(A/N: This is the conclusion of the story and starts about an hour after the last scene of ch 2.)
In what seemed like no time, making him think he had nodded off, Harry heard voices coming his way. Warily, he sat up and rubbed at his eyes. The voices quieted down and the footsteps he had heard stopped. When he put his glasses back on, he saw a group of people standing there.
Kingsley, Tonks, Remus, Bill, Charlie, and the twins. It was more than needed, but that probably did not hurt. You could never tell when someone might not be able to cast a Patronus when a Dementor was standing there. Ron and Hermione were standing near him.
"Thank you all for coming tonight and being willing to follow my lead," Harry said as he stood, dredging up the energy he knew he would need. "If all goes well, in a little over twelve hours, the war will be over." That simple statement caused multiple gasps and questions. Harry held up his hand and all talking stopped.
"Please don't waste time arguing. I have a plan and we're on a tight schedule." He stopped and took a deep breath before he launched into his explanation. "Just before I was born, a prophecy was made that said there would be a person who could kill the Dark Lord, and that person is me."
"What?" "No, not you!" "It can't be!" … The denials were shouted but Harry just held up his hand again. Eventually, he got silence.
"Before he died, Dumbledore found out why the Dark Lord did not die when I was a baby." He heard a soft gasp from Hermione, as she realized what he was doing. "He created some things called a Horcrux, which prevented him from completely dying. We have destroyed all but three and we will destroy two of those tonight, with your help. It will be very dangerous, so if you do not feel able to continue, you may stay here for the evening."
There was a nervous shuffling of feet and a shaking of heads. No one left.
He nodded and looked at his watch; they had about half an hour. "Right. One of the Horcruxes is in me and we shall destroy that first." There was more mass arguing and talking but Harry stopped that, ignoring their direct questions.
"At seven, a Portkey will take us to a cave where there is a Dementor. There, you must stand back and let me initially deal with the Dementor. I will let it suck the Horcrux out of my curse scar. Once that is done, then seven of you must cast a corporeal Patronus and attack the Dementor. I'm told that will allow you to destroy it, releasing the soul fragment it took out of me, and probably old souls it has sucked out over time."
"Harry!" Tonks shouted in an objecting voice when he paused.
"It has to be this way," Harry overrode her. "If not, then the Dark Lord won't die and he will conquer the world!" Everyone look down for a moment, before they looked back up with determination. It was obvious they did not like what he had said, but they would follow him.
"Take a few moments to decide which seven will cast their Patronus. One of you will probably have to help pull me back after I have dealt with the Dementor, as I may not be able to walk. Everyone else can stand ready in case something goes wrong or someone can't cast the spell and you have to fill in." He checked his watch. "You've got about twenty minutes for water, the bathroom, whatever." He looked over at one of his best friends. "Hermione? Please get all of your Pepperup potions. We may need those later."
"Sure, Harry." She ran upstairs while the others talked.
Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "I'll pull you away from the Dementor."
Harry smiled at his first young friend. "Just make sure you don't do it too soon or we'll have a hard time trying to find another one tonight."
Ron nodded. "Don't worry, Harry. I understand."
"Thanks." Harry appreciated his friend more than he could say at the moment.
When seven o'clock came, everyone was holding onto the ring and felt the Portkey's tug. A moment later, they were standing in front of a cave. An unnatural cold was plainly evident.
Nervous and yet knowing he had no choice, Harry cast "Lumos" and slowly walked in. The others followed. There was a single Dementor in the back of the cave. Harry was not sure why it stayed there, probably goblin magic he thought. He put out his light and put his wand up, letting the light from the others show the way.
Taking a deep breath, Harry walked towards the Dementor before he could lose his nerve.
The Dementor glided towards him, meeting him halfway. The creature grabbed his head and tried to bring Harry's mouth to its mouth.
The dead and rotting smell of the creature almost knocked Harry out. Fortunately, he held on to his senses. He also had to fight the creature. At the last second, Harry all but fell and his body weight pulled his mouth too far down and allowed his forehead to come in contact with the creature. There was a pulling, a tearing, a fight really. The soul fragment did not want to let go, but the Dementor's ability overcame it anyway.
Harry felt something burst out of him, much like a boil or blister being popped. The release was as sweet as it was painful. He could not stop his scream. He felt himself falling, but did not hit the ground. He was vaguely aware of floating away as well as a group of silvery animals that ran past him.
A moment later, he was gently set on the ground. Harry struggled and rolled onto his side to watch. There were a multitude of animals attacking the Dementor, which had been pushed against the back wall. In his haze, he barely identified a lynx, a wolf, and a pair of ducks before there was a high-pitched scream and the Dementor's robes fell to the floor of the cave in a burst of light that made him shield his eyes for a few seconds. When he could see again, he watched the Patronuses fade away.
Several hands grabbed him and rolled him over to his back. Hermione's face loomed large over him and her hand seemed to be doing something to his head. It took a moment to realize she was wiping his forehead. Her wand was visible for a moment before it disappeared and was replaced by a potion phial and he felt wetness and a warmth on his forehead.
"How do you feel, mate?" he heard Ron's voice ask, concern very evident.
"Did you see the Bludger that hit me?" he rasped, provoking several chuckles from group.
"You're scar is almost gone," Hermione told him as she lovingly messed with his bangs, much as he thought a mother would do.
"I'll take that as a good sign," he weakly said, feeling better with each passing moment. "And the Dementor?"
"It's gone," Hermione assured him. "It sort of exploded and released a lot of little white balls of energy. It's done, Harry."
"You're brilliant, all of you," he said as strongly as he could. "Help me up. We still have things to do tonight."
"Harry, you need to rest," Hermione tried to tell him. Fortunately, Ron listened and pulled him up so he was now sitting.
"Give me a Pepperup potion. I'll rest in a few hours." He looked around. "Bill, I need you to go to the gates of Hogwarts and hide for a while. I have some special visitors coming and I told them I'd have someone to greet them. Take Charlie with you for safety."
"Who's coming?" Bill asked. Only Harry's two best friends did not look interested.
"I don't know exactly, but you'll know when they get there. I'm reasonably sure you've met them before," Harry told him with a cryptic smile. "And please be careful." He looked around for his next helper. "Kingsley? I need you get our prisoners to the Shrieking Shack by nine. I've made arrangements for someone to come take them off our hands."
The tall Auror did not look too thrilled by that. "What will happen to them?"
"I don't really know and I don't really care. However, my personal guess is they will end up as dragon food over the next few weeks."
"Dragon food?" Charlie asked, very interested.
Harry gave a short laugh. "Perhaps, one can't really tell sometimes, but you can help Shacklebolt and ask them if you want." He turned by to the Auror. "Kingsley, don't forget the Portkeys for tomorrow morning." He had sent a note to Kingsley via Kreacher with the plan that morning.
"No problem, Harry. I've visited there today in secret to get a feel for where we need to go. I think we'll have about forty people," Kingsley told him confidently.
"Bring three extra Portkeys to the castle, I believe a few of my friends will be joining us," Harry told him, having to guess at the numbers. He was sure some of them would insist on going.
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Harry, but I'll leave it up to you to make sure only the older ones go," Kingsley said.
"Of course, it's already arranged," Harry agreed. He turned again. "Hermione?"
"Here, Harry." She handed him a phial which he downed. He was already feeling a lot better, but the surge of energy he felt from the potion made him felt like he could take anyone on. He scrambled to his feet.
"Harry? What about us?" Remus asked as he stepped forward.
Harry thought about it. "I have a task to do at the school, but it won't take very much effort. Most of the time will be spent waiting and you'll be a lot more comfortable in your own bed. Tomorrow morning will come early," Harry reminded the family friend. He looked around. "That goes for all of you. You really should get lots of rest for tomorrow morning."
"What about you, Harry?" Tonks asked.
He smiled as he thought about his next task. "I have to take care of a problem then I plan to sleep as well." He checked his watch. It was a little after half seven; he was running a few minutes late. "I have to leave. I'll see everyone in the morning. Bill, Charlie, Hermione, Ron, I believe we're all going to the gates of Hogwarts." He carefully thought about the gates at the school and Apparated away.
