Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling.
From the last chapter
Nagini's fangs ripped into his chest, spilling agony across his entire left side. Still, Harry plunged the dagger deeper into her side, twisting and pushing till the strength left his hand.
His legs no longer supporting him, Harry fell to the ground, a weak smile playing across his face as a distinct look of alarm radiated from those red eyes. Instead of tearing at Harry's now-exposed throat, the snake tried to grab the hilt of the dagger with it's fanged mouth to remove it from the burning, smoking flesh spilling dark liquid. Not blood! Essence of horcrux.
Tiredness made the thin thread of joy he felt slip out of reach, and Harry struggled to make his lungs move, to make them breath in and out. His chest felt so heavy, and breathing didn't seem to do any good. His eyes, too heavy to hold open, slid down. The last thing he saw was a glimpse of a shuddering dome through a thin patch of smoke before he slipped into a welcome darkness.
Minerva struggled to open her eyes against the glaring sunlight filling the room. This can't be the Manor. Since she was alive, she must be in Madame Pomfrey's capable hands. But her infirmary in the Manor had no windows, natural or magical, to let in sunlight.
Millimeter by millimeter she pried her eyelids open, till through slitted eyes she saw the welcome sight of the arched windows of Hogwarts infirmary. I must have been near enough to death that the wards came down around the castle. That she was alive, that Madame Pomfrey was alive and smiling, waving a wand over her, surely meant they'd won, didn't it?
Minerva opened her mouth to ask a question, any question - her foggy mind wasn't sure what – but only a croak came out.
"Give the poor lady some water, Poppy!" Augusta Longbottom's commanding voice came from somewhere to her right.
Minerva turned her head fractionally, taking in the sight of the matron in the bed next to hers. After gratefully accepting a sip of cool water from Poppy, Minerva cleared her throat and tried again. "What happened?" She wasn't sure who she was asking the question of, Augusta or Poppy.
"You, my dear headmistress, almost died in that stunt of yours," Poppy bustled around the bed, straightening Minerva's bedclothes in an attempt to hide the sudden tears in her eyes. "If your clothing hadn't taken the worst of the blast..." She trailed off, eyes distant. "I hardly recognized you, Minerva. We had to cut those marvelous clothes off, but they did save your life. If the rest of your body was in the same shape as your face..."
Minerva tried to take stock of her face. It felt swollen and bruised, but she had both eyes, and a normal nose from the little she could see of it. She licked her lips. They felt like hers.
"Mad-Eye got you to me fast enough that we saved your eyes. And your nose. And the skin on your face. Cut to ribbons, it was. You have a few new teeth." Madame Pomfrey sniffed, and then turned on her heel and strode to her office. "He said only he was allowed to have a magical eye. He wasn't about to be upstaged by the likes of you, Minerva McGonagall!"
Minerva smiled, knowing that Poppy's rough words hid the depth of her worry. If the fact that the wards around Hogwarts had fallen didn't convince her, Poppy's words did. She was lucky to be alive. Now she'd have to cover the fact that her near death caused Hogwart's wards to drop. They couldn't have future generations knowing that fact. Perhaps she'd say she dropped the wards just before the battle, in case she died and the wards became permanently impenetrable. That should do nicely.
After turning slowly on her side, stiff muscles protesting every small movement, Minerva said to Augusta, "I hope you managed to reign in that impulsive boy." Minerva's throat tightened in memory of her anxiety after watching Harry and Augusta plunge through the tree trunk they'd all been hiding in. If those green eyes were permanently lifeless... She swallowed hard to get rid of the lump in her throat.
A small smile played around Augusta's mouth, and the tension drained out of Minerva like pumpkin juice from a leaky glass.
"After that clumsy boy tripped over me and got himself caught, he did perform admirably. Or so I heard. I'd lost consciousness I'm afraid shortly thereafter."
"Unconsciousness?" Minerva prodded.
Augusta grimaced with embarrassment, a hint of color darkening her cheeks. "You would have done the same thing, Minerva. You did, actually, from what I hear. That poor baby was defenseless. Well, I triggered the active defenses in my cloak– the ones we didn't have time to build for you all - and dove for the child."
Augusta shrugged her shoulders at this point, and Minerva understood. She'd made the same decision with Ginny. Minerva had had a long and full life, while Ginny's was just beginning. That Minerva got to keep hers was a bonus. She was sure Augusta felt the same.
