Author's Note: Just as a short note before this chapter, I did want to mention that this is one of the shorter chapters in recent memory. That is intentional, especially due to the purpose of this chapter. In addition, I did post both chapters 29 and 30 at the same time. So if you just clicked onto the last chapter, be sure to check and see if you read chapter 29 as well. Aside from that however, I thank you all for reading and hope you enjoy this chapter!
I Kept the Faith
The last thing Harry Potter wanted to do was open his eyes. The darkness of sleep formed an incredibly comfortable blanket of security. But Harry no longer felt as though he was falling. Falling. That was the last thing that Harry remembered. Falling through the portal in the clutches of Voldemort. Falling after that, even. Seemingly endless falling. But now it was over. Now, for the first time in what seemed like ages, Harry was on solid ground. But did he dare open his eyes to see what hellish vision awaited him?
Deciding that he could not keep his eyes closed forever, Harry cracked one open to see pure, blinding whiteness. He tentatively opened his other eye, blinking to grow accustomed to the brightness.
"Welcome to the afterlife, Harry. You're dead. Again," a familiar, wizened voice said.
Harry rose onto his elbows and sat upright, looking around. Seeing nothing, he stood and turned around completely, coming face to face with Albus Dumbledore.
"Grandpa!" he called out excitedly, before quickly tempering his enthusiasm. "Oh, right. It's probably not you. I forgot about that."
"You are correct on one of those counts, Harry, but not both. No, I am not Albus Dumbledore, but at the same time, I am."
"Come now, Harry, you've been here before. Remember? I have merely taken the form of one who was close to you, for your comfort of course."
"Right. But why am I here again? I fell through the portal. Shouldn't fire and brimstone await me?"
The image of Dumbledore chuckled softly. "Take a seat, Harry," he offered. Harry turned to suddenly find a large leather wing-backed chair resting behind him. He sat and looked back up, only to find that Dumbledore had done the same.
"Harry, over the years, I have visited you on numerous occasions, in order to steer you in the right path, towards a final outcome that would benefit all of mankind. Today, you have completed that goal. Now, I know that the cost was high. Many that you cared for lost their lives over the course of the struggle against Voldemort, yourself included. But it was necessary."
"Necessary?" Harry asked, taken aback. "Then why send me back in the first place five years ago if I was just going to die again? Wouldn't it have saved us both a lot of trouble just to send me back to when I was killed in the first place so I could finish him off then?"
"Harry," Albus began patiently, "there are many things to consider here. First, how would it have appeared if you had simply risen from the dead after being struck down by a killing curse? Miraculous, wouldn't you say? And what would the state of the world have been if you had returned then? I have given you the chance to craft your own world, your own future, from the very beginning. It is not a chance that is given to many."
"I didn't craft my own future? I'm dead!"
"Would you care for a lemon drop, Harry?" the figure of Dumbledore asked, as a dish appeared in his hand.
"Of course I don't want a bloody lemon drop! I just want to know what's going on!"
"Please watch your language in front of me, Harry," Albus requested, as the dish disappeared. "I simply wanted you to feel comfortable, and lemon drops have various soothing properties. But back to your question. You do, in fact, have a future. Despite all appearances, this is not the end for you. If it were, I would not have saved you from the fall to the abominable netherworld."
"Oh," Harry replied stupidly, properly chastised.
"Time has no meaning here, Harry, so we are free to converse for as long as necessary. I know that you have questions, which is why I cleared my schedule for you."
"But didn't you just say that time has…never mind…" Harry trailed off, slightly confused. "So what happens now, then?"
"That is entirely up to you." In the distance, Harry could see an ornate oak door materializing, alone in the white expanse. "Behind that door, everyone you have lost wait for you, including your parents and the real Albus Dumbledore. But venturing through that door is a one-way journey. There is, however, another option. You could go back again."
"Why are you even offering me the choice? I think it's obvious which one I'll choose."
"Perhaps, Harry. But I am still offering you the choice, so that you have the freedom to choose. Granted, I knew before you arrived here that you would choose to go back. I knew that long ago."
"I think I'm beyond asking the question of 'how." Harry retorted.
"Indeed. But I will humor you anyway. I assume that you remember the Book of Designs that I showed you when you first arrived here five years ago. However, I did not show you the contents of the book, I merely informed you of its existence. There was a very good reason for this, Harry. Everything you have ever done, including dying for the first time, and going back to live again, was written in that book. Everything you will do after you leave here is written in that book. Your death at Voldemort's hands was meant to happen. Everything that has transpired since then was meant to happen."
"Even those moments of indecision and weakness when fighting Death Eaters? You had to literally remind me to hold no quarter with them. Was that part of the plan?"
"Those instances were of your own making, Harry. Certain events were meant to happen, not reactions. That may seem like a fine line to draw for you, but there is a vast difference between the two, believe me. The events you experienced were designed to prepare you for the war that would inevitably come. All I had to do was give you a few gentle nudges in the right direction."
"But it is over now, right? Voldemort really is dead?"
"Indeed. And so were you. With his last breath, Voldemort attempted to drag you down into the hellish pit, never to emerge, never to break free of endless anguish. But you were spared, partially due to your inherent righteousness in constantly fighting against the will of Voldemort. But mainly due to your faith. This is tied to your determination in fighting the good fight, but you never once wavered in the face of evil. You constantly followed my directives, despite how uncomfortable they may have seemed for you. That was where your true strength lay. That is why you are sitting here now."
"So then what happens next?"
"I can't tell you that. That is for you to discover on your own, Harry. But life is only just beginning for you. The easy part is over, now life truly begins."
"I understand," Harry replied.
