor. To Dean Thomas."
"Dean Thomas," the students echoed.
Dumbledore kind smile was tinged with sadness. "The war is over. Voldemort is defeated. However I must urge you all to be on guard over the summer. It is my hope that his few supporters who escaped will be captured in short order, but we must learn the lessons of history and be cautious."
"To those who are leaving us for the last time, I wish you good fortune on your next great adventure."
In the morning, the remaining students boarded the Hogwarts Express. Despite Hagrid's reassurances that he could visit, Harry knew he needed to resign himself to the idea that Hogwarts had been his home, but it wasn't anymore.
He followed Ron and Hermione as they looked for an empty cabin, peeking in windows as he passed. Several students waved at him. People he barely knew came out of their cabins to clap his back or tell him how much they would miss seeing him. To Ron's amusement, a third year girl with pigtails attached herself to Harry's waist with a tight hug. At length he had to pry her off.
Harry saw Ginny sitting in a crowded cabin of sixth year girls. Chessann had her arm around Ginny's shoulders. Harry knew Ginny would stop crying in time, but it was still hard to see the tear tracks on her cheeks.
Seamus was not crying when they passed the cabin where he was sitting with Parvati, Neville, and Lavender, but Harry knew he was taking Dean's death just as hard as Ginny. Parvati was talking to him softly, though her words were lost behind the glass. Neville and Lavender were watching, silent and sympathetic, but Harry noticed their fingers were laced together. They stole a glance at each other, just before Harry decided to move on.
Ron, Hermione, and Harry found Luna sitting alone and joined her. She smiled and attached herself to Ron's arm as he took the seat beside her. "I think next year is going to be a little boring," she told them serenely. "It's going to be a little lonely without the D.A."
"Maybe you can keep it up," Ron suggested. "Not sure Dumbledore will let you get away with secret meetings anymore, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind a defense club."
"That's an idea," said Luna. "It's not like we'll need to plan a battle. Were the N.E.W.T.s bad?"
This subject carried them through the first several minutes while the train pulled away from the station. Ron was in the middle of recounting a rather exaggerated version of his Care of Magical Creatures practical, when Malfoy entered, looking sheepish. "Can I sit with you?"
"Sure," Harry said, though he regretted taking the window seat as Malfoy dropped into the seat next to Hermione.
"Don't you want to sit with your housemates?" asked Ron.
"I tried," Draco admitted. "But they wouldn't let me."
"You're father was one of the Death Eaters that got away. Wasn't he?" said Luna. Draco nodded.
"Wonder how he managed that," Ron said, his tone one of thinly veiled accusation.
"Seriously, Ron," Hermione snapped at him. "When did Draco have time to get his father out of the castle?"
Ron thought for a moment. "Guess you're right," he said grudgingly. "Sorry."
"Forget it," said Draco. "The Aurors searched our manor but didn't find him or mother. I'm betting they fled the country."
Hermione patted his shoulder sympathetically. "None of the Slytherins will talk to you?"
"Blaise and Indigo invited me to sit with them, but that got awkward pretty quickly." Draco made a face and glanced down the corridor. "I left my trunk in there, I'll have to remember to get it later."
They played exploding snap to pass the time, talked about their career plans, and took turns patrolling the corridors. Draco wanted to skive off this prefect duty. Harry suspected he was worried that the other Slytherins might ambush him as they had done to Harry on previous occasions, but Hermione forced him to walk the halls with her. They both returned uninjured.
As the sun set, they retired their school robes, and Luna entertained them with the highlights of the last Quibbler issue. Though it seemed like a long time since they had left the school, the train stopped all too soon for Harry.
They took their trunks down, and Draco left them to retrieve his. Harry took Hedwig's cage in one hand and dragged his trunk with the other. He stepped off the train. Students were flooding out and parents were surging in to meet them. No one was meeting Harry.
He followed Ron and Hermione through the barrier and felt a strange sort of rushing calm. He was a full-fledged wizard now. Soon he would know whether he had been approved for Auror training, but until then…
He had no plans. He would have to find a place to stay, probably near London. He was sure his vault at Gringotts would tide him over for a while, but he might want to find some kind of work until he started receiving an Auror salary. He was free. Completely free. Free of Voldemort. Free of the Dursleys…though he might give Dudley and Judith a ring. Free from the castle walls he held so dear. Free to travel. Free to stay. Free to read what books he wanted or not read anything for while. Free to practice magic. Free to pursue his next great adventure.
"Hey, Mum!" he heard Ron call and saw Mrs. Weasley run up to meet him. Ginny and Mr. Weasley moved in to the family embrace.
"There's my parents!" Hermione said. She ran off in their direction.
Down the platform, Draco Malfoy stood about looking lost, probably feeling a similar detachment to what Harry felt.
Harry wondered about Persephone. He was happy to have found her, but this was not how he had envisioned finding family. He did not feel a sharp loss in their separation, because he had not had time to form a tight bond with her. Maybe he could talk her into to staying with him for a few months, but part of him was looking forward to being on his own.
He realized a head of bushy hair was bobbing towards him. Hermione stopped in front of Harry, pressed close to him by the crowd. "Harry," she said, then leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. "Keep in touch." She smiled and hurried back to where her parents waited. Harry watched her go. Her last words rolled over in his mind. Keep in touch.
Yes. He would do that.
Harry ran his hand through his hair. His palm graced his forehead. He looked up to find the Weasleys trying to wave him over. Ginny even managed a smile for him. Harry smiled back at them.
Maybe it was a little vain of him, but he wondered if, now that Voldemort was gone, some healer at St. Mungos might finally be able to do something about his scar.
Hope you enjoyed the story.