Ginny looked at Neville over the dinner table. He nodded back to her before he looked over to the Ravenclaw table and then to the Hufflepuff table, receiving small nods from friends there. She looked up to the head table and got a short nod from McGonagall. Ginny really hoped Harry knew what he was doing.
At the gates of Hogwarts, five Apparation cracks sounded within a few seconds of each other. Harry pulled out his Marauders Map and his broom. He checked the Map to see where he needed to go.
"Harry? Who are we really meeting?" Bill asked.
Harry smiled as he found who he was looking for and stuck the Map back into his pocket. "I don't really know his name, Bill. I only know him as 'The Director'. You might have met him before on your previous job, or maybe not." Harry mounted his broom.
Bill suddenly went wide-eyed. "The head of Gringotts and the English clan of Goblins?! Are you serious?!"
"Nope, I'm not Sirius" Harry replied with a grin, "I'm Harry." He got four groans. "Ron, Hermione. Please start walking to the front door. If something goes wrong, you have the front while I have the back." He flew up and over the gates while his friends walked between them.
A moment later, Harry and his broom were Disillusioned. He savored the moment of flying. He was going to have to do more of this soon, preferably with a redhead behind him or beside him. He stopped in an inconspicuous place and checked the Map again. With a grin, he flew through the courtyard on the side and through an open window and then down the corridors near the ceiling. Soon, he heard the voices he was looking for.
"You sure you don't know who might be coming?" drawled an all too familiar voice. "Like maybe Potter? The wards reported a student coming in the gate."
"I'm positive that I don't know, Severus. I do expect Potter to show up one day, but why would he pick today?" McGonagall asked.
Harry thought that was an artful dodge. He pulled out his wand as he floated about ten yards behind the pair and over their heads as they stood on the porch in front of the main doors.
"Look," she said. "There appears to be two people coming."
As Snape craned his neck to see the visitors, Harry silently cast a Stunning spell and watched the greasy git fall to the floor. He wondered if the git would appreciate everything Harry was doing, he thought with amusement.
McGonagall drew her wand and looked around, but she did not seem too worried.
"Hold your fire, Professor," Harry called out as he floated down to the floor. "Kreacher?"
"Mr Potter, is it really time to end this?" McGonagall asked as the elf popped in.
"Kreacher, please take Snape to the hospital wing. I shall join you in a moment. Accio wand! Accio Portkeys!" Harry caught Snape's wand, putting it in a pocket. The single Portkey was Vanished. The elf levitated the man and took him away.
"I truly hope so, Professor. And now for the next part, please," he asked.
"And I hope you know what you're doing, Mr Potter," she told the invisible young man. She pulled her wand and cast a spell. A horn started going off. They could hear students yelling questions and Prefects yelling for everyone to go to their common room.
A minute later, Ron and Hermione walked up.
"Good evening, Professor," Hermione called out.
"Miss Granger, Mr Weasley, it is good to see you again," McGonagall said with an actual smile.
Ron nodded and looked surprised to see the usually stern teacher smile at him.
"It's good to be back, even if only for a little while," Hermione returned. "Is Harry here?"
"Right here," his disembodied voice answered before he made himself visible.
She jumped and Ron laughed, earning him a glare.
"I've decided to use the hospital wing as my base this evening. If you two will wait here and escort the leaders of our visitors to me when they arrive, I'd appreciate it," Harry told them. "You can also tell Bill and Charlie they can leave."
"Sure thing, mate," Ron answered.
Harry turned and walked inside, McGonagall walked with him.
"Are you ready to take over?" he asked her.
"I will temporarily," she answered. "I've never wanted to be Headmistress. I hope Filius will take the position after this is over and we get everything settled. I'll talk to him about it soon, maybe even tonight."
"I'm surprised," he admitted. "I would have thought you would have wanted to be Headmistress."
She chuckled. "No, it's a lot of responsibility and there is no teaching. I like to teach." She paused for a moment before she asked, "What do you intend to do with him?" There was a hint of real concern in her voice.
Harry sighed. "I plan to be a lot more charitable than I should be, considering what he's done to me over the past six years. He'll have a choice, I suppose the rest will be up to him."
McGonagall seemed to relax as they approached the hospital wing. "Thank you, Mr Potter. While he has never been the most pleasant person to work with," Harry snorted and she ignored that, "he has done a lot for us."
"And that is why he'll have a choice," Harry stated as he opened the hospital doors. He was surprised and almost started laughing at the scene that greeted him. Madam Pomfrey was trying to get to Snape to help him, while Kreacher was trying to hold her back.
"Madam Pomfrey!" Harry called.
The nurse turned to face him, looking thankful to see him. "Mr Potter! Please tell your elf to desist!"
"I'm sorry, but I suppose I should have warned you," he said apologetically. "He's only doing his duty. If I may make a suggestion, things are about to get a little exciting and crowded around here and I'm reasonably sure none of them will be patients coming to see you. I might suggest you stay in your quarters until breakfast tomorrow morning."
Pomfrey looked at McGonagall. "I believe he has a good idea, Poppy. I'll be sure to call you if you are needed." The nurse looked at Snape, so McGonagall added, "He's only stunned."
The nurse nodded and left. Harry put up a charm to warn him if anyone approached the hospital wing, and then he approached Snape. To be safe, he tied him up before he woke him.
Snape's eyes snapped open and quickly looked around. "Potter," he sneered. "I should have known."
"Good evening to you as well, Snape," Harry said amicably.
"That's Headmaster to you," the man practically snarled.
"No, I don't think so, because as of this moment, I'm relieving you of your duty."
Snape actually laughed. "Your head is far too big, Potter. You don't have the authority."
Harry conjured a chair and sat down. McGonagall did the same and Snape noticed her for the first time.
"You're letting him get away with this?" Snape asked incredulously.
"Albus told me that one day, Mr Potter would come to me for help and that I must help him. I promised Albus," McGonagall said sincerely. "Mr Potter may not be the official leader of the Order, but he is the functional leader at this moment. You would do well to listen to him."
"Why should I?"
"Because," Harry smoothly cut in. "I'm about to explain a couple of things and then give you a choice. There are very few Death Eaters left at the moment and I know where they and a certain Dark Lord are right now. In less than twelve hours, I and number of others will be there as well. In twelve hours, I believe this war will be over."
Snape looked at him in a calculating manner. "And you believe you, a seventeen year old boy, can defeat the Dark Lord, the master of magics you've never even heard of, with years of experience you can't possibly match?" he asked in an incredulous drawl.
Harry grinned. "Yes. The brilliant thing is, I'm not working alone, and that brings us to your choice. If it were totally up to me, based on how you've treated me for the last six years, I'd probably just let you be killed on the field of battle and be done with you."
A laugh escaped Snape. "You, the Gryffindor Golden Boy, kill me? Unlikely," he sneered the last word.
"And you underestimate me. Did you know that the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin?" Harry heard two gasps and received a glare, which caused him to grin. "You also don't know that I've already condemned and sent several dozen men to their death." He leaned closer to Snape. "I'm the one who started all the Death Eaters fighting each other in the Great Hall and then killed Carrow when she was the last alive." Snape's eyes narrowed and Harry could feel the Legilimency probe and looked away to see McGonagall staring at him as if she could not believe what she had just heard.
"I'm also the one that killed all three Lestranges when they were sent to the school the same day the Carrows were killed. Did you know they were killed on the school grounds?" Harry asked innocently.
"You? Impossible…" Snape breathed more than said.
"I also commissioned the deaths of many of the Death Eaters and Snatchers. I've hated every minute of this, but someone had to do it. Our society is so messed up, someone had to take out all the trash so we could have a chance to do the right thing for ourselves. Once I realized that, it really wasn't all that hard to volunteer."
Snape continued to stare in unbelief.
"Of course, I had a lot of help, as I mentioned earlier. Besides my close friends and some from the Order, I hired the goblins to do a lot of the work…"
"You didn't?!" McGonagall almost shrieked.
He turned to her. "We agreed upon a very specific contract. They were only allowed to kill marked Death Eaters and those that physically opposed them. I also had to verify each and every person captured. Those that were innocents had their memories removed and were let go. Those that supported the Dark Lord, well, I believe most of them are dragon food by now."
"You've changed," Snape said softly, still looking like he did not believe it.