"See that you do. This is the final time that we will speak, Harry. I will keep watching you, but don't expect me to interfere in your affairs directly again."
"So I'm on my own now?"
"You are never on your own. You have family that cares very much for you. In fact, they are currently grieving over your death. But I will always be watching, remember that. While I may not meddle in your life directly, I will always be there. Or here."
Albus stood up, his chair vanishing as he did so. Harry followed his lead, and his chair disappeared as well. He then stepped up to Harry and extended his hand, which Harry grasped firmly.
"Goodbye Harry, and farewell," Dumbledore said, as he shook Harry's hand.
"Thank you," Harry replied, as he released the hand. As soon as he released Dumbledore's hand, the image vanished, leaving Harry alone in the vast white expanse.
Alone in the void, Harry looked around briefly before a ghostly blue door appeared directly in front of him. This door appeared translucent, as opposed to the solid appearance of the door from earlier.
"Walk through this door, Harry," the voice of Dumbledore instructed him, its source unclear. "Walk through this door and into your life once more."
Harry grasped the handle tentatively and hesitated for a moment. He then took a deep breath, opened the door, and strode confidently through.
"The goblins aren't going to have a parselmouth with them," Hermione argued. "Unless they can find a way to blast through that door, I don't know how we're going to get out of here."
Draco sighed as he glanced over at Hermione. "Hermione, I'm sure we'll get out of here. I doubt that this thing is impenetrable, especially to the goblins. We're just stuck in here for a little bit until everyone out there finds a way to get us out."
Hermione snorted as she closed her eyes and lowered her head onto her knees, which were still clutched up against her chest. Seeing this, Draco crawled the few meters to Hermione and sat down next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
"Listen, I know that you're not in the best way right now, with…" he struggled for the right words, "what happened. But I don't think that's any reason to be so despondent about our chances of getting out of here."
As he spoke, Draco looked up, staring off into space beyond the portal. Suddenly, the portal began to pulsate, white light rippling along its surface. Draco shifted his gaze to the shimmering veil, watching the changes curiously.
After nearly a minute of the strange rippling, the portal suddenly returned to normal, giving no indication of the previous events.
That was odd, Draco thought, as he continued to observe the portal.
Without warning, the portal suddenly flared up again for a brief instant, before a figure strolled out. The portal flashed briefly once more before the veil flickered and vanished. Only the great stone archway remained.
"Um, Hermione," Draco began, "I really do think that we'll get out of here."
"Ugh, not again, Draco. I'm tired of hearing your pathetic pep-talks. Just leave me be for now."
"No. I mean, I really think that we'll get out of here now. Look," he replied, nudging her shoulders forward with his arm.
With a sigh, Hermione tentatively lifted her head and opened her eyes.
"Harry?" she whispered, her eyes widening.
"Hey," Harry replied sheepishly, giving a slight wave. "It's me."
"Harry!" Hermione shrieked, jumping up and leaping into his arms. "I thought you died!" she sobbed into his chest.
"I did," he replied, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't recommend it. Falling gets kinda boring after a while."
"What?" Hermione asked, pulling back and looking up at Harry.
He just shook his head in response. "I'll explain later. Now, what's this about getting out of here?" he asked, as he released his wife.
"Well, we seem to be stuck in this room," Draco explained as he walked over and shook Harry's hand. "I don't see that as much of a problem anymore though." He gestured toward the door. "We can't get this thing open-"
"Open," Harry hissed at the door in parseltongue, causing it to groan and shift open in a shower of dust and light debris. "There," he added, "you just need to have the right touch."
"That's what I was about to say," Draco complained.
The three exited the antechamber, Hermione clinging to Harry's side as they walked. As they emerged from the passage into the main Chamber of Secrets, they found members of the Order of the Gold Cross deep in conference, huddled together in the center of the Chamber.
Putting a finger to his lips as a sign to Draco and Hermione, Harry broke away from the other two and crept up to the huddle. He then threw his arms over the shoulders of Remus on one side and Sirius on the other, and shoved his way into the group.
"What're you talking about?" Harry asked loudly, interrupting the conversation.
"Harry!" Sirius shrieked, jumping back slightly. "How in the hell did you get here?"
"I walked through the door," Harry replied casually. "You know Sirius, you scream like a girl."
"Sod off. No, really, what are you doing here? Last we heard was that you were dead. Of course, I knew that could never the be the case but Draco said you were dead and Emma believed him and Hermione and Draco couldn't get out of that little room so we had to ask the goblins for help but we haven't heard anything back from them-"
"Sirius," Harry interrupted, "you're rambling. Calm down, take a deep breath, and talk to me like I'm a normal person. I'm not some pretty girl you need to get flustered around."
Sirius smacked Harry on the back of the head in response, chuckling as he did so.
"Actually," Harry continued, "it's a long story, and I really don't think that this is the best environment to tell it in. I think that the Great Hall may be the best place to continue this conversation."
Dan interrupted at this point. "I'm not sure that's the best idea, Harry. See, the Great Hall is currently…in use right now. Maybe one of the common rooms might be better?"
"What do you mean, in use?" Hermione interjected. "Who else is here that could use that much space? What, are the goblins using it for some kind of convention?"
"Not exactly," Dan replied. "If you want to pop in to the Great Hall on the way to somewhere else, we can do that. Suffice it to say that all of those converted lycans were stored…erm…held in the Great Hall after the original attack on the castle."
"Oh," Harry responded. "What, are they still there?"
"The goblins were taking charge of moving the bodies and reanimating them. They said it would take some time."
"Reanimate?" Hermione asked, bewildered. "Were they dead?"
