Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
A/N:Well here is the final chapter everyone. I've decided that I'll post the first chapter of the third story of this trilogy in a couple of days so that you faithful readers can save it to your "story alerts" for when I update new chapters. The third story is over half writen, and don't worry, I'm a pretty quick writer and updates will come regularly, though not daily as with these last two stories. I have a few other stories that I will be publishing rather soon as well. I've retitled the third of the trilogy as:"Playing with Fire". Watch for this and other offerings such as; "The Weapon", "From the Shadows" and " The end was only the beginning."
*FOR ALL YOU STEADFAST FANS OUT THERE WHO HAVE SO KINDLY REVIEWED AND OFFERED SUPPORT ALONG THE WAY-THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART . MK-ONE
Chapter Thirty: Greater and More Terrible
The sterile halls of St. Mungo's were lined with black uniformed figures , standing in silent vigil as she passed.
They stood here as they had every day for the past month, refusing to move, acknowledging no one, not even each other.
They were guarding.
Guarding and waiting.
They would not be moved. Even the Minister's pleas, then threats, had fallen on deaf ears.
They had failed him in life. They would not fail him in death.
Every day she had come. Every day she had lost her nerve before she had so much as stepped foot inside the hospital's doors.
No one had asked her to come. She wasn't even sure if they had expected her to come, at least that was what she thought until one of them had shamed her into coming.
Today was the day. Now, when it was too late; now she had finely found her abandoned courage.
Today was the day.
Despite the pleas of the press, (hypocrites that they were), Hermione had convinced the medi-wizards that he would not want this; being kept alive by a magical stasis field.
Harry would want to be with his parents.
Today …Harry was going home.
The light's last champion had fallen.
Draco had brought Harry from the battle field; naked, sobbing,.. and dying. An entire team of medi-wizards had worked feverishly, spurred on to medical feats of greatness- at the point of Draco's sword.
Despite their best efforts, Harry had succumbed to his many injuries and lapsed into a coma. His last haunting words of whispered before the darkness claimed him were:
A few days ago-
His last words before he had lapsed into unconsciousness had been "MI- OWN", those words had been the topic of many debates, but Hermione seemed to have the answer-no surprise there.
She recited a prophecy that few outside the Unspeakable corps knew existed. It was the last line that held the clue to Harry's last cryptic words of lament.
Many believed that Harry was calling out Hermione nick name; 'Mione. He was, in a way, but not entirely so.
The last line of the prophecy stated: If the Champion sacrifices his own, the light shall blaze forth in glorious triumph and the night will fall.
Harry had passed into unconsciousness lamenting the loss of 'his own', from his standpoint, 'MY Own' would be accurate. He may not have intentionally sacrificed Hermione, but she was sacrificed. Her blood was literally ripped from her throat by the unborn queen to nourish a new generation of horrors. Harry had healed Hermione's wound in a 'blaze of glorious triumph'- phoenix fire was the "blaze", the "triumph"- had been over death.
Calling the fire to save Hermione had drained his magic and his life force to the brink of death…his own death.
Sending Shadow to destroy the new queen whilst he healed Hermione, had sacrificed his familiar.
Anyone that knew Harry, knew that friends and familiars were his family, "His Own".
Hermione believe that in this case all three had proven true. His Own had been: Hermione- Shadow…and Harry's own life.
It was the very last words of the prophesy that had been the most telling,… once Hermione had figured out that Harry had intentionally misled her.
The fact that Harry never lied was what had thrown her off.
He hadn't lied either. He had recited the prophecy word for word, she had just misinterpreted ththe phrase that: " the night would fall", meant that evil would be vanquished. Remus had immediately caught the mistake…
Not 'night', but…'knight'. "The knight will fall".
Hermione had wanted to believe that Harry had gotten it wrong, that he hadn't lied to her when he promised that he would sing at her wedding, that he hadn't known he was going to die.
