A post Hogwarts story about life after Voldemort and the war. HBP Spoilers! The rating is just to cover myself for later chapters, I doubt this will ever be R rated.
The Savior of the Wizarding World
Chapter 3 - A Heartfelt Goodbye
"There's one thing I don't understand," said Charlie, breaking the silence. Ron and Hermione had just finished telling the rest of the Weasleys everything. They told them about Harry's lessons with Professor Dumbledore during their sixth year. They told them about the mission Harry and Dumbledore went on the night Dumbledore died. They told them about the search for the last four Horcruxes that had filled their last year. They told them everything Harry had told them about the final battle with Voldemort. When they finished the entire Weasley family had sat there in silence, trying to understand everything they had just been told.
"What's that, Charlie?" Hermione asked.
"Why Harry? Why did Dumbledore leave all of this on him?"
There were murmurs of agreement as the rest of the family thought about it. "That boy had been through so much. Why /did /Albus have to leave all of this on him?" Molly demanded, her protective streak instantly kicking in.
Ron and Hermione looked at each other. Ron raised his eyebrows. "Should we tell them?"
Hermione thought about it for a minute. "I don't see why not. It's over now, we don't need to worry about keeping it a secret."
"What are you two on about?" asked Fred.
"Is ickle-Ronniekins keeping secrets?" asked George.
"Oh shut it you two," Ron said with a sigh. He turned back to Hermione. "Are you sure?"
"All right, then," said Ron. "None of you are to tell a soul about this. I mean this, not a /soul/. It's up to Harry if he wants more people to know about this, but all of you should know at least. All right?"
They all nodded, intrigued with Ron's tone. It must be something really big if he was talking this way to all of them, especially his parents. Ron nodded at Hermione. "You tell them, you understand these things better than I do."
Hermione smiled at him and then turned to everybody else. "There was a prophecy, as you all know from guarding it in my fifth year. But what you don't know is what the prophecy said. It was a prophecy made to Professor Dumbledore shortly after Harry was born."
"Wait, how do you know all this?" Molly asked. "Albus never did tell us anything about it. All he ever said was that it was vital that we keep it safe, and later that it was smashed during that ruckus in the Department of Mysteries."
"That was only a recording of it that was smashed, Professor Dumbledore held the original in his pensieve. He told all of this to Harry right after all that happened. He also told him what the prophecy said. Harry told Ron and I when he came to stay at the Burrow between fifth and sixth years."
"Do you know what it said?" asked Molly.
Hermione nodded. She closed her eyes and drew up the memory of Harry telling them the prophecy, recalling the exact words. "/The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."/
The room was deadly quiet. Nobody made a sound while processing this on top of everything else they had learned tonight. Arthur was the first to speak, his eyes closed and his face a mask of concentration.
"It has been awhile, but if I recall correctly, that prophecy did not necessarily mean that Harry was the one. Frank and Alice had managed to escape from You-Know-Who three times when Neville was born." Hermione and Ron both made a face at his use of 'You-Know-Who' instead of 'Voldemort' but remained quiet. "Neville was born at the end of July," continued Mr. Weasley. He opened his eyes. "How did Albus know it was Harry?"
"Professor Dumbledore and Harry discussed that," answered Hermione. "Harry told us Professor Dumbledore pointed out the last part of the prophecy. 'The Dark Lord will mark him as his equal.' That's exactly what Voldemort did the night he tried to kill Harry and left him with the scar."
"What about /'the power the Dark Lord knows not?/'", asked Bill. "What power is that? Harry is a strong wizard, and I mean no disrespect to him, but he's no Dumbledore. How did he have the power to defeat You-Know-Who" (Ron and Hermione scowled again) "when the most powerful wizard since the Founders couldn't do it?"
When Hermione didn't answer Ron did. "Dumbledore told Harry it was his heart, his power to love."
"His heart? Love?" replied Bill. "Harry's a great kid. He cares so much about everybody else. But how does that give him a power strong enough to defeat You-Know-Who?"
Ron shrugged. "I have no idea. I don't think what Harry told us tonight was a coincidence, though. He said it was right after he felt overwhelmed by his feelings for Ginny and the knowledge that he was about to watch her die..." Molly made a choking sound at this and Arthur put a comforting around her shoulder. "... that he somehow managed to knock out all the Death Eaters and get a hold of Voldemort's wand even though his wand had been destroyed," finished Ron. He looked over at Hermione, surprised she didn't have anything to say considering she was the smartest one in the room, but he saw that she looked lost in thought.
"Why didn't he tell us any of this? Why didn't you? Why keep everything hidden from us?" demanded Molly.
"As far as the prophecy goes, that was up to Harry to tell, not me or Hermione," said Ron. "He didn't want anyone else to know. He claimed it was for their own protection since Voldemort would go to any lengths necessary to learn what that prophecy said. It just wasn't up to us to tell you," he said with a shrug.
"It was more than that," said Hermione, breaking out of her thoughts. "Harry hated what the prophecy meant. He hated that he was destined to either be murdered or become a murderer. He was ashamed of it. He actually told us earlier tonight he was going to turn himself in for using the Killing Curse against Voldemort. Can you believe that? He was actually expecting to get a life sentence in Azkaban!"
There were murmurs of surprise around the room at this. "Azkaban... a life sentence for defeating You-Know-Who... unbelievable. How does a man like that come from a childhood with people like those muggle relatives of his?" muttered Arthur. The rest of them looked at him in surprise. He was not a man to speak ill of others, no matter how much he disliked them. To actually hear him say something bad about somebody else, even if it was the Dursleys, was unheard of.
Fred and George exchanged a look that didn't go unnoticed by the woman who raised them. "Fred and George," she growled. "Whatever idea you've got, don't even think about it. You'll just leave Harry alone, understood?"
Both of them nodded and muttered in agreement, but a quick look between them that even Mrs. Weasley missed was all they needed to see they both had the same thought.