"No, no," her father answered quickly. "I apologize. I didn't explain well enough. The goblins said that they were simply in a magically-induced coma, but were still alive. The goblins did not have the ability to break the coma here, however, and had to take the bodies back to their base under Gringotts. But they said that they should be able to reverse the condition."
"I see," Harry replied as he looked off into the distance, down the passage out of the Chamber of Secrets. "Should we go up to the Gryffindor common room then?" he asked. "I would say that we should just go back to the Manor, but I don't want to leave the castle all alone so soon. We don't know how many Death Eaters may still be lurking around here."
The group turned and made their way toward the exit from the Chamber.
"We could just let the goblins take care of them," Draco offered as they walked. "I mean, that is what they wanted to do the entire time after all."
"True, but I would feel better about staying here." As Harry finished speaking, he turned to the door to the Chamber of Secrets, which they had just passed through, and commanded it to close. As it did so, the other doors closed as well, sealing the Chamber once again.
"I'm amazed that there wasn't more resistance in the first place," Remus said. "It was as though they either didn't expect us to try and retake the castle, which I can't believe, or that there was something else at play."
Harry shook his head. "I think that Voldemort was betting on opening the portal to get his reinforcements and defend the castle that way. The lycans would only be viable defenders during the full moon, which was a few days ago, and the giants…well I don't think they wanted to stick around. That really only left a small number of Death Eaters."
At this point, the Order reached the chute from the girl's lavatory.
"How are we supposed to get back up there?" Draco asked.
"You didn't think of that before you jumped feet-first into it?" Harry retorted sarcastically.
"I think we were more concerned with your safety, Harry."
"Stairs," Harry hissed in parseltongue. Immediately, a set of stairs materialized along the sloped pipe. "That's how," he continued in English.
Less than five minutes later, the members of the Order of the Gold Cross entered the Gryffindor common room, and Harry claimed the large leather armchair nearest the portrait-hole. Hermione promptly hopped onto his lap and snuggled into his shoulder. Giving the others a sheepish look, Harry motioned for them to take a seat, despite the fact that there was only seating for roughly a dozen. In response to this fact, Draco and Luna sat down on the low table in the center of the furniture arrangement, while most of the other students leaned against walls throughout the room.
"So, are you going to tell us what happened now, Harry?" Emma asked from the sofa. "That's why we came all the way up here in the first place, isn't it?"
"Right," Harry replied. "Well, suffice it to say that having a large knife stabbed into your stomach is not particularly comfortable, nor is having your body pulled forward by another knife lodged in your shoulder."
"That happened to you?" Emma asked, covering her mouth in shock.
Harry shrugged in response. "I'm actually getting ahead of myself here. Voldemort, Tom, or whatever you want to call him, and I, fought for a few moments before Hermione intervened." She turned crimson as Harry glanced over at her. "She was then incapacitated, which distracted me."
"It was a stupid move on my part, Harry," she offered. "I'm sorry about that."
"You couldn't have known what would happen," Harry reassured her. "Besides, everything turned out alright in the end, didn't it?"
"Oi, Harry!" Sirius bellowed loudly, "you're a lousy storyteller. Just tell the tale all the way through without skipping around and we'll all be happy!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "You never can take anything seriously, can you Sirius? This is a serious story and all you can think to do is crack jokes and make light?"
"Don't blame him, Harry," Remus interjected in Sirius's defense. Sirius nodded and smiled gratefully at Remus. However, Remus continued, "he never matured beyond the mentality of a first year. He can't help it."
"Hey!" Sirius shouted, "I resent that!"
"Anyway," Harry continued, as though he was never interrupted, "with Hermione down, Voldemort took advantage of the situation and disarmed me. He then muttered some tripe about needing my blood to draw the runes to activate the portal or some other rubbish like that, and stabbed me in the shoulder. I'm still not sure what purpose that served."
"Open wound, Harry," Hermione suggested. "Blood comes from open wounds, remember?"
"I just love how everyone is so sarcastic considering what just happened. Pressing on, up until this point, I had thought that Lucius had somehow managed to kidnap Elizabeth and had brought her down to the chamber to use against me. But Draco kindly proved otherwise when he used my name to address me. Elizabeth never does that."
"Pretty clever if you ask me," Draco boasted.
"Nobody did," Harry retorted. "Besides, your impression of Elizabeth's voice is awful. I don't know how Lucius mistook you for her."
"I never talked to him!"
"Hm, that would do it then," Harry pondered. "So, after I realized that Elizabeth wasn't actually there, all of Lucius's threats seemed somewhat hollow. So I tackled Voldemort into the portal, earning another knife to my gut in the process. That probably would have killed me if the portal didn't. Voldemort's final act was to grab at the knife in my shoulder and pull me in with him. I'm surprised the knife didn't come out in the process."
"It was serrated and twisted in there, Harry. I'm sure that played a part," Hermione informed him.
"Maybe. So I fell through the portal along with Voldemort, ending the possibility of any more atrocities at his hands."
"And?" Dan prodded. "What happened next? You can't just tell us that you died while you're sitting here in front of us. I may be an old fool, but even I can see that the maths here don't add up."
"Yeah, I was hoping you would forget about that," Harry said sheepishly, running a hand through his ebony locks. "Well, I met a very powerful being who explained that I had been a good little boy and had been given a second chance at life. Er, make that third chance. And here I am."
Everyone stared at Harry in response, blinking in disbelief.
"That's it?" Dan asked. "You're not going to give us any more than that?"
"I don't think it's really appropriate," Harry explained. "I died, but it wasn't my time. I think that about sums it up."
Emma glanced between the two before speaking up. "So then it's over now? It's really over?"
Harry nodded. "That's right. We're rid of the great bloody ponce forever."