That pipe dream had gone up in smoke when Headmistress McGonagal had visited Harry's bedside. She had come to pay her final respects once the decision had been made to cancel the magical stasis field that was keeping Harry's body alive.
Minerva McGonagal had informed them that she carried a final request from Harry, written in his own hand.
Hermione had been aghast, sobbing in anguish when she read the inscription he had asked be place on his headstone.
Harry had lied to her. He knew the prophecy's true meaning was, " the Knight will fall.
He knew he was going to die.
He knew that he wasn't going to be singing at her wedding, but he'd promised her anyway,… just to appease her.
The 'good bye' note that Harry had left for McGonagal had asked for this inscription on his tombstone:
Harry James Potter
Son and Friend
With a final P.S. that had instructed to: Tell Hermione I'm sorry.
Hermione had stared at that note so long that she had frightened Ron. What happened when he tried to take the note from her hands was beyond frightening.
Hermione's hands refused to relinquish the note. She kept staring at it catatonic-like. Ron had cooed comfortingly to her only his words did not have their intended reaction.
Hermione had shot to her feet shrieking like a cat on fire. "You Lied! You lied to me!" She'd railed at Harry's comatose form.
Her hands ripped the note to shreds.
Her magic swirled dangerously around her. She had been so close to losing control of her magic, and no one present had doubted that had she done so, she would have killed everyone in the room, including herself.
Ron's having slapped her face, finally snapped her out of her grief stricken rage.
The last thing she had said before she collapsed in Ron's comforting arms was to vent her wrath on someone who could not defend himself any longer.
"If you can hear me, Harry, then hear this…" She prodded in barely controlled rage.
"I'll never forgive you for this,… NEVER!" She'd vowed venomously,.. before falling into Ron's arms sobbing hysterically.
Everyone knew she hadn't meant it and silently they prayed that if Harry could hear her, he would know that too. Her profound grief for her fallen friend was driving her to near madness.
She rounded the corner to the hallway that led to Harry's room. It was the last one on the right. She knew this because…
Here the Unspeakable were not standing, but were on one knee. One hand grasping the hilt of their sword in protection. The other hand was fisted across their heart in salute. The door of his room itself was flanked by two people she knew well. Commander Hoag was standing in guard to one side of the door, and Draco Malfoy was on the other.
Ginny came to an uncertain halt in front of them. " I-I believe I'm e-expected." She stammered nervously, her gaze fixed on her shoes..
"You've been expected for some time now." Commander Hoag returned scornfully.
Ginny lifted her eyes thinking to apologize, what she found shocked her.
Both the stern Commander, and Draco Malfoy( of all people), had suspiciously moist eyes.
Despite her shock, she curiously chanced a glance at the faces of the honor guard flanking the hall.
All of them had tear tracks on their cheeks.
"Wha… but you're Unspeakables,.. The bravest and the best?"
"There is no shame in shedding tears for one who deserves them." Hoag answered from behind her shoulder.
"He more than any that has come before."
Ginny spun around in complete surprise that Draco would actually echo the same sentiment for Harry Potter!
Hell has indeed frozen over!
Despite his tears, Draco managed to smirk at her flabbergasted appearance.
"I was wrong. I've been wrong since the beginning. I-I treated you badly and for that, I am sincerely sorry. "
Ginny just stood there gapping at him like a fish out of water.
After a few anxious moments, Draco prodded her.. "Please go in, Ms. Weasley. It's almost time."
Ginny nodded dumbly and took a halting step toward the door, stopping briefly when Draco added ,nodding toward the waiting door. "He loves you, you know."
"W-Why..?" Ginny began to ask why he was telling her this now.
Draco smiled softly in understanding. "Because, if I were you; I would want to know. You should also know that in our humble opinion…" his hand swept the hall indicating his fellow Unspeakables. "in our humble opinion,… there is no greater compliment."
Commander Hoag nodded his confirmation as he opened the door and ushered her stunned self thru before she could even think of a response.
The door closed behind her, in front of her was a sight that she would never forget, not if she lived as long as Great Merlin himself.
