Like many folks, including a lot of fanfic writers, I loved Deathly Hallows but felt let down by the Epilogue. I just couldn't see how JKR got from the end of the battle to 19 years later. Too ma...
Harry woke with the bright sunlight shining through the windows and onto his face. He rolled onto his other side and pulled the covers over his head to block out the intrusion when his stomach gave a long and loud grumble letting him know that he wasn’t going to be allowed to sleep any longer. Stretching his arms up over his head, he swung his feet over the side of his bed. Putting on his glasses with his right hand, Harry opened the cover of his pocket watch with his left. The smiling faces of the Weasley family waved up at him from their picture there and a warm feeling spread through him as it always did when he thought of them. Mrs. Weasley had given him the watch for his seventeenth birthday, almost a year ago now. It had been her brother’s before. She had, when she first gave it to him, worried that he might somehow be offended by getting a hand-me-down for such an important gift but she couldn’t have been more wrong. The idea that she thought enough of him to give him something that had belonged to her own brother, lost to Voldemort in the first war, meant more to him than anything else in the world could have. Anyways, it was time for breakfast and his stomach again reminded him that he had missed entirely too many meals over the last year and he wouldn’t be missing any more.
He looked over at the other beds that filled the room - his room, he thought with a smile - and saw that Ron and Neville were still sleeping. Seamus’s bed was empty as was Dean’s. Harry wondered what had become of his two roommates since the battle; he wished them well where ever they were.
He tossed a pillow at Ron’s head and called, “Oy, Ron! ‘S breakfast and for once we don’t have to eat our own cooking!”
At the mention of food, Ron roused and looked about him, feeling the same nostalgia that Harry had gone through just moments before.
“Think the elves have had time to get the kitchens up and running again already?” Ron asked as he pulled on jeans and a t-shirt.
“Merlin, I hope so. It’s been so long since I’ve had a decent meal I think I might have forgotten what they taste like.”
Ron agreed wholeheartedly however, “Not as good as Mum’s mind, but anything will be a far sight better than what you make.”
Harry laughed, “Well the Dursleys never complained... scratch that, they always complained no matter what I cooked or how it came out so what do you want from me?”
Their talk had woken Neville, who had been sleeping with the Sword of Gryffindor propped up next to his bed, and he also dressed to join them.
The Great Hall was bustling as people from all over Britain ate together. No one was bothering much with houses as reunited families, some whole, many never to be whole again, but all of the them at least together, clustered wherever they found enough room. Padma and Parvati both jumped up as Harry passed them sitting at the Hufflepuff table and planted kisses on his cheeks for about the hundredth time since the battle. Luna waved at them from another table. She was sitting next to her father who hung his head and wouldn’t meet his gaze.
The Weasleys were all gathered together and Molly waved enthusiastically for them to join in. Harry smiled as he noticed Percy sitting next to George but then felt a stab as he realized that Fred wasn’t there and never would be. From her seat, Ginny seemed to notice his change in mood and grabbed him by the arm and pulled him down next to her. She moved to kiss his cheek as well but Harry had turned to face her so that their lips met, briefly but still. They both turned red and faced the table quickly before anyone would notice.
With a sharp crack Kreacher appeared beside Harry’s seat and began to layout an enormous breakfast for him and Harry gladly started in. Glancing over, he noticed a broad bruise on the old elf’s cheek and what looked like a healing gash poked out of the shoulder of his pillowcase tunic.
“Kreacher,” Harry said, swallowing his first, hurried mouthful of food, “what happened to you?”
The elf cracked a smile that still seemed queerly out of place on his hawk-billed face. “It is nothing, Master, just some minor hurts from the fight.”
“Didn’t anyone come and heal them for you?”
Kreacher gave a shake of his head. “Wizards busy healing wizards, Master. The House Elves have healed each other enough to be getting on with their work. Lots of work to be done today.”
Harry grabbed his arm, gently but firmly, as he spoke, “Not by you, at least not until you’ve been healed properly.” He turned his head towards the others and saw Hermione already reaching into her now rather tatty, beaded bag and pulling out a jar of ointment. Before Harry could even ask she had taken the old elf by the hand and told him to lead her to the other elves that might still need help.
Ron stared at her retreating back for a moment and whispered, “Mental, I tell ya, she’s still totally mental.”
Harry grinned. “But we love her anyways.”
Ron smirked back. “Yeah, I guess I do.” His eyes grew round as dinner plates as he realized just who had overheard him saying that.
“And just when do you intend to tell HER that?” Ginny demanded.
“Well... You know I didn’t mean it quite like that,” Ron stammered back which caused Ginny to grin wickedly in triumph.
“You didn’t?” she said, feigning shock. “Well, I’ll be sure to write to Victor Krum straight away and tell him that Hermione is available. He has been dropping hints ever since Bill and Fleur’s wedding.”
“NO! Don’t do that!” Ron said on the verge of a blind panic. Ginny just raised an eyebrow in response. “All right, all right, maybe I do.”
“Then tell her, you great prat!”
“I’m just waiting for the right time. I want it to be special.”
Harry smiled at his friend’s discomfiture. “Any place you tell her will be special just because you tell her, whether it’s here in the Great Hall or locked in the cupboard of that smelly old tent of ours.”
Ginny turned to Harry like a shark smelling blood while her mother just smirked over her shoulder. “And just who do you think you are to give romance advice, Mister I’m-just-going-to-run-off-for-a-whole-year-and-not-send-a-single-bloody-letter Potter, hmm?”
Harry wilted at the look she was sending him and mumbled, “I was hoping that we could go for a walk and, you know, talk... sometime later.”
“Later?” Ginny said agape. “How much later were you thinking?”
Harry blushed and fought to think of a way out of this mess. “After I eat?” he tried lamely.
With this Kreacher reappeared carrying a wicker basket, the bruise on his face gone and the gash well on its way. He handed the basket to Ginny with a wink before disappearing again. Ginny tucked the basket into her left elbow and held out her right hand to Harry. “Well?”
With nothing else for it, Harry dropped the roll he was eating and took Ginny’s hand. As he rose to walk beside her, he heard Ron humming a funeral dirge and George whisper sadly, “He was such a good mate. I’ll miss him so.”
