Chapter 1: After the End
Harry slowly stood and stretched his tired muscles. He wasn't quite sure how long he had been sitting in Dumbledore's office, but judging from the soft glow of sunrise it had only been and hour or so. It had felt like an eternity to him. He turned and walked slowly towards the door; he paused and looked back once more at the large painting hanging over the Headmaster's desk. Dumbledore smiled back at him, his face still glowing with pride, and he gave a slight but noble nod of the head as if to dismiss Harry, as he had done so many times before. Harry smiled in spite of himself. As his feet traced the familiar steps that lead to the corridor below Harry was overwhelmed with exhaustion, and emotion. He never imagined that he even had the capability to emote this much. He was reminded of something his best friend Ron Weasley had said two years ago.
"One person can't feel all that, they'd explode!"
At the time Ron had been speaking about Harry's ex-girlfriend Cho Chang. Yet at this moment Harry new exactly what he meant. Harry had spent the better part of the last year denying himself the indulgence of feeling, because it got in the way of his task, he had put everything aside in pursuit of one goal. Now Harry felt like his emotions were threatening to rip him in hundreds of different directions. It was as if the flood gates had been opened and everything he had repressed for so long came pouring out of him in a chaotic jumble. There was grief of course, grief was familiar, every time that Harry thought his heart could not take anymore, his endurance had been pushed even further, first his parents, then Cedric, next Sirius, then…Dumbledore. Harry had watched the people he loved be torn away from this world, from him, time and time again. His mind went to his loved ones who he had lost only a few short hours ago, Tonks…Lupin…Fred… his heart ached from the sadness, he would give anything to have them back, for young Teddy Lupin to not have to face the same childhood the he had. And yet this time things were also very different. Harry's grief had always been accompanied by the inevitable question, "when will it all end?" and the overwhelming despair. This time, even though he already missed his friends more than he could express. It had ended. He had ended it, and the feeling that was strongest within him, was peace.
The gargoyle sprang back releasing Harry into the hallway. He found himself looking into the faces of the two people who had always been beside him no matter what circumstances had come there way. Harry thought to himself that the moment he'd met Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger on the Hogwarts Express was one of the luckiest moments of his life.
"How are you Harry?" said Hermione gently.
"You know what?" said Harry, "I think I'm going to be ok… I think we all are…"
Hermione gave him a tired smile, and squeezed his hand. Then she slipped her arm around Ron's waist and pressed her face against his shoulder. Ron, who had been very focused on his shoes since Harry had reappeared, responded by kissing the top of her head. He took a deep breathe and looked up at Harry, his face was streaked with tears, and he looked completely drained both physically and emotionally. He took and deep shuttering breath and spoke,
"Harry… I knew you could do it mate… I'm sorry that I was such a twat this year… it's been so hard… and now with Fred… I'm not myself at the moment you know?"
Ron looked down at his shoes again and he began to tremble. Harry looked at his best friend, and suddenly without warning he grabbed Ron into a crushing bear hug. Ron responded immediately, and Hermione stepped away quietly. Somewhere in his own head Harry was shocked at his actions, he and Ron had never been the type to express themselves in a physical manner, but he knew somehow that this was exactly what Ron needed, and at this moment, he didn't really care what anyone thought, Ron needed him, and he was there.
They stepped back and looked at each other. Harry was unsure what to say next, he sighed. Somehow he felt like his sigh was releasing all the weight that had been accumulating in his heart over the past few years. Ron looked a bit surer on his feet, he took a deep breathe.
"Thanks mate." He said.
Harry gave him a reassuring pat one the shoulder and then they turned to Hermione as well.
"You guys should get some sleep." he said, "Lord knows you've earned it."
This time it was Ron who managed a weak smile.
"Yeah I think I could sleep for about a week." As if to prove his statement he yawned widely.
"Come on" said Hermione, "we can go back to Gryffindor Tower; I bet it's deserted since most of the students were evacuated."
"Do you mind if we just go for a bit of a walk first?" said Ron, putting his arms around her waist.
Hermione smiled. "Not at all…" she said.
