Firstly, again, thank you for everyone who's read, reviewed, and favorited this story. I still can't believe how a story I thought would be a one-shot somehow became my most popular story! But I did end up having fun writing it; Yuko + Other Stories = Lots of fun for me to write. Enjoy this, the final chapter of Removal of the Curse.
Yuko, Harry, and the others stayed one final night at Hogwarts after the curse had been removed. After what had happened, they decided they wanted another day of relaxing before their return to the rest of the wizarding world. As Ginny slept peacefully next to him, Harry tossed and turned, worried that his price would come back to haunt him immediately. Most unfortunately, he was right. During the night, after he finally drifted off to sleep, the terrified feeling, the green flash, the echoing scream, and every other horror in his life came to him and he awoke in a cold sweat, breathing heavily. He couldn't remember exactly what he'd dreamed, but the absolute terror gripping his throat and chest remained well beyond the end of the dream. He glanced over, hoping Ginny had not been woken by his sudden movements, but she remained in almost the same position she'd fallen asleep in. He quietly returned to a more comfortable sleeping position and tried to get back to his fitful rest.
Ginny, however, was awake, tears in her eyes, her heart breaking for Harry, and knowing there was nothing she could do. She still couldn't fully understand the weight of the price Harry had paid for Yuko's assistance, but she could see that it was tearing him apart. She didn't sleep the rest of the night, feeling Harry tense up every time he drifted to sleep, constantly fighting back tears of frustration. In the morning, Harry arose and left the room quickly, still covered in the cold night sweats. Ginny, too, got out of bed and dressed as quickly as she could, intent on finding Yuko, Ron, and Hermione.
It didn't take long. Yuko, as was her usual by now, was in the Great Hall, talking to the house elf named Winky that Ginny remembered from years back. She sat on one of the benches, taking out her DA coin to send a quick message to Ron and Hermione. Meanwhile, she eavesdropped on the others' conversation.
"And how has the squid been with you when you've come out in the boat?" Yuko asked, sipping some smoky liquid from a golden goblet.
"H-He hasn't been s-so mean…" stuttered Winky, shrinking below Yuko's imposing frame. "I've given him his fish and h-he just sits p-p-patiently…"
"This responsibility was granted to you because of your progress," said Yuko. "Your recovery from the alcoholism you were in the throes of just years ago hasn't gone unnoticed, has it?"
"N-no, Professor McGonagall has been very… very kind to me," said Winky.
"She has indeed," said Yuko, smiling and carefully brushing one of Winky's hairs behind her head. "And she trusts you with this important task, one that will keep generations of Hogwarts students safer in the future. You are serving your masters well, Winky, and certainly erasing the dishonor you brought to your former masters."
"R-Really?" Winky squeaked, her eyes brimming with tears.
"But you must understand that for your total recovery to be complete, you must never drink butterbeer again, not under any circumstances," warned Yuko. "That is the contract you've made with yourself. I would advise against breaking it."
"Y-yes…" Winky said, nodding fiercely. "I will not, Miss Ichihara."
"You may go, then," said Yuko, patting her gently on the head. "Minerva will keep me informed about your progress."
"Thank you!" squeaked the house elf, disappearing with a clap.
"And Miss Weasley, what can I do for you?" asked Yuko, downing her drink and rising to meet Ginny.
"I wanted to talk to you about Harry's dreams," said Ginny, cutting straight to the point.
"I've already explained the general idea behind Harry's price, haven't I?" asked Yuko.
"Yes, but I think it's completely ridiculous," said Ginny, flatly. "He's suffered enough, don't you think? How about someone else shoulders this weight for him?"
"It was the decision he made," said Yuko. "I cannot interfere with my client's wishes, even if the wishes bring harm upon themselves or their close relations. Harry knew this when he made his pact."
"So you're just going to let him suffer like that? You really are heartless, aren't you?" snarled Ginny, her face reddening with rage. "He has sacrificed more for this world than anyone! Now you take away his peace of mind in knowing that You-Know-Who has been destroyed? What kind of a demon are you?"
Yuko took Ginny's rage with a patient smile, although that only fueled Ginny's anger more. Her tirade continued for another minute, about the same time the others arrived. Ron quickly tried to shut his sister up, but she merely shoved him into a bench, breaking down almost completely when Hermione put an arm around her.