"War does that to people," Harry said a little sadly. "But back to you. My contract with the goblins allows them to collect a fee for any Death Eater with a Dark Mark they find, whenever with no time limit, and you are known to have the Dark Mark. Fortunately for you, they are allowed to hunt Death Eaters only in Britain. So I'm going to give you a Dreamless Sleep potion in a few minutes and you can have time to think about this tomorrow morning. After our battle, I'll let you go so you will have head start on the goblins. You can hide here in Britain and take your chances, or you can leave Britain and live in safety. I give you the choice only because I do know that you have helped us spy, and because I'm told you did rein in the worst of the Carrows' brutality."
"That's not much of a choice for someone who should receive the Order of Merlin for what I did," Snape said with derision.
Harry shrugged. "As I've found, life is not always fair. If you prefer, I'll hand you over to the goblins. They'll be here in a few minutes."
Snape looked wide-eyed and shook his head.
"Then let's put you in the quarantine room and tomorrow morning, you can leave via Madam Pomfrey's Floo," Harry told him as if he did not have a care in the world. With a wave of his wand, Harry moved the man to the quarantine room in the back. Pulling a Dreamless Sleep potion out of his potions box, he forced it down Snape. After releasing the bindings on the man, Harry locked the door and returned to McGonagall.
"You wouldn't really hand him over to the goblins, would you Mr Potter?" McGonagall asked a little fearfully. "There's no telling what they would do."
"Oh, I'm quite sure they would kill him," Harry said calmly as he pulled his Map out. He looked it over and saw Ron and Hermione leading a number of strange names toward him. He smiled with interest at one of the goblin names. He was also quick to notice a small group of students hurrying towards him too, and one name in particular. He put the Map back up and stood in the middle of the room.
"Why are you just standing there, Mr Potter?"
"I'm waiting, Professor. There are two groups of people on their way here and I think it best to let them come to me. Oh, you should have one of the house-elves pack all of Snape's things and put the locked trunk in the room with him. I think I'll hold onto his wand for now."
Just as he turned around, his warning charm went off and the doors burst open a few seconds later. Without slowing down, a petite redhead with hair flying behind her came running in. Harry braced himself and twirled her around as she leapt into his arms. The feel of her and smell of her perfume was almost overwhelming. He set her down and they kissed as they had the first time, never wanting it to end.
Eventually, they had to break apart. Harry hugged Ginny for all he was worth and looked over her shoulder. There was Neville and about fifteen others. Harry pulled her to his side, his left arm around her shoulders and her arm around his waist.
"Neville, good to see you again, mate!" Harry stuck out his hand. Neville grinned and strode over to shake the hand.
"It's good to see you back, although," Neville glanced at Ginny, "I don't think you're going to be able to get rid of her now," he said with a smirk.
Harry laughed. "I don't plan to." He raised his voice so everyone could hear. "I would suggest everyone quickly come stand behind me. There is another group that is about to join us. We need to give them room." The group came over and Harry greeted each one. Each was a sixth or seventh year and a member of the DA.
"Who's coming, Harry?" Ginny asked.
He did not have to answer as Ron and Hermione walked in the doors, followed by three goblin leaders and eight goblin warriors. The sound of the intake of breaths from behind him did not surprise Harry. He whispered into Ginny's ear. "You're going to have to let me go for a moment, but I'll be back." She smiled at him and eased her grip on his waist so he could walk forward.
"Director Ragnok, Commander Rocknose, and Researcher Verlyn, welcome to Hogwarts." Harry bowed at the waist.
Ragnok looked very surprised. "Mr Potter, how did you know my name? I've never mentioned it to you."
Harry gave him a small smile. "At Hogwarts, I have resources that I do not have elsewhere." He watched the Director look over at McGonagall, and Harry let him assume she was the source.
"As agreed upon, all students in the castle are either in one of the four dorm areas, or in this room. There may be staff in the corridors, but Professor McGonagall will talk to all of the other Professors so they know to stay out of your way," Harry said.
"Yes, I should start that now," McGonagall agreed. "Is there anything else that needs to be done, Mr Potter?"
"No, Professor. After you're done, you may stay where you desire." Harry looked at her and wondered what she would do. He knew what he was going to be doing.
"I believe I will be in my quarters, resting for tomorrow," she said.
Harry suddenly remembered one more thing he had to do. "Oh wait! Can we go to the Headmaster's office? I need to gather one item that should be stored there."
"Of course, Mr Potter." McGonagall looked very curious.
He turned back to the goblins. "Director, your team has a little less than ten hours to find the item we need. I'll be here in this room when you need me."
The three goblin leaders nodded and all the goblins left.
"Neville, make everyone comfortable. I'll return soon."
"Right, Harry," Neville said agreeably.
Harry and Ginny, with her tightly holding onto his hand as if to prevent him from escaping, went with Professor McGonagall to visit the top office. The gargoyle jumped aside for her as she led them up.
"What exactly are you looking for, Mr Potter?" she asked as they entered the office.
Harry grinned and walked over to a display case. "This!" He opened the case and pulled out an ornate handled sword in a plain scabbard.
"Is it time, Mr Potter?" the Sorting Hat spoke up from its place on the shelf.
"It is," Harry said, before he shrank the sword and scabbard down and put it a pocket. He really wanted to keep it secret until it was time to use it.
"You know, we thought about sneaking in here and stealing that for you," Ginny said.
McGonagall raised an eyebrow at that and Harry chuckled. "I'm glad you didn't," he told her. "I'm sure the punishment for getting caught would have been horrible, considering who was in charge at the time."
"Who says we'd get caught?" she asked impishly.
"Hopefully you wouldn't have, but you have to plan for the worst case too. Well, we should get back and Professor McGonagall has a task before she sleeps as well," Harry said as he started walking Ginny to the door.
"Breakfast will be a five, Mr Potter. That should allow us time to eat before we start tomorrow morning," McGonagall said.
"Yes, that's a good plan. Good night, Professor."
"Good night, Mr Potter, Miss Weasley. Please be careful." She sounded concerned.
Harry smiled and led Ginny back to the hospital wing.
Ginny sighed as they walked. "I can't believe you're finally back. You know you're not getting away now, don't you?"
Harry chuckled. "And for most things, I'm just fine with that."
"Most?" she asked with a slight edge to her voice.
"Well, I might have to go to the bathroom from time to time," he said teasingly, and she blushed prettily. "I'll need at least a few minutes alone tomorrow morning as well," he said with sudden seriousness. "I have my final duty and you can't be holding my hand when I do that."
"But I'll be nearby?" she asked with the tone that implied there was only one right answer.
"Of course, I won't deny you that as long as you understand it won't be a picnic. People may get hurt or even killed, even me," he said soberly.
After a long moment in which she realized she had no choice, she agreed and he kissed the top of her head just before they walked back into the hospital wing.
Once in the doors, everyone there looked at him. It was Neville that had the courage to speak first. "Harry, is it really true what you told me in your note. Are we really about to end all of this?"
Harry looked them over as he stood there, an arm around Ginny's shoulders. "Tomorrow morning I will go hunting You-Know-Who."
Harry really was not worried about the Taboo on Voldemort's name anymore, as no Snatchers seemed to exist anymore. They had tested that out over the last week. However, there was no need to give his position away in case someone was monitoring the Taboo sensors.
"Others will be going with me and you are invited to come along. It will be dangerous and there is the possibility of you getting hurt, as well as the possibility of death." He wanted to be sure there were no bad assumptions. "But if you want to help the Wizarding World, you are welcome to come with me to remove the last of the Death Eaters and You-Know-Who."
They actually cheered and Harry was embarrassed. He heard many of them say they wanted to join them and have a happy world again. He completely agreed with that thought.
"If you're going, I suggest you find a bed and make yourself comfortable. Breakfast is at five in the morning," he said with a grin, one that broadened at all the groans he received.
"Harry?" Ernie called out. "I may not be a Ravenclaw," there were several laughs at that, "but even I can see that there are not enough beds for all of us here."
He could not help it, he rolled his eyes. "Are you or are you not users of magic? Conjure a bed if you need one, or cast a cushioning charm on the floor," he paused and an mischievous grin came over him, "or share with someone, as long as clothes stay on." He turned slightly and cast an enlarging charm on the bed nearest the door; the bed grew to be twice as wide.