"That explains the prophecy," said Molly. "But what about the rest? You three were off putting yourselves into such danger all year and you never even told us about it!"
"Before he died Professor Dumbledore told Harry he could tell Ron and I about the Horcruxes, but no one else," answered Hermione. "Harry took him seriously. He wouldn't even tell Professor McGonagall where he and Professor Dumbledore went the night Professor Dumbledore died. Harry has a lot of respect for her, it really hurt him to have to refuse her. But it was essential as few people knew about the Horcruxes as necessary. If Voldemort had even suspected that we knew and were searching for them it would have jeopardized everything."
"But you could have trusted us!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed.
"We know that, Mum," said Ron, "but it wasn't up to us. It was up to Harry, and he was doing what Dumbledore told him to do. He knew he could trust you, but he also knew how important this was. What if one of you had been captured? It could have ruined everything. This was the only way."
"But..." she began.
"Molly," Arthur interrupted softly. She turned to glare at him for interrupting her, but the glare soon faded as they looked at each other. Without any words spoken they seemed to reach an understanding. She turned back to Ron and Hermione.
"Well, I'm glad Harry had you two at least," she said at last. "I'm glad he didn't have to face this alone."
"He tried," Hermione said with a sad smile.
"But we wouldn't have it," finished Ron.
"Speaking of Harry facing things alone," said Fred, "and since we seem to be learning all sorts of things about dear Harry tonight..."
"What happened with him and Ginny?" finished George, picking up on where his twin was going. "Our people in Hogwarts told us they seemed so happy together," he said.
"But then they just broke up. Ginny didn't even seem too upset about it either," said Fred.
"Your 'people in Hogwarts?'" Hermione asked, amused.
"We have people everywhere, my future sister-in-law," said Fred. Hermione blushed a crimson red and Ron made a choking sound.
"But don't change the subject. What happened with them?" asked George.
"That's really none of your business, you know," Hermione snapped, a little put out by the sister-in-law comment and still blushing a brilliant shade of red.
"He wanted to protect her, didn't he?" asked Bill quietly.
Hermione looked at Ron, unsure of what to say. Ron took the hint and shrugged. "He never really talked about it," he said, his tone making it clear the conversation was over. And it was the truth, Harry hadn't ever wanted to talk about it. Although Bill had arrived at the same conclusion Ron and Hermione had they didn't admit that to him. It really wasn't their place to say.
"Well, some good that did," Charlie muttered to himself. Bill, who was sitting right next to him, overheard him and raised his eyebrows but gave no other sign he had heard.
They talked for a few more minutes before Bill left, saying he had to get home to Fleur and would be back early in the morning. Charlie left soon afterwards followed by the Twins. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley tried to convince Ron to go home to get some rest but with both Harry and Ginny here he would have nothing of it. And Hermione insisted she was staying also.
A few minutes later Ron was standing in the corridor outside Ginny's hospital room. He had told Hermione and his parents to go ahead, he would just be a minute. He needed a moment to himself before he went into the room.
It was still so hard for him to see Ginny like that. Unlike the rest of his family he hadn't had a week to get used to it since he and Hermione had sat with Harry most of that time. He wasn't sure he would ever get used to it. He wasn't sure he ever wanted to get used to it. He never wanted to stop hating himself each time he walked into the room and saw her. It was what he deserved for being so useless in the final battle. He had just frozen with fear the moment he saw Voldemort. Sure he could say the name but, as he had found out that night last week, having no fear of the name was not nearly the same thing as having no fear of the thing itself. He shivered when he thought about that night...
- - - - -
"/Lumos," a voice hissed in the darkness./
Ron winced as the room was flooded with light. His heart jumped as he took in his surroundings. They were surrounded by Death Eaters. He squared his shoulders and gripped his wand tighter. He wouldn't go down without a fight. He was thinking of which hexes would be the most effective when he saw him.
There he was. The most feared Dark Lord of all time. Standing amidst his Death Eaters, standing taller than the rest of them. A thin, tall man with pale skin and a face that reminded Ron of a snake. And those eyes...
"/Brilliant deduction, Weasley," he hissed. He was looking right at Ron. It felt like his red eyes were seeing right through Ron's very soul, feeding off the terror they found there. He saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Harry had stood up. Ron wanted to help him, to do something, but he couldn't. It was as if he was outside his body watching the whole thing take place. Except for the suffocating terror he felt. No, he was definitely inside his body. Harry and Voldemort were talking now but Ron couldn't make out what they were saying. Think! Concentrate! It did no good./
GINNY! He heard Harry scream out her name. He screamed it too. Or did he only scream it in his head? He wasn't sure. Suddenly Ginny was on the floor, writhing in terrible convulsions. Harry yelled something and her convulsions stopped but a second later they started again. Harry and Voldemort were talking again and then suddenly Harry went flying backwards. Ron pulled himself out of his terror. 'Get it together, Weasley!' he told himself.
He turned to face Voldemort, his wand ready to launch a hex. But just as he opened his mouth Voldemort turned and looked at him. He looked Ron directly in the eyes, stopping Ron in his tracks. Those eyes...
Pain. Terrible, unbearable, agonizing pain. It coursed through every cell in his body, not one bit of him was safe from the pain. His chest hurt. His stomach hurt. His legs hurt. His arms hurt. His back hurt. His feet, hands, fingers, toes, head, mouth, ears, nose, eyes. Even his hair hurt. It felt like he was being blasted to shreds by a million hexes all at once. It was the sort of pain words don't even begin to describe.
Ron opened his mouth and screamed. He screamed until his throat was raw and sound no longer came out. And even after he was incapable of sound he screamed anyway, a silent, agonizing scream. He wanted to just die and be done with it.
And suddenly it was over. He had no idea how long it had lasted. It could have been five seconds, five minutes, five days, or five years. He lay on the ground panting for breath, feeling as though his body would never be pain-free again. He hurt everywhere but it wasn't the blinding, searing pain from before, now it was just a terrible ache.