"It's not fair…" muttered Ginny, eyes watering. "He's suffering right before me and there's nothing I can do about it."
"Is that decided, then?" asked Yuko, finally breaking her silence. "You should be more careful with your words, Ginny."
"Excuse me?" asked Ginny, regaining some of her anger.
"You say there's nothing you can do about it, but do you really believe that?" asked Yuko.
"Well… I… I mean… I don't want to pry or bother him about it… when I try he just tells me not to worry and that's a decision he made for himself. He always has said that…" Ginny muttered.
"Harry does seem to have a penchant for martyrdom, doesn't he?" Luna asked, serenely perched on top of the Ravenclaw table.
"You could say that…" Ron muttered, massaging the spot of his leg that had slammed into the table. "Wait a minute, Luna where the hell did you come from?"
"Harry is just trying to protect us," said Hermione, ignoring Luna. "It's been a rough road for him, but he doesn't want us to suffer for his destiny…"
"And what he doesn't realize is that not letting others suffer with him is in fact causing more pain than if those he loved could share in his pain," said Yuko, smiling sadly.
"I wish there was a way we could share in his pain…" Ginny muttered.
Yuko smiled, and abruptly walked forward. She took Ginny's tear-stained face in her long, thin fingers and examined her eyes, the business look on her face once more. Ron instinctively twitched, although Ginny was so surprised by the gesture that she had no chance to react. Hermione and Luna merely watched the former's mouth agape.
"You need to make your choice," said Yuko. "You can continue to believe there is nothing you can do for him, and simply make empty wishes for his happiness. Or, you can use the resources available to you and make that wish a reality. You must decide, as the living persons Harry holds most dear."
"Resources… meaning, you," Ginny said, sighing.
"You catch on quick," said Yuko, grinning widely now. She returned to her spot on the table and took another shot of whatever the smoking potion, freshly refilled, was. "What you must first be able to accept, however, is the consequences. In your case, your wish and payment are one in the same. But there may be risks, and the consequences, should they occur, will be very tough on not only you, but Harry as well."
"What she means is, will Harry hate you all forever if you make this choice and feel guilty and depressed that now you see what he sees?" suggested Luna, helpfully.
"For your intents and purposes, yes," said Yuko. "You must also understand the exact trauma that this will cause you. None of you have ever experienced the true horrors that Harry Potter has faced in his life. You will find that this division of Harry's night terrors among yourselves will not equally divide the horror; you will all experience it, nearly as much as he has."
"Yeah, so?" Ron said. "We can handle it. We've fought with him lotsa times and Ginny and I… we lost family to You-Know-Who."
"Be that as it may…" Yuko replied. "You must understand that this horror has the potential to drive you mad. You say you can handle it, but before you make your final decision, I want to let you know that it will be something far worse than you can imagine. That being said… are you still willing to go through it?"
"Yes," said Ginny, instantly.
"Of course," said Hermione at about the same time.
"Y-yeah, all right then…" Ron said after a short pause.
"I shall, too, then," said Luna, smiling. "It wouldn't be right for Harry to suffer this alone."
"Very well," said Yuko, carefully removing her wand. "Please, allow me to have a hair from each of your heads."
She arranged them carefully on her lace handkerchief on the Ravenclaw table, a square of red, golden, and brown. From within her robe, she withdrew tiny vial, from which she extracted a single, black hair, which she placed in the center, having it stand on end. She took a few steps back and began to trace a circle above the arrangement with her wand, a light, pink smoke emanating from it.
"O life who has suffered decades of sadness… of loneliness… of misery… let thy sufferings be divided with those whom you have fully accepted into your soul…" Yuko spoke, slowly and clearly. "Let there be no distinction if you're suffering, and let your burden be taken by those who you hold most dear…"
The handkerchief began to rise, hovering a couple of inches above the Ravenclaw table. Yuko's symbol appeared, as though embroidered upon the cloth, and the hairs themselves left the cloth, rotating slowly above it. As they revolved, they began to grow together, and, looking closely, they could see the hairs beginning to interlock and spiral around the black hair in the center. They began to glow a golden light, shining brightly through the pinkish fog, and the cloth rose up and closed around it. The light began to shine brighter, and, with a brilliant flash, the cloth fell away to reveal a floating, golden liquid, suspended by Yuko's wand.