"So then what are you going to do now?" Sirius asked. "Forgive me for being blunt, Harry, but up until now, your entire life has been spent on one task: ridding the world of Voldemort. Now that he's gone, what are you going to do?"
"Well, there are a few things I wanted to discuss with Minerva. But aside from that, I just want to rest. Maybe take a holiday somewhere."
"You just went to the States," Sirius objected.
"And what a vacation that ended up being, eh? We were attacked by Death Eaters and interrogated by the American government. Not exactly what I could call a holiday."
"Where do you want to go, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"I don't know," he answered, shrugging. "It was just an idea. Something to consider going forward." He looked up at the rest of the group. "For now, I think Hermione and I should get back to the Manor. I think we should let Minerva and Elizabeth know the good news."
"Right," Emma replied. "I think at least Dan and I will stay here. We should still have our things up in our tower after all."
Dan shrugged in agreement with his wife as Harry and Hermione rose and exited the common room.
With a quiet pop, Harry and Hermione appeared outside the massive front portico of Potter Manor. Harry opened the door for Hermione and entered behind her, only to find the large foyer empty. Hermione glanced over at Harry and shook her head at him.
"What, did you expect them to be waiting for us in the entry?" she asked.
Harry looked at the ground sheepishly. "Not really. But I just wanted to be able to make an entrance."
"Really? That's what you're worried about? You can stroke your ego another time. Right now, get your head out of your arse and let's find them, alright?"
"And don't call me dear," she added.
As they spoke, they climbed the grand staircase toward the second floor, which housed the bedrooms. The downstairs area had seemed too quiet, indicating that the two other residents of the Manor would be upstairs.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the Manor, Elizabeth was laying on the bed in her room, staring idly at the ceiling. While she knew that she wouldn't be of much help, there was a part of her that had wanted to go off to Hogwarts with the Order. But instead, she was left behind like a little child, which, while she grudgingly admitted was partially the case, seemed unfair. At least, she thought, Minerva had stayed behind with her. Of course, Elizabeth understood why, since only four days before, Minerva's husband had been killed at Hogwarts. As the school now held too many painful memories, it would be too difficult for Minerva to return so soon.
It had been several hours since she and Minerva had been left alone at Potter Manor, and the time had seemed to crawl by for Elizabeth. Despite this, she had yet to encounter Minerva during that entire time.
As these thoughts floated through her mind, the door to her room opened, causing Elizabeth to sit up quickly and turn to the door, just as the elusive Minerva entered.
"Is something wrong, Grandma?" Elizabeth asked, having adopted Harry's form of addressing the older woman.
The newcomer did not answer immediately; instead she sat down on the opposite side of the bed, facing away from the door. Elizabeth scooted along to the bed to the edge to sit alongside Minerva.
"I'm considering going to Hogwarts," Minerva said finally.
"What?" Elizabeth balked. "I thought you were going to stay here…for a number of reasons," she added diplomatically.
"That was the idea originally. But I have spent the last few hours thinking it over, and now realize that I don't think I can stay here now."
"Why? I thought you thought it would be too painful?" Minerva sighed at Elizabeth's last statement, causing the latter to battle a wave of shame at her own tactlessness. "Sorry," she added softly.
"No, you were completely right. I did think it would be too painful, for several reasons. I haven't seen the castle since we lost it and Albus was killed. But at the same time, I am a grown woman, and I don't think that I should be running away from grief. I figure that I'll have to face it eventually; I can't stay away from Hogwarts forever. I also have to consider what Albus would want. Would he approve if I were to run away and not face his death or, to look at the grand scheme of things, the evil that had taken over the castle?"
"He would have wanted you to do whatever you felt comfortable with," a voice drifted from the doorway.
Minerva and Elizabeth turned their heads to see Harry and Hermione standing in the doorway, eyes full of sorrow.
"I don't think he'd want you to fuss over his death," Harry continued. "Albus wasn't one to worry over trivial things, nor did he have a large ego. I don't think he would have cared. What I think he would have cared about though, is your happiness, and how you felt. I think he placed your comfort and wellbeing over his own, and that would still be his mindset if he were here today."
"Maybe you're right, Harry. But enough of that," Minerva replied. "How did things go at Hogwarts?"
"Well, here's the short version," Harry began, "we won. It's over."
"The Dark Lord is dead?" Minerva asked, her voice laced with hope.
"That's right. In the end he finally got to experience the portal he was so desperately seeking."
"What about the portal itself? Is it still there?"
"It's not working anymore," Hermione interjected. "After Voldemort fell through, it stopped working. I'm not sure why though."
"It served its purpose," Harry suggested quietly, staring out the large window opposite the door.
"Was that something you were told?" Hermione asked.
Harry shook his head. "More like an assumption. A hunch if you will. The portal could have been left alone and could have been left intact, but that would only have left it for someone else to discover far in the future. We couldn't have done anything to prevent it from being used again in the future, and there may not be anyone who could then either. I think that leaving the portal in place just wasn't part of the plan," he finished, emphasizing the last word.
The quartet fell into silence for several moments as Harry's words were considered and ramifications of the day's events were pondered.
Finally, Minerva broke the silence.
"Did…did you find a body?" she asked in an uncharacteristically timid fashion.
Harry hung and shook his head in the negative. "No," he answered, "as much as we might have liked to in order to provide closure, I think Voldemort wanted the exact opposite. I don't think he left a body on purpose. No matter though. We will still have a service on the castle grounds, body or no body. It's the least we can do."
The memorial service was held four days later in the late afternoon sun of the Hogwarts grounds. With the castle setting the backdrop for the service, a large crowd of students, ministry officials, and well-wishers had gathered to pay their final respects to the man who had ended one war against a Dark Lord, and fought through another.