There was a flash of green light and the sound of a body hitting the floor. Somewhere deep within Ron's mind he knew that was a bad thing but he was slipping into unconsciousness. The last thing Ron was aware of was a second flash of green light.
- - - - -
Ron came back to the present and found himself still standing outside the door to Ginny's room in St. Mungo's. Hermione had been the first one to regain consciousness and a few minutes later Ron had woken to find Hermione peering over him with tears in her eyes. They were the only two conscious in the room and had gone for help as soon as they realized there weren't any anti-apparition wards.
Ron sighed. He was disgusted with himself for not doing more to protect his little sister. Harry had fought and killed Voldemort while Ron could do nothing but cower in fear and stand there waiting to be cursed. And he had let Hermione be hurt too. He felt like such a failure. With those thoughts to keep him company he walked into Ginny's room.
His parents were standing just a few steps inside the room, Hermione next to them. They were all looking farther into the room. Ron followed their gazes and felt his heart break at what he saw. Ginny lay in her bed as she had for the last week. Harry was asleep in a chair beside her bed, one hand holding Ginny's hand and the other resting on his chest. His glasses sat askew on his face in front of eyes that were red and puffy. It was obvious he had been crying.
It was disquieting for Ron to see his best friend like that. Harry was the strong one, he always had been. Even at Dumbledore's funeral he had been strong, only allowing a few tears to show while everyone else was lost in their grief. To see him look so utterly vulnerable emphasized that everything was not going to work out this time. Even though he already knew it in his head it made Ron truly realize for the first time that his little sister was not going to wake up.
He looked over at the others and saw similar expressions on their face to what he figured was probably on his own. After a minute Hermione turned and met his eyes. She looked as lost as he felt. Somewhere in the back of his head he heard Fred's comment about a future sister-in-law and blushed faintly before brushing it aside. Without stopping to think he crossed the distance between them with a few quick steps and wrapped his arms around her. He felt her stiffen briefly and then return the embrace. He had no idea what any of it meant and wasn't interested in figuring it out tonight. All he knew was that hugging Hermione felt nice.
- - - - -
"You should probably get back to Hogwarts to see Madam Pomfrey, Harry," said Hermione quietly.
It was early the next morning. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had all stayed overnight with Ginny. Harry and Hermione were the only two awake, the others were asleep, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in two chairs and Ron on the floor, snoring loudly. Hermione sat in a chair by the door reading a book and Harry still sat beside Ginny's bed. He had been awake for several hours, staring at Ginny and brushing her hair out of her face every so often. That simple act comforted him for some reason. Harry looked up at Hermione.
"It's not even 8 yet, she said I had to be back at noon," he protested.
"No, she said you had to be back by noon," corrected Hermione. "She said you should go back immediately if you didn't feel well. She's trusting you."
"I feel fine, Hermione."
"Harry, you look terrible..."
"Well, what do you expect?" he snapped, sounding much nastier than he had intended. "A bloody song and dance?"
He felt bad the moment he said it, made worse by the look on Hermione's face. She was only trying to help and he had just made her look like she was on the verge of tears.
He sighed. "Hermione, I..." he never got to finish his thought.
"HARRY POTTER!" a booming voice echoed off the walls as the door swung open with a loud BANG! Arthur awoke with a start and nearly fell of his chair while Molly cried out in fear. Ron snorted in his sleep and rolled over on the floor without actually waking up. Two tall men in dark robes swept into the room with wands drawn, their cloaks billowing out behind them. They both wore scowls on their stern but otherwise unremarkable faces.
Harry had his wand out so fast Hermione blinked in surprise. She never even saw him draw it. "Who are you? What do you want?" Harry demanded, eyeing them suspiciously.
The two men surveyed the room in silence, their wands pointing at Harry the entire time. Then one of them spoke in a booming, authoritative voice.
"Are you Harry James Potter?"
"I am. I asked you who you were and what you wanted." Harry spoke in a soft but menacing voice.
The man who spoke started to reach for his pocket.
"Hold it!" Harry called out. "What are you doing?"
"Son," the second man spoke in an equally commanding voice. "We already have our wands drawn. If we intended to harm you I guarantee you would already be unconscious. My colleague is reaching for a badge."
"A badge?" Harry repeated. The first man again reached for his pocket, this time more slowly, and pulled out a badge. He held it up for Harry and the others to see. Harry could clearly make out the letters MLE surrounded by the crest of the Ministry of Magic. Each badge also had the letter 'A' imprinted on the bottom.
"As you can now see," the first man said, "we are Aurors with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. You are to come with us."
Harry started to lower his wand, a look of resignation on his face, but Mr. Weasley jumped to his feet. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Why are you taking him?"
"We have a warrant for the arrest of Harry James Potter," the first man said.
"What are the charges?" Arthur asked.
The first man nodded to the second, who pulled a piece of parchment from his robes and unrolled it. He glanced at it and then passed it to Mr. Weasley.
--- WARRANT FOR ARREST ---
Name: Harry James Potter
Charge: Use of the Killing Curse
Signed: Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic
Arthur stared at it for a long minute before wordlessly passing it to Harry, who barely looked at it before passing it back to the Auror. He was surprised with himself. The moment the Auror pulled out the badge he had known why they were there, it was what he had dreaded most since waking up. But now that it was actually happening he felt nothing. The numb feeling that had been there ever since he had woken up that morning persisted.
Harry held out his wand which was quickly plucked away by the Auror who had just produced the arrest warrant. The first man grabbed him by the arm and turned to lead him out the door.
"Now wait just a minute!" Arthur cried out. "You can't be serious! This young man just defeated You-Know-Who and you're going to repay him by /arresting /him!"
"We have our orders," the one holding on to Harry said in a curt voice. The two Aurors and Harry took a step towards the door before Hermione stepped in front of them. Her own wand was drawn.