"Your wish has been granted," she said, carefully levitating the golden liquid toward her.
"What is that?" asked Hermione.
"Isn't that Feli… Felix Fel… Ful… uh…" Ron stumbled through the word. "Uh… the Good Luck Potion?"
"No… this is Essence of Sacrifice, created from all of you and Harry Potter himself. It's a tangible form of your heavy price. And now it's mine," replied Yuko, guiding it carefully into the vial that previous held Harry's hair.
"What are you gonna do with it?" asked an interested Luna, peering closely at it with a faint smile on her face.
"It will return to my shop until it's needed in the future," said Yuko, putting the vial back into her robes. "Now… my work here has come to an end, and I must prepare to leave. So, if you'll excuse me…"
Yuko left the hall without a backwards glance. Everyone remained silent for a few moments. They hadn't really known what to expect with their decision, but they felt exactly the same as they'd felt before Yuko's ritual. Finally, Hermione broke the silence.
"We need to tell Harry," she said. "If he finds out later, it'll just be worse."
"Right…" said Ron, looking highly uncomfortable about that. "He's gonna fly off the handle at us…"
"I don't care," said Ginny, her fierce determination returning. "He's going to have to learn to deal with it. Maybe he'll like seeing how it feels for a change…"
"How what feels?" came a new voice.
Harry stood before theme, fully dressed and head cocked curiously to the side. His eyes had bags under them, yet they were still wide and questioning, looking between everyone in the Great Hall. Ron shifted nervously on his feet, Luna stared skyward, still retaining her faint smile, and Hermione bit her lip, glancing at Ginny. With a sigh, she walked over to Harry and took his hand, guiding them to sit down.
"Harry… we know you've suffered for us for all your life. And… well… we finally found a way for you to not have to suffer on your own anymore," said Ginny, stroking his hand.
"What do you mean?" he asked, his face already moving into the danger zone.
"Well… what she means, mate, is that… we can share your pain now," said Ron, with what he sincerely seemed to hope was a friendly, encouraging smile.
"What did you all do?" demanded Harry, dropping Ginny's hands from his own.
"It's your price, Harry," Hermione explained, quickly. "Yuko… she showed us a way to split the pain you're feeling, those nightmares you have. You don't have to experience them alon—"
"No!" Harry snarled. "Don't you understand? It's my destiny to bear all of this, you don't need to throw yourselves in with that torture!"
"But Harry—" Ginny began, earnestly.
"No. I'm going to find Yuko right now to right this," Harry hissed, sprinting from the Great Hall.
"He really shouldn't waste what little energy he has," said Luna. "She won't do it."
"Let's go," said Ginny, sighing as she trudged after Harry.
Harry, meanwhile, had basically made it to the place Yuko was staying. He slammed his fist on the door, knocking violently enough to rattle a nearby portrait, distressing its inhabitants. From within, he heard Yuko's voice, clearly speaking with someone from within.
"… and make sure the owl is prepared for his journey when I return, Watanuki. If he stays much longer, Hogwarts will go bankrupt trying to pay for the room and board we've put up with in that owl. … yes, and the bite marks and scratches you've received, of course. Make sure to prepare a welcome home feast for me when you return. … oh… you know, the usual. Don't be like that, Watanuki, I have to get the door. See you soon~!"
The door opened and Yuko poked her head out the door as Harry heard the sounds of muffled protest coming from within. She held a lingering, teasing smile on her face, which only angered Harry even more.
"I want to talk to you about something, before you leave," said Harry, curtly.
"I know," said Yuko, smiling. "Give me a moment to gather my things, I will be with you shortly."
"This can't wait," Harry said, taking a step forward as though to burst into the room.
"I really wouldn't do that if I were you. I'm not quite decent and if your dear redheaded love interest were to catch you in here with me right now…" Yuko said, showing a bare shoulder to prove her point. "But I suppose, if you insist…"
"No, no," said Harry, taking a few step backs, face flushing. "Just be quick about it, all right?"
"Of course," Yuko said, bowing graciously back in and closing the door.
"Harry!" came a call from down the hall.