Harry had provided the eulogy at the request of Minerva, who could not bring herself to speak when the time came. Harry had acquiesced, and gave a light-hearted tribute to the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, peppering his remarks with humorous anecdotes and stories.
As the crowd dispersed following the service, Harry found himself sitting on a rock near the edge of the Great Lake, overlooking the serene expanse of water. His thoughts drifted towards the future, and what he was going to do with his life now that he had rid the world of Voldemort.
For Harry, the past decade and a half of his two lives had been dedicated to one purpose. But now that purpose, that driving force behind his life, was gone. What was he going to do with the years he had left?
Suddenly, Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. Jerked away from his thoughts, he glanced up to find Minerva standing beside him, staring across the surface of the lake.
"Thank you, Harry," she whispered, never lowering her gaze.
"You're welcome," he replied just as quietly, shifting his attention back to the lake. "What will you do now?" he asked in an attempt to spur conversation.
Minerva sighed and looked back at the castle. "Rebuild," she replied, as she saw the poor state of the castle. One tower was in ruins, the great front gate destroyed, and the grounds plagued by craters and scorch marks.
"The inside is worse than the outside too," Harry commented. This was Minerva's first visit to Hogwarts since Albus's death, and Harry assumed that she had not been inside yet.
"I know," she replied sadly. "I looked around inside before the service. It will take time to repair everything, and I'm not sure that we can reopen by September first."
"It'll be ready in time," Harry reassured her. "The worst-case scenario is that part of the castle doesn't get used at the beginning of term. There were enough empty classrooms before that we could spare them now. I'm sure we'll be able to manage, especially with you at the helm," he added pointedly.
Minerva glanced down at Harry, raising a single eyebrow as if to question him. "Harry, you are the Headmaster now. Albus made sure of that."
"No," Harry argued, shaking his head. "I can't be the Headmaster. How would it look for someone who is not quite sixteen years old to be the Headmaster of the most prestigious magical school in Europe? What qualifications do I have, outside of defeating a Dark Lord, that I could make public? I was only barely accepted as a professor as it is. Being Headmaster is an entirely different issue all together."
"But you lead the Order against Voldemort-"
"Minerva…grandma," Harry began slowly, "I want you to take over as Headmistress." As she opened her mouth to protest, Harry raised his hand to silence her. "Temporarily. I know that you don't want the position. I know you like to teach rather than hold some bureaucratic position. I'm just asking you to take the position until I legally come of age. Then we can go from there."
Minerva removed her hand from Harry's shoulder and took a step back. "I'll consider it, Harry. Like you said, it's not my ideal position. But for you, I'll consider it." She paused for a moment before continuing. "But have you given any thought to what you want to do with your life now?"
"That's what I was doing here originally," Harry answered. "I mean, my life seems kind of…empty, for lack of a better term. I know I should be happy that Voldemort's gone. And believe me, I am. But killing him has been the goal of my entire life for so long that I feel kind of…empty now."
"Empty, Harry?" Minerva repeated back, bewildered. "Of all the people here today, Harry, you have the least right to say that your life is empty. Just look at what you have. You have a family, something you didn't really have a few years ago. Besides that, you are extremely lucky for your age. Normally, I wouldn't say this to someone your age, but you are lucky that, at your age, you have a daughter, and a wife that love you very much. There are people who would give everything to have what you have right now. So don't go discounting that."
Harry was silent in response, pondering her words. At his silence, Minerva removed her hand from his shoulder and turned to leave.
"Wait," he called out as she began to walk away. Minerva turned slightly toward him, waiting for him to continue. "Can you send Hermione over here?" he asked finally. Minerva nodded silently and turned again. "And can you keep an eye on Elizabeth too, just in case we lose track of time?"
Facing away from Harry, Minerva smirked slightly before nodding once again and walking away. Harry turned his attention back to the lake, whose surface was simmering under the light of the sinking sun.
He was once again startled out of his reverie by another hand on his shoulder a moment later.
"You wanted to see me, Harry?" Hermione asked from next to him.
"Yeah," he replied, standing from his perch on the rock.
Without warning, he spun and embraced Hermione tightly as he claimed her lips in a passionate kiss. Startled, Hermione initially began to pull away, but then leaned in and returned the kiss with equal fire.
The two separated a moment later, panting, with foreheads pressed together.
"That was…unexpected," Hermione observed. "Where did that come from?"
"I was just reminded of how lucky I am to have you," Harry replied. "I also asked Minerva to keep an eye on Elizabeth too," he continued as he picked Hermione up and planted another quick kiss on her lips.
Hermione giggled softly at his antics before her tone turned serious once more. "What for?" she asked.
"Hermione, have you ever heard of the phenomenon that, after a near-death experience, one feels the primal urge to reproduce?" Harry asked as he carried her toward the edge of the wards.
"Of course I have. What does that have to do…Harry! That was days ago! You can't expect…I thought we were going to wait…" She was silenced by another peck as Harry stopped moving.
"I would say that there's no time like the present," he began. "But I know that we agreed to wait until we were at least seventeen. That said, I'm always one who believes that you can't be successful at something without lots and lots of practice," he finished slyly.
Hermione giggled once more as the two disappeared in a soft pop.
Four Years Later
September 1, 2000
"Hufflepuff!" the Sorting Hat called, sorting eleven year old Jeremy Yangley and ending the ceremony. The young first year ran over to his new housemates and sat down, as the Sorting Hat and stool were removed from the front of the Great Hall. Idle chatter filled the Hall as summer stories were exchanged, jokes were told, and houses began to assimilate their newest members.