"You will not take him," she growled in a low voice.
"Step aside girl, we don't wish to harm you," one of the Aurors said.
Hermione opened her mouth to protest but was stopped by Arthur, who had rushed to step between her and the Aurors. "This isn't fair!" he roared. "Let him go! I work for the Ministry also!"
The Auror not holding on to Harry took a step forward and peered at Arthur through narrowed eyes. "Arthur Weasley. Low-level bureaucrat. You don't work for the ministry, you serve the ministry. Step aside or we will inform the minister when we deliver the prisoner that you interfered with a lawful arrest."
Arthur looked as if he had been stricken. He started to raise his wand.
"Don't," Harry said in a soft voice. He looked directly at Mr. Weasley with pleading eyes. "Please don't. Don't get yourself into trouble over this."
Arthur started to protest.
"Please..." Harry pleaded.
Arthur looked torn, and the Aurors used his indecision to make for the door again. Hermione pointed her wand, along with Arthur, who seemed to come to a decision.
A puff of smoke suddenly flooded the room, blinding everybody. Mrs. Weasley cried out. Harry stood absolutely still, trying to work out what had happened while the smoke rapidly cleared. The room began to come into focus as the smoke cleared. Arthur and Hermione both stood with their wands drawn. Molly was standing in a corner almost shaking with emotion considering everything that had happened recently. Fred and George stood exactly where the two Aurors had been. Harry stared at them in confusion for half a second before it clicked.
"Good thing you added in that anti-hex charm to the smokescreen, dear brother," said George.
"I told you we would need it," said Fred.
The twins surveyed the room, cocky smiles on their faces. "You lot really fell for it. I almost gave it away. It was so hard not to laugh," George told them.
"What... How..." Arthur sputtered. Hermione and Molly said nothing but Hermione glared at them in barely controlled anger, having figured it out just as Harry had.
"Auror-For-An-Hour," said Fred smugly. "Our newest invention. It changes your appearance and transfigures your clothes into Auror Uniforms, complete with the badge and everything."
"It's illegal to impersonate an Auror!" Molly cried out.
George sighed. "Inconvenient, I know. That's why they're not on sale yet. This was our first field test as a matter of fact." He broke out in a grin. "A resounding success if I do say so myself," he added.
"Indeed," Fred agreed.
"I can't believe you would do that!" Hermione shrieked. "After what we told you last night! You two are the most unbelievable, irresponsible, stupid, big-headed, immature IDIOTS I've ever met!" She was working herself into such a rage her cheeks were turning pink.
For a minute the room was silent. Hermione, Molly, and Arthur glared at the twins, who were quickly beginning to wonder if their prank had been such a good idea. The silence was finally broken by a quiet chuckle.
"That was pretty good, guys," Harry said, breaking out in a large grin. "Definitely one of your best pranks yet. I think your mum is right, though, you probably shouldn't put that on sale."
Fred and George grinned at him while the other three stared in shock. That wasn't the reaction they had expected out of Harry. "Glad to be of service, Mr. Potter," Fred said with an eloquent bow. George gave a fake salute.
"We're going to get coffee, we'll be back," Fred said. With that the two twins swept out of the room.
Ron snorted in his sleep and rolled over on the floor without actually waking up.
- - - - -
Arthur Weasley was livid. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt this angry. He had been so sure he was about to lose Harry only to find out it was just a joke. A stupid, irresponsible practical joke. He watched his two sons inform them they were going to get coffee and leave the room.
"I'll be right back, all of you stay here," he growled. He stormed out of the room without waiting for an acknowledgment. If he had he would have seen a look of surprise pass between the three conscious and awake people in the room. They had never heard him use that tone before.
Arthur saw his sons nearing the end of the hall. "Fred! George! Wait there!" he called out. They both turned around and smiled at their approaching father, smiles which faded when they saw the look of fury on his face.
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF MERLIN WERE YOU THINKING?" Arthur roared.
The twins blinked. Neither had ever heard their father raise his voice like that before.
"You mean the prank?" asked Fred.
"That was the most irresponsible thing either of you have ever done!" yelled Arthur, slightly quieter after realizing he was getting a lot of odd looks from people passing in the corridor.
"Come on, Dad..." George said.
"Just shut your mouths and listen to me," Arthur interrupted. George stopped in mid-sentence, opening and closing his mouth in shock.
"That was a horrible thing to do," he continued. "That young man actually thought he was going to be arrested. And what about your mother? What about Hermione? Did you see the looks on their faces? They were absolutely TERRIFIED! Don't you ever consider anything beyond how to get your next laugh!"
Fred was the first to recover. "Of course we do," he said.
"You certainly didn't show it this morning!" Arthur snapped.
"You have no idea what you're talking about!" George shouted back. "We only did this to try and cheer up Harry! And in case you forgot, he laughed! It's probably the first time he's laughed since he woke up last night!"
"It's not..." Arthur started.
"Is this about the 'low-level bureaucrat' and the 'you serve the ministry' thing?" Fred asked, interrupting his father. "If it is, we're sorry about that. We didn't mean anything by it. You know we don't think that of you. We just had to come up with something we could say if you tried to interfere, something that sounded like what your typical arrogant Auror would say."
Arthur waved his hand in dismissal. "I don't care about that. This is about your disregard for everybody and everything but your search for the perfect joke. You hurt people this time. Get out of my sight, I don't want to look at either of you right now."
Fred and George stared at him with twin expressions of anger and hurt on their faces. "Come on, brother of mine, let's go where we're appreciated," George said with a scowl. He whirled around and disappeared down the corridor. Fred stood there for a second longer before turning and following his brother.
Arthur watched them disappear, scowling after them. When they were gone he turned to go back to Ginny's room but stopped before he could take a step. Molly was standing several feet behind him. Her eyes were wide with shock.
"Arthur..." she began.
"Not now, Molly," he snapped.