While Molly responded by cuffing her sons about the head, the rest of the Weasleys broke down in fits of giggles.
As the couple walked hand in hand toward the still shattered doors of the castle, the sound of hoof beats came from behind them. Harry turned to see Firenze, still swathed in bandages, approaching.
“Harry Potter, it is good to see you well,” the centaur said.
Harry smiled back. “It’s good to see you too, Firenze. So, is Mars still shining brightly?”
The centaur looked at the sunlight shining through the broken doors of the castle. “It is broad daylight now, Harry Potter; there are no stars visible. I’m afraid that from here on you will have to find your own way without their help.”
Ginny hugged Harry’s arm tightly and said, “I think we’ll be able to manage that.”
The sun was high overhead as the two young Gryffindors sat by the side of the lake, throwing scraps of food out to the squid. Their hair was mussed and their clothing rumpled but they both looked quite pleased with the situation. Then Harry turned towards Ginny and the smile faded from his face.
“There is one thing that scares me about this, Ginny.”
She turned and, seeing his expression, snuggled over closer to him. “What’s that, Harry?”
“What happens when you find out I’m not the person you think I am?”
Ginny tilted her head in confusion. “What do you mean by that, Harry? I know just who you are.”
Harry snorted. “Well, I’m glad you think you do, ‘cause I have no bloody idea anymore.”
Ginny turned to face him, her smile gone now too. “Just what do you mean, Harry?”
Harry looked into her lovely brown eyes and wondered how he could tell her. “Remember that summer when I first came to the Burrow? After Ron, George, and... and Fred came and rescued me from the Dursleys?”
“How could I forget, it was so embarrassing,” she said blushing.
“Because you had a crush on the Boy Who Lived,” Harry stated. Ginny shrugged. “And over the last few years you’ve gotten over that crush.”
“Yes, I have,” Ginny said firmly. “I got over that crush and I fell in love.”
Harry grinned at the thought that anyone would admit to loving him, but then the smile fell away again. “Yeah, but still with the Boy Who Lived, and I’m not him anymore.”
“Harry, you’re being daft.”
“No, just listen to me for a minute, Ginny. My whole life, in one way or another, has been dictated by my being him, the Boy Who Lived. I’ve never had a chance to be anything else. I was put at the Dursleys because I was him. When I came to Hogwarts everyone either loved or hated me because of him. I’ve had to live my whole life so far fulfilling his destiny and now it’s done. The Boy Who Lived is no more, he died along with Voldemort, both of them with made up names… neither one a real person.” He turned and looked at her again, willing her to understand and not daring to hope that it wouldn’t matter. “Well, now that destiny is done. I’ve done my job as The Chosen One and it’s over. There’s no one here but me.”
“And just who are you?”
Harry shook his head sadly. “You know something? I haven’t a clue. I do know who I’m not though, and I’m not anything special. I mean, look at my OWLs. They’re OK but nothing special. Hermione did way better than me and, if she hadn’t been pushing me to study, I likely wouldn’t have done nearly as well as I did. I’m a decent flyer when I have a chance but I haven’t flown in more than a year. Who knows, without my Firebolt I might not be that good at all.”
Ginny frowned at hearing Harry drag himself down like this. He was special, and not because of some names that the Daily Liar pinned underneath his picture to sell some more of their fishwrap. She knew he was special but didn’t know how to convince him of it. “So, how about this. You come back to school next term and finish and we’ll see how things go from there?”
“I dunno, Ginny. I don’t think I’d fit in very well. All my friends will be gone, except for you of course, and I just don’t think it would work.”
“Oh, I’ll bet Hermione will be here. Can you imagine her NOT taking her NEWTs? And she’ll insist that she needs a full year of classes to prepare. I’ll even bet Ron comes back.”
Harry chuckled at the thought; Ron hated school and Harry didn’t think there was anything that could make him come back. “Somehow I think you’d lose.”
Ginny grinned to herself, knowing that she now had the way to keep Harry around long enough for him to get out of his funk. She saw that that was all it was; Harry had been running so hard for so long, longer, she thought, than anyone realized, that now, with everything over, he was just crashing emotionally and needed time to sort himself out from everything that had happened to him. “Oh yeah?” she replied saucily. “I’ll take that bet.”
“What bet?” Harry said, confused. “I thought we were just talking?”
“Oh no, don’t go trying to get out of it now, Potter. You made the bet and I won’t let you weasel out of it.”
“What bet?” he repeated, just as confused as before.
“If Ron and Hermione come back to Hogwarts to finish then you come back too. No running off and sulking in some cave somewhere. You come back to school and study and take your NEWTs. Then, when all of that is done, we can worry about the rest. Deal?” She stuck out her hand.
Harry grinned; there was no way Ron was coming back to study for a whole year. He would take a job with George or something instead. He reached out and shook Ginny’s hand firmly. Ginny grinned, evidently Harry had no idea that Hermione had spent the hour before Harry and Ron had joined them at breakfast planning out just this very thing: returning to Hogwarts with both Ron and Harry to finish and sit their NEWTs. It was almost too easy.
The pair was just packing up the remains of their picnic brunch when Hermione came running up to them.
“Oh, there you two are!” she exclaimed. “We’ve been looking all over for you. The Ministry is already conducting the trials of the Death Eaters that were captured.”
“That was quick,” Ginny quipped.
“At least they’re getting trials; that’s more than Sirius ever got,” Harry responded.
“Anyway, they’re about to start the trial for the Malfoys and Narcissa is insisting that you attend Harry, as her witness.”
Harry stared at her for a moment, processing what it was that Narcissa could possibly want. She had saved his life in the Forbidden Forest by telling Voldemort that he was dead and now it was time to call in the debt. Harry called Kreacher to take the basket back to the kitchens then ran back to the castle. He needed to talk to Neville for a sec before he headed into London.