Harry bid them a goodbye as they turned and walked down the corridor hand in hand. He'd have to get used to that. Ron and Hermione were finally together, with nothing to keep them from having a perfectly normal relationship. Well, he smirked, not that Ron and Hermione were ever perfectly normal. This thought brought up another emotion that had been under the surface threatening to claw its way out of him, he had tried to repress it because he thought it was wrong of him to feel it now, but it was still there. Harry was happy. No, he thought to himself, that didn't quite cover it, he was joyful. Harry let it bubble over, and he laughed, real true laughter, the kind that he could feel healing the wounds that had been eating him from the core for so long. He could see it, the future he could finally have, he could grow old, have a family, live a normal life. His thoughts lingered on marriage… his children… his grandchildren. And suddenly he was walking determinedly down the corridor. His heart was full and warm and for the first time in a very long time, he knew exactly what he wanted. This was his new beginning and there was only one person that he wanted to share it with.
When Harry reached the Entrance Hall he was surprised to find it twice as crowded as when he had left it a few hours earlier. He thought many people would be rushing home to be with there families. As he looked around he realized that the room was now comprised of mostly people he did not want to see at all. Many Ministry officials mulled around the debris and took statements from the professors and students who were left, and to Harry's dismay the press were also prowling about. As soon as they saw him they converged like a pack of crazed animals. They bombarded him with questions.
"Mr. Potter how did you know about the wand of Destiny…."
"How did you learn that He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named made Horcruxes…."
"Are you really the one who killed You-Know-Who…."
"Was this Dumbledore's plan all along…."
"Harry now that you've fulfilled your destiny, what do you plan to do next?"
When the last question was ask Harry felt a jolt of rage. He had been doing his best to ignore the questions and search the crowd for Ginny, but when he heard that familiar grating voice, he turned slowly to give Rita Skiter a look of deepest loathing. Rita Skiter had been a thorn in Harry's side since the Tri-Wizard tournament almost three years ago, she always had a knack for making the most fantastic stories out of the glares and cold silence he was accustom to giving her. This time he walked straight to her, she was so taken aback she jumped a bit, but then recovered and gave him her best toothy grin. Her acid green quill was ready by her side.
"You really want to know?" said Harry venomously. "Fine. Hope your photographer's ready, because I'm not just going to tell you, I'm going to show you."
He had just seen Ginny standing against the wall with her arm around her mother. Harry pushed through the reporters and made a bee-line for her. He was vaguely aware something that sounded like hundreds of chittering birds was following behind him, and realized it was the photographers snapping a rapid succession of photographs. Ginny looked up, the rising of murmur of the crowd caught her attention. Their eyes met and Harry felt as if his whole body went to ice and was on fire at the same time. He had forgotten until that moment how beautiful her brown eyes were. He quickened his step and she began to walk to meet him. They were closing the gap quickly. The look on her face was one he had never seen before, such a mix of pain…happiness…relief…and then she was there, in his arms. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in the flowery scent knew so well.
"Ginny…." He whispered.
She pulled back met his gaze firmly. He had never truly appreciated how much he missed her.
"So…" she said sternly, "You're done saving the world now?"
Harry grinned and nodded. And then he was kissing her. He had been dreaming of holding her for so long, trying to preserve the memory of her smell, her taste. Without even thinking about what he was doing Harry scooped Ginny up in his arms, without breaking the kiss, and headed back towards the staircase. There were astonished gasps, and a smattering of applause from those watching the scene, but he didn't care, he barely even heard it. He was with Ginny, and nothing else seemed even remotely important. He felt his feet carrying him along the halls, and he was dimly curiously where he might be going, but then Ginny wound her fingers though his hair, pulling him deeper into the kiss and every other thought he was thinking disappeared from him head.
By the time the kiss finally ended and he looked around he realized they had ended up in front of the painting of the Fat Lady. She was standing in her frame giving them a sly, smug look.
"Password?" she said with a smirk.
"Wolfric" said Ginny.
The portrait swung open and Harry climbed through without putting Ginny down. He remembered what Hermione had said about Gryffindor Tower being deserted and saw that she was right. He made his way across the common room, and carried Ginny up the stairs to his dormitory. As before he wasn't quite sure what prompted him to do this, except that he wanted to, and after doing what was expected of him for so long, doing what he wanted felt very good. All the four poster beds were empty and there were no personal items to be seen. He gently sat Ginny down and walked towards his own bed, it had been almost a year since he had slept in this bed, and it was as if he was greeting an old friend. As he pulled back the curtains he looked over at Ginny who was still standing on the other side of the room looking at him curiously.