She narrowed her eyes at him, and then marched over next to him and grabbed his arm. "Come with me," she demanded while dragging him into an empty room next to Ginny's. She pushed him so that he sat down on the bed and stood over him, glaring down at him.
"What has gotten into you?" she demanded, her eyes boring into him.
Arthur felt himself wilting under her stare. He winced once the anger faded and he realized what he had said. He hadn't meant to be that harsh with them.
"Nothing, Molly, I'm fine," he said.
"No, you're not. I've never seen you lose control like that before, Arthur. Talk to me," she insisted.
"It's just that... well, you see..." he trailed off. How could he explain it to her? He didn't even really understand what was wrong himself.
"Arthur..." her tone was softer. "Arthur, look at me." Molly sat down on the bed next to him and lifted his head so that his eyes were looking at hers. "Tell me what's bothering you," she gently prodded.
"I thought I was going to lose him," he blurted out. "First Ginny, and then..." he stopped, took a deep breath to compose himself, and smiled at his wife. "I'm fine, dear."
"Arthur, you're not fine. You've been so strong for me all week, but we're partners, remember? You don't always have to be the strong one. Let me take care of that, even if just for a few minutes."
Arthur looked into the eyes of the woman he loved and found he couldn't stop himself from talking. It felt so good to unload it all, even if it wasn't until that very moment that he realized he had been repressing this all week.
"It wasn't supposed to be Ginny, Molly. I've always known the odds of our family surviving this thing intact weren't good with there being nine of us. But if it had to be anybody, it was supposed to be me. And Merlin help me for saying something so terrible, but if not me than at least one of the older boys. They've already had time to live some of their lives. It just... it wasn't supposed to be Ginny!" His eyes were burning with unshed tears. Molly put her hand over his and stroked it soothingly.
"I know, dear. I know," she whispered.
"And then when they came for Harry I thought I was going to lose him too. I love all our children so much, but Ginny... she was my baby. My beautiful little princess. And Harry, he's like one of our own. But it's different than the other boys. He's never had anybody. He needs somebody to look out for him. I thought I was about to lose both of them at once... Oh, why did it have to be Ginny?" He finally stopped rambling and fell silent for a second.
"It just wasn't supposed to be her!" One of the tears finally managed to escape and fall down his cheek. Molly brushed it away and pulled him into a tight embrace. All week Arthur had been the strong one. For a few minutes, alone in an empty hospital room, he let her be the strong one.
- - - - -
Harry stumbled out of the fireplace but managed to remain on his feet, a miraculous occurrence for him. He brushed the soot out of his hair and looked up to meet the gaze of the Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall.
"Take a seat, Mr. Potter," she said in a crisp, business-like voice.
Harry nodded and did as he was told. He took a quick glance around the office, an office he hadn't been in since the night a year ago when Albus Dumbledore was killed. It looked different, and yet the same. Gone were all the whirling, smoking instruments that used to be scattered throughout the room. Gone also was the perch where Fawkes used to sit. In their places sat a few mild decorations but the room looked extraordinarily empty without them. Harry also noticed the portrait of Dumbledore, the same portrait he had noticed that night last year, remained above the desk. Dumbledore appeared to be sleeping.
Harry looked into the piercing gaze of Professor McGonagall, wondering what she wanted. They hadn't gotten along very well after he refused to give her any details about what he and Dumbledore had been doing the night he died. He was pretty sure she was hurt that Dumbledore hadn't confided in her, the two of them seemed to have shared a close friendship. He felt horrible about not telling her what she had wanted to know but he had his reasons.
"I'll make this brief, Mr. Potter, so you can get back to Madam Pomfrey," she began. "I asked her to send you here first to inform you that the Ministry of Magic is demanding to speak with you. They want to know exactly what happened last week. They wanted to speak with you immediately but, given your circumstances..." she paused, and for a brief second he thought he saw a flash of emotion behind her cool gaze, but it was quickly gone.
"... I managed to convince them to wait a few days," she continued. "Today is Monday, you have an appointment with the Minister Friday afternoon. You really must go, if you don't they will send Aurors for you. As for what you tell him, that is between the two of you."
Harry winced as he caught the meaning behind her last sentence. He nodded. He had been expecting to have to speak to the ministry eventually. He had already decided he would tell them everything. There was no need to keep things hidden any longer. "I understand," he said out loud.
"Good. Madam Pomfrey is expecting you. You may floo directly to her office," Professor McGonagall said.
Harry nodded and stood up. He was halfway to the fireplace before he stopped and turned around, a sudden question popping into his head. Given everything that happened he never even thought to ask anybody.
She looked at him, a hint of emotion again in her eyes for a brief second before it disappeared. "Yes?" she asked.
"How did Voldemort get Ginny? Wasn't she here at Hogwarts?"
Professor McGonagall blinked, then frowned. "We don't know," she said in a cool voice. She sighed and spoke again in a softer voice. "We really have no idea at all. I'm sorry." Her voice hardened again. "If that is all..." she looked down at the parchment on her desk, clearly dismissing him.
Harry sighed. He felt terrible their relationship had deteriorated so far. He never felt as close to her as he had to Dumbledore, but he looked up to her and held a great deal of respect for her. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to tell her everything now, he thought to himself. The whole story is going to come out on Friday anyway...
"Professor?" he said, his mind made up.
She snapped her head up and glared at him. "Yes, Mr. Potter!" she snapped in a brisk, curt tone.
Harry started. It almost looked like there was anger in her eyes as she stared him down. He suddenly lost his resolve. "Nothing, sorry," he muttered. He quickly walked over to her fireplace and threw in a pinch of floor powder. He stepped into the green flames and called out "Madam Pomfrey's Office!"
After a momentary whirl of spinning fireplaces and rushing wind he flew out of a fireplace and crashed to the floor. "So much for thinking I was improving," he muttered as he picked himself up off the floor.