The courtroom where they were holding the trial, Courtroom 10, looked eerily like it had when Harry had seen it in Dumbledore’s Pensieve. Crowds jammed every available seat to watch the spectacle being held. At the center of the coliseum-like room sat an arc of four large and heavy wooden chairs with coils of chains looped around the arms and legs. Three of the chairs were now occupied by the Malfoy family. Facing them were the Wizengamot, Kingsley Shacklebolt seated dead center and presiding over the trials. Harry, Hermione and Ginny were ushered down through the throng and shown to seats at a table behind and to one side of the accused, he assumed it was for the barristers for the defense but no one was seated there. Hermione fiddled with her beaded bag and Ginny just looked stunned at all of the people staring down at them. Harry had tried to get them both to stay behind but neither girl would listen.
“Mister Potter,” Kingsley’s rich baritone voice rolled down from his seat on the dais.
“Yes,” Harry stumbled, then, urged on by Hermione’s elbow in his ribs, he stood. “I mean, I am here as requested, Minister.”
Kingsley barely managed to conceal his smirk at Harry’s discomfort. “Mister Potter, you have been called here as a witness for the defense. These three…” He indicated the Malfoys sitting chained to their chairs. “… seem to feel that you have some mitigating evidence to present.”
Harry looked around the room and particularly at the three Malfoys. Narcissa was giving him a pleading look, while Draco seemed to be torn between quaking in fear at his situation and snarling that he didn’t need any help for a Gryffindor.
“I’m afraid I don’t really understand what you mean. I mean we were just up at Hogwarts when I was told I needed to come here for a trial…”
An old woman Harry recognized as one of his OWL examiners stood and cleared her throat. “Mister Potter,” she began, “the Malfoys are standing trial for their actions in aiding and abetting the late Dark Lord Vo…” She appeared to stumble over the name no matter how determined she was to say it.
“His real name was Tom Riddle, if that makes it easier to say,” Harry offered.
The old woman smiled and continued, “the late Tom Riddle. Lucius Malfoy is further charged with escaping from Azkaban prison. Both male Malfoys bear the Dark Mark while Mrs. Malfoy does not. Further, Mrs. Malfoy has stated for the record that she actually assisted you during the final confrontation and that without her aid you could not have been victorious in your fight. Is this true?”
Harry thought for a moment, no formal deal had been made between them, certainly no Unbreakable Vow, but still she had helped him and he did owe her for that. “Yes, Ma’am, it is true.”
“Please explain,” Kingsley directed.
“Well, milord… er Your Honor… ah. Sir,” Harry stammered while trying to figure out just how much information he needed to, or indeed should, give on what happened in the Forbidden Forest that night, “as you all likely know already, I went into the Forbidden Forest the night of the final battle to confront Voldemort one last time.” The entire listening audience cranked forward in their seats to hear first-hand about this almost-final confrontation. “I knew that Voldemort was likely going to try to kill me, and would probably use the Killing Curse, but I also had good reason to believe that if I didn’t survive the curse, he wouldn’t either.”
He knew he couldn’t tell anyone about his conversation with Dumbledore and how he knew he was actually another horcrux and how he knew, or at least hoped, that Tom’s curse would destroy them both. He knew somehow that he could never tell anyone this but he did have to explain what happened. He owed it to Narcissa to tell the truth of what she did.
“Anyways, I was right and Tom did cast the Killing Curse at me. It knocked me down and I think I might have been knocked out for a little bit but it didn’t kill me.”
A voice from within the Wizengamot called out, but Harry couldn’t make out who it was, “But how could anyone survive the Killing Curse?”
Harry just brushed his hair away from his forehead and answered, “It’s not like I haven’t done it before.” He let his hair fall back and continued, “When I came to, I could hear Tom ordering that somebody check to make sure I was dead. If they told him that I was still alive I knew that they would just finish the job so I needed to play dead and hope whoever checked didn’t notice.”
Harry took a deep breath and looked about. He notice a pitcher of water and two glasses on the table behind him and poured himself a drink, as much to buy him a moment to think as to alleave his suddenly parched throat.
“The person who finally got picked to check on me was Mrs. Malfoy. When she knelt down to see, she realized immediately that I was alive but she didn’t say anything. Instead she told me that she didn’t care anymore about what Voldemort wanted, she didn’t care anymore about any of it. All she cared about was that her son, Draco, was still alive and well. I tried to stay as still as I could but whispered that the last time I had seen him, he was alive and well and still in the castle. She stood back up then and told everyone that I was dead. She deliberately lied to her master.”
Kingsley cleared his throat. “So you are telling us, Mister Potter, that the defendant, Narcissa Malfoy’s action directly saved your life.”
“And that her actions were vital in allowing you to confront the Dark Lord in the final battle and defeat him.”
Harry nodded his head. “If she hadn’t’ve lied, I would have been killed and Voldemort likely would’ve won that fight and maybe the war.” Everyone in the room shuddered at the thought of this.
The old woman, Madam Marchbanks, Harry finally recalled, stood and addressed him. “Mister Potter, did she, at any time, elicit a promise from you to repay her for her actions?”
“So you are under no formal obligation to assist her here?”
“I suppose not.”
“Then why are you here, young man?”
“I…” Harry began but he really wasn’t sure where he was going. “I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth. I mean, everyone knows that the Malfoys and I don’t really get along that well.” There were several snickers from the gallery and even some members of the Wizengamot were failing to hide their grins. “But in the end I suppose one of them did do something right, even if it was for her own reasons.” Harry turned to begin pacing but didn’t even take a single step before he realized it would bring him closer to where the Malfoys were currently chained to their seats and stopped. “Mrs. Malfoy only wanted to save her son, to keep him safe. To do that, she helped me; she helped me survive long enough to see Voldemort kill himself and I think that deserves at least a little of my support.”
“Are you saying, Mister Potter, that you think the Malfoys shouldn’t be punished for what they have done?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said looking at his shoes.
“Do you have any idea how many people, both muggle and magical, that Lucius Malfoy has tortured and killed?”
“A lot, I reckon.”
“And young Draco himself is directly responsible for the attempted murders of two of your schoolmates, a Miss Katie Bell and Mr. Ronald Weasley.”
Harry started to loose his temper, not at the Wizengamot but at himself for being so unsure of what the right thing to do was. “I know all that!” he fairly shouted. “He’s threatened to kill me more times than I can count. He even took a good shot at it in the castle when I was trying to destroy Voldemort’s…” Harry swallowed back what he was going to say and turned away from the judges, back towards the table where he saw Hermione biting her nails in worry and Ginny looking directly in his eyes trying to send him support and comfort. “When we destroyed an artifact Voldemort was using to help attack the castle.”