"Dammit," he swore, almost punching the wall out of frustration.
"Look, I know you're mad, but, Harry, just listen to us first!" cried Ginny, leading the small pack towards him.
"No, you listen, Ginny," said Harry. "All of you, in fact. You have no idea what you're about to experience. I didn't sleep a wink last night because I kept having the nightmares, but they're even stronger than before!"
Everyone was silent, looks of guilt playing across Hermione and Ron's faces. Harry took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself as much as he could, but he still withdrew when Ginny took a step toward him.
"I knew what I was getting myself into, but it's even worse than I'd thought," Harry said. "I couldn't sleep a wink last night, knowing that those dreams were coming. And I know those memories… I know who caused them…but… it's like Yuko said. I can't even recall his name anymore. And I still know he's out there, somewhere… and… none of you have any idea how much that scares me. I don't want you to have to feel that fear, to suffer what I—"
"You're an idiot!" shouted Ginny, finally losing her patience.
"I'm the idiot?" Harry yelled back. "I'm not the one who—"
"Do you have ANY idea how much we suffer when you do this to yourself?" snarled Ginny, launching herself forward and almost smashing Harry in the mouth. "Did you even realize that I cried all through last night? I bet not, because you were too busy worrying about me not finding out! It kills me, in fact, it kills all of us to see you like that!"
"It's… it's true Harry…" Hermione spoke up, timidly at first. "And… when you don't tell us or let us experience it… it does hurt us. It's like you don't trust us with it and—"
"Don't trust you? You can't be serious!" yelled Harry, causing her to take a step back. "I do trust you! But this is… this isn't something you can—"
"—can handle? Is that it?" Ginny said, at the same time as Yuko's voice came through the door.
Everyone turned and watched as the door opened and Yuko, dressed in her usual Dimensional Witch Regalia, walked out, dragging her trunk behind her. She looked at the angry group before her, before stepping in between Harry and Ginny, providing a quick barrier for their radiating anger.
"Fantastic. Yuko, I want you to take away those dreams from them," said Harry.
"I won't do that," replied Yuko, simply.
"Told ya!" Luna piped up in a sing-song voice. Harry twitched.
"Why not?" he asked, through gritted teeth. "It's my wish. I'll pay whatever is necessary to—"
"It's not a matter of price any longer," said Yuko. "Your wishes are of equal value. Therefore, I give precedence to the wish made first. Your friends knew the risks and accepted it as—"
"That's not fair!" Harry exclaimed, cutting through her explanation. "I don't… I don't want them to…"
He fell silent as Yuko cradled his face in her hand, turning his eyes up to look at her. He was surprised to see her sympathetic look gazing back at him, her deep red eyes staring straight through him and seeing deep inside. For a moment, he almost felt as though she was using Legilimency on him.
"Yet… there are times when you do want to share this pain…" Yuko said. "Times when you wish the others could feel what you feel, so that they could understand why you wish to protect them from it… to stop them from suffering…"
"I… I don't…" Harry said, looking downcast and slightly defeated.
"You're not proud of those moments… they're usually in a fit of anger, jealousy, or frustration… and you do sincerely regret the thought…" Yuko continued, her voice monotonous and robotic. "And yet, there is truth in the feeling… and truth in what Ginny said. Your protecting them from this suffering exposes them to an equally powerful feeling of sorrow and suffering."
"But I… I have to be the one who…" Harry said, casting around at the last bits of his argument.
"You've fulfilled all the duties you specifically had to fulfill," Yuko said. "But in that process, you formed these relationships, with these people who desire to share everything with you, including your pains and sufferings. It is your decision in the end, but… don't you think they've at least earned your trust after all of this…?"
Yuko released Harry, who almost fell over, his own eyes tearing up. Ginny walked over to him, hesitated, and then hugged him. After a few seconds, with tears falling down his face, he hugged her back. Hermione joined next, motioning for Luna and Ron to join, as they stood in the center of the hall, each more teary-eyed than the other. Yuko smiled at her handiwork, finally turning to leave the five friends to discuss their futures together.
Downstairs, Yuko ran into a positively drained Minerva McGonagall. She nodded curtly at Yuko, who bowed graciously as they met in the center of the staircase in front of the front doors.