Amid the dull murmur that permeated the Great Hall, a lone figure rose from the seat at the center of the Head Table and walked to the lectern situated at the front of the expansive room. All eyes shifted to the podium as the figure raised their hands to request silence. Their request was quickly granted. Hundreds of varied, young eyes met a single pair of green as they anxiously awaited his words.
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts," he began, "as we welcome the first students of the new millennium. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we hope that this new millennium is more peaceful than the last. But let's not get bogged down in the unpleasant and distasteful; there is much to discuss. With a new millennium come new changes in both our staff and educational program. So let me first introduce our new professor of Muggle Studies. As many of you may know, Professor Burbage, who had been with us for a few years, is expecting a new addition to her family, and decided to leave us to tend to her growing family. We wish her all the best. However, our new professor sports excellent qualifications as well. Let me introduce Dan Granger, our newest professor of Muggle Studies!"
Dan rose from his seat at the staff table to a round of applause from the student body. He gave a small wave before sitting back down next to Minerva Dumbledore, two seats to the left of the Headmaster's seat.
"Now, as I mentioned before," the Headmaster continued, "we have made some changes to our program. The first is the addition of two new classes to our roster. Both of these classes will be required for all students in all years." A wave of groans swept through the Great Hall. When it had passed, he pressed on. "However, classes have been shortened from ninety minutes per period to sixty, in order to make up for the extra course load. So first, teaching biology, or the study of the body and its workings, is Dr. Emma Granger!"
Emma, having been sitting on the other side of her husband, stood and smiled at the student body before sitting back down.
"Dr. Granger is eminently qualified to teach this course, as she is a certified healer in the muggle world, and has spent the last several years studying magical physiology. Now, our second new course is also related to the muggle world. For too long, the magical world has been trailing behind the muggle world in many areas, including innovation and knowledge of the physical world. Many of our traditions are still rooted in antiquated beliefs and ideals. This new course is long overdue and is something that will truly help in our interactions with the muggle world as we forge a path into the future. So, starting this term, we will begin offering mathematics courses for all years. This course will be taught by a familiar face to you all. Leaving her position as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Hermione Potter will be teaching all seven levels of the new class, beginning with basic arithmetic for the first years, and working up from there."
Hermione, seated immediately to the right of the Headmaster's chair, did not stand, but nodded at the students. She would have waved, but her hands were occupied by a small, squirming bundle in her arms.
"Finally, some of you most astute students may have noticed that we now have an empty teaching position for Defense Against the Dark Arts. The more observant students may also have noticed that there is a new face up here at the staff table. Here to bring his unique perspective on defense as well as combating the Dark Arts, hailing from the United States of America, we have Professor Michael Gladstone, formerly of the U.S. Department of Magic!"
From the far end of the table, Gladstone stood, and walked around the table to shake the Headmaster's hand.
"I want everyone to join me in welcoming Professor Gladstone, along with his wife Hannah, and sons Jeremiah and Ethan, to Hogwarts. Gryffindor house especially, since you were the proud recipients of Ethan Gladstone, who was sorted tonight. Thank you for joining us, Professor Gladstone."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Gladstone replied, winking at the last word before he returned to his seat.
The Headmaster turned back to his captive audience. "I only have a few more announcements before we eat, so please be patient. A couple of weeks ago, we had our first staff meeting with the new members of the faculty here. One of the suggestions brought forward by Professor Granger…that is Dan Granger," he corrected, realizing the potential for confusion, "was to allow the establishment of student clubs and societies. With the shortening of class periods, we hope that these student groups will help supplement what we are already teaching. I can remember that, in past years, such clubs have been against the rules of the school, even if they were necessary. If you are interested in forming such a club, or just want more information, speak with Professor Dumbledore. As Deputy Headmistress, she has been put in charge of student groups."
The Headmaster took a deep breath after his most recent announcement, and then forged on. "Finally, I just wanted to reiterate the fact that my office is always open. What I've talked about here tonight is by no means the end of the changes for this year. If you have an idea that you think has merit, don't hesitate to bring it to me. We as a faculty are not so dense or egotistical to think that we know what is best for the running of this school. We need your help as well in order to make the most of the opportunity we have together. With that, I think we've finished with the announcements. I'm sure the house elves have prepared a wonderful dinner for us, so I won't hold it back any longer."
With that, he stepped away from the lectern and walked around the staff table towards the Headmaster's chair. He stopped at his seat and leaned down to Hermione, who pecked him quickly on the lips.
"You did great, Harry," she said proudly. "Sorry I couldn't stand and wave when you talked about me, but I couldn't get anyone to watch Isaac here." She nodded toward the bundle in her arms.
"That's alright," Harry replied as he sat down in his seat. But as soon as he touched the chair, he promptly stood back up and addressed the school.
"I'm sorry, I forgot something," he announced, taking notice of the still-missing food. "I just wanted to say a few more words," he added, glancing over each shoulder and smiling knowingly at Hermione and Minerva, respectively.
He paused for dramatic effect briefly. "And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" He chuckled to himself for a moment before continuing. "Now, everyone," he said as he raised his hands for emphasis, "tuck in!"
Harry Potter and the Divine Plan: Post Mortem
…and miles to go before I sleep
So ends my first story. Well, I can't say that, since I wrote short, terrible stories many years ago as I went through some or my earlier school years. But this was the first serious piece of fiction I've ever written, and of that, I am proud. For those of you who have stuck with this story since the fall of 2009 when I started it, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me in this endeavor. If you are new to this story, I want to thank you equally for making it this far. But even though it is complete, I am not against editing parts of this story for mechanics if reviews point out a glaring flaw that I missed. At this point though, I just wanted to write about the story, since the story itself is finished, including some of the challenges as well as some of the high points of this project. I will also touch on my next story as well. If any of you are interested, please read on. I can tell you that this note may ruin some of the magic of this story (if there was any to begin with), as it goes through the entire writing process. If that is not what you want, then you might not want to continue reading, or jus skip to the last couple of paragraphs. Either way, this will be my final author's note for this story.