“And you think none of this deserves punishment?” That old Marchbanks bat was proving to all just how she managed to beat her age into submission as she grilled Harry.
“No, I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is that when I was most vulnerable to Voldemort, to being killed by him, Narcissa Malfoy helped me, and all she wanted was to see her son alive and safe. I might not have any magical debt or oath hanging over my head about this but I still feel that I owe her something for what she did.”
The hall grew quiet as the council took this in. Finally Kingsley… Minister Shacklebolt spoke, “Thank you for your statement, Mister Potter. The Wizengamot will now retire to deliberate. The defendants will remain where they are until we reconvene.” With a bang of his gavel, Kingsley led the other judges out of the room.
Harry returned to the table where his friends were sitting, not wanting to look at the Malfoys and not sure if he had done too little or too much to help them.
“Where d’you think Ron is?” Harry asked, more to have something to say than to know the answer.
“Back at the castle, I suppose,” Hermione answered. “We left in such a hurry that I didn’t have time to look for him. I hope he isn’t too upset with me… I mean us, for leaving him behind.”
“I’m sure he’ll understand, Hermione,” Harry said and the three of them lapsed into pointless conversation to pass the time until the court reached its verdict. He had just checked his watch, wondering if they should go out for lunch when a door at the rear of the judges’ benches opened and the Wizengamot began to re-enter the room.
They all looked dour, their faces etched from stone as they took their seats. Harry didn’t know if this was a good sign or bad, but then, he thought, he still didn’t know how he wanted things to end so there was no way for him to tell good from bad even if they were holding glowing neon signs above their heads. Kingsley stood at his podium and called the courtroom to order once again. Harry noticed the Malfoys all fidgeting in their chains but none of them looked in his direction.
“Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, hear me. The Wizengamot has reached its verdict.” The crowd, few of which had left during the intervening wait, fell silent. “Lucius Malfoy, having been previously convicted by this court of being a Death Eater, kidnapping, and attempted murder, you are further convicted of escaping from the Wizarding Prison of Azkaban where you were being held and are hereby sentenced to an additional ten years of imprisonment after the completion of your existing sentence.” Harry noticed Lucius go limp in his chair, if it weren’t for the fact that his head was slowing shaking from side to side Harry would have thought he had fainted.
Kingsley’s rich baritone had barely stopped echoing off the walls when he continued, “Narcissa Malfoy, you have been found guilty of aiding and abetting known criminals and Death Eaters in their actions and attempts to overthrown the lawful Ministry of Magic and are hereby sentenced to fifteen years in Azkaban Prison.” There was a shocked pulse of sound throughout the courtroom as the verdict fell. Narcissa herself sat straight in her chair as if carved from the same wood and didn’t react at all. “However,” Kingsley continued, “taking into account your actions during the final battle, this court has decided to suspend your sentence under the condition that you swear an Unbreakable Vow to never knowingly support or provide aid and comfort to any Dark Wizard for the remainder of your lifetime. Further, you shall agree to voluntarily cooperate with all questioning deemed necessary by the Ministry to include the use of Veritaserum. Do you agree to these conditions?”
Narcissa held her head high but her voice quavered slightly as she answered, “I do, Minister” and Kingsley banged his gavel to seal the agreement.
“Finally, we have Draco Malfoy.” Harry sat forward to listen, torn between his desire to see the young Slytherin who had caused him so much pain get his due and an uncontrollable desire to show mercy to the weak boy who had tried so hard to emulate his father and failed so miserably. “Draco Malfoy, you have been convicted of being a Death Eater and aiding the so-called Lord Voldemort in his quest to destroy and take over the legal Ministry of Magic and are hereby sentenced to fifteen years in Azkaban Prison; further you are found guilty of two counts of attempted manslaughter against the persons of Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley and sentenced to a term of fifteen years for each count.” Harry watched as Draco began to cry. “You are also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder against the person of Albus Dumbledore and sentenced to a term of twenty-five years in Azkaban for each count.”
One of the guards present must have cast a silencing charm on Draco because no sound could be heard as he wailed and thrashed against the chains that bound him.
“Ninety-five years,” Ginny said and whistled softly. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
“It really doesn’t matter,” Hermione said, “he’ll never survive the first ten. I doubt he’ll even last two.”
Harry didn’t know how to feel. He was glad that Draco was finally being punished for all the wrongs he had done but he couldn’t help but feel he had failed somehow, failed to live up to a promise he had never really made yet still felt bound by. Harry watched as the Minister’s gavel rose up to put an end to the life of Draco Malfoy but, instead of crashing down, it paused.
“Tell me, Mister Malfoy,” the deep voice spoke, “do you love your mother?”
Draco stilled in his chair, as if shocked by the question. His mouth moved but because of the silencing spell not sound was heard. Kingsley gestured to one of the Aurors standing nearby and he lifted the spell.
“I asked you a question Mister Malfoy, do you love your mother? We have heard adequate testimony here today to prove that she indeed loves you and I simply wish to know if that affection is returned.”
Whatever Draco was going to say was cut off by Narcissa. “Please, Minister, send me to Azkaban instead,” she pleaded. “Let me take his place, please, I beg you as a mother.” Harry could hear the tears in her voice and wondered if Draco was even capable of returning such deep and selfless emotion.
Kingsley merely looked at her and said, “Silence.” He looked about him, at the faces of the Wizengamot, some with disapproving expressions but most carefully unreadable.
“Mister Malfoy, the court is moved by the pleas of your mother but we can not, in any good conscience, permit you to remain at large. We are convinced, regardless of what you may say here today or what oaths are given, that you will continue to pose a threat to our society for the rest of your days. However, the war is over and now must come a time of healing; and what better place to begin that healing than with the love of a mother for her child.” He looked over at Harry seated there. “There is no magic like a mother’s love and this court prays that it may yet work another miracle. Therefore, we are modifying your sentence. Instead of serving your sentence in Azkaban prison you will be remanded into the custody of your mother…” The crowd buzzed like angry hornets at the thought of Draco going free. Draco himself had stopped crying and Harry could make out the trace of a sneer beginning to reform on his face. “Under certain conditions.”