"Then why are you in here?" Minerva asked, noticing for the first time that Augusta had moved hardly an inch during the time they'd been talking.
"It seems Tom mixed his spells a bit in the end. The wit sharpening potion must not have been as effective as he thought. The killing curse had no effect, thanks to Luna's spell, besides knocking me out. But Tom cast another spell at the same time, and I seem to have a magical version of the late stage Lou Gherig's disease."
Minerva felt her eyes widening with shock and pity. No wonder this great lady in front of her had hardly moved a muscle.
Augusta smiled upon seeing Minerva's expression. "Not to worry, Minerva. Food made from Neville's crops seems to help somehow. At least I can talk, in any case. Even if I don't make a full recovery, that is something. And Neville thinks the food may help Alice and Frank."
Augusta's voice was prim and proper, but Minerva thought she heard a hint a shakiness, a bit of fear mixed with hope behind the words. But instead of acknowledging that, Minerva nodded and changed the subject. "I'm sure your battle clothes blunted the worst of the effect, as they did for me."
Smiling at the tacit gratitude in that statement, Augusta said, "We've paid a small sacrifice to free ourselves from those monsters."
Minerva looked down, feeling the aches so deep inside her she didn't know if they'd ever go away. "A small sacrifice indeed," she agreed.
Arthur clapped the soldier in front of him on the shoulder. "You fought well, my good man! You and your platoon suffered a few knocks to the head, but you should be all right now. Good as new."
The soldier's glazed eyes slowly focused on Arthur, taking in the not-quite-muggle outfit he'd cobbled together to allow him to help with the obliviation process. Arthur felt a twinge of regret at having to remove this brave man's memories, but he pushed it away.
Even if the man in the fascinating camouflage clothing had helped capture or kill the death eaters attacking this bunker, he still couldn't be allowed to remember it. None of them could.
The soldier in front of him shook off his confused stupor, thanked Arthur, and retreated out of the muggle infirmary, casting one last perplexed glance at Arthur's tie-dyed shirt.
Arthur wiped his sweaty hands on a handkerchief from his pocket. He hated lying like that, even if the soldiers had agreed to the memory wipe beforehand. It still left him feeling dirty. He turned to Claxton Proudfoot, the auror helping him with this odious task.
"The last one?" Arthur asked hopefully.
Claxton nodded, sitting down with a heavy thump in a nearby chair. "As soon as this cleanup is all over, I'm going to volunteer to become a sleeper with the rest of my family. I could use a bit of rest."
"We all could," Arthur said, knowing that wasn't the true reason Claxton was volunteering. He was a good man, if rather inept as an auror. Come to think of it, he wasn't all that good at gathering food, either. In actual fact, Claxton Proudfoot was volunteering with his family to sleep away the next few months to free up resources for others.
After all, the less of Neville's seed they ate now, the more they could plant and then distribute to whoever was left alive, muggle or magical, as winter approached. Oh, in Britain they would be fine within a month, as far as food went. But the rest of the world, that was a different story. Every seed not eaten now could yield a bushel or two in food after a few harvests.
Arthur's own family - all thankfully alive - was not going to sleep. No, for the next few months they'd spend all their hours from dawn to dusk traveling the world gathering food from remote places muggles hadn't penetrated. The middle of the ocean. Alaska. Remote parts of Texas. South American countries filled with pineapples, papayas, bananas and other fruit growing on trees as far as the eye could see on untended plantations.
They wouldn't take food from any muggle, of course. But if they could coordinate the most effective of the magical resources left in the world, they may be able to help the remaining muggles eke out a meager existence till they'd sowed Neville's seed in every corner of the world.
By this time next year, hunger should be a thing of the past.
The Prime Minister of Britain gave Kingsley's hand a vigorous shake. "We'll be able to rebuild now, thanks to you."
Kingsley surveyed the still full muggle warehouse deep in the bunker of East Anglia. They'd managed to remove all traces of the capture-all potion, something that had taken days to accomplish. Kingsley couldn't count the times he'd been turned into a pig or something else. He was sure Fred and George had been laughing too hard to turn him back, which was why he'd spent long, miserable minutes as an animal each time.
"I'm impressed with how quickly you mobilized your people to plant the crops," Kingsley said, his deep voice rumbling in his chest.