Several of the boys gave a growling laugh and high-fived their nearest mate before searching for their favorite witch, most of whom where blushing and looking demurely down.
Harry chuckled at their antics and pulled Ginny over to his chosen bed, where he took off his boots and leapt on the bed. While he arranged the pillows so they could sit up against the headboard and talk for a few minutes, Ginny took her shoes off. She joined him a moment later and snuggled next to him. He put an arm around her and held her close.
Ginny sighed as she snaked an arm around his body and settled in.
He looked around the room and saw several other couples settling in together on enlarged beds, including Ron and Hermione, Ernie and Susan, and Seamus and Lavender. Neville and Hannah were a surprise to him, given the ruse he knew Neville and Ginny had portrayed. He wondered how those two had worked something out.
A gentle hand touched his cheek and pulled his head down. He saw Ginny push her neck and head up. They shared a gentle kiss.
"I've missed that so much," she told him when they parted and her cheek was back on his shoulder.
"Me too," he agreed. "I look forward to many years of that."
Ginny just nodded on his shoulder and held him tightly as if he was her favorite stuffed toy. Harry enjoyed holding her and being held. He would win tomorrow just for her. The rest of the world would benefit, and he was a little glad to save most it, but the real reason to win was this beautiful woman. He drifted off to sleep thinking of her.
A finger tapped his shoulder and Harry's eyes sprang open. He assumed it was Kreacher telling him it was time to get up, and he was initially surprised to see the Director standing in front of him with Rocknose at his right. Then he remembered why the goblins were there. He hoped they had found the item.
"Mr Potter," the goblin said softly, obviously trying not to wake anyone else up. Ginny stirred slightly but seemed to stay asleep. "I believe we have found it, but we can not get to it. Could you come look to see if you can use one of your resources to get to it?" The goblin looked pained to admit that they were failing.
Harry nodded. In trying to gently slide out from under Ginny, who was sprawled half on top of him, she rolled over and sat up. One look told him that she had awakened when the goblin had come and that she had faked being asleep. Apparently, she really planned to go everywhere with him for awhile. He found that amusing and pleasing.
He handed Ginny her shoes and he put his boots on. When they were both ready, he stood up and held out his hand, which she took with a smile and stood too. With a nod to the goblins to lead, the two followed.
The group was soon on the seventh floor and they came to a group of goblins around a section of wall, opposite a tapestry of a wizard trying to teach trolls to dance. Researcher Verlyn was doing something with his hands, but nothing happened. As the group stopped behind the very old goblin, he turned to them with fatigue on his face.
"I know what we seek is behind that wall, but I can not get to it. A door opened once an hour ago, but it looked like a goblin eating hall. There is very strong magic here, but I can not unravel it." The researcher had a strange tone, which Harry suspected was goblin frustration.
"You are in front of the entrance to the Room of Requirement, or the Come and Go Room, as the elves name it," Harry explained. "You just have to walk back and forth in front of this spot three times thinking of the type of room you need, and it will appear. Someone on your team must have done that and been thinking of food," he said with an easy grin.
The researcher closed his eyes and grunted. "Then there are an almost unlimited number of rooms. Finding the right one will be almost impossible without destroying the magic of the room."
"Theoretically, yes," Harry drawled, trying to think quickly. "But I think I can find the room you need."
Everyone nearby had been listening in, but now all the research goblins turned to look at him, highly interested.
"In fact, I'm wondering if I've even seen the Ravenclaw item before and did not know what it was at the time," he mused out loud.
Ginny chuckled. A frustrated Verlyn glared at her and she instantly shut up and looked contrite as she inched a little closer to Harry.
"Give me a moment," he told his girlfriend and pulled his hand from hers. He thought back to the day he had to hide a Potions book. Thinking of a room to hide things, he walked back and forth. A door appeared and Harry opened it. He was pleased to see a room filled with junk. "Try over on the left side about half way back," Harry instructed.
The team of research goblins went in. Harry and Ginny watched from the doorway. The goblins made little motions with their hands and seemed to zero in on an area very quickly. A few minutes later, the head researcher came out carrying a headdress with a blue stone in his hands. He also had a smile on his face.
"This way," the old goblin said and led them to a nearby classroom, one that was not normally used.
The second Harry looked in, he knew what was about to happen. He stopped and pulled Ginny to the side, not letting her go in.
"Ginny, I have to watch and verify this thing's destruction, but I don't want you to have to see this," he explained, almost begging.
"Harry, I can take it if you can," she argued.
"Harry! I said I can do this and I want to. I said I would stand by you and I will," she said forcefully.
He noticed the Director and Rocknose were standing to the side and watching with what looked like amusement. He ignored them. "Gin, part of destroying that thing involves killing a wizard." She gasped. "It's a Death Eater we've caught, but he will still be killed in cold blood. That's what you're asking to see. Please stay in the corridor, for me?" he begged.
She looked into his eyes for a moment. Then she stretched up on her toes and lightly kissed him. He thought he had convinced her until she said, "I love you, now let's get this over with." She turned to the doorway and pulled him in after her. He heard laughter behind him, but he decided it was best to ignore it.
Apparently, everything was already set up. Verlyn let him verify they had found a Horcrux before the goblin walked over to the wizard in chains and handed him the headdress. The goblins started chanting and the transfer happened. Again, Rocknose swung his blade and the man's head and body separated.
Ginny had watched it all, but when the severed head hit the floor, she turned and hid her face in Harry's chest. Harry verified the headdress was now clean.
"All that's left is the snake," Harry said into mostly silence. The only other noise in the room was the goblins cleaning up the mess after the ritual.
"And Tom Riddle," the Director said. "I must eat before the hunt begins. We start promptly at six, Mr Potter. Do not be late."
"We'll be there," Harry promised as the Director handed him an invoice for finding and destroying a magical item. Harry signed it after a brief glance.
Harry led a slightly dazed Ginny back to the hospital wing. They did not talk until they got there.
"I think I'd be sick if I had anything on my stomach," Ginny whispered.
Harry would have grimly laughed because he had warned her, but he knew he would be in trouble if he did and the subject was far too serious anyway. "I tried to stop you from watching," he whispered back.
"You did," she agreed, "but I'm glad I watched. I now understand the war a whole lot better. War is ugly."
"It is," he whispered solemnly. He looked at his watch and saw that it was half four. Harry kissed her cheek and said, "If you want to use the bathroom before anyone else gets up, you better hurry."
She nodded and then hurried to the one bathroom in the hospital wing.
Harry lit one lamp on the wall to give a dim light. "It's half four and time to get up if you need to do anything before breakfast," he said in a normal voice. That elicited some groans, but people started to wake up. A small queue formed for the bathroom and some of the boys went to a bathroom down the corridor.
Breakfast in the Great Hall was a quiet affair. There were sixteen students, plus the Golden Trio and two professors. McGonagall was quietly talking to Flitwick. Everyone was sitting at the Gryffindor table with Harry at the end.
"So, how've classes been recently?" Harry asked to try and take some people's minds off of the coming action.
While all looked at him, only Neville seemed be of the mind to answer. "Fairly good and mostly normal. After all the Death Eaters left, Snape sort of took over Defense. He gave reading and homework assignments, but he didn't teach any -- sort of like fifth year," he said with a grin.
Hermione gave a harrumph, as if she was glad she had not been here for that.
"Muggle Studies was canceled," Ernie added. "I guess they figured we didn't need that class with their view of the world, and with no teacher for it."
"Sounds like we didn't miss much," Ron commented. Ginny gave him a dark look.
Kingsley showed up at half five and walked straight to Harry and knelt down beside him. He handed over three coils of rope as he started talking very quietly. "These Portkeys will go off in about twenty minutes, blinking one minute before they leave. Have everyone who comes with you spread out. I plan to ring the Manor so no one can escape. The Floo is already off. Anti-Apparation and Anti-Portkey wards will go up just after you get there. The Order and the Aurors all know the plan; you just have to explain it to those here. Good luck, Harry." He got back up and left, not even stopping to talk to the teachers; he only gave them a curt nod.