“What conditions?” Draco tried to snarl but it came out as more of a whinge.
“Anything, we will promise you anything,” Narcissa begged.
“First, is that you also swear an Unbreakable Vow to forever forsake Dark Magic. You will agree to never engage in it in any manner, shape, or form; nor will you associate with anyone who does. Your wand will be snapped and you will be forever banned from obtaining another. You, like your mother, will freely agree to and cooperate with any and all questioning to include the use of Veritaserum at the Ministry’s leisure for the length of your sentence. Further, for the first year of your sentence you will remain within the walls of whatever residence your mother dwells in, you will not go outside for any reason. For the next ten years of your sentence, you will remain within the grounds of your mother’s domicile, never leaving it for any reason. After this period you will be permitted to take short trips away from the residence provided that you do not leave before the rising of the sun and return to your mother’s house before sunset. During these trips you will be accompanied by an Auror escort who will remain in visual contact with you at all times. Should no Auror be available to escort you, you will not be permitted to leave. The Ministry will monitor your activities at all times to ensure your compliance with these stipulations and any violation of this agreement will result in your immediately being remanded to Azkaban prison to serve the remainder of your sentence.
“For the duration of your sentence your primary responsibility will be the welfare of your mother. She has bought you this chance with her devotion to you and you will repay her in kind. Should, at any time during your sentence, your mother be rendered incapable, through any means, of adequately supervising your activities or should she die prior to the completion of your sentence, you will, again, immediately be remanded to Azkaban to serve out the remainder of your term there. Do you agree with these terms?”
Draco spat, “How dare you presume…” but he was cut off by his mother.
“Agree, Draco. Please, just accept it. You see what that place did to your father, you couldn’t possibly survive there. Please, Draco, I beg you, agree.”
Harry, indeed the entire courtroom, turned to Malfoy senior, sitting in his chair like a corpse, not moving a muscle with the exception of his head lolling back and forth like a broken doll. It was easy to see the effect this had on Draco. With a trembling voice he said, “I agree.”
Kingsley’s gavel smacked down against the podium sealing the bargain and Draco’s fate. The crowd began to filter out as the members of the Wizengamot gathered their things. Harry noticed a door opening on the opposite side of the courtroom and two Dementors glide in. The temperature seemed to plummet and his breath clouded the air as he breathed. Ginny took hold of his hand with both of hers and squeezed tightly while Hermione cringed away from them. Harry watched as tears streamed down the face of Narcissa Malfoy while the Dementors unchained her husband and led him from the room. When they left, the room warmed again and Harry could taste the pungent smell of ammonia; he wondered if it had been Lucius or Draco who had wet himself.
Harry was startled out of his reverie by Hermione’s voice. “I see the Dementors have come back.”
“Yes, they returned to Azkaban last night and resumed their duties as guards.” Harry jumped at the sound of the voice, so focused was he on the Dementors that he didn’t even notice Kingsley coming down and standing beside them.
Hermione was outraged. “And you just let them back? After all that they’ve done! After all the innocent people that they Kissed! It would have been better if they had just killed them like the Death Eaters did.”
“What other choice did we have?” Kingsley asked.
“But how do you know that they won’t just go out and run amok again? Or join the next Dark wizard who comes along?”
“We don’t,” he said, the frustration plainly evident in his voice. “But we don’t know how to destroy them either, so what else can we do? We either allow them back onto Azkaban, or we drive them off to rampage across the country. At least at Azkaban we know where they are.”
Hermione shook her head, acknowledging the truth of what the Minister said but still refusing to accept the limits.
Harry said quietly, “Sometimes you just can’t win and the only thing you can hope for is to not lose.”
Kingsley nodded sadly. “That and keep looking for a way to destroy the cursed things. Until we can do that all we can hope for is to contain the threat.” He looked directly at Harry. “Maybe that’s something you can look into in the future. The distant future; we’ve all earned a bit of a breather, you more so than anyone.”
Harry looked at the tired face of the ex-Order member; he presumed that without Dumbledore to lead it and Voldemort to fight the Order has been disbanded once again. “So, how long will all these trials take? I presume you’re going to try all of the Death Eaters this time.”
Kingsley smiled and it lit up his worn and tired face. “Yes, the Malfoys were the first trial we held as none of them were injured, with the cooperation of Narcissa we expect to be able to break the back of the remaining Death Eaters. With luck none will escape this time.”
“And what about all those who weren’t Death Eaters?” Hermione asked.
“Who do you mean?” Kingsley responded.
“Only the most trusted of Voldemort’s people were Death Eaters and bore the Dark Mark, there were lots of others who supported him and committed horrendous crimes. A lot of them right here within the Ministry. Are they going to be punished too?”
“Umbridge for example; she did horrid things running that committee of hers. How many innocent people did she send to Azkaban for ‘stealing magic’ when any fool knows that that’s impossible. We, Harry and me, were there as she held her own little trials. It was disgusting what she did.”
“And she was a part of the group that killed Mad-Eye,” Harry added.
Kingsley grew suddenly angry at this, Mad-eye had trained him to be an Auror and he held the paranoid old wizard in high regard. “How do you know this?”
“She has his eye,” Harry said. “She had it put in her office door here at the Ministry so that she could spy on the workers. I saw it when we broke into her office.”
“But did you see her that night, when Moody was killed?” Both Harry and Hermione shook their heads. “Did you hear her admit to killing him or being there when it happened?”
Again, no. “But how else could she have gotten it if she wasn’t there?” Hermione asked.
Kingsley frowned. “She’ll just deny everything. She’ll simply say that she was given the eye by someone, likely someone already dead so it couldn’t be proven true or false. That is if we can even prove that it is Moody’s eye to begin with. It’s not like it has a registration number or anything.”
“And so she’s just going to get away with everything she did?” Hermione asked incredulously.
“Like a lot of the people inside the Ministry that should be in jail, she is claiming that she was just following orders,” Kingsley almost moaned.
Hermione spat, “Like a good little Nazi, she’ll get away with her crimes simply because someone told her to do it all. The fact that she enjoyed it doesn’t matter a whit.”