Her family, her entire family was gathered around Harry's bed along with the Granger's.
From her vantage point she could see the evidence of the ghastly wounds that marred his once powerful frame.
He'd have wanted it this way, Ginny knew. He'd have gladly sacrificed himself for any of them. For Ron or Hermione, he would have sacrificed anything. They were his first and truest friends. For either of them; no sacrifice would have been too great… for both of them, and make no mistake; what Harry had given had been for the both of them. His sacrifice had been as much for Ron as it had been for Hermione.
Her mother was holding one of his hands to her cheek, cooing softly, reverently to her "seventh son". Her father was poised behind her mother; his hand on her shoulder, smiling fondly down on Harry's sleeping form.
Jane Granger was on the other side of the bed holding Harry's other hand, praying softly, her husband was behind her in a pose identical to her father's.
As heart rending as this was to witness, it was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Her twin brothers, the princes of mayhem, were standing at the foot of Harry's bed, their arms locked around each other in consolation, sobbing despondently.
She'd never, ever, witnessed such a display of affection from her twin brothers before.
Her heart broke for them.
It broke further when her eyes fell on Remus Lupin's silent tears as he held his wife in his arms, but his eyes remained fixed on the dying link to those he had cherished. There was something beyond grief in Remus's eyes, something that echoed despondent envy.
A part of Remus was happy for Harry. He was going to reunite with his parents and Sirius; all the cherished friends Remus had lost in the war against Voldemort.
Fleur was sobbing inconsolably in her brother- Bill's arms nearby.
Charlie was staring out the window, occasionally a hand ghosted across his cheek to wipe away a stray tear.
All of these things were understandable, given the circumstances,… well, not the twins reaction certainly, but , it was the last couple in the room that shocked Ginny to her core.
In an uncharacteristic show of emotion, Ron was crying openly, his face in his hands. That in itself was unsettling; what was truly shocking was that his fiancé was not even attempting to console her grief stricken brother. Hermione's overwhelming compassion was nowhere in evidence. Hermione, herself, was staring at Harry's pale form with the most unreadable expression on her face. No sign of grief or sadness, nor peace, certainly not hope,… just… nothing.
Hermione looked as if she were standing in line to have her apparation license renewed. It was a look of complete indifference she was just going thru the motions, fulfilling an obligation neither interested nor evaded, just- necessary.
Ginny's eyes shifted to Harry's face.
The healers had hypothesized that Harry's condition would not improve because there was nothing left to improve. His body still lived, but Harry; his essence, his magic,…his soul was already gone. Magical healing would not, could not heal Harry's wounds because there was no foundation for it to build upon- no magic.
Harry had used up nearly every nuance of his considerable magic calling the Phoenix Fire to heal Hermione, literally bringing her back from the brink of death.
Hermione had claimed that she could actually feel herself passing over to the other side, that her beloved, dead grandmother had been there waiting for her,… when she felt Harry's inexorable pull drawing her back.
By all reports, that effort alone should have killed Harry, the healers claimed that the last time he had called the fire, (to heal her mother), the effort had nearly killed him. They had cautioned him to never attempt its use again, cautioning that the consequences would be dire.
Ginny snorted at that thought, telling Harry not to do something that could get himself killed was just inviting him to try. Add Hermione's life to the equation and Harry would spit in the devil's eye. He would risk anything to save her life. Ginny couldn't help it, but on some level that thought struck a jealous cord though she knew he loved Hermione only as a friend and sister.
Looking at Hermione's face now, seeing the indifference in her eyes was just too much.
"Get out!" Ginny snapped.
All present turned their heads in her direction, all save the one she was addressing.
"Ginny, what..?" her mother began startled by her daughter's outburst.
Ginny just ignored her mother and marched up to confront Hermione.
"I said get out. If you've got someplace you'd rather be- than go there? If not, then try to show a little regret."
Hermione's eyes shifted down to her diminutive, future sister in-law's face.