As Kingsley Shacklebolt walked out the door, Harry stood. Everyone looked at him and waited. He could see the hopeful look in their faces, but there was fear there too. He silently offered up a prayer to someone that all would come back alive.
"We leave in about twenty minutes to go to Malfoy Manor where the last handful of Death Eaters and You-Know-Who are supposed to be. You'll have between two and ten minutes to get into position. If all has gone right, they will be there and all avenues of escape will have been cut off, except for flying away; so keep your eyes open for that. There will be others there, join them where you wish. The plan is to encircle the house, and when the signal is given, fire a Blasting hex at a window and followed up by two or three Fireball hexes. It's OK if several of you pick the same window. The goal is to burn the house down as fast as possible to flush whoever is in, out, with none of us getting hurt."
"Harry?" Hermione called out. "What if there are innocents inside?"
He swallowed, which did nothing to help his slightly dry throat. "We will have to hope that no one is stuck in there, and that any innocents can run out. If that's not true, then I'm sorry to say, they will become victims of war."
There were murmurings about that.
"Hey!" he shouted and they all quieted down. "I'm sorry it has to be that way, but we are all but done with this. Hundreds have already died because of them, and if we don't end it now, it will be millions who die."
There was absolute silence now after his outburst.
"Just before I was born, there was a prophecy made that said I would be able to kill him. So if I don't, then no one else can and we don't want that, do we?" Everyone shook their heads at that logic. "We do not want to miss this chance to end the war. Again, I'm sorry this is so harsh, but remember this in the future to help prevent another war so we don't have to fight again."
"Now, when people start running out of the house, open fire. Do not wait. If they look like a prisoner, stun them; otherwise, the spell of the day is the Blasting Hex, Reducto. Use it for everything. If your conscience doesn't allow you to use that on another person, even one who would rather kill you than look at you, then use the Stunning spell.
"Sometime in all of this, You-Know-Who will come out. When he does, fire the Blasting Hex at him. It won't kill him, only I can do that, but it will greatly distract him, take his shield down for me, and weaken him if it hits. I need him weakened, distracted, and without a shield. Once he is where I want him, I will tell either Hermione or Kingsley that I'm ready and they will cast a Fireworks spell, one of those that shoots up a lot of red sparks and falls down like a waterfall. When you see that, fire one last spell and then halt and watch. Two seconds after the Fireworks spell is when I will make my move and I don't want any friendly fire to hit me. You don't want any friendly fire to hit me either, as that would make Ginny angry, and you don't want Ginny angry," he finished with a grin to lighten the moment.
That created a number of smiles and a few nervous laughs.
"One last piece of advice, since we'll be in a circle, when you are aiming at a target, if there is someone on our side across from you, aim at the waist or lower on your target, so that if you miss, the spell will hit the ground and not someone on our side. If there is only the house behind your target, feel free to aim for the body. Are there any questions?"
"So just a few Death Eaters and You-Know-Who?" Terry Boot asked.
"That should be it. There will also be a big snake on the loose there, but our goblin friends will be searching for it. And you don't want to hit a goblin with your spells either. They are the ones that killed most of the Death Eaters over the last six weeks," Harry pointed out.
Several people grimaced.
He looked at his watch. "You have about five minutes before you should crowd around someone with a Portkey. Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, follow me," Harry called and then turned around and walked to the side of the room.
Ginny grabbed his hand and the other four stood loosely in front of Harry.
"You four," he nodded at those in front of him, "have the second most important task after mine. Whatever it takes, keep Ginny safe."
"Harry!" she growled.
He put a finger lightly on her lips and looked deeply into her eyes. "I told you that you could come and I meant it, but if you're not safe, then I will be distracted and fail. It's the same reason I walked away last June. I'm not being as stupidly noble this time, but bodyguards are what you have to endure if you come," he told her firmly, his look brooking no argument. "It's either that or you stay here with Professor Flitwick."
She still looked like she wanted to protest.
"Ginny?" Everyone looked at Neville. "Remember we talked about Harry being the leader and sometimes leaders have to do things they don't like…"
She understood and hung her head. "Like this morning," she mumbled.
"Like this morning," Harry answered.
"What happened this morning?" Hermione asked, very curious. Ron and Neville looked interested as well.
"Ravenclaw's diadem was freed," he said. Hermione and Ron nodded. Neville and Luna still looked confused. "They'll explain it later today."
He pulled out the short ropes Kingsley had given him. He walked over to Professor McGonagall and Ernie, giving each of them one. He held onto the last. "These five are with me. Everyone else, please grab one of the other two Portkeys." The Ministry Six were back together again, and that made Harry feel good.
The Portkey started to blink. "One minute, everybody." He looked around and saw everyone but Flitwick holding onto a piece of rope. Just before it was to activate, Harry shouted, "Good luck and everyone please come back safely!" Then the Portkey kicked in.
They landed in the country-side a few seconds later. Only Ron's hand on Harry's arm kept him from falling. "Thanks," he quietly told Ron.
People could be seen at the edge of the trees that mostly surrounded the large house. Harry had to agree that the Malfoys had lived in style, a style that was about to go up in smoke. Looking around, he saw the other two groups of students had been sent down a ways, so they were not all together but mixed in with the adults.
It was time for him to get ready. He pulled out his wand, Invisibility Cloak, broom, and sword. He handed the small sword and broom to Ginny to hold while he Disillusioned himself and put his Cloak on. He then took the broom and enlarged it and Disillusioned it too. The same process was repeated for the Sword of Gryffindor and he hooked the scabbard to his belt.
Inspecting the ground, he found a fist-sized rock and picked it up. The idea had worked once and no one else knew about it, so why not try it again, he thought. "Everyone, stay sharp," Harry commanded. "I'll be back as soon as I can, Ginny." He leaned over and gently kissed her. She was startled for a second, but quickly realized what he was doing and kissed him back.
Those nearby saw the floating rock move back and away.
"You don't know how weird it looked to see you kiss nothing," Ron commented, sounding almost a little disgusted.
"Then don't watch," Ginny told him pointedly as she drew her wand and faced the house. Her expression and stance spoke of her determination to end this war.
Ron just shook his head at his sister and faced the house too.
Harry flew around the circle about twenty feet in the air. Everything looked good. He stopped near the other leader. "Kingsley, we look good. Start whenever you want."
"What about our friends?"
"I'm sure they're here. It's almost six, isn't it?"
"Yeah, in about two minutes."
Harry nodded, not that anyone could see him. "Start in one. Hermione is over by that big tree on your right. Once He shows up, I'll be near one of you two."
"Good luck, Harry."
"You too, Kingsley. And thanks for all your help."
Harry flew around to the back side to watch there. He thought Voldemort would come out the front, but he wanted to watch here first. The Malfoy's wards had already been silently taken down, so he could fly high and watch most of the yard, but the sun was just starting to come up and there was not enough light to see what was on the ground while flying that high.
A few Blasting hexes were shot and then suddenly, about sixty more were fired. The noise was almost deafening. Then the Fireball hexes went next, he watched the streaks speed towards the house, going inside. The outside of the house almost certainly had fire suppression wards, but not the inside. Someone had even gone for the uppermost tower window, five floors up. He would have bet the Weasley twins had done that.
A figure suddenly came out the back door. It was on the thin side and blond. Harry watched Draco take two Stunners and four Blasting hexes before he was knocked down, six other curses going over his head and leaving burn marks on the outside of the house. The boy did not get back up and that put a smile on Harry's face. The git deserved it for what he tried to do to Dumbledore, Katie, and Ron, he thought.
Still flying twenty feet above everyone's head, Harry went around the circle to the front and saw the real battle. Three people had just come out and were on the porch with a fourth person in the doorway. None of them lasted long with over twenty wands trained on such a small area. Harry noticed someone summon the bodies away from the house, but canceled the spell before they reached the caster.
Harry was about to fly around to the back again when Voldemort came to the front doorway. Spells started flying; most of them hit his shield and bounce away. Some landed at his feet and made it hard for Voldemort to stand. Harry smirked as he saw how people used different spells. It was also plain to see that Snake Face was under so much pressure that he could not take the offensive. Some of the Blasting hexes were making it through and Voldemort was slowly taking a beating.
