A/N: Some of you are either going to love the ending or not. So apologies in advance. You might need a tissue for this chapter.
Since that day by the lake in November, it's been abnormally quiet. Michael hasn't been around, and his little group of Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff thugs hasn't either. According to Luna, though, Flitwick and Sprout both called House meetings after that day and scolded their Houses for making this into some type of war. Dumbledore actually has addressed the school as a whole and stated that the next person who either made a comment or attempted to harm me would be on the first train back to London.
However, at mealtime, I can see the anger festering at the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables as Lizzie gets bigger. I still don't know why Gryffindor and Slytherin are behind me. Well, Gryffindor I can somewhat understand because I am one. However, Slytherin, the house with the majority of students who want to kill me, is on my side. I don't know whether to be grateful or to watch my back.
"Hey, Harry, are you staying back again this year for Christmas?" Neville asks as he walks into the boys' dormitory with that familiar toothy grin.
"I'm actually going to spend the holidays with Ginny and her family. Why?" I return to folding my clothing into my trunk. I've been practically gleeful for this day because I'm getting away from all of the horrible looks of hatred. The Weasleys consider me family, and unlike Ron, they're not idiots and think that I knocked up Lizzie.
"Oh, well, Gran wanted me to tell you that if you wanted to stay with Luna and us for the holidays you could."
"Thanks for the offer, Neville." I then glance sideways at him as I catch the second name. "Wait a minute. Did you say Luna was staying with you?"
"Yeah, Luna and I are sort of dating now," he says with a bashful smile.
"When did this happen?" I can't believe. I just talked to Luna the other day.
"Right after the potions accident," he answers still glancing down at the floor. "She told me the Nargles told her that life was too short. Can you believe it, Harry? I've got a girlfriend."
"Yeah, well, congratulations, Neville," I say with a slight cough. "Hope you two have a good Christmas." I then slam my trunk's lid shut.
"You too, Harry." Neville then goes to his bed and finishes packing.
I can't believe that soon I'll be with Ginny and her family, sipping hot cocoa, wearing silly jumpers that her mum makes, listening to the twins attempting to sing carols, and possibly if I feel in the Christmas mood playing Wizard's chess with Ron. I then sigh. I just have a few more minutes before we all start heading towards Hogsmeade to leave Hogwarts. I leave my trunk on my bed for the house elves to snap down to the trains and walk downstairs into the common room.
I smile faintly as Hermione laughs at something in her book. Quietly, I creep up behind her. It's nice to see her laughing. She's been doing that a lot more lately, but I don't really know why. Other than spending time with Ginny, I've been somewhat neglecting my friends. I glance over her shoulder and silently read the note.
To my beautiful Nymph,
I'm going to miss you over the holidays, but I hope you have a great one. I know we said we wouldn't get one another gifts, but I couldn't help myself. So please don't be mad when you get one from me on Christmas morning. I won't sign it for obvious reasons, but I wanted you to know that it was from me. No matter what happens, Hermione, know that I love you.
"Malfoy, Draco Malfoy," I exclaim as I work out the initials. I barely have time to react when Hermione suddenly leaps up and screams in fright. "Draco likes you?"
"Is that so bad?" she responds huffily.
"No, but—" My eyes then widen as I realize something. "That's how he knew you were at the library all those times. He was stalking you."
"Oh, honestly, Harry," she drawls shaking her head. "He wasn't stalking me, just like you didn't sleep with Lizzie. He's sweet and just misunderstood." At the sight of my disbelief, she shakes her head. "You wouldn't understand."
"No. I'm pretty sure that I do. Does Ron know?"
"Yes, but he's already sworn that he isn't going to kill Draco."
"Glad he learned something."
"Can we not talk about Ron anymore?" When I nod, she sighs with a soft smile. "We should probably head to the train." Slowly, we do just that.
As I walk through the front doors, I can't help but feel disappointed that Ron or anyone didn't come rushing into the dormitory yelling that Snape and Pomfrey found the father to Lizzie's baby. Then again, there are over numerous Ravenclaw males. It was going to take time, and I know that Pomfrey was spending every available time she had to finding him. But I thought for sure that the last day I'd be at Hogwarts before break they'd find something.
I board the train with Hermione and sigh as I flop back into one of the compartments. I guess I get to spend my entire break wondering then. When the door opens a few moments later, I glance towards Ginny and smile at her. My eyes refuse to glance towards Ron, even though I can just see the blond slightly out of the corner of my glasses.
"Still nothing?" Draco asks quietly as he takes a seat next to Hermione across from me.
"Yep," I reply with a sigh.
"Well, maybe you'll get it once Pomfrey isn't forced to treat sniveling little Hufflepuffs."