He heard rushing footsteps and then a door opening. "I thought I heard a crash in here," he heard Madam Pomfrey say. He looked up and smiled at her sheepishly.
"I've never been good with floo travel," he admitted.
Madam Pomfrey cracked a faint smile and gestured behind him towards her desk. "Have a seat, Mr. Potter. I want to talk to you."
Harry nodded and turned around... and froze. He looked around for a second, taking in the scene in front of him. The office was completely bare except for several boxes piled in the corner. The bookshelves, the table, the desk; everything was completely bare except for one book on the desk. He hadn't really paid attention last night in his rush to get to St. Mungo's, but now that he thought about it the boxes were there then as well. He turned back to Madam Pomfrey, his eyes wide.
"Are you leaving?" he asked.
She nodded. "I am, actually. Come, sit down," she said as she walked over and sat down behind her desk. Harry stood frozen to his spot for a second before shaking himself out of his stupor and walking to her desk. He sat down in a chair facing her desk.
"Where are you going?" he asked, hardly believing Madam Pomfrey was actually leaving Hogwarts.
"I'm retiring at the end of the term next week. I'll be staying through graduation in two weeks but after that I'm leaving the castle."
Harry was dumbfounded by this. Madam Pomfrey running the infirmary was one of the things about Hogwarts he had never imagined being able to change. "But... you can't... you're not that old!" he burst out.
She smiled at him. "Why thank you," she said. "But I am older than you might guess. And that's only part of why I've decided to retire. I have other reasons as well, personal reasons."
"Oh," was all Harry said. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the thought of Hogwarts without Madam Pomfrey. He had only been in the castle a few times since Dumbledore's funeral last year but it was reassuring to know it was still there and that it's workings remained constant. Well, most of them at least, he thought wryly as he thought about all of the different DADA professors the school had employed in recent years.
"What are you thinking?" she asked him.
Harry looked up, started out of his own thoughts. "Oh, just about how... well... I never imagined you would leave. I know it doesn't make much sense but I guess I just pictured you here forever," he admitted.
Madam Pomfrey nodded. "I understand," she said. "That is how I felt about Professor Dumbledore," she said quietly.
Harry nodded to show he felt the same way but remained quiet.
After a minute she continued. "I have been at Hogwarts for more years than I care to admit, for more years than Professor McGonagall, in fact. In all those years I have seen many people come and go, but there was one who was here right from the very beginning. Professor Dumbledore.
"He wasn't the Headmaster when I first started but now, looking back, I can barely remember a time when he was here and not the Headmaster. This school was his, to me it still is, but he's not here anymore. I just can't get used to that. I feel stuck in the past at a time when this school desperately needs to move forward.
"But it's more than that, Mr. Potter. I have seen more injuries to students in this war than I ever imagined. I have seen families ripped apart by tragedy, parents break down with grief right here in this very infirmary. This should have been a place to administer Pepper-Up Potion and heal minor Quidditch injuries, not a place to provide triage to front-line battle casualties.
"I hate what this war did to all of us. I hate the way this world we live in allowed so many of their battles to be fought by children. I stayed these last few years because I felt I had to, but I hated patching people up only so that they could be sent back into battle. It all felt so pointless.
"Now that the war is over, I guess I just want to go somewhere quiet and relax. I'm tired. I want to rest. Maybe do a bit of traveling here and there, but mostly just rest. I don't want to do something that feels pointless to me anymore."
Madam Pomfrey fell silent. Harry was shocked at how honest she had been with him. He was shocked to hear how much the war had affected her. Through all his years at Hogwarts she had been one of a very small group of people that he had seen as pillars of strength and wisdom. Now Professor Dumbledore was dead, Sirius was dead, Professor McGonagall would barely speak to him, Professor Lupin hadn't been heard from in months, and Madam Pomfrey was retiring because it had all just become too much for her. The only one who didn't seen any different was Hagrid. It really made him realize it wasn't just him and the people close to him that were affected by the war. It had deeply affected the entire Wizarding World.
Harry spent a few quiet moments lost in his thoughts. Eventually Madam Pomfrey stirred and cleared her throat. "About why I asked you to come back, Mr. Potter," she said, changing the subject.
"You wanted to check me over, right?" he asked.
"Not exactly. Tell me, are you feeling better today? Do you have more energy? Do you feel less sore?"
Harry thought for a second. "Yes, actually. All of those. I feel much better today."
Madam Pomfrey nodded. "You will improve quickly, in a few days from now you'll be good as new. You really don't have anything to worry about, just be careful not to tire yourself out too much."
Harry frowned. "Don't take this the wrong way, but how do you know? You haven't even examined me." Harry was confused. Madam Pomfrey usually only arrived at conclusions after exhausting poking and prodding with her wand, and now she was telling him he had nothing to worry about without even so much as a simple diagnostic spell. It was quite out of character for her.
Madam Pomfrey was quiet for a few seconds as she studied him. "You were brought here instead of St. Mungo's for a very specific reason, Mr. Potter."
"To avoid the press, I know," Harry said, remembering what Ron had told him.
"That was part of it, yes, but the staff at St. Mungo's are capable of handling the press. No, there was another reason you were brought here."
"What was that?" Harry asked, intrigued and a little annoyed Ron hadn't told him the entire truth.
She was again quiet for a few seconds as she studied him. "When you arrived here last week you had a variety of injuries. Most were minor, just various bumps and bruises that quickly healed. But there were two other injuries - a curious burn on your wand hand and a mysterious coma that didn't seem to be caused by any sort of detectable injury."
Harry looked down at his hand. "A burn? How did that happen?" he asked, looking at his perfectly normal hand.
"It has fully healed," she told him. "As for how it happened, at first I wasn't sure. I also couldn't explain your coma. I started researching similar injuries, it took me a few days but I eventually found a helpful reference in an unlikely place." She paused.
"Where?" Harry asked.
"Professor Dumbledore's private diary," she answered.