In one of my previous author's notes, I quoted J.R.R. Tolkien when I said that "The tale grew in the telling." This is one of the most accurate things I can say about writing this story. Originally, when I set out, the outline I had for this story was literally a list of bullet points of story elements that I thought would be interesting or cool. I then dove right into the writing of chapter one and didn't look back. Now that I think about it though, that may not have been the best idea. It then led to story elements that seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of it. At times, I would even read reviews and think "that's a good idea," and "how can I shoehorn that in?" I realize that all of these things were due to the fact that this was my first time writing something of this complexity, as well as a severe lack of preparation. As a result of this, there are likely a large number of plot holes throughout the story. Many of these are simply the result of me forgetting or missing something. However, part of the problem comes from the fact that this is a time-travel story. In retrospect, it might not have been the wisest move to make my first story a time-travel story, as there are a large number of additional complications that come into play in such a story. That said, I am genuinely proud of the fact that this story has attracted as much positive feedback as it has, and I have you to thank for that.
As I look back on various parts of this story, I realize that I committed one of the gravest sins possible, in my own eyes, that is. I've read many, if not most of the Harry/Hermione stories on this site, and one of the things that just seems to rub me the wrong way is a Harry/Hermione relationship that just seems to suddenly exist. By this, I mean a story that starts, and suddenly Harry and Hermione both admit that they have loved each other for as long as they could remember, but could never admit it. In these stories, Harry and Hermione are oftentimes married at a very young age, or share a soul bond. Now, I don't mean any offense to any author who chooses these plot devices. I now have infinite respect for the other authors on this site, and I applaud them for taking up the pen at all. In fact, many of these types of stories are very well written and tell a compelling tale. But I felt, and still feel that this plot element seems unnatural and does not allow or show a natural progression of the relationship between the two main characters. However, that is exactly what I did in this story. In the end, it seemed to have worked out, but it is still something that has bugged me. This is something that I will address in my next project, which I will discuss shortly.
If I had to choose one thing that I felt was strongest about this story though, it would be the characters. I feel that I was able to humanize the characters in a way that some stories are not able. Now, I wasn't able to necessarily give these characters emotional depth, a shortcoming that I hope to address in the future, but I feel that I was able to make them seem real, especially through their dialogue. Writing dialogue is one of my favorite things to do, in part because it just seems natural. I am able to visualize a conversation, complete with witty banter, and quickly transcribe that. At the same time, however, while I am able to visualize events, such as epic battle scenes, I am not quite as able to transcribe those. Some of you may have noticed this when reading the story. I still am not happy with the major battle scenes in the story. But no matter how many times I rewrite and re-edit them, I still can't seem to get them right. In the end then, I just have to send them out to pasture as they are. Based on how I write and develop battle scenes then, I think that I could choreograph action sequences for movies, but I couldn't write them into the script.
At this point in the post-mortem, it seems as though I'm jumping around a bit, and that is the case. I am simply talking about things that came up over the course of this story, and some of the things that I've learned as I've reflected back on the writing process. There are still a few things I wanted to talk about though.
As I mentioned before, I do want to thank all of you who have read through the entirety of this story. Some of you may remember, if you've been with this story from the early days, that there was a considerably long hiatus in this story. When I originally started this story, it was due to the fact that I had a large amount of free time as I took a term off of university, just as a sort of break. However, as school resumed, my free time began to dwindle. This was during the beginning of 2010, and the story was already quite far along (we were in the mid-20's as far as chapters go at that point). At one point, I posted that I was going to finish the story and post the remainder of it at the same time. This was supposed to give me the opportunity to develop the ending of the story in peace, and prevent me from changing it due to reviewer suggestions. However, it only led to there being no updates at all. Months went by, and by putting light work into the story at odd intervals, I eventually got a short bit into chapter 29 by the summer of 2010. Then, I just stopped. I hit a wall and couldn't figure out how to write what I wanted. Many different endings came and went. For example, the original ending of this story went something like this:
The portal would actually be opened and a massive horde of Dementors emerging and destroying the castle. A massive battle would take place on the grounds, with the side of good losing ground quickly. Suddenly, the sky would literally open up and a flock of the heavenly host (angels) would come down and battle the Dementors and push them back into the portal. They would then destroy the portal and, through some kind of divine magic, restore Hogwarts to its former glory.
My original thought was that I needed some big, epic ending to this story, and this certainly seemed to fit the bill. This was the intended ending for the story for most of 2010, and managed to survive in one form or another for a long period of time.
However, as 2010 came to a close, I began to toy with different ideas for new stories that seemed to pop up in my mind over and over. I came to really like these ideas, and quickly began to develop them somewhat, deciding on various details and working on the logistics of them. As a result, the Divine Plan took a place on the back burner, eventually to be forgotten. While none of these new story ideas were written (yet), they excited me more than my current story, to the point where I decided to dump this story all together. At one point, I made the decision to delete this story and close off my account and create a new penname and write my new story. However, the day I went to do this, I read some of the new reviews for this story, which I had not checked in months, only to find some readers asking for me to update. Since I already had a couple extra chapters completed at the time, I decided to do so.