The fire was also taking its toll and Voldemort had to move out beyond the front porch to avoid being barbequed, which allowed a few more people to start firing at him, hitting him from the side and even slightly in the back. Harry's group was showing no mercy, just like Voldemort showed his victims no mercy. Harry was proud of them for being willing to do the hard and right choice.
Suddenly, arrows were flying through the air from out of the trees. Harry tracked them to a point just behind Voldemort. Flying a little higher, Harry quietly shouted, "Yes!", as he saw a large snake turned into a pin-cushion with no less than a dozen arrows in it. It stopped moving a few seconds later and then started to slowly blacken from the heat of the fire.
Quickly as he could, he flew around to where Kingsley was, as that gave him a better angle. Hermione was more straight on, and that would have put the house in Harry's way.
"Kingsley, it's time for fireworks."
"Are you sure, Harry? He's still got a lot of life in him."
"I'm sure, just do it," Harry commanded. His wand went into his left hand and levitated the rock out to about twenty feet in front of him and slightly on the right. He put that hand on his broom handle, the tip of the wand in front of his broom. The Sword of Gryffindor went in his right hand. Harry was willing to bet that Voldemort did not know about the Sword of Gryffindor, or if he had heard of it through legend, Harry doubted Snape would have told Voldemort about it.
Kingsley shot the Fireworks spell and Harry said "one thousand" to himself and then accelerated as fast as he could. The sword was his real weapon; the rock was insurance, and something to break a shield if it was there.
Voldemort almost fell over as the barrage of spells let up and he was not having to stand against spells being thrown at him. For reasons known only to himself, he smiled before he raised his arms and shouted. "You can't kill me! I'll…"
The rock hit Voldemort's right side just under the armpit pulverizing three ribs and came to rest next to his heart, pinching it. Harry did not bother swinging the sword. He just held it out to his right as he flew slightly behind his nemesis. The magically sharp sword easily cut through an arm, a neck, and another arm. Harry's arm was pulled back a little, but not that much, the sword was so sharp and he was flying so fast.
Harry slowed and curved his flight just enough to easily look back and watch the severed parts and body fall to the ground. The Dark Lord never knew what had literally hit him -- either time.
All was silent for about three seconds and then a roar of cheering started.
Relief was the biggest feeling that hit Harry. Relief at being done with the stupid prophecy. Relief at being able to be normal. Relief at not having to worry about he or Ginny being caught by Death Eaters or a Dark Lord.
Slowing so he could fly with no hands, Harry sheathed and shrunk the sword before putting it back into a pocket. He preferred that no one see it, despite the evidence of it behind him on the ground. He also pulled his Cloak off and canceled the Disillusionment on himself and his broom. More cheering went up when people could see him, especially from his friends. Without wasting a second, he headed straight for his girlfriend.
Ginny engulfed him in a hug the second he was on the ground. He hugged her back just as tightly as she was holding him. As he started to pull back, she lunged forward and gave him a kiss, which he was very willing to return. Unfortunately, it did not last very long as people started coming up to him and slapping him on the back in congratulations.
Harry finally pulled back from Ginny, although he left his left arm around her waist. The Malfoy house took that moment to start collapsing. The upper three stories fell down into the lower floors.
"Tell those in back to come this way, and bring the bodies over too," Harry shouted to be heard over all the other shouting. He saw Kingsley lean over to Tonks and then she started to jog away from the group.
Harry tried to answer people who congratulated him as he walked towards the Death Eaters on the ground. By the time he got there, Tonks was leading those from the back towards the other group and levitating the body of Draco Malfoy. She placed him next to his mother. Harry checked her arm and became a little sad when he saw it was clean. She had had time to get away over the years and had not, so he did not mourn her. Narcissa had made her choice.
There were two other Death Eaters he did not recognize, but the last he did, silver hand and all. Kingsley was next to him, so he turned to the man.
"Kingsley, I know it's too late to do him any good, but can you make sure it's known that Pettigrew was killed today and get Sirius's name cleared?" Harry asked, a little sadness still in his heart over his dead godfather. The hurt had become lesser over time, but he still missed the old dog.
"I'll do my best, Harry," the Auror promised.
Arthur and Molly Weasley came over, having been with the group in the back and gave Ginny and Harry each a hug before they stood near their daughter and almost a son.
The house collapsed a little more and spread too, so everyone walked a little further from the burning building.
Harry also realized that the loud cheering was now over and people were starting to talk amongst themselves.
"Did anyone get hurt or get killed," he asked Kingsley.
"Only a few injuries, luckily," Kingsley said with relief. "Being spread out with no one behind anyone else really helped, as did our numerically superior numbers."
That was said much like Hermione would have and made Harry grin for some reason. He was ready to go, but there was one thing left to do here. He pulled out his wand and cast "Sonorus". "I'd like to thank everyone here," Harry's magically loud voice said, instantly getting everyone's attention. "I know that there will be those who attribute all of this to me just because I got in the last blow. But I know and I will tell anyone who asks that this was a team effort and I could not have landed the last blow without those of you here as well as others."
There was cheering and whistling. The good mood was infectious.
"Today was brutal in its own way. I also know that this war has been ugly and we have all lost people we know and love."
No one made any noise at all now. Each was reflecting on their losses; many had lost loved ones.
"I hope each of you remember this and make others know too so we don't have to repeat this. When there is a problem, we can solve it much easier if we all work together."
There was more cheering for a moment.
"I know that each of you has done things in this war that you're probably not proud of; I know that's true for me. But that is the price of war and I thank each and every one of you for paying it. Go home as soon as you can and spend some time with someone you care about. That is why we fought, for those we love. Quietus."
The cheering erupted again as did more hugs and pats on the back. In fact, his back was starting to get sore.
Before he could leave, a paper memo soared through the air and hit him in the chest. He grabbed it before it fell. Opening it, he read and started to laugh as he saw a bill for the finding and destruction of a cursed item. Trust the goblin director to want payment as soon as possible.
Harry yelled, "You can party as much as you want, but we're going back to Hogwarts."
"How had you planned to get back, Harry?" Molly Weasley asked. "I suppose Kingsley can make arrangements since he brought us all here."
"We'll see you in a week when the Hogwarts Express arrives in King's Cross for Christmas break, Mrs Weasley," Harry said impishly as he embraced Ginny tightly. Then thinking very carefully of the front gates of Hogwarts, Harry Apparated them back to school. Harry made a mental note to ask Ron later about his mother's expression after he had left with Ginny.
The couple arrived back at the school, and there stood Director Ragnok, Commander Rocknose, and a squad of goblin warriors.
"Director." Harry let go of Ginny and bowed. "I would like to express my appreciation to you and your teams for their efforts. I know I hired them and they were only doing their job, but the successful result speaks for itself and their hard work," Harry formally told him.
"It has been a pleasure doing business with you, Mr Potter. At first, I was not certain that I had made the right decision, but I could see that the cost of lost business if you lost the war would have far outweighed the cost of helping."
Harry nodded acknowledgement. "I also believe you have something for me to sign?"
The Director smiled and pulled out a parchment and quill. He also motioned a young goblin to come over and turn around, bending slightly, so Harry could use his back as a desk. Harry added another fifty thousand Galleons to the bottom of the figures and then signed. It was easy to spend Malfoy's money.
"A bonus for you for such timely service. I'm sure you can have a nice party with that. I believe this concludes our business?" Harry could think of nothing else they had left to do.
The goblin looked at the contract and gave a toothy grin. "It was our pleasure, Mr Potter. If you ever have other work for us, like a small uprising you need put down, feel free to contact me."
Harry chuckled. "I shall remember your offer."
"There is one last small matter left undone." At Harry's confused look, the Director said, "We know of one Death Eater left alive: Severus Snape."
"Ah, yes. Well, since he actually did help us by spying, I gave him permission to make a run for it. If you find him on the British Isles, you are free to take care of him. I believe the bonus I just gave you would easily cover that fee in advance."
The Director frowned at the loss of closure but said, "I understand."
"I must be going, but I wish you well, Director. May your gold always flow," Harry bowed.
"May your days be good," the Director intoned and left with a flick of his hand.
