J.K.. Rowling is the creator and owner of Harry Potter, and most of the characters used in this story. As a fan fiction author, I would like to thank her for creating such a vibrant and interesting world in which to set my imagination loose to play in. No profit will be received in any way from this book.
A/N: Sept. 5, 2011 - If you're looking for something new to read, my Heirs of the Magi blog(see profile homepage) has just started a series of journal entries that continue the Heirs of the Magi storyline beginning on the last day of Book Two - Magi Master. I'd also like to thank everyone who has been reading my HP fan fictions - there have now been over 400,000 chapter hits since the stories were re-posted! Look for 'A Harry Potter Christmas Carol' short story coming in time for Thanksgiving in November, and I plan to have the next installment of 'After the War' ready by Christmas too.
A/N: The sequel to Happily Ever After, Harry Potter - The New Marauders is now complete, with the last chapters posted on December 23, 2008. TNM continues the story post DH epilogue. If you enjoy HEA, I hope you'll like TNM too.
Chapter One - The Day After
Harry woke, and as usual, reached for his glasses. He sat up and looked around the familiar dorm room. It was so familiar, and yet different too. He hadn't lived there in nearly a year, yet it was where he'd automatically gone after leaving Dumbledore's office. The sun was shining through the window, but he could tell that it was still fairly early in the morning. He saw Ron, Neville, Seamus, and Dean all still sleeping in some of the other beds, so he quietly got up, grabbed some clothes out of the pack that Ron must have dropped by his bed for him, and headed for the washroom to shower and change.
When he returned and saw that the other guys were still sleeping, he decided not to wake them, and instead went out to the Gryffindor Common Room. At first, he thought the room was empty, but then he saw Ginny sitting in a chair by the fireplace.
"Good morning, Ginny," he said with a smile. "You're up early." She looked up at him, and Harry felt his heart skip a beat.
"Hi, Harry", she answered quietly, even though they were alone. "Sleep wasn't working for me anymore, so I got up and ready a while ago. I didn't get to see you much after...everything yesterday."
"I know," Harry agreed. "I'm really sorry, but there were some things to take care of, and then I was so tired, I don't really remember much after that. It looks like everyone except you and me are going to be sleeping in today."
"Not really," Ginny told him. "You've slept for nearly a day, but there was a lot of work to do yesterday, and then the celebration went on quite late last night." Harry was surprised as he realized that, in fact, it had been morning when the battle with Voldemort ended. He felt bad that he hadn't thought about all of the work that would have needed to be done after the battle, but he couldn't do anything about that, and there was something more important that he could take care of now.
"I was hoping we'd find some time to talk, Ginny. Would you like to go for a walk with me outside?" He held out his hand, a gentle smile on his face.
Ginny stood and tentatively put her hand in his. Harry could only look into her eyes for a moment before pulling her close to him, and hugging her tightly. He whispered into her ear - "I've missed you so much, Ginny."
She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed back, resting her head against his chest. "Oh, Harry," she said in a quivering voice, "when I thought you were – gone…" She couldn't say anything more, and the tears she'd been holding back for so long began to fall. Harry held on to her, and there were tears brimming in his own eyes.
"I'm sorry, Ginny. Voldemort had to think I was dead so he would stop protecting Nagini."
"I know," Ginny told him. "Hermione and Ron explained everything to us after you'd gone to sleep." She looked up at him and Harry, looking into her eyes, bowed his head to hers for a tender kiss. When their lips parted, he softly brushed the tears from her cheeks.
"Let's get out of here before everyone wakes up," he suggested, and Ginny nodded her head.
Holding hands, they walked out the portrait hole, and made their way outside. In the light of a shiny new day, the damage to the school from the battle was unbelievable. There were piles of rubble everywhere. The walls had scorch marks all over them, and there was broken glass, splintered wood, and twisted metal strewn throughout the halls, rooms, and stairways. As they stepped outside, Ginny explained to Harry that the bodies of the defenders, Death Eaters, and the imperioused had all been gathered and moved to different locations.
He put his arm around her waist, and held her tightly, knowing that she was thinking about Fred, Lupin, Tonks, and all the others they had lost during the fight, just as he was. They walked down beside the lake until they were out of sight of the castle. Harry stopped, and turned toward Ginny. She was so beautiful, standing there with a gentle breeze ruffling her hair, the sun bringing the fiery red to life. He could see the questioning, uncertain look in her eyes, and wished more than ever that he'd found another way to keep from hurting her the way he had done during the past year.