Harry raised his eyebrows.
"A few weeks before he died he came to me and gave me his diary, all 19 volumes of it," she said in response to his unasked question. "He told me that it was important I have it, that I shouldn't read it then, but that I would know when the time was right to use it. He wouldn't say anything else no matter how many times I asked, and eventually I forgot about it. Last week, after I had exhausted every other book I knew of, I was sitting here in my office thinking about how much I wished Albus was here to help. That's when I remembered his diary.
"I skimmed through a lot of it looking for anything relevant. That man certainly led an interesting life," she said with a faint blush, making Harry wonder just what that diary contained. "I had to go all the way back to 1945 before I found something relevant. Do you know what happened in 1945?"
Harry frowned, thinking. After a few seconds it came to him. "Grindelwald," he said.
Madam Pomfrey nodded. "It is common knowledge that Albus defeated Grindelwald in 1945. What is not common knowledge is how he defeated Grindelwald. He used the Killing Curse."
Harry stared at her in surprise. He had certainly not expected that. In Harry's mind Professor Dumbledore was the pinnacle of light, to use something so firmly entrenched in dark magic to defeat Grindelwald shocked him. He didn't know what to say, but Madam Pomfrey seemed to understand as she continued speaking.
"After using it he passed out. He had a variety of injuries from his duel that were quickly healed, but two remained... a curious burn on his wand hand and an unexplained coma. The burn healed by itself after about a day and Albus did eventually wake up on his own. By this time your burn had already healed on its own so I just left you alone, and just like Professor Dumbledore you did wake up on your own.
"At the time he didn't really know what had caused the strange injuries, but there are several diary entries over the years which show he never stopped thinking about it. His last entry on the subject, about ten years ago, stated his belief that the injuries were a result from casting the killing curse. Would you permit me to read part of his entry to you?"
Harry nodded numbly, feeling as though his head was about to burst with everything he had been forced to process in the last day.
Madam Pomfrey picked up a deep purple leather-bound book, one of the only things on her empty desk, and turned to a marked page. She set the bookmark aside and began reading.
"/The only conclusion I can come to is that these injuries were a result of the casting of the Killing Curse. As with all the Unforgivables the caster must mean it for it to work. But unlike the others, especially the Cruciatus Curse, we are all capable of wanting somebody dead. The difference between light and dark wizards is our reasons for such desires../
"/In the moment before casting the curse at Grindelwald I wanted him dead. I watched him kill so many of those that were dear to me. I watched him disrupt our world and plunge us all into fear and terror. He caused so much pain that I was absolutely convinced, as I still am, that the world would be better off with him dead. I did not enjoy the thought of becoming a murderer, I expect that burden will never stop weighing heavily on my soul, but I was sure that I wanted him dead./
"/That was all it took for the killing curse to work. I truly did mean it and so it worked. But that is where the injuries come in, at least in my belief. Avada Kedavra is based in terribly dark magic. I did mean for the curse to work and as such I was able to kill Grindelwald, but my intentions were not those from which dark magic draws its power. The result appears to be that it only worked by channeling all of the magic I held within me in order to make up for the lack of dark intentions necessary for successful dark magic. All of this energy was channeled through my wand./
"/This would explain both injuries. The coma was due to a complete drain of my magical reserves while the burn was due to my wand overloading from the amount of power channeled through it./
"/If correct, this is most intriguing. It doesn't change the fundamental truth about the Unforgivables, you must mean them for them to work, but it does change our understanding of what this means. You can truly mean for the Killing Curse to work without actually holding dark intentions within you. I feel I must give more thought as to what this means."/
Madam Pomfrey stopped reading and looked up. "That's all he wrote on the subject. I'm not sure if he ever gave it more thought than that."
Harry sat in silence. So much of what Professor Dumbledore had written exactly mirrored his own thoughts about what he had done. He hadn't really had time to think about them yet as he had been dwelling on his grief and guilt over Ginny, but the fact that he had used, and more importantly, been able to use, the Killing Curse had not sat well with him. To learn that Dumbledore had struggled with the exact same issues himself was comforting in some small way.
He looked up at Madam Pomfrey. "Can I...?" he started to say.
Before he could finish she held up a stack of parchment. "This is a copy of every entry in his diary that pertains to his use of the Killing Curse. I thought you might like them. If you don't mind, though, I would like to keep the actual diaries."
Harry nodded. That was fair, he had given them to her after all. Harry reached across the desk and took the parchment from her, securing it in a pocket in his robes.
"Thank you," he said.
Madam Pomfrey nodded. "You're welcome." There was a moment of silence and then she spoke again.
"There is one other thing. Albus was unconscious for three days, you were unconscious for a week."
Harry looked at her, confusion evident on his face. "What does that mean?" he asked.
She shook her head. "I'm not sure. Perhaps it means your curse was more powerful than his. Perhaps it means you are even less full of dark intentions than he was. Perhaps nothing. I really don't know. I just thought you should know."
"That's why we kept you here all week. We did originally bring you here to avoid the press, but we kept you here instead of transferring you to St. Mungo's after I discovered those diary entries. We weren't sure how the Ministry would react if they learned you had cast a killing curse."
"Would they have been able to figure it out from my injuries?" Harry asked.
She shrugged. "I really don't know, but I didn't want to take the risk."
Harry nodded again. He was going to tell the Ministry everything on Friday, including his use of the killing curse, and he honestly had no idea how they would react. But just as before, when he had thought he was about to be carried away by Aurors, he didn't really feel all that bothered by it. The ministry could do whatever they wanted to him and it wouldn't even compare to the guilt he already felt over both killing another man, even if it was Voldemort, and what happened to Ginny.
Madam Pomfrey seemed to understand his silence. "Mr. Potter," she said. He looked up at her. "Take what Albus wrote in those entries to heart. And when you read them, just remember that you aren't the only one who has ever had to struggle through this. Professor Dumbledore was a wonderful Wizard, the greatest of our age according to most people. Does knowing that he used the Killing Curse to defeat a Dark Wizard change your opinion of him?"