After this, I abandoned the story again, but not quite to the degree of the previous time. At this point, I made up my mind to post any new stories under this penname. But since I was completely against having more than one story in progress at any given time, I had to first finish this story. With this decision made, my dedication to this story was renewed, and I quickly posted chapter 28 at this point.
At this point in the story's development, chapter 29 was several pages long, and was written up to the point of Dan, Emma, and Draco leaving Potter Manor for Hogwarts. That is where that chapter had been for nearly a year. That is an extremely long period of time after which to pick up a work in progress, and was quite difficult for me as well. As a result, some aspects of the story may not have been incorporated into these final two chapters, due simply to being forgotten. At the same time, the ending was toned down and simplified, focusing instead on a rivalry between Harry and Voldemort. This is, as you know, how the story ultimately ended. Harry dying and coming back to life though, was planned from the very beginning, in an attempt to bring the story full-circle.
So, here we are in the present then. Over the course of writing this story, I have learned a great deal about both my writing style and the effort it takes to put together a project of this magnitude. Given the opportunity to do it all again, I think that I might focus on a shorter story as a first story, instead of jumping into a massive 300,000 word behemoth. But that's all water under the bridge now. What's important, though, are the lessons to be learned here. As I write this, I hope that I will retain the lessons learned from this story, but more importantly, I am writing these here in order to help any other aspiring authors out there. So, here are the top lessons I learned from writing Harry Potter and the Divine Plan:
1. Planning is key. Before starting to write the story proper, have a complete outline of what you want to happen and when. Otherwise, the story may begin to meander and plot elements may be introduced that have no place in the story and are not used again.
2. Reviewers are your friends, but they are not writing the story. I can now understand why authors ask for reviews when posting chapters: they serve as encouragement and are the reason we write. But ultimately, reviewers are not the ones who are writing the story. If they don't approve of something you write, that is their responsibility. While there may be genuine issues with the story or mechanics, it is a fact that everyone has their own tastes. As an author, you cannot please everyone, nor should you try. I made this mistake by changing plot elements to cater to reviews. In the end, some plot points were introduced only to fade away and never be used again.
3. Stick with it. I can say from experience now that the early parts of writing a new story are some of the most fun I have ever had. But as the story wears on, the end seems further and further away. Eventually, I almost gave up. In fact, for a while I did. Don't give up. If you eventually finish your epic, your feeling of accomplishment will be incredible. I'm still riding that wave now.
4. Play to your strengths as a writer. As I wrote this story, I wanted to make it an epic beast of a story, à la Lord of the Rings, with massive battles and epic quotes. But as I wrote those battles, none of them seemed to meet my expectations. In the end, I realized that writing a massive epic may not play to my greatest writing strengths. Instead, I found that I had much more fun writing dialogue, which seemed to turn out much better. Before writing, know your strengths as a writer, and design a story which caters to those.
5. Exposition must be natural. When I first started this story, many reviewers asked for background about what was happening; what I considered canon. I had failed to introduce the story before jumping right in. At the same time, I felt that tapping on the fourth wall would be a good way to explain the story, in a somewhat humorous manner. But as a result, exposition in this story, at times at least, seemed forced and unnatural. Think of the stereotypical Bond movie. The villain always explains his diabolical plan to the hero instead of taking action. I admit that I fell prey to this as well. It just doesn't seem natural.
So those are the top five lessons that I learned from writing this story. As I begin to lay the foundation for my next piece of writing, I hope to be able to improve in all of these areas. But I also hope that they are a help to anyone who might still be reading this massive note.
For those of you who have stuck with me through my ramblings here, I thank you. Using all of the lessons I outlined above, in addition to the other problems I encountered that have already been discussed, I hope to be able to craft a far superior second story. That is what I want to discuss now. My next story will not be a sequel to this story. I cannot foresee any circumstances that would warrant a sequel to this story, as I consider it concluded. That said, I am currently planning my next work to consist of four parts, each a separate story. Each of these stories will be part of a much larger storyline, but, as of right now, should each be able to be read on their own without reading any of the others. Granted, there will be story elements that are common to all of them, so it would be best to read every part. But each story will have its own unique "gimmick," for lack of a better term, that separates it from the others. Each story will also be considerably shorter than this one (at least at this point in the planning phase).
That said, I will say that the first part is currently deep in the outlining phase of development, with the outline nearing the halfway mark (each chapter's outline is about one page). At this point, I do have tentative titles for the stories, which, in order, are: Stealing Time, Playing Time, Killing Time, and Passing Time. Do take note that time travel may or may not play a part in these stories. If it does, it will not be the same as in the Divine Plan. I also want to have more fun with these stories, at least the first one. Stealing Time is planned to be a much lighter story than the Divine Plan was (except for at certain points such as the pranks). I find that one of my strengths is in sarcastic humor, so I hope to play to that much more in the future.
The other thing about these stories is that yes, they will be Harry/Hermione stories once again. I don't think I could bring myself to ship anything else. That said, the relationship between the two will be much different than what we experienced here. Instead of being immediate and without background, the main focus of the entire series will be on the development of the Harry/Hermione relationship, starting simply as friends. I hope to be able to accurately and realistically portray their developing relationship in a way that I wasn't able to do in this story.
So, considering the fact that it is nearly 2 A.M. at this point and I am getting tired, I think that we have reached the end of this post mortem (this, of course, explains the title of this post mortem, taken from poet Robert Frost). Once again, I thank all of you for making it this far and for putting up with my inane ramblings. While I hope that there is at least one of you who found this interesting, for the rest of you, thank you very much for reading this story. I hope that at least some of you will follow me on my next writing adventure. But if this is your stop, thank you for riding. So I say to all of you out there reading: good night, good luck, and I hope to see you again in the near future.