"Ginny, I know there is so much we've lost, just in the last couple of days, but I need to tell you something, and don't want to leave it for a 'better time'," he began, pausing for a moment until he saw her nod. "I thought I was going to die fighting Voldemort. I was willing to die, if it would save everyone I loved." Ginny's eyes began to fill with tears again, and he turned away from her, not wanting to lose control before he finished what he wanted to say to her. As he continued, though, he was still holding her hand in his. "But I didn't want to die, Ginny. I wanted to live. Do you know why?"
He waited, and after a long pause she whispered in a choked voice - "Why?" Harry turned back, and finally let everything he was feeling shine through his brilliant green eyes.
"Because I love you, Ginny. I wanted a you and me kind of happily ever after," he told her. "Please tell me that it's not too late for us – that I haven't messed things up so bad that I can't make it right again." She closed her eyes tightly, finally hearing what she'd waited her whole life for. She opened her tear-filled eyes, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled him close.
"It's about time," she said, laughing softly. "I love you too, Harry, and it's definitely not too late for us – it's just the beginning."
His heart soaring, Harry kissed her again. What started out as a feather-soft brushing of lips slowly built into a deep, passionate embrace, and for a time, they were both lost in that blissful, brilliant moment. When they parted again, breathless, they smiled at each other.
"I guess we should get back before they send out search parties for us," Ginny said, and Harry reluctantly agreed. They began to walk back toward the castle, and he continued to hold her hand. His current plan was to never let her go again, and Ginny had no problem with that at all.
As they reached the front of the castle, they saw others making their way outside. When they spotted Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, they walked up to where they were standing, looking around at the school and grounds. Mrs. Weasley saw them together and smiled. When they reached her, she gave them each one of her bone-crushing hugs. Mr. Weasley gave Ginny a hug next, and when Harry reached out his hand for the expected handshake, he was surprised when Mr. Weasley instead pulled him into a hug too. Ginny's father laughed at Harry's look of surprise and pleasure.
"Harry, you're like a son to us, and by the looks of the two of you this morning, I'm guessing there's a good chance that you'll be our son for real someday," he said, clapping him on the back. Harry wasn't sure what to say about that, thinking about everything that the Weasleys had lost. Mrs. Weasley must have seen the uncertainty in his face, because she put a hand on his shoulder too, and he turned to face her again.
"Harry, dear" she said, "Fred, Remus, Tonks, and everyone else fought and died so the rest of us could live, and they'd want us to be happy." Tears welled in her eyes as she spoke about her son and friends, and she hugged him again. "They would be happy to know that after everything you've been through that you can finally find a little of the love and happiness you deserve."
He smiled at her. "Thank-you", he told her, hugging her too.
The rest of the Weasleys were gathering around, except Percy who was at the Ministry of Magic helping Kingsley Shacklebolt. Bill and Fleur came and joined them next, and Fleur had warm hugs for both Harry and Ginny.
"It 'ez so great to zee you two together again!" she told them. Bill gave Harry a long look, but seeing Ginny so obviously happy, he shrugged, smiled, and clasped Harry's hand.
"Well, I sure can't complain that my little sister's standards aren't high enough," he said with a laugh.
George, having just caught the end of the comment as he approached, smiled a little, but remained silent. He hugged everyone, but his eyes were haunted; and there was a heartbreaking sadness they could all see in him that they were also sure that none of them could or would ever be able to fully understand. Ron and Hermione joined the group, and they were holding hands, just as Harry and Ginny were again doing.
"Oi, mate, don't tell me you've been out snogging my sister already this morning!" Ron told Harry, looking suspiciously from his best friend to his sister. Harry felt his face heating up, but couldn't keep from grinning.
"Erm… well… yes, I guess you could say that I have been," he answered. Ron looked shocked, while everyone else started laughing at both boys. Ron began spluttering, but before he could blow up, Harry waved him off. "Put a sock in it Ron. At least I waited until AFTER the battle to start snogging my girlfriend." Now it was Ron's turn to go red, while everyone laughed even harder.
"So what will be happening next?" Hermione asked as the laughter trailed off again.
"Well," Mr. Weasley answered, "in a couple of days, there will be a memorial service for everyone we lost in the war. Until then, nearly everyone here has agreed to stay at Hogwarts and help with repairs of the school."