Harry shrugged. “Just like she got away with sending those Dementors after me a few years ago.”
Kingsley perked up at this. “You mean to say that she was the one who sent those two Dementors back when Fudge was still around? It wasn’t Voldemort who did it?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, she even admitted it, right before we all went off to the Ministry to...” he trailed off.
Kingsley, however, wouldn’t let it go. “You heard her admit to it?”
Harry and Hermione both nodded.
“I was there as well, so were Neville, Ron and Luna,” Ginny added.
Kingsley was thinking. “Yes, but then she will argue that your statements are prejudiced by your feelings for her. She filed scrolls filled with complaints on how you lot were constantly working against the actions of the Ministry during that time. Did anyone else hear it?”
“That Inquisitorial Squad of hers was there as well.”
“But are they likely to testify against her? Or will they support her story just to spite Harry?”
Hermione and Ginny frowned but Harry suddenly began to laugh. The rest of them looked at him as if he had lost his mind until he explained. “Draco was there,” he gasped out. “He heard her admit it and now he has sworn to cooperate with any and all Ministry questions.”
Now Ginny and Hermione were laughing too. “He’ll have to say that she admitted to siccing them on Harry or else go to Azkaban, and I don’t think Narcissa is about to let him kill himself to save that ugly old toad, even if he was willing,” Ginny crowed.
Kingsley grinned. “That’s the equivalent of attempted murder, and an attempted manslaughter since your cousin was there as well. That’s forty years in Azkaban for her!”
Ginny stretched up on tiptoe and gave the new Minister a quick hug before turning and giving Harry a huge one. “It seems that some things are working out after all,” she said.
“I’m not inclined to make a deal with her either,” Kingsley said. “I’ll let a small fish go to catch a bigger one but not her. She was one of the worst of Voldemort’s supporters here inside the Ministry. But maybe she’ll be the key to getting some of the small fish to turn over and cooperate. This is going to take some time to finish off…”
“But it will be worth it in the long run,” Hermione said. “Won’t it?”
“Oh yes, it most definitely will. The biggest problem we had the last time was that we couldn’t get a wedge into the Dark supporters here inside the Ministry and almost all of them got off. This time is going to be different. I’m going to really clean house.” Kingsley seemed almost thrilled at the prospect of months, if not years, of hard work ahead of him.
At this point a clerk from the Ministry cleared his throat to gain his boss’s attention. “Excuse me, Minister, but you have another urgent appointment in your office in five minutes.”
He gave a resigned sigh and said, “Well, so much for my breather. You lot take care of yourselves, you hear?”
“Sure,” Harry replied, “and you make sure to do the same, Kingsley.”
Hermione’s elbow caught Harry sharply in the ribs, making him gasp. “Harry,” she chided him in a whisper, “he’s now the Minister for Magic, you can’t just go about calling him by his Christian name!”
Hearing this, Kingsley gave a rumbling chuckle. “It’s all right, Hermione. We’ve been through a lot together, all of us; comrades in arms, as it were. You can still call me Kingsley.” He looked over at the shocked faces of his clerk and Hermione. “At least in private.”
Harry smiled as his old minder led the younger clerk out of the room. He turned to say something to Hermione but was engulfed in a hug by Ginny instead. All in all he preferred it that way.
The sun was warm and bright as the trio exited the Ministry building and traveled over to Diagon Alley. The streets there were filled, more than Harry had seen out in years. Some of them still staggering about like they weren’t quite through celebrating Voldemort’s defeat yet and were looking for another party, others were shopping, spending their carefully horded gold to buy the necessities of daily life that they hadn’t been able to for so long. A lot of the shops were still boarded up or abandoned but just as many were open or sported signs saying they would be open soon. Weasley Wizarding Wheezes was a still-smoking ruin although Harry was confident that George would rebuild it and silently swore to give him all the help that he could. The shops that were open however were doing brisk business in whatever goods they still had. There were barrows being trundled up and down the kerbs and several parked in front of abandoned stores bearing fresh fruit and vegetables as well as household goods. All around them people were fighting to get back to normal. Harry envied them.
“So, where to next?” Ginny asked. “Back to Hogwarts?”
Harry looked at her and gave a sour grin. “Not yet. I’ve got one more stop to make: Gringotts.”
Ginny gawped at him and Hermione stopped dead in the middle of the street to turn around.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Harry!” she almost screamed. “The last time we were there we wrecked the place, or have you forgotten that?”
“Oh, I remember all right,” Harry answered. “After all, how many times a week does a bloke break into a Goblin bank?”
Ginny stared at the tall white marble of the bank standing further down the street. It’s huge, thick, and imposing front doors still broken open, one standing akimbo on broken hinges and the other laying on the steps. “That was YOU? You’re the one who did that?”
Harry blushed. “It wasn’t just me; I mean, Ron and Hermione were right there with me. And we didn’t crash through the doors, that was the dragon, we were just trying to hold on at the time.”
Hermione obviously wasn’t sure about their course of action. “Harry, we can’t go back there. They’d like as not just kill us on the spot for what we did. We did break our bargain with them.”
“No we didn’t,” Harry corrected. “The sword was returned, wasn’t it?”
“But we tried to trick them…”
“And they tricked us just as badly as we were going to trick them. I’m reckoning that things are pretty well balanced out there. Besides, all my money is in there and I need to make a pretty substantial withdrawal.”
“We’ll be lucky if we can withdraw ourselves much less any gold,” Hermione said, half under her breath.
Ginny began to fidget. “Maybe we should wait a bit, let them cool down.”
“No,” Harry disagreed, “best to strike while the iron is hot.”
Hermione huffed. “Given the amount of dragonfire that was flaming about in there the irons are likely to be hot for quite some time.”
“If it were to be done,” Harry quoted, “then best it be done quickly. Besides, I need that money. You two don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”
Hermione looked indignant, and Ginny was getting angrier by the second. Hermione snapped, “I’ve stuck with you this far, Harry. You ought to know better than to think I would back out now.”
Harry smiled at her and said, “I know, Hermione, I just wanted to make sure you knew you always have the option.”
Hermione smiled, until she saw Ginny putting her hands on her hips in a classic ‘Molly Weasley in a rage’ pose.