"Do they have any ideas?"
"It's a Ravenclaw. That's at least what Snape and Pomfrey are thinking."
"Could be Michael or Anthony," Ron muses aloud. "They've certainly had it out for you these past few months."
"Yeah, but so did you," I point out.
"Blimey, Harry, I'm sorry. How many times do I have to say it? I'm sorry."
"How about you both just drop it?" Draco interrupts.
Unfortunately, none of us then speaks for the entire ride back. However, I enjoy the silence as I soak up Ginny's strength as I keep my arm around her shoulder. I don't know why I can't forgive Ron. Well, I do. One would think after the crap we've gone through together he would have trusted me.
A few hours later, Mrs. Weasley pulls me into a bear hug. I force myself to smile, even though every bone in my body hurts. Sometimes, I think she doesn't even know her own strength. I then nod towards Mr. Weasley when he does the same to me. The house they're temporarily staying in definitely isn't the Burrow. It doesn't have that roomy atmosphere to it.
"Fred, George, how about you two show Harry to his room? Ginny, dear, show Hermione to hers," Mrs. Weasley says with a strained smile as she carefully avoids Ron.
I follow the twins upstairs and sigh when I walk into the room. It looks like I'm sharing with someone, but neither twin says anything to it. As they quietly speak to me about how their business in Diagon Alley is going, I watch Ron silently mope past. Maybe I'm being a git to him now. This is his family, and it's not as if it was the first time Ron tried to kill me.
"Settle in, Mate. It'll be an early start tomorrow." Fred and George then quietly walk back out of my room, shutting the door behind them. Even the twins aren't their usual joking selves with me anymore. This isn't right. This wasn't how my seventh year was supposed to go.
On Christmas morning, I wake up rather early. It's been a few days since I've arrived here at the Weasleys, and I've heard nothing from Snape, Dumbledore, or even Pomfrey about finding the true father. The Weasleys are all trying to be as cordial and nice with me as possible. However, I can't be sure but I think some of them even shared Ron's opinion. Ginny and I have yet to be alone in a room, which is fine truthfully. I love the Weasleys. They're like the family I never had.
"Harry, love, this came for you last night," Mrs. Weasley says with a wide smile.
I grab the letter and tear open the envelope. My eyes widen at the familiar green spiky handwriting that I know from years of 'Troll' written at the top of my essays. I quickly skim over the few lines. I then shake my head. I can't believe it. After all this time, they just now found out who the father was on Christmas day.
Disregarding normal protocol in this type of situation, it is our opinion that you be informed. Madam Pomfrey discovered the true paternity to Miss Burke's unborn child late last night. As you continuously claimed not to be the father, you are correct. It is not your child, Mr. Potter. The child's true father is Michael Corner.
Under Auror questioning, Mr. Corner admitted to having brewed Polyjuice potion last term and having posed as you in order to seduce Miss Burke. He also admitted to altering her memory so that she would not remember you leaving the party. In regards to his reasoning behind his plan, he stated that all this was in efforts to pay you back for 'stealing' his girlfriend at the time, Miss Weasley. It is obvious that Mr. Corner either suffers from a severe mental condition or is just a complete dunderhead.
In response to the Death Eaters blackmailing Miss Burke into cooperating by kidnapping her parents, Mr. Corner admits to having tipped the Death Eaters off to 'Harry Potter' sleeping with her. He is unsure which Death Eater he informed. By the time you read this missive, the Order should successfully have freed Miss Burke's parents from the Death Eaters' control. Therefore, there is no need for you to ride up on your white steed and rescue Miss Burke and her parents. For once, leave things to the adults. Enjoy your holidays, Potter. You're not a father.
Wrapping her arms around my midsection, Ginny rests her head against my back and asks, "What does it say, Harry?" Her voice is so gentle right now, but the hints of fear are also evident.
"Michael Corner is the father," I reply quietly. I feel Ginny stiffen instantly. "Apparently, this was his way to pay me back for stealing you from him."
"He what!" she exclaims. "Tell me you're joking."
I hand Ginny the letter and sigh. After all this time, almost nine months, it's over. It's finally over. I'm not the father, just as I claimed. And why did all this happen? It was all because some idiot Ravenclaw couldn't get over me dating Ginny. I can't believe jealousy was the reason for this. I then sigh heavily. I should have guessed it. It makes sense now with how angry Michael was. I can't believe it, though. This whole thing is stupid. He tries to ruin me because I'm dating his ex-girlfriend, honestly. Someone should have told him to grow up. But that isn't the worst part, though. I mean, he told Death Eaters about this. Was he willing to kill Lizzie and her family over this lie? I then close my eyes as I try to cool off from all this. I can't believe him. That arrogant idiot, I thought Ravenclaws are supposed to be smart. What happened to Michael?