"Come on over here…" he said, as he reached out his hand to her.
She needed no more prompting, she quickly crossed the room. Once again she gave him a deep searching look. He gently traced a line across her cheek and down her jawbone to her chin with his thumb. He tilted her face up and kissed her again, slowly. After a moment, instead of breaking off the kiss she put her arms around him and pulled him against her tightly. Harry didn't even hesitate, he put a hand behind her neck and kissed her even more vigorously. After a few more blissful moments she pulled away, but she did not step back, she put her arms around his next and rested her forehead on his. They were both breathing rather heavily, as she met his gaze once more. This was an expression Harry knew well, her eyes were hard and blazing. Harry had seen her give this look twice before, the first time was the day they started dating, right before their first kiss. The second time was right before he told her he was going to leave her to go fight Voldemort. This look was her way of telling him that she was ready. Yet this time, he wasn't sure what she was telling him she was ready for. Then suddenly it all made sense and what felt like a bolt of lightning hit his stomach. It was so obvious, the big scene downstairs… essentially carrying her back to his bedroom. In his resolute desire to be with Ginny again, the possibility of this happening had never entered his mind. Butterflies erupted into his stomach and he felt his heart pounding in his chest. In the back of his mind he marveled at how absurd it was that he had just faced his own death, vanquished the greatest Dark wizard of all time, and now he was almost sick with nerves over the prospect of making love to his girlfriend. For he was now certain that was what she had in mind.
Ginny kissed him again, almost experimentally this time. He kissed her back and as he did his fear began to melt away. He knew this was what he wanted, he was still nervous but it was more like the kind of nervousness that he felt before a Quidditch match, he was nervous but excited. He moved his lips from Ginny's and began to kiss down her jaw line, and her neck. She sighed slowly and deeply, and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his mouth back to hers. She kissed him forcefully and as she did he felt her warm hands slide down to his waist as she lifted his shirt over his head. This was going to be easy… simple… natural… as Ginny ran her hand across his bare chest Harry closed his eyes and let himself be completely swept away.
Harry slowly felt consciousness seeping into his body. He was warm and comfortable, and for a moment he almost let himself believe he was waking up on a normal day, ready to poke his head out of the curtain and groan with Ron about some homework they hadn't quite got done. But then he felt someone shift beside him and it all came back. He slowly opened his eyes and was surprised to find that it was dawn again. He and Ginny had finally fallen asleep around noon, so they had slept for almost eighteen hours from the look of things. He sat up and stretched and then let his eyes fall on the sleeping girl next to him. She was so beautiful. She lay on her stomach with her red hair fanned across her back. He brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her head. Her breathing changed slightly as she slowly stretched and open her eyes.
"Hi." She said, as she smiled up at him.
"Hi." He answered, "How'd you sleep?"
She rolled over on her side to face him.
"Pretty well actually." She smiled slyly. "I was awfully exhausted."
Harry smiled and he leaned down to kiss her. He kept his hand on her cheek and gently stroked it as he tried to read her expression. Ginny was often very hard to read. She was so different from other girls, in many ways she was much more like a boy, which made sense because she was raised by them. With everything that they had been through in the past few years Harry had always appreciated her ability to be strong and do what needed to be done without large amounts of tears and dramatics. However, now Ginny was hurting, no matter how well she hid it, and Harry wanted her to know he was there to help.
"Ginny…" he said slowly, "if you want to talk… you know we can… I know how close you and Fred were."
He was not surprised when her eyes filled with tears. She looked down at her hands for a moment, and then she spoke softly.
"Fred told me once, the day Dad came out and told him and George that they had a baby sister, they were hopping mad. They wouldn't speak to Mum for a week! They were only three at the time, but apparently they found baby Ron boring, and they wanted a more interesting little brother. They were afraid all I would do was play with dolls and make them go to tea parties. It didn't take them long to figure out though, that I was much more interested in learning how to ride a broom, and help them play tricks on Ron. They learned quickly that they got in less trouble if they used me, because Mum would never get mad at her precious baby girl."