"I-I keep thinking that we're wasting our time." She continued oblivious to the startled gasps that issued around the room. "Thinking that he'll cheat death like he always has before. He's always going to do this, you know? If he got up out of that bed, he'd do it all again tomorrow, or he'd throw away his life on some other cause that no one will remember or even care about a year from now, and we'll keep letting ourselves get sucked back into Harry's never ending emotional vacuum.. ."
The slap that stopped Hermione's grief addled monotone lecture was like a thunder clap.
Hermione stared blankly in disbelief at the hand that had done the deed.
Ginny's shocked eyes were locked on the owner of that hand.
"He b-broke his promise to m-me." Hermione offered feebly by way of explanation for her attitude.
"And I'm ashamed of you." Ron added, letting his hand drop back to his side.
Without another word, Ron stepped past his fiancé to Harry's bedside.
He leaned over his dying friend's unconscious body, planted a kiss on his forehead and murmured. " I'd give anything if you could get out of that bed and do it all again tomorrow. Good bye, brother."
Ron turned and left the room, snuffling softly. He didn't spare a glance Hermione's way as he left.
Hermione staggered back as if she had been struck a second time. She wasn't sure what had hurt worse. Ron's parting words to Harry had been stated as much for her benefit as they had been for Harry. Then to have left without even acknowledging her, was like driving a knife through her heart.
Harry had always claimed that she was the heart of the Golden trio. That Ron was really the brains of the outfit, and that Harry, well, he saw himself as the reckless impulsveness that made it even necessary for the other two. Not for the first time, she thought that Harry had got it wrong; Ron was the heart. Harry was the brains, and she .. What was she?
Further thought fled from her mind as panic set in. It didn't matter what she was, all that mattered was that the other half of her life had just walked out the door without sparing her a backward glance.
Hermione flew out the door with an anguished cry, calling desperately for Ron.
"Finally cracked." George commented, breaking the stunned silence around the room.
"Bound to happen sooner or later." his twin agreed. "Can you imagine the wedding night if she'd kept all that pent up emotion in? he conjectured further.
George shuddered in mock trepidation. "We'd be planting ickle Ronnekins next to Harry, we would.
"Probably, 'Mione too." Fred added in agreement.
Snickers and chuckles wafted throughout the room.
"We should see the pope about getting Harry declared a saint." George suggested.
"Because of all his noble deeds?" Fred questioned.
"Nah. For putting up with all the sexual tension between those two all these years."
Full out laughter broke out, finally easing the tension in the room.
People filed past Harry's sleeping form, finally finding their courage to say their last goodbyes,… thanks to the twins.
Minutes later, just the twins and Ginny were left in the room with Harry.
"We'll keep everything going, Harry. Our children and our children's children will watch over the foundation." Fred vowed.
George added from the other side of his bed. "Generations of magical children will have food, clothing, an education and families that will love and cherish them because of you, mate.
"It won't be the same without you though." Fred lamented.
"Nothing will." his twin added in agreement.
"Second best prankster of all time."
"First" his twin disagreed, earning himself a contemptuous glare from his twin.
"What? " he defended. "Come on,.. Sending us into the middle of Harpies stadium starkers, in the middle of one of Ginny's game? That was inspired!"
Ginny sniggered at the memory.
"I thought it rather crude and in poor taste" Fred disagreed disdainfully.
"That's just because you didn't think of it first?" George refuted accusingly.
"Beside the point." Fred scoffed. "Ever notice that most of Harry's best pranks are played at our expense?"
"That's because you two have it coming for something you did to him in the first place." Ginny snorted as she pointed out.
"Again, not the issue, though I agree to your point with some reservation."
"True, true. Sometimes he took the initiative." George agreed.
"Putting us into that ball for his "Pretty Kitty" to amuse itself with, was a tad over the top"
"The man was a menace." His twin agreed, with nothing short of reverence in his voice.
"Pity you won't be here for their wedding ." Fred lamented.
"If for no other reason than to keep us from pranking the now, diamond duo." George clarified.