Commander Rocknose waved a gnarly hand and the warriors all left, leaving him there alone. He suddenly stood straight and beat one fist to his chest over his heart and held it there. "I did not think you were worthy of the title Warrior, but I have seen that you make the hard decisions for your kind and not back down. You even slew your foes with your own hand, spilling the blood of your enemies with cunning. I salute you, Warrior Potter."
Harry was moved. He was sure the hardened goblin's words were high praise, even if he wished he had not had to earn them. Bringing a single fist up to his chest, mimicking the goblin, Harry stated, "And I salute you for your hard work, Commander Rocknose, and the hard work of those you lead. May you blade always stay sharp." He hoped that was appropriate.
"May your enemies be crushed under you!" The goblin flicked his hand and left.
"Bloody hell, Harry!" Ginny gaped at him. "The goblins like you. That's … that's unheard of."
He gave her a goofy grin as he pulled his shrunken broom out. "And that's a day in the life of Harry Potter." He joined her laughter as he enlarged his broom. "Fancy a ride, my lady?"
Ginny climbed on behind him and hugged him tightly. He flew directly to the hospital wing, going in a window again. He was pleased to see that the room was empty.
Harry shot a locking charm at the entrance doors and walked over to the quarantine room. He unlocked that door and opened it. Inside, Severus Snape was awake and sitting on the bed. Harry shot a shrinking charm on the trunk there and picked it up.
"It's time for you to leave. I told the goblins that you were leaving the British Isles, but they will still be watching for you here. I suggest you Apparate to the continent as soon as possible, after you use Madam Pomfrey's Floo to go somewhere they won't expect," Harry told him.
Snape got up and looked down at Harry. The perpetual sneer was present, but he was not doing anything overt. "Since you're still alive, I assume the Dark Lord is completely dead?"
"Correct. He's in pieces and to the best of anyone's knowledge, you are the last living Death Eater. Peter Pettigrew, Draco Malfoy, and two others I couldn't identify were killed this morning," Harry said without remorse.
"Many would say that it is dangerous to spare me," Snape calmly said, as if discussing a meal.
"You survive by a margin slimmer than you can imagine, especially after I know you killed Dumbledore." Harry was not sure how he was keeping his temper, but he was.
"He made me promise to do so if there was a choice between him and Draco. He wanted to give Draco a chance to choose life, and you ruined that plan," Snape coldly said, "just like you ruined so many other plans."
Harry wondered what Snape knew and realized he would never get another chance to find out. "Did you know what Dumbledore's plan was for winning the war?"
"Most of it. The Golden Trio," he practically spat, "were to find and destroy all the Horcruxes and then you were to willingly sacrifice yourself to the Dark Lord." Ginny hissed and Snape shot her a disapproving look. "That was to remove the Horcrux in you. You should not have died because your blood was in him. After that, you would have had to find a way to kill him. I believe he had some method in mind that he was trying to point Granger to, but I was not privy to that."
Harry shook his head in disgust. "Thank Merlin I didn't do that. I don't think that would have really worked, especially since he didn't tell me."
"He couldn't have told you, you dunderhead," he said scathingly. "If he had, you wouldn't have willingly sacrificed yourself."
Ginny gasped. "That's why Harry was put with the Dursleys and then always sent back there after everything bad happened, wasn't it? He was supposed to feel guilty and hate himself enough that he would do the sacrifice."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "You're not as much of a waste as I thought, Weasley. Maybe you are a good match for Potter after all. I guess your fawning all over him got his attention."
Harry felt extreme anger at the insults against Ginny. He threw the fist sized trunk at Snape's stomach, which the man caught. "Get out of here. Get out of Britain. If I ever see you again, I'll personally truss you up and throw you onto Gringott's floor in London and gleefully pay triple the hunting fee," he said coldly.
"You are so much like your father," Snape sneered. "An arrogant, egotistical, …"
Harry pulled out Snape's wand and snapped it, causing the ex-Headmaster's eyes to go wide and the man to go silent. "You just had to insult my family one last time, didn't you?" He dropped the broken wand to the floor and pulled out his wand. "If you plan to use Madam Pomfrey's Floo, I suggest you run for it now. Ginny and I still have energy after the battle and I'll only give you a five second head start, Snivellus. One --"
Ginny let an eager look out and pulled out her wand. Snape sprinted out the door of the little room, barely missing bumping shoulders with Harry.
"Two --" Harry shouted and moved to the doorway to see which way Snape went. Unfortunately, the door to the nurse's office was unlocked and the man jerked it open. "Three --" Snape disappeared into the office and Harry started walking that way, with Ginny right beside him. "Four --" Harry could look through the doorway and see most of the office, but not the fireplace. As he loudly spoke, "Five!", there was a flash of green light from inside the office.
Harry looked in and saw that the office was empty and that there was no place to hide in there. "Bastard!" he snarled.
"I wouldn't have blamed you for doing something to him, Harry," Ginny said with animosity in her voice as she put her wand up.
He was shaking his head as he put his own wand up. "The war is over, he doesn't have to play spy anymore, and he still can't let the grudge against my father go. The greasy git!"
"Which we'll never have to see again." She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the infirmary's main doors, only to find they would not open for her.
"Sorry," he told her and pulled his wand and unlocked them. "I didn't want to be interrupted.
"Where are we going?" he asked, still breathing a little harder than normal as his desire to fight ebbed.
"I'm hungry and a second breakfast sounds good. Also, a lot of people probably want to see you to make sure you're still alive."
He groaned. "Please -- no. My back is sore from being slapped so much this morning already."
She chuckled and continued to pull him along, not that he was trying to hold her back; she was just walking faster. "We'll get this out of the way and then I think we need to spend most of the next twenty-four hours talking. We've got a lot of things to discuss, especially with you running out on me," she told him, her tone brooking no disagreement.
"I'm sorry, Ginny, really. I was just trying to protect you…"
"Uh, huh. We'll discuss that a whole lot more. If you're really apologetic and we work everything out," she smiled ever so slightly, "we'll see about some kisses too."
Harry was not sure whether to gulp or to lick his lips. "Er, right." He finally decided that simply agreeing with her was the best option at the moment.
"I'm always right, Harry, and don't you forget it," she told him imperiously, although a big smile slowly came over her.
As they walked into the Great Hall, everyone started clapping and cheering. Harry looked around and saw everyone giving him a standing ovation, including all of the Slytherins. Apparently, they had not liked life under the Death Eaters either. At the head table, McGonagall and Flitwick seemed to be leading it all, or at least they looked like they were trying to clap the loudest.
Harry blushed and ducked his head as he headed for the Gryffindor table. When the cheering did not stop, he meekly raised his hand and waved. A few people whistled and the cheering petered out.
When the students all sat down, McGonagall called out in a loud voice. "Very well done, Mr Potter. Please see me after you finish breakfast, I have something special for you."
He waved an acknowledgement and took a seat at the end of the Gryffindor table. Ginny sat beside him. Ron, Hermione, Neville, and the rest that fought with him moved down to be near him.
"Where were you, mate?" Ron asked as he helped himself to a second breakfast, like the rest of the early risers were doing. "You left before us and yet got here last."
"Oh, I had to make some trash vanish and it took a few minutes," Harry vaguely explained.
Ginny giggled and they all looked at her. "I was just agreeing with him."
Most of them started talking about the morning, answering questions to the younger students. The first years were especially in awe of Harry, having heard many stories about him, many of those exaggerated.
When breakfast was done, Harry stood and looked to the head table. McGonagall waved for him to follow her and she went towards the room the Triwizard Tournament champions had gone to after their name had been drawn. Flitwick was following her. Ginny grabbed Harry's hand, as if to prevent him from getting away, and they went after the professors.
The professors looked only slightly surprised to see Ginny walk in too, but they said nothing about her presence. McGonagall put a privacy spell on the door.
"Mr Potter," Flitwick addressed him. "As you probably know, the present term ends next week. After the Yule holiday break, I will take up the position of Headmaster."
Both he and Ginny gave very surprised looks.
"Professor McGonagall prefers to remain the Deputy," he explained.
"I do not wish to deal with all of the paperwork and I enjoy teaching too much," McGonagall added.
Harry nodded. "It will be a shame to not have you teaching Charms, Professor."
"Thank you, Mr Potter," the short man said graciously.
"Uh, not to be rude, but why are you telling me this?" Harry asked, not having a clue as to where they were going.