A few seconds later, the fireplace roars with life. I immediately glance at it wondering who it could be. My eyes then narrow when Snape calmly walks out with Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey close behind. All three of the adults have somber looks on their faces as they stand in front of the fireplace. I can't see Madam Pomfrey, though, because Snape and Dumbledore stand in front of her.
"Forgive us for intruding on your Christmas, Harry," Dumbledore softly says.
"Is something wrong, sir?" The pit in my stomach widens when he gently inclines his head. "She's dead. Isn't she?" I close my eyes. Michael asked this same thing of me. How many more deaths had to occur before—?
"Michael Corner is a lunatic, Potter. Miss Burke and her parents' deaths were not your fault." Snape's piercing dark eyes then lock onto mine. "Nor were Mister Diggory and Black's deaths your fault. You did not kill them so do not even attempt to blame yourself."
"Easy for you to say," I mumble. "People—"
"Perhaps you're forgetting whose death I witnessed this summer, Mr. Potter," Snape says icily. "I surely could have saved Burbage if I cared for anyone but myself. I believe you thought that once about me?" His voice is full of glass. "Enough of this self-pity, Potter, it doesn't suit you."
I open my mouth to retort something, but a soft noise behind both wizards makes me close my mouth. My eyes narrow. That couldn't be a... My eyes then widen when I see the little pink bundle in Madam Pomfrey's arms.
"Is that Lizzie's child?" I ask, staring at the little girl who is just starting to wake up.
"Yes. Before Miss Burke succumbed to her injuries, she wished us to bring her daughter to you."
"You didn't tell her?" I ask shocked, ignoring the fact that Lizzie asked me to see her child.
"I doubt she needed to learn any more heartbreaking news, Mr. Potter, considering."
"So she still thought it was mine?" I feel queasy at the thought, but I push the feeling to the side. "Why did you bring her daughter here then? I mean, I'm not her father."
"Ms. Burke's entire family, Potter, was just wiped out. And I believe you'll agree with us that Mr. Corner is not suitable for custody. His parents also do not wish for the child, which leaves us with two options unfortunately for the child."
"Whoa," I say, holding up my hands. "I can't be a father!" I cry.
"We're not asking you to be one now, Potter," Snape replies calmly. "However, the two choices that this child faces are either an orphanage or you when you are ready to be one." He then clears his throat. "You are training to be an Auror, correct?" When I nod, he grimaces slightly. "That means you will have three years of training. Hopefully, by then, the Dark Lord will be no more, and there will be no threats against you or Miss Weasley."
"So what are you saying then?"
"In plain English, you'll not be fully responsible for this child for three years, Potter. By three years time, you should have a stable enough environment that you three should thrive."
"What happens to her in the meantime, though?"
"One of the professors has offered to raise her until you are able to do so yourself. It is purely understandable that you would not wish to raise this child considering the mother."
"I don't know anything about babies, though."
"If you so choose that path, then you'll be getting a toddler to raise, Potter. You'd also have three years to figure out how to be a parent."
"Lizzie wanted Harry to care for her daughter?" Ginny asks quietly.
"Yes, Miss Weasley."
"Harry," Ginny softly says, resting a hand against my arm.
I don't know why, but I awkwardly attempt to pick the baby up out of Madam Pomfrey's arms. The baby starts wailing at the top of her little lungs. I sigh, staring at the little girl in Ginny's arms when she takes her from me. Three years, we have three years before we become full blown parents of this little girl. Well, if I choose that path, that is. When the familiar blue eyes stare back at me, I sigh. I'm doing this for Lizzie.
A/N: Now, I know most of you are thinking to yourselves about Lizzie's daughter and how she'll be emotionally stunted by being raised by someone else for three years and then being handed over to Harry. Well, I ended it with what I had hoped showed that Harry would have a decision to make that we readers would make in our own minds. The majority of you have mentioned the possible decisions in your reviews, Harry should raise Lizzie's daughter now as his own, allow the staff member to care for the child and ignore Lizzie's last wish, or allow the staff member to raise the child but be a part of the child's life so that the transition goes smoothly. I never, however, (at least I hope I don't) state what Harry's decision truly is. He just says he's baby-free, which in my mind meant that he had decided against him and Ginny raising Lizzie's daughter alone. The last two options, however, are still open for Harry. Three years may go past and he decides against raising her or that the staff member may not give Lizzie's daughter up. So many possiblities can happen with this open ending. It was for that reason I left it open ended, because I truly didn't know which path Harry would choose. So, reader, whichever is right in your mind is what Harry does.
Thank you for sticking with me and reading this story.