“And if you think for one minute, Harry Potter, that I…”
Harry cut her off with a smile. “I’m a bloke, Ginny, of course I don’t think. That’s what I have you for.” She seemed to not know what to say and Harry capitalized on it by taking her arm and heading off towards the bank.
“By the way, Harry, what do you need the money for anyway?” Hermione asked.
“Your parents,” he answered plainly. “Now that the war is over, I’m assuming that you want to go and find them again.”
“Yeah,” Hermione answered cautiously. “I was hoping to be able to start after them soon.”
“And I figured that four first class tickets to Australia and six back are likely to cost a shiny penny, hence a trip to the Goblins.”
“Harry, I was planning on going alone…”
Now it was Harry’s turn to stop dead in his tracks. “Hermione Jane Granger! You’ve just spent nearly a full year following me around and helping me, living in a tent and eating whatever we could find. What kind of a friend do you think I am to let you run off halfway ‘round the world to find your parents alone?”
Hermione had the grace to blush. “You don’t have to.”
“And neither did you, so I’m going. Besides, I think that, after the year we had, we can all use a good break. I know I likely need to get away from England for awhile.” He turned and the girls followed. All around them people were staring and whispering among themselves. They all looked at Harry but none of them would dare approach. “Just for my own sanity.”
Hermione nodded, understanding that after what he had been through, after what all of them had been through actually. They should get away from it for awhile, to heal, mentally and emotionally, if not physically.
“And why four?” Ginny asked quietly.
Harry just looked at her in surprise. “Well, Hermione, Ron, you and me, of course. And six back to include Hermione’s parents.”
Ginny smiled broadly. “You really want me to come?”
Harry just nodded to answer. “And I know Hermione is a seasoned world traveler, and you and your folks have, at least, gone to Egypt and Romania, but I’ve never been further than Hogwarts and so, if I’m going to take a vacation, by Merlin it’s going to be first class! Port out, starboard home!”
“Posh all the way,” Hermione chimed. “Now all we have to do is get past the Goblins.”
As they approached the bank what looked like a full battalion of Goblins could be seen ranged out around the entrance to Gringotts. Many were working feverishly to repair the great doors to the bank, but most of them were heavily armed and glaring at the witches and wizards who walked past. Evidently, the Goblins weren’t happy with Wizarding kind at the moment but, seeing nothing else for it, Harry walked straight up to the one wearing the most braid on his tunic and spoke, “I’d like to see the manager of this bank, please.”
The Goblin sneered in response and pointed a long, wickedly curved blade at Harry’s stomach. “And I’d like to see your guts, human. Which of us do you think is more likely to get their wish?”
Harry let the staring contest continue for a moment before saying, “Could you at least send someone to tell Griphook that Harry Potter is here to complete his side of their bargain?”
At the sound of Harry’s name several other Goblins turned to face the three, none of them looked happy to see them. After an uncomfortable few minutes a Goblin in an old-fashioned suit came out of the bank and spoke to the lead Guard in a quiet rush. With a gesture, three more of the armed Goblins stepped up and the phalanx opened to allow Harry, Ginny and Hermione to pass.
The inside of the bank was even busier than the outside. There were fewer guards present and many more workmen striving to set things back to rights. The trio were led through to an undamaged conference room where Harry recognized Griphook sitting along with another, obviously older Goblin that Harry didn’t know.
Harry showed Ginny and Hermione to seats before taking one himself. He turned to Griphook, who returned his look with one of mistrust.
“Good day to you, Griphook, I am pleased to see you well.”
Before Griphook could answer, the older Goblin seated next to him spoke. “Are you, are you indeed, human? I wonder as to the truth of your words.”
“I’m here, aren’t I? I came here to complete my side of the bargain Griphook and I made.”
The Goblins spoke hurriedly to each other. “What do you mean, Harry Potter? Our business has been concluded.”
“Not quite,” replied Harry. “As my part of our arrangement I agreed to return the Sword of Gryffindor to Gringotts and I am here today to do so.”
The two Goblins smirked evilly. “Perhaps your injuries during your recent struggles have left you confused, Mister Potter, the sword you speak of is already in our possession.”
The two Goblins conferred again, casting occasional distrusting glances at Harry and his companions. Finally, Hermione could take it no more.
“I may not speak Goggledigook but I think I know what you are saying. You think that somehow we are attempting to switch the true Sword of Gryffindor with the fake that was brought here some months ago by the Death Eaters. We are not.”
The Goblins looked at her but said nothing.
Harry cleared his throat before speaking again. “Listen, I know you don’t trust me and quite frankly I don’t trust you. Griphook and I entered into an agreement but let us say that neither one of us was perfectly honest with the other about how we intended to fulfill our parts of that agreement. I am not going to go into what Griphook agreed to or how he fulfilled his end of the bargain but I will discuss mine. I promised to return the Sword of Gryffindor, which was in my possession at the time, to Gringotts.”
The elder Goblin continued. “Yes, I am aware of that and I am also aware of young Griphook’s portion of the agreement. He fulfilled the letter of that bargain in his actions and you technically fulfilled yours. The sword in question currently rests in one of our highest security vaults.”
“Are you sure of that?” Hermione asked. “When was the last time you personally saw that it was there and secure?”
The Goblin had no answer.
“Perhaps it would be possible for you to send someone there now?” The Goblins reacted suspiciously. “I will not ask to accompany them nor will my companions. I just ask that you confirm that you still have the sword in your possession. If you do then we shall leave you to your business.”
Griphook went to the door and spoke to someone waiting on the other side. When he returned to the table he said, “It is being done now.”
The room fell into a silence that became increasingly uncomfortable to the humans waiting. Harry thought he was going to scream when the door opened again and a young Goblin ran in. He spoke hurriedly to the other two with much bowing, like he was expecting to be reprimanded for the news he brought. When he was dismissed, the older Goblin turned to the trio.
“It is as you said, Mister Potter, the sword is no longer in our possession.” The Goblin spoke with bared teeth that made Ginny reach under the table and take Harry’s hand in a firm grip. “May I ask you where it is?”
Harry grinned back, trying to maintain a casual air of nonchalance but barely managing to keep his voice from quavering. “You may ask but I may not be ready to tell you at this moment.”