"Survival is a motivator," the prime minister said dryly. "What we didn't have equipment to do, we sowed by hand. The seed was in the ground the day after you delivered it to us. The people are ecstatic you found seed 'mutated' by nuclear fallout in such a marvelous way."
They both shared an ironic look. Both knew muggles would believe that implausible story over any tale of magic.
"Well, I'd best not keep you here any longer." The Prime Minister began walking toward the door of the underground warehouse. "I hear you've had a rather nice promotion of late."
"True. Temporary Minister of Magic." Kingsley wasn't sure he wanted the job on a permanent basis. While the chance to rebuild an uncorrupt ministry from the ground up was attractive, he didn't particularly want the headaches that would bring.
"Temporary," said the Prime Minister, "has a way of becoming permanent for the best of men."
Kingsley grimaced. "Just because I opposed Voldemort to all the world in that Quibbler article doesn't mean I'm the best for the job. Hardly anyone believed it at the time. It was in the Quibbler, after all.
The Prime Minister smiled at that. After living in Xenophilius Lovegood's home for weeks, he knew precisely why few people believed Kingsley's warning. "You'll never know if you're suited to the job till you try it. I look forward to our weekly meetings; come through the fireplace anytime."
Now Kingsley smiled. "That'll be the best part of the job." With a final nod of respect, he apparated away to begin rebuilding British magical society.
"Will you return?" Ollivander asked Severus Snape.
Severus's busy hands paused. He'd been digging up a patch of sopophorous beans deep in the jungles of the Amazon rainforest. Despite his impervious charm, thick humidity reached its damp tentacles under his collar and seeping through every crack in his clothing. He was as soaked as if he been sitting in a sauna.
But really, thinking about the humidity was only an excuse to avoid thinking about his future. He had killed Dumbledore, although no one but him knew the state was temporary. How anyone could accept him back at Hogwarts was beyond his imagination, even if Minerva had extended the invitation.
In any case, did he want to spend more years beating the rules of potion making into stubborn, dunderheaded children? He'd stayed for Albus, to protect Harry Potter, and to fight in the war against Voldemort. None of those reasons were valid anymore.
"I don't know," he answered in the end. "It's not like I have anywhere else to go."
Ollivander looked around the rainforest, then up as a light misting of rain droplets sprinkled down on them as wind rustled through the canopy above them. "Severus, have you noticed that most people have begun to forget my ability to travel through tree roots?"
The apparent non sequitur caused Severus to furrow his brow. "No one has mentioned that part of the final battle recently," he said. And what did that mean? "Though how they'll account for the mango trees we're bringing in, I wouldn't guess." Was Ollivander casting some sort of obliviate on them all?
Severus knew there was more to the man than he knew, but he wasn't complaining. Getting pulled into a tree trunk before a horcrux possessed him was fine by Severus any day. Although escaping that same trunk through its root system while setting it on fire had been exciting, to say the least.
"Have you ever wondered, Severus, why you have such an affinity for plants. How your unusual understanding of them has made you the preeminent potions master in Britain?"
Severus's eyes narrowed as he looked back down at the patch of sopophorous plants he was harvesting to create more draught of living death. That Ollivander asked meant the old man thought he knew the answer. Severus had assumed his instinctive understanding of plants and how they worked in potions was just that, an instinctive gift meant to balance out all the horror he'd been through in his life.
"You will suggest an answer, I'm sure " Severus said, placing several dried bean pods into his gathering bag as if he didn't care about Ollivander's reply.
"Dryad blood is spread far and wide among the magical population of Britain," Ollivander said, "Quite diluted, to be sure. Every now and then, that blood concentrates or comes to the fore, giving that person an enhanced ability with plants."
"Such as the plants I use in my potions," Severus said, almost absently. What Ollivander said made a basic amount of sense. He knew few pureblood families were actually that, pureblooded. One need only look at the Malfoy family to see they had Veela blood in them, Narcissa included.
"And the plants Neville modifies. Have none of you thought it strange how quickly that boy has modified new seed types? The first took him over five years!"
Of course Neville would have dryad blood, Severus thought. It seems as if I'm never to be rid of that walking potions disaster if this conversation goes as I anticipate.