"Not in the least!" Harry said adamantly.
"Then don't be so reluctant to accept the same about yourself," she said.
Harry blinked. It sounded so simple when she said it like that. And yet, it wasn't. Or was it? He just wasn't sure, not yet at least. But he appreciated what she was trying to do.
"Thank you," he said. There was a moment of silence and it became apparent their meeting was drawing to a close. Harry thought about what she had told him when he had first arrived.
"I mean that," he said. "Thank you. For everything. I'm not sure if I ever actually said that before, but thank you for all you've done for me over the years. Your infirmary was pretty much my home away from home."
Madam Pomfrey smiled. "Don't mention it, Mr. Potter. You certainly kept life interesting around here."
Another moment of silence. Harry stood up and Madam Pomfrey did the same. He looked around the empty office and sighed. "I still can't believe you're leaving," he said at last.
"Hogwarts will survive without me," she said.
Harry looked at her. "I'm sure it will, but it won't be the same. You were important to a lot of us, even if we never told you that." He was embarrassed to see what looked like tears in her eyes.
He thought again about what she had said earlier. "Madam Pomfrey," he said quietly. "About what you said earlier, about how it all felt so pointless..."
She waved her hand in dismissal. "Oh, don't pay any attention to that," she said airily. "I was just rambling, of course I don't think that."
Harry studied her for a few seconds. Despite what she had just said he got the feeling she wasn't entirely sure how she felt. It was something he understood perfectly.
"You did make a difference," he told her. "Both in the war and in the lives of the students that have passed through here over the years."
She didn't say anything.
"Last Christmas I was feeling rather depressed with the way everything was," he continued quietly. "I asked Ginny what the point of it all was," he said, trying to reign in the flood of emotions that threatened to wash over him as he thought about the last time they had spoken, the last time they had kissed.
"What did she say?" Madam Pomfrey asked softly.
"She didn't really answer my question. She just told me that I keep pushing forward, I keep fighting, I keep believing things will get better, because it's just what I do." He paused, trying to make sense of his thoughts.
"I still don't know what the point of it all was, I don't think she did either. But she was right about it just being what I do. I'm not sure there even is supposed to be a point to all of it."
"I don't know what I'm trying to say," Harry said, giving up for the moment on sorting out his jumbled mess of thoughts and emotions. "But you did make a difference. Of that I am absolutely sure."
Madam Pomfrey sniffled, again making Harry embarrassed. "Thank you, Mr. Potter... Harry. It means a lot to hear you say that."
"So are you going to stay, then?" he asked.
She chuckled. "No, Harry. I really do feel as though the time is right for me to retire. I think you've helped me realize that I really did matter in some way all these years, and for that I thank you, but it doesn't change the fact that I just want to rest."
Harry nodded. He realized suddenly that a good portion of the Wizarding World probably felt like they needed an extended vacation now that Voldemort was dead. It was just another realization that drove home to him how far-reaching the effects of this war had been.
"Well, I should be getting back," he said, feeling a pain in his heart as he pictured Ginny laying motionless in her room at St. Mungo's.
Madam Pomfrey saw the shadow that passed over his face. "Don't let it overwhelm you, Harry. You have to live your life. It's the best way to honor her."
Harry nodded without really listening. He wasn't ready to imagine what life would be like once Ginny actually... he pulled himself out of his thoughts, unable to face even the thought of it.
"You've grown up so much in the seven years that have passed since you first came here," she said as she studied him. "Your parents would be so proud of the man you've become."
He looked at her in surprise. "You knew them?"
"Of course, I've been here for a very long time, remember? The two of them got off to a rocky start, each one landed in here more than once thanks to hexes from the other. But they loved each other so much and they managed to figure it out eventually. You turned into exactly the sort of man they would have wanted you to."
Harry's heart ached in a painful yet good way at her words. He had heard similar things about his parents many times before but coming from her, a woman who always held herself with integrity and dignity, it was somehow different.
"Thank you," he croaked, his voice almost overcome with emotion. He walked over to the fireplace and then turned back to look at her.
"Will I ever see you again?" he asked.
"One can never say, Harry."
Harry nodded. "Right then. Well, good luck with everything," he said, cringing at how stupid and generic his words sounded. He never did like goodbyes.
Madam Pomfrey smiled at him. It was one of the widest and most sincere smiles he had ever seen on the face of the usually stern woman. "The same to you, Harry. Live your life to its fullest, try to find some happiness. Merlin knows you've earned it."
"So have you," he told her sincerely. He nodded at her one last time, threw a pinch of floo powder into the fireplace, and stepped into the dancing green flames to floo back to St. Mungo's.
Author's Notes: Another chapter completed. This one kind of took off in length. It will probably be a few more chapters before I figure out how long to make each chapter and become more consistent. Until that point the length might jump around a bit.
I don't remember if Harry actually Ron and Hermione the wording of the prophecy or just the general idea of it in HBP, and I don't have my copy at the moment to look it up. If he didn't tell them the actual wording just assume he did at some other time.
Ron and Hermione are not together. Not yet, at least. It will take a long time for that to develop. Their hug in this chapter was just something brought about by the emotions of the situation. Dealing with their feelings for each other and what that hug meant isn't something either of them is ready for yet. Luckily for them I plan to write a long story!
I've realized that what I've written so far might come across as boring. If it does, then you're probably not even still reading. If you are, all I can say is that I'm sorry. There is a plot but, as I already said, this is more character-driven than plot-driven. There's actually more like about 10 little plots, some of which you already know about, others I'm setting up but you probably haven't picked out yet, and others that haven't been introduced at all yet. Along with all that there is a sort of general plot that relates to the title of this fic, but it's definitely not your standard action/adventure type story. If that's what you're looking for you probably won't find it here. Sorry!