She looked up and Harry with a sad smile on her face, and continued.
"Fred was my favorite brother. George too of course, but Fred and I understood each other without even talking, we were like…" she gave a small hiccupping laugh… "well like twins."
Harry put his arms around her and pulled her to him, he kissed the top of her head, and let her continue, he could tell that talking about these things was helping her heal, and he was glad that he could be there to help.
"Fred was always glad I found you. Did you know that?"
She looked up at him as she said this. Then put her head against his chest and went on.
"Last Christmas when you were out fighting You-Know-Who and the school was overrun by Death Eaters. That was a really hard time for me… Fred told me something that Christmas that changed everything. He said I was the heroine of this story, that no girl but me could play my part, and that you were out there waiting for me to be the happy ending, and he was right wasn't he?"
"yeah… he was right." Said Harry tenderly.
She kissed him.
She was now tracing the features of his face with her index finger as she spoke.
"You know… if he had to go, he wanted it to be like that. Fighting for what was right. Fighting so that we could have our happy ending." She inhaled deeply. "So I'm going to be happy, and enjoy my life with you, because that's what Fred would have wanted."
Harry smiled and hugged her again. He looked into her face, and wondered to himself how he could ever have been so lucky to find her. He knew what he wanted to say… it had been true for so long, and now he wanted her to know, for it to be real.
"Ginny… I love you." He said softly.
"I love you too…" she said simply.
She returned her head to his chest and sighed.
"We don't have to get up yet do we?" she said, "I'm rather comfortable."
"Well… we'll have to get out of bed sometime…" said Harry with a smile.
She gave him and evil grin.
"Oh yeah?" she said, "and who's gonna make me? You?"
"Ok now you asking for it…" said Harry, and he began to tickle her mercilessly.
Ginny laughed and squealed as she tried to fight him off. After a few seconds she executed an impressive move in which she knocked his arm out from under him and pinned him on his back.
"HA!" she said. "I win!" and then she leaned down to kiss him.
"Excuse me… not to be a bother but some of us are trying to sleep!" said a voice from the other side of the curtains.
Both Harry and Ginny jumped violently, and Ginny instinctively pulled the covers up to her chin. Harry swiftly realized that another reason he may have woken up thinking he was back at school, was the loud snores he was accustom to hearing from the next bunk over. He and Ginny had been talking so intently they had neither of them had registered the sound.
"Ron???" said Ginny incredulously. "What are you doing here?"
They heard the sound of the curtains being pulled back and Ginny peeked her head around the curtains to meet her brother's glare. Harry caught a glimpse of his best friends face, and was relieved, to find that while he looked slightly irritated, it was nothing compared to the boiling rage he was expecting to endure from Ron, at the sight of Harry in bed with his little sister.
"In case you haven't noticed," said Ron derisively. "This is my dormitory. I can sleep here if I bloody well like. I thought it was just Harry in here, until I heard you this morning."
Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Fine Ronald, go back to sleep. I was just going to ask Harry if he wanted to go get breakfast anyway."
Ron shrugged and yawned.
She began to close the curtain, but then turned back.
"I just have to ask… last year every time I so much as held Harry's hand you]acted as though we were committing some kind of mortal sin, and now you find us like this… and nothing. Why are you so fine with this all of a sudden? Hmmm?"
Harry who had been thinking the same thing, leaned forward to see what his best friend was going to say. To his surprise Ron turned a terrific shade of deep pink and began to mutter something that sounded like… priorities… what really matters.
"The reason he's not yelling at you is because he'd be a filthy hypocrite if he did." Said the unmistakable voice of Hermione from the next bed over.
Ginny turned to Harry with a grin so wide you'd think Christmas had come early and mouthed a silent. OH ho ho! Harry shook with silent laughter and fell back on his pillow. It was such a beautiful feeling to know that his life was now so perfectly easy, his worries were only as great as, what they wanted to do today. The rest of his life was an open book.
"So you guys want to go down and have breakfast?" Harry said teasingly.
"I doubt there serving it in the Great Hall," Said Ron, the embarrassment still thick in his voice. "but the house elves can probably bring us something up."
"We should probably head to the Burrow after we eat," said Hermione, "we told Mrs. Weasley we were all going to stay the night here and get some sleep, but she'll be worried if we don't turn up today."