"Secretly he would have wanted us to do it" Fred disagreed.
"You're right, we'll do it,… for Harry's sake. " George returned in a noble voice.
"Don't use Harry as your scapegoat; you've been planning it all along." Ginny quipped.
"Again, besides the point." Fred scoffed indignantly.
They all shared a last chuckle before the solemn reason for the occasion caught back up to them.
George reached out and brushed his hand fondly down Harry's cheek." Good bye my brother.
Fred echoed the comment, after having kissed Harry on the forehead.
Before they left, George, took Ginny by the arm and looked deep into her brightening brown eyes. "It's a cruel thing, what we did to you. Crueler still to get your memory back only now." he said regretfully, his usually mirth filled eyes welling with tears.
Ginny shook her head. "I 'm glad I remember, even now. " Her hand brushed a betraying tear from her cheek. "As much as this is… as hard as this is,.. I.. I'm still proud, proud that for a time, I held the heart of the greatest man that's ever lived."
Her eyes turned toward Harry's face. "Very proud" she echoed.
George kissed her cheek. "We'll wait for you." he reassured his sister with a gentle hug.
Fred hugged her after, whispering. "We'll keep the healers out of here, so take as long as you need."
"T-Thanks." Ginny stammered.
They nodded, gave Harry a last fond look, and then left the room.
In the brief time it took the opened door to close, Ginny could hear sobbing from the hallway,.. Hermione's the loudest of all. She was glad for it. That damn had been threatening to break all week. She just hoped her future sister would find her courage to say a final 'goodbye' before the healers removed the stasis spell.
She knew Hermione would never forgive herself if that happened before she had a chance to say goodbye properly, and not let him go, thinking she was angry with him.
She was, and would likely remain so for some time, but Ginny knew Hermione, and she would not want things to part this way between them. It would cast a shadow over her the rest of her days, and that wouldn't be fair to her or Ron.
Ginny stepped up to Harry's bedside and took his hand in hers. It shocked her, at first, how limp and lifeless his hand was. He had always been so strong, a hero; right out of the story books.
Her hero and literally so for more times than she could count.
Her hand went to his shoulder,. Her fingers traced the faint outline of the second lightning bolt shaped scar that he'd received. The scar was the result of the 'killing curse' he had taken for her at the Ministry, the night that Sirius fell thru the veil.
She remembered it now, remembered it like it was yesterday. Only now she remembered how it made her feel. She remembered how proud she was that someone like Harry could love her, (Little Ginny Weasley), so much that he would risk everything for her.
She remembered everything; waking up on the cold stones of the Chamber of Secrets, Harry telling her that she was safe, whilst he lie dying from the Basilisk's venom.
-Harry fighting the Dragon during the tri-wizard tournament, saving Ron and Gabrielle Delacour during the second task. Gabrielle kissing his cheek in thanks still spiked a jealous chord with her.
She remembered the end of the third task… arriving with Cedric's body at the end.
Her heart broke for him in the infirmary that night. When her mother had taken him in her arms, she could tell,.. It was the first time someone had hugged him this way, at least as far back as he could remember.
As grateful as she had been to her mother that night,.. She had always wished it had been her holding Harry in her arms.
She remembered the jealousy and heartache she felt when she saw Harry kiss Cho Chang after the DADA class in the Room of Requirement.
-Their first burning kiss after she'd won the quidditch cup her fifth year, and the terrible wrenching pain that followed when he broke up with her after Dumbledore passed.
They'd gotten back together secretly afterward. She had wanted to shout their love from the rooftops, but Harry had insisted it remain a secret between just the two of them, lest Voldemort should find out and come after her as well.
Voldemort had found out,.. and Harry had still found away to rescue her, just as he always did.
Her last and best memory was of a night that had been a dream, and not a dream. A night filled with wondrous passion, intimacy,…love.
People called the Phoenix Fire a gift, a wondrous gift, but Ginny now knew as Harry had known all along… It was both more wondrous and terrible.