"We'll be starting on that after breakfast this morning, and I expect all of you to help out," Mrs. Weasley added.
"Did I hear you say breakfast?" Ron asked hopefully. "I'm starving!" Hermione slapped him lightly on the arm.
"You're always starving, Ron," she told him, a bit exasperated.
Fortunately, it was just moments later when they heard everyone called in for breakfast, so they all went into the Great Hall to find seats and save Ron from starvation.
Professor McGonagall stood at the head table, and waited for everyone to find a place.
"Welcome," she began, her voice loud enough to be heard, but somehow soft and somber too. "Before we begin the special morning meal that's been prepared for us, I have a few announcements." She waited a moment, and then continued. "First, I'd like to thank everyone who has volunteered to help with the school repairs. Professor Flitwick has prepared a schedule for everyone. Please see him after breakfast to receive your assignments." Harry looked over to see Professor Flitwick with a stack of parchment on the table next to him.
"For those who haven't heard yet, there will be a memorial service the day after tomorrow at eleven o'clock. Everyone is invited to attend." Professor McGonagall looked around the room, pausing again before continuing.
"Everyone here has lost loved ones and friends," she told her students, guests, and friends. "While we continue to grieve for them, remember that their sacrifices were made because they loved us, and they would want us to be joyful in our victory." There were nods of agreement from many in the room, and there were many voicing their agreement, so the Professor waited until everyone quieted again.
"Finally, while there were many people who fought in the battle to save our school and the Wizarding World, I'd like us all to recognize a few people who distinguished themselves." She beckoned to Neville first.
"Neville Longbottom, who has stood by his friends and also stood alone, enduring a great deal of suffering in his fight against our enemies. As many saw, he also stood at the end against Voldemort, and by killing the Dark Lord's snake, Nagini, with the sword of Gryffindor, made it possible for Voldemort to be defeated." As Neville came up beside her, she called to Mrs. Weasley next.
"Molly Weasley, who, in one of the finest displays of dueling seen anywhere in years, defeated Belatrix Lestrange, Voldemort's last lieutenant." While Mrs. Weasley approached, Professor McGonagall continued.
"Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, for their steadfast friendship and support of Harry Potter. They have battled Voldemort at his side since they were all only eleven-year old first year students here at Hogwarts. Their unselfish efforts culminated in the nearly year long quest that ultimately led to our victory yesterday." Ron and Hermione joined Neville and Mrs. Weasley at the front, hugging each of them in turn.
"And finally," Professor McGonagall said, looking at Harry, "although I know he'd rather not be singled out, Harry Potter, who has, by defeating Lord Voldemort, brought peace to both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds. Please stand with me, so we can show our appreciation especially to them, and indeed to everyone who made this victory possible!"
As everyone stood, clapping and cheering, Ginny pulled Harry to his feet and nudged him toward the front. He kept his eyes down, his face showing the embarrassment he always felt when singled out for praise like this. When he reached the front, Mrs. Weasley and Hermione both hugged him, and he shook hands with Ron and Neville. After the applause and shouting died down, Harry felt awkward being up there with everyone watching him, but was thankfully saved by Ron.
"All right then, let's eat!" he shouted, and everyone laughed.
Professor McGonagall waved her wand, and as the tables filled with food, Harry followed Mrs. Weasley and his friends as they headed back to their seats and started filling their plates. After breakfast, Harry motioned for Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to follow him. Mrs. Weasley looked over at them, a question in her eyes, and Harry stopped next to her and leaned close.
"We'll be back shortly. There's a special repair job that we need to take care of before we help with the school." She nodded, and they left the hall together. Ron and Hermione followed Harry and Ginny outside, each couple holding hands.
"Where are we going?" Ginny asked. Harry looked over his shoulder at Ron and Hermione, and they nodded in understanding.
"Voldemort broke into Dumbledore's tomb and stole something," he explained. "We're going to return it, and repair the damage."
Ginny nodded, and they walked over to the broken tomb. Harry approached, pulling out the Elder Wand. After a moment of looking again at his mentor, he placed the wand under Dumbledore's hands. As he stood back, he heard Hermione murmur a spell that again wrapped Dumbledore's body. Harry pulled his own wand out of his pocket, and said "Reparo". The tomb was instantly whole and pristine. The two couples stood together for a few moments with their private thoughts, and then they turned and walked silently back to the school. There'd be time to mourn, and maybe think about life after the war later. For now, there was work to do.