"Right… well why don't we go get changed and meet the boys in the lounge in a few minutes Hermione?" said Ginny. "You can borrow some of my clothes for the moment."
They met about ten minutes later in the Common Room, the elves had already brought them up a heaping plate of eggs, bacon and toast and they all ate in relative silence. It was not uncomfortable; it was simply the silence of friends who have been through so much that they don't feel the need to fill the silence. When they had finished they began to discuss how they would return to the Burrow. They came to the consensus that going to McGonagall and asking to use the Floo Network from her office was the best idea.
They made there way through the corridor to the headmistresses office, and once more the gargoyle sprang back without the password, allowing them to enter. When they knocked on her door they heard her wearily bid them to enter.
"Oh Potter!" she said, as she looked up from her desk were she was busily filling out paperwork. "I didn't even realize you were still in the castle! I was expecting you to be Kingsley, he's been made the new Minister of Magic and there are so many things to be done. Anyway, what can I do for you Potter?"
"We were hoping to use your fireplace to go back to the Burrow." He said.
"Oh yes of course! That should be no trouble at all." She busied herself with the fireplace and a moment later green flames erupted in it.
"You may want to notify Molly you're on your way first, it is still rather early." Said Professor McGonagall.
"Right." Said Ron.
He walked over to the green flames and clearly said, "the Burrow" before sticking his head in the flames. It was hard to hear what he was saying with is head in the fire place, but a minute later he pulled it out, looking slightly dizzy turned to them.
"She's ready for us, she's holding up pretty well, but she's in a right state over you Harry." Ron rolled his eyes a bit when he said the last statement. Mrs. Weasley tended to fuss over him quite a bit.
"I'd better go first." He said, "to keep her from worrying."
He stepped into the fire and clearly said "the Burrow" just as Ron had. He felt his feet fly out from under him as he swirled around in fast circles until his feet hit hard ground and he toppled out into the familiar kitchen of the Burrow.
"Harry!! Oh Harry!" someone screeched.
He instantly found himself being crushed in the arms of Mrs. Weasley.
"Oh Harry I'm so proud of you! You saved us… all of us. I always knew you could. Oh my boy!"
She hugged him again. Harry pulled away to look at her, he was so grateful for her comfort and encouragement, but there was something he needed to say.
"Mrs. Weasley…" he said, "Fred… I'm so sorry..I shouldn't have…"
"No!" interrupted Mrs. Weasley her voice was gentle but firm, "Don't' you dare do that Harry Potter. My son was a grown man who knew the risks. He died a hero, and it was not your fault. You've saved my family… time and time again. I will not let you blame yourself for Fred's death."
Harry exhaled deeply and relief spread through his body. Behind him he heard the sound of someone else climbing out of the fireplace.
"Ginny!" squealed Mrs. Weasley, and Harry stepped out of the way to let her embrace her daughter.
Mrs. Weasley turned so that she faced both of them.
"That was quite a display you two put on yesterday morning." She said sternly, but her eyes were smiling. "While I'll admit I'm quite thrilled to see that you two have finally made up, let's keep those kinds of displays of affection off the front page of the newspapers shall we?"
Harry noticed at that the morning newspaper was sitting on the kitchen table, and the front cover was mostly taken up by a picture of Ginny and he locked in a passionate kiss. Under a headline that read,
Harry Potter, the world's savior. His Next Conquest? True Love.
While the figures in the photo were moving just like all wizard photographs the images did not seem to notice anyone but each other. Harry felt his face burning, and looked at Ginny who grinned sheepishly and then back at Mrs. Weasley who was now smirking.
"Yeah I think we can handle that." He said to her.
She gave him a slightly reproachful smile, but then turned her attention to Ron and subsequently Hermione who had come through the fire place during their conversation.
The next few days passed by in a haze. The Burrow was a very busy place, as people came in and out giving condolences, and they were making preparation for Fred's funeral. It was Wednesday evening, Harry and Ginny were sitting on the living room floor playing with Teddy Lupin. His parent's funeral had been that day and it had been a taxing experience on all of them. Harry watch the sweet little baby, who was barely big enough to pick his own head up, giggle as Ginny played peek-a-boo with him. Every time she would open her hands and say, "Boo!" he would jump, and his hair would randomly burst into a different color. As he watch the babies hair flash from royal blue to bright orange, he thought of how his tiny godson would never know his kind, patient intelligent father, or his quirky high-spirited mother from whom he had inherited his unique ability. Harry had a fleeting realization that Teddy's life would be very similar to the life of his good friend Neville Longbottom, raised by his grandmother, and told by her the many stories about how great his parents were.