Severus chose to be obtuse, to give him longer to think about the possibilities Ollivander could present before him. His lips twitched upward into a sardonic smile. Only he would debate the pros and cons of an offer that might never be given. "I thought Neville's rapid progress was due to draining magic from the erumpant horn in Xenophilius's house to power his seed-changing spells."
Severus wouldn't comment on how dangerous that had been. That Neville's very presence hadn't blown the horn up spoke volumes about the old aphorism where God protected fools. Which was Xenophilius, in this case.
Ollivander sounded amused. "Yes, there is that. But one of the reasons I brought you out here today is to offer you a choice: return to your position as potions master, or come with me and learn about your heritage."
Severus blew out his breath, and the leaves of the sopophorous plants he knelt in rippled in the brief breeze as if tickled. "I can't leave right away. I have obligations to fulfill. Potions to brew."
"And I have wands to make. Then we'll leave, and I'll show you what you were born for. But here, take this and wipe the rest of that scar off." He proffered a piece of hornbeam.
Severus took the wood, but didn't reply. He focused on filling up the rest of his bag with bean pods. As he dropped each browned, leathery pod into its place, a drop of peace trickled down into his soul. He'd be able to get rid of his scar - a symbol of the biggest mistake he'd made in his life - and the wandmaker had offered him a chance at a new life. If he chose this, perhaps he would finally be on the right path.
Harry tightened his fingers, entwined with Ginny's, when she leaned over the crenellations at the top of the astronomy tower at Hogwarts.
"It's not like I'm going to drop Albus," Ginny scolded him with a smile, hefting the cooing, red-headed baby on her hip.
"And if you go over the edge yourself?" Harry asked, tugging her back toward him, careful to not jar his wounded shoulder and arm. Still in a sling since no magic or stitches could close the seeping slashes, his arm ached and throbbed. But it was still there. He was still here, and that was all that mattered.
"I won't. And it's not like I was the only one in the hospital recently. At least you didn't have to worry if my brain had been damaged from breathing in all that smoke!" Her tremulous smile gave lie to her sharp words, and her fingers loosened themselves from Harry's to drift up to the scar around her neck in an unconscious gesture.
Her scar's angry red lines might soften as time passed, but they'd never go away. Harry didn't mind. The scar reminded him each day of her fiery courage.
Ginny turned her attention back over Hogwart's grounds. "Did you ever think we'd see this entire area turned into farmland? Right up to the Forbidden Forest?"
"And into it. Hagrid's planted berry bushes on the edges. He says it will keep the children out, but I think it's because he's finally found out what those blast-ended screwts eat."
Ginny let out a laugh. "No! Not raspberries?"
"Terribly humdrum," Harry agreed, putting his arm around her and the baby they'd adopted, Albus Severus Potter. Harry still smiled at the name. Everyone thought they were honoring the heroes of this last wizarding war. And they were. Snape was still fuming about that.
Harry would have to figure out how to involve that man in Albus's life without throttling Snape in the process. Albus had wanted it, and Harry knew the potions master would ensure Albus didn't get too spoiled. Molly would no doubt help on that score, since the Weasleys were staying at the castle while they rebuilt their house. He suspected Molly would drag the building process out the whole school year to help him and Ginny so they could study.
They'd be married soon after all, and it would be awfully difficult to take care of Albus and take their NEWTs at the same time without Molly's help. Even he knew that. Still, he and Ginny wanted to marry soon, a year or two before they might have otherwise. Albus needed two parents to raise him, and neither he nor Ginny would consider giving that task to anyone else. Only they knew who he really was, and they were both determined to give Albus a happy childhood. When the man's memories would return to him, they didn't know. Until then, he'd be treated as any other child they would have together.
Shaking those thoughts away, Harry turned his head as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs to join them. He nodded hello to Neville, Luna, Ron, and Hermione.
"I wish we'd start classes sooner than after Christmas holidays," Hermione looked out at the changed landscape with a wistful sigh.
Ron pretended to gag, but he turned it into a cough when Hermione elbowed him. "Sorry," he said, putting on an ernest face. "I'm just so looking forward to finding food for all those muggles. What's that compared to bookwork? Now everyone gets to eat seaweed and fish!"
Hermione shook her head at his antics, but before she could say anything, Neville pointed out a peculiar scene playing out in front of them
Ron squinted his eyes at the small figures walking down to Hogwart's front gates. "Hey, is that your dad, Luna? Holding hands with Professor Trelawny?"