Flitwick gave a cat eating the canary smile. "Considering what you have just done for the Wizarding World, I hate to ask this of you, but I believe it will also help you as well."
Harry was not sure he liked what he had just heard, wondering what he was going to be manipulated into now.
"Whether you realize it or not, you have created three vacancies on our staff over the last month or so. The former Headmaster is gone, so we'll need a Charms teacher as I take the Headmaster position. We've also lost the Muggle Studies and Defense teachers as well," Flitwick listed, his grin still very prevalent.
"I would also strongly guess that you would like to be at Hogwarts for the rest of this year," he nodded towards Ginny, "but you really have no way of enrolling now as you've already missed too much of this year."
"I had planned to ask about doing my seventh year next year, starting in September," Harry quickly interjected.
"That would be acceptable," Flitwick allowed, "but there is only one way you could stay in Hogwarts for the rest of this year. You would have to join us on staff."
Ginny gave a sharp intake of air and Harry sputtered. "W-What?"
"I need a Defense teacher for the rest of this year, Mr Potter. I realize you haven't passed your NEWT for it yet, so you could only be an Assistant Professor, but you could run the classes your way. As long as you are covering the material, and there are standardized lesson plans ready for you to guide you, then I would not interfere in your teaching. Despite your title, I would treat you like a full professor."
"Me, a teacher?" Harry barely got out, mostly swallowing the last word.
"Your experience with the Defense club you ran in your fifth year is well known by us and the OWL and NEWT results of the students under your teaching was literally Outstanding. Your seventh year might be a little awkward, so I would recommend you take your Defense NEWT at the end of this year and skip the class next year. I believe you'll have no trouble at all with that NEWT, since you'll be teaching the material this year." Flitwick's gaze intensified. "So we know you can do the job and you would gain a level of privacy that you would have trouble finding in the normal world, Mr Potter."
"I, uh, I don't know what to say." This was mind boggling to him.
"I do," Ginny piped up. "He'll do it on one condition."
"Ginny!" Harry protested. "I haven't said yes yet."
"Hush, Harry. Your girlfriend is taking care of your best interests." She turned to Professor Flitwick, who had an amused smile. McGonagall was hiding hers better, but the corners of her mouth were twitching.
"What do you think Mr Potter should ask for," Flitwick casually asked, clearly amused based on his tone.
"In the classroom, Harry will treat everyone the same, but during his personal time, he will be allowed to date one student without penalty," she said, and looked like she dared them to say no.
"That would be highly unusual. Fraternization with students is clearly forbidden for professors," McGonagall said, as if it should be obvious.
"But, Harry would only be an Assistant Professor," Ginny countered.
Flitwick laughed jovially. "She has us there. The policies do not discuss Assistant Professors, so I suppose we can make the rules to be whatever we want. Very well, Miss Weasley, I will accept that condition."
Ginny looked up at her boyfriend. "Harry? Remember that you promised me not to leave me again."
McGonagall's hand flew to her face so a full smile would not be seen and her reputation maintained. Flitwick had no such image problem and let a chuckle escape.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and sighed deeply. "What have I gotten myself into?"
"You love me and you know it, Harry," she persisted.
His arm went around her shoulders and he squeezed her against his body for a few seconds. "Merlin help me, but I do, very much." He looked at the short professor. "Very well, I'll take the position."
"Thank you, Mr Potter," Flitwick said very happily and shook the boy's hand. "There is much to be done at the moment, so it will be late next week before we get together to work out the details."
"Er, sure, Professor," Harry agreed.
"When we're in front of students, that would be correct. When we're in private as we are now, you may call me Filius," Flitwick explained.
"Professor?" Ginny asked. "Will we be having classes today?"
"No, Miss Weasley," Flitwick answered. "I think today will be a day of celebration. Why do you ask?"
"Because I thought you should know that while we'll be in the castle, Harry and I need to disappear and talk some things through, so please don't worry if you don't see us for awhile," Ginny told him.
Flitwick looked at McGonagall and got a small nod. "Very well, Miss Weasley. You are a Prefect and Mr Potter is an Assistant Professor. I also understand that you are both teenagers and have not seen each other for several months; however, I still ask that you abstain from any personally compromising activities. I hate the situation where I have to tell a mother that her daughter is pregnant. Do I make myself very clear?"
Harry and Ginny both quickly nodded, each looking a lot like an excitable house-elf at that moment.
"Very well. I do ask that you do not tell anyone about your new position until the new year, Mr Potter," Flitwick requested.
"Certainly. Is on the train ride back acceptable?" he asked.
"That is acceptable. We'll discuss it all next week. I'll be in contact," Flitwick said. "Run along and have some fun today, but not too much fun," he said with a smile. "Come find me when you're free, Mr Potter, and I shall assign you a room to stay in." The reserved smiles he got in return warmed Flitwick's heart. They were good kids, he thought, as he watched them leave.
"What do you think?" Minerva asked. "Head Boy and Head Girl next year?"
He nodded. "Just like his parents," he said with a smile, reminiscing a little. Flitwick shook his head after a moment. "So, I have an idea for someone for Charms, but I thought a Squib or Muggle-born would be best for Muggle Studies. Do you know anyone available for that, Minerva?"
"Actually, I do," Minerva replied as they started to walk back towards the Headmaster's office. "I know a squib who has been living in the Muggle world and would probably teach, at least for the rest of this year, worst case.
"Speaking of Squibs, I think it's time for Argus to retire. What do you think?"
McGonagall thought for a moment. "Unless you can get him to take a more even approach, I have to agree." She looked at her colleague. "You do know that Harry has his father's Invisibility Cloak, do you not?"
"No I didn't, but thanks for telling me. All the more reason to have him on our side -- and her too. Do you have any doubts about them?"
"Them? Good heavens no," Minerva adamantly said. "The only question will be if they are married before they return for next year or wait until after they graduate."
"Hmm, I guess we need to go look up the policies about married students, just in case we need that information," he told her.
Ginny made herself comfortable on Harry's lap. The Room of Requirement had given them a very nice room, much like the Gryffindor common room, but cozier. Kreacher had been called to bring drinks and they knew they could call the elf for food when they wanted it.
"Now, tell me everything you've been holding back for the last year," she gently told him, not in a bossy manner like Hermione might have. "I think we need to work through some things you experienced and I can't help you if you don't tell me."
"OK," he easily told her, tired of keeping secrets from her. "You'll share too?"
"Yes, and no secrets for either of us. If something is uncomfortable, say so and we'll take it slowly. You can ask me questions about what happened here later. We'll get through this together," she told him caringly. "It will be good practice for later too."
"All right." He liked the idea of being with her later.
"And Harry, never ever doubt that I love you. I wouldn't do this or have put up with everything from anyone else but you," she gently said before kissing him very softly on the lips, more of a brushing of lips.
"I love you too, Ginny." He pulled her close, resting her head on his shoulder so he did not have to watch her look at him. Parts of this would get ugly and hard to get through. "I guess I'll start at the beginning. I know I told you part of this this morning, but it will make more sense if I leave nothing out. Not long before I was born…"
(A/N: Here's an idea I had that would not leave me alone. This is one of those things that was just simple enough I could keep it mostly in my head and just sit and write. That's something I don't do very often, because longer stories require planning.
This Harry probably would not become an Auror, but I'll leave what he would become to your imagination. This Harry (and Ginny too) would not name his children Albus or Severus. The respect isn't there.
I've said it other places, but I think it's appropriate to repeat here. I admire JKR for her work and effort in creating the HP universe and writing the stories she did. However, I was also deeply disappointed in book7 (and 5 and 6 to some extent). Book7 had so much potential and I think it was mostly wasted. The book could have been so much better. I'm not saying that this story is better than her book7, but I think my story makes more sense logically (or it does to me. :) Of course, much of my disappointment may come from the fact that there are some very good fan-fiction writers out there who have spoiled me with some very creative and well written stories.
Again, thanks to XRaiderV1 for being the beta for this story. I have more stuff on my hard drive to be cleaned off while the next chapter of Lily's Child continues to work its way through the process. My next few will only be on this site on as they are not SIYE compliant.
I hope everyone enjoyed the story. -- Kevin)