But he'll have me too…thought Harry. He reached out and took the babies small hand. The baby grabbed his finger and began to gum it absentmindedly. Harry smiled and patted him on the head. Teddy was going to be all right.
In the next room Mrs. Weasley was having a towering row with George about Fred's funeral plans. George had come in the day before to help with the preparations and he had given Mrs. Weasley some news she did not like at all. Ever since, they had been arguing back and forth.
"George! There is no way I am letting that happen! I've been rather patient but fireworks?? That's down right disrespectful." Mrs. Weasley was shouting in her most exasperated voice.
"Mum!" George shouted back. "I've told you again and again, this is not going to be a funeral. Not in the traditional sense. Fred and I discussed what was to happen if either of us kicked it in this battle, and we didn't want people to be sitting around mourning and crying, because we're gone. We wanted them remembering who we were and laughing and celebrating! It's my job to make sure Fred is remembered the way he wanted and I'm going to do it!"
"He's gone George!" said Mrs. Weasley severely, "You can't keep pretending, it won't do you any good."
Upon hearing this Ginny quietly got up and walked into the next room.
"Mum stop." She said, she wasn't shouting her voice was calm and sure but Mrs. Weasley was silent. "George is not pretending Fred isn't gone, he's just getting on with life, and not letting Fred's death stop everything. That's what Fred wanted."
The arguing didn't resume.
Harry and Ron were finishing putting on their dress robes and heading down the stairs. They met Ginny and Hermione in the living room and they all headed for the garden.
"Oh my goodness," said Hermione, as they rounded the corner of the yard. There was a huge tent quite like the one Bill and Fleur had been married in the summer before. There were four long tables full of food and in the front was a large picture of Fred laughing and pulling faces at his friends and family. Standing in the entrance to the tent were George and his good friend Lee Jordan, and as people walked in they were handing them each a flamboyant hat and a party favor. As they all went into the tent and took their seats Ron leaned over to Harry.
"Bloody hell. This is quite a sight isn't it?" he whispered.
He wasn't wrong, the tent was packed full of colorful streamers, noise makers and showers of colorful sparks. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sat down across from them with sad but amused looks on their faces.
"Well..." said Mr. Weasley looking around. "This is Fred alright."
After a few more minutes when all the guests had filed in George went to the front and motioned for silence.
"Ladies and gentlemen." He began. "This is not a funeral, because that is not what Fred wanted. This is a feast to his memory. Eat, and share stories about my brother, remember him for what he was, if you would like to share memories with the group feel free. But most importantly, please enjoy yourself."
With that he sat down and the feast began. It was a truly enjoyable experience. Many people told hilarious stories of the antics of Fred and George and everyone laughed, and cried. It was a justly appropriate tribute to the kind of person that Fred was. At midnight George and Lee led everyone outside to watch a spectacular fireworks show that reminded him of the fireworks that Fed and George unleashed on Delores Umbridge in Harry's fifth year. The show culminated with a huge explosion that spelled out.
R.I.P. Fred. We love you.
The crowd erupted with cheers and applause, and Harry put his arm around Ginny who was clapping and cheering with tears running down her cheeks. After the fireworks had ended they all walked slowly back up to the house together. When they reached the door of the house Ron stopped and looked around at them.
"Hey," he said. "There's a lake up over the hill beyond Luna's house. We should go up there tomorrow and go swimming and have a picnic."
"That sounds like a great idea!" said Harry enthusiastically, and Ginny and Hermione matched his eagerness.
They walked the girls up to their room and parted ways, but that night as Harry lay on the camp bed that had been set up for him in Ron's room. He couldn't help but feel that Fred's funeral had been the final piece that was needed. Now the pain and the loss were behind them, and it was time to move into a happier phase of life. He rolled over and slowly drifted into sleep listening to the sound of Ron's snoring.