Harry bit his tongue, hoping the pain would help him stifle the urge to laugh out loud. Still, a grin escaped.
"War time brings people together; it's a common side effect. And she does see things other people can't. They're perfect for each other that way," Luna said.
How can someone look both happy and sad at the same time? Harry wondered.
"I'm sure they'll be happy together," Hermione said. A diplomatic statement if Harry had ever heard one, considering her opinion of the divination professor.
"Anyway. I was talking bookwork," Hermione changed the subject, casting a mock glare at Ron to prevent any more interruptions. "I've been analyzing the process you use with your new seeds, Neville. Its absolutely brilliant! But when are you planning on telling everyone?"
Neville blushed scarlet, and Harry wasn't sure if it was due to Hermione's compliment or question.
"Tell them what?" Neville's eyes shifted sideways, as if he hoped answering with a question would allow him to avoid answering hers. He ought to know Hermione better.
"That eating this seed will open the magical channels in every human being that eats it!" Hermione's impassioned declaration caused Harry's mouth to drop open.
Every human being? Including the muggles that ate it?
"Shh!" Neville hissed, and stepped closer so they could hear his lowered voice. "It's not too late to accio the seeds out of the ground, you know. There are purebloods who would do that."
"Neville," Ron said, "is Hermione saying you're single-handedly turning all the muggles into witches and wizards?" Ron looked like he wanted to say more, but he stopped instead.
Harry understood. The concept was too big. No more muggles for the purebloods to look down on? The whole world magical? The potential changes to society, to the world, boggled his mind.
If possible, Neville's face turned an even richer red in response to Ron's question, and he looked down at his feet. "I didn't start off trying to do that," he said. "But when I realized all the magic people would ingest through their food had to go somewhere, I used it to strengthen and eventually activate the latent magical lines every human has. That's why we keep getting muggleborns like you, Hermione. Those magical lines inside you become active, and then you come to Hogwarts."
"You're clever to keep quiet about it, though," Ron clapped his friend on the back. "If there are any pureblood bigots not sleeping like the dead or in Azkaban right now, they would destroy every seed of yours they could get their hands on."
Neville looked up and nodded, pleased with their approval. "When the whole world is magical, no one will use the cruciatus curse in service of a dark lord trying to rid the world of muggles."
A beaming smile crossed Hermione's face, and she clapped her hands in front of her, then closed the gap between her and Neville with one step. She hugged the lanky boy with all the strength she had.
"Thanks, Hermione!" Neville gasped.
Hermione drew back and wiped a tear or two from her eyes. Happy tears - even Harry knew that. "Can we give some seed to my family? Not just my parents, but my cousins, aunts and uncles? We have to visit them anyway. Once they found out this adorable baby," she ruffled Albus's red hair, "was still alive, they demanded visiting rights." Hermione sniffed. "I'm just glad my dad had taught them all to duck for cover when they saw death eaters."
Harry nodded. Despite John's instructions, that encounter could have ended much worse if Lucius Malfoy hadn't been in such a hurry to retrieve the baby.
Fawkes had indeed found the safest place in muggle Britain for Albus when he'd dropped the baby off in the highlands of Scotland with Hermione's family. If Iran hadn't decided to EMP the entire world, Albus would have had the best of both worlds, magical and muggle.
Harry looked down at Ginny, who was now nestled into his side. Baby Albus looked up at him then, and Harry could have sworn he saw a twinkle in the his blue eyes. Harry smiled as warmth spread throughout his body. He knew his mentor Albus, buried deep inside this tiny bundle, must be as pleased as Harry was to hear that magic was being extended to everyone: witches, wizards, squibs, and muggles.
Harry smiled at his friends and looked out again over the changed landscape below. The future would be far different than even they had thought.
His free hand ran along the smooth length of the wand inside his pocket. He, along with this wand, had become a guardian of all that was good in the world. When he died, this wand would choose a worthy descendent of his to continue the vigil, to protect the world against the dark evil Voldemort had represented.
The wand was no longer a mere copy of the Deathly Hallows wand. No, it had become something more - the Guardian Wand. As he gave his wand a name, it hummed with energy beneath his hand as if it approved.
The world wouldn't be entirely safe; it never would be. But at least now it would be better.
A/N Thanks for reading! If you'd like to check out some original free fantasy stories I've written, check out my author profile. I've got the links there. :)