"Well, this is farewell, then," said McGonagall, her voice practically void of emotion.
"You seem even less chipper than usual today," said Yuko. "News related to the job I assume?"
"The Ministry isn't willing to hire a new replacement Headmaster yet," said McGonagall. "They want me to be Temporary Head for another year while they finalize the paperwork and put it all together."
"Oh. And are you going to do that, then?" asked Yuko.
"I don't have much of a choice, do I?" demanded McGonagall. Then, when Yuko merely responded with a grin, she sighed heavily. "There's no magical use for centaur arrows, is there?"
"None that you're able to use in this world," replied Yuko. "So… what are you going to do from here on out?"
"… You know… I think I'm taking a vacation to Maui. After refusing the Minister's request for another extension, of course. And if he dismisses me… well… I know several very influential witches and wizards who I can make my own pension plan with. These arrows are rather coveted…" McGonagall said, finally smiling, and shaking her head. "I suppose I ought to thank you for all this, shouldn't I?"
"Well, Minerva, in that case I'll accept thanks in the form of my trunk being taken to the front gate to await my ride," said Yuko, setting the heavy thing down between her and McGonagall.
"… Shove it," said McGonagall, with a sardonic smile.
"Very good. It's been a pleasure, Professor McGonagall," said Yuko, smiling.
With that, she removed her wand and spun it around her fingers. Her glyph appeared before her, and, as Yuko began to fade into the bright light surrounding her and her trunk, her last look at Hogwarts showed McGonagall's lit face, half shocked and half laughing. With a sound like rushing wind, Yuko was gone, headed back to Japan, returning Hogwarts completely to its former glory.
Two Days Later…
"Did that owl ever make it back to Cowtarts or wherever you were?" Watanuki asked as he replaced Yuko's glass of water, still sporting dozens of bandages and plaster up and down his arms.
"I assume so, since we haven't heard from them demanding his ransom," said Yuko, idly flipping through the pages of the most recent Daily Prophet.
"And you do realize I asked for the next week off for summer holidays, right?" asked Watanuki. "No being 'on call' or anything like that, correct?"
"We've cleared the details on this dozens of times," said Yuko, idly reading the headline on the third page: "MINISTRY SEEKS HEADMASTER REPLACEMENT AT HOGWARTS, POSITION OPEN IMMEDIATELY."
"Well… in that case, Himiwari-chan and I are going shopping in Ginza for two days, and we might even go to a beach later in the week if nothing comes up with her," said Watanuki, practically spinning around when he announced that.
"Oh, yes, she did mention that you'd be joining us," said Yuko, smiling evilly as she examined a picture of Hogwarts, noticing a few thestrals flying around it in the picture.
"She... she… wait a minute… Yuko… she didn't mention… when did you talk to…" asked Watanuki, eyes bugging slightly.
"On my way to Hogwarts, I happened to pass by Himiwari-chan. She was saying how excited she was to go to Ginza, and I mentioned how I was looking to make a few… transactions… of my own. So… we're leaving on the 7:15 train, just so you can be ready~!" said Yuko.
"Nooo…" Watanuki moaned, his world ending as he headed back for the kitchen.
"Oh, and I invited Doumeki as well," Yuko called after him.
Minerva McGonagall, sitting comfortably in the shade of a pine tree that looked over the Kahului Harbor, dozed as she pursued a text on Transfiguration Theory she'd found the day before she left Hogwarts. She had a strong feeling she knew who it came from, as an ornate, ink drawing of a butterfly was found on the book cover. She suddenly felt as though she heard a scream somewhere, as though someone was just discovered the most awful news they'd ever found in their life. She glanced around and heard nothing but the waves crashing, the sea breeze, and the distant horn of a boat entering the area. She sighed, smiled, and closed her eyes, a smirk on her face as she drifted into a light, well-deserved nap.
Once again, thank you for reading this story. I'm glad almost everyone seems to enjoy it, I certainly had fun writing it. I'd like to know what you thought of the ending, whether it was good, bad, or whatever, so feel free to review. I may do more stories in the future, we'll see.
I don't usually like to plug myself, but for anyone who enjoys Crack Fics and Massive Multiplayer Crossover fics, I'd suggest Tales of Invader Potter and the Whitestone School. And that's about it! Thanks again!