“Mister Potter, if you have once again stolen a precious artifact from the Goblin Nation. If you think that you can hold it for ransom then you are sorely mistaken.”
“Harry didn’t steal anything!” Ginny spat out, her outrage overriding her fear in a heartbeat.
“Please, Ginny. You’re not helping here,” Harry said to placate his girlfriend. “However, she does speak the truth, I never stole the sword and I have no intention of holding it for ransom.”
“Then how did it come into your possession? Receiving stolen goods carries the same penalties as theft.”
Harry held up his hands. “Can we please try to remain civil?”
The Goblins snarled. “I am uncertain if humans are capable of being civilized in any circumstance,” the senior one said.
Harry took a few deep breaths, to calm himself as well as give everyone else a chance to. “I know that I am not the most clever student to ever come from Hogwarts, nor am I the most studious.” He gave Hermione a small grin that caused her to redden slightly around the ears. “I know I never learned much from our History of Magic class but I did learn one thing from one of your human employees this past year that I think it explains a lot of the animosity between our races.”
The Goblins motioned him to continue.
“In human culture, when a patron pays an artist or craftsman to produce something, once completed and delivered, it is considered to be the property of that buyer. And upon his or her death it is handed down to his heirs as a part of his estate. Thus many precious heirlooms go from generation to generation.” The Goblins sat quietly with a look of revulsion on their faces, as if Harry had just advocated heresy. “Now from what I understand, the Goblins take a radically different view of this sort of thing. As I understand it, and please correct any mistakes that I might make, in Goblin culture, when someone commissions a work of art, the piece is always felt to be the property of the artisan who creates it just as a child would be considered to belong to its parents?” They nodded solemnly. “The commissioner is considered to have purchased the right to use and possess the piece for the length of his life but upon his death the item is supposed to be returned to the Goblin who made it, or his family if he has died.”
“That is essentially correct, Mister Potter,” the older Goblin said. “You have simplified the philosophy but it is, in essence, accurate. The sword created for Godric Gryffindor was his to use for the length of his lifetime but upon his death it should have been returned to us. Gryffindor understood this when he commissioned the sword from my ancestor but his son did not.”
“And upon Godric’s death his son refused to return the blade?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, and the quest to have this grievous wrong righted has been a key element of each of the human uprisings that have occurred since.”
“Human uprisings?” Harry said.
Hermione elbowed him, although this time Harry was able to deflect it – he could be trained after all. “Goblin rebellions, Harry,” she hissed in his ear.
Harry nodded as he digested this. “So both cultures have different values and beliefs and these have come into conflict, especially around this sword.”
“Yes,” said the elder Goblin, “and we would like to know where you wizards have been hiding it for the past thousand years?”
“That’s a hard question to answer,” said Harry. “You see, none of us knew where it was either.”
“You mean none of you three, then who…”
“No, sir, I mean no wizards knew. The sword was lost completely until a few years ago when I summoned it. Although it is reasonable to assume it was likely hidden within Hogwarts somewhere.” Harry couldn’t help but think of the cavernous storage room the Room of Requirement held. If that room could hide Ravenclaw’s Diadem for Voldemort then why not Gryffindor’s Sword for his son?
The Goblin sat forward. “If you came across it then you must have known where it was hidden. Tell us now!”
“That’s the thing,” Harry said. “I had no idea where it came from, only that it came to me when I needed it.”
“How is that possible?”
“Well, I once made the mistake of asking how the sword was cleaned…”
The Goblins hissed at this insult and Hermione seemed about to step in when Harry continued, “As I said, I’m not the most clever wizard out there. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that a Goblin made blade need never be cleaned or sharpened. The magic of the Goblin race insured that it was impervious to any contamination or fault.”
“That is indeed the case; nothing inferior to the magic of the blade will affect it.”
“However,” Harry continued, “the blade will actually absorb the magic or power of something it comes in contact with if that something would make the blade stronger, right?” The Goblins nodded. “That’s why the sword was able to destroy the Horcruxes. It had absorbed the power of the Basilisk’s venom when it came into contact with it.”
“You mean to say that this sword did, in fact, slay an ancient Basilisk?”
Ginny huffed at this. “No, the sword didn’t; Harry killed the Basilisk using the sword.”
Harry grinned, his heart swelling at Ginny’s show of support.
“Now, as I understand it, the sword didn’t absorb the venom itself and then spit it out when next used like a hypodermic.”
The Goblins seemed confused but Hermione was nodding. “If it had been that way then the sword would only have so many doses of the poison in it and when that was exhausted the power of the venom would be lost from the sword.”
“No, that is not the case,” the Goblin said, trying to understand the ways of these strange creatures in front of him. “The blade came into contact with the venom and was imbued with the venom’s powers. It absorbed the magic but not the venom itself.”
Harry nodded at this. “So you are saying that whenever the blade came into contact with something that would make it stronger it would gain that power.”
“And since Godric Gryffindor was in possession of that blade for a very long period of time then it is reasonable to conclude that if the blade could be made stronger from him than it would.” The Goblins nodded in agreement. “It is even possible that a good deal of Godric’s magic and even his soul could have been imbued into the blade?”
“As if a human could improve on such a masterwork,” the Goblin scoffed.
“Well, evidently one did,” Ginny scoffed right back.
Hermione quickly intervened to prevent any argument from starting. “What we mean is that, Godric Gryffindor always stated that, should any true Gryffindor have need of his sword in the fight against Dark magic then the blade would come to his aid. Five years ago, Harry had need of it to fight the Basilisk and it came to him. Just a few days ago, a similar thing happened.”
Griphook leaned forward in his seat. “And that is what we at Gringotts would like to know, what happened? The sword was tightly secured in one of our highest security vaults, much more closely guarded than any vault any human has ever seen. And yet now it has vanished. What happened and where did it go?”
“There’s the thing, isn’t it?” Harry said. “If, as you say, no part of Gryffindor could have been absorbed by the blade then it should still be in your vault, shouldn’t it? But it’s not. Someone, a true Gryffindor, had need of it to fight the Dark and the sword answered the call. It came to Hogwarts and was used to destroy another of Voldemort’s… artifacts.”
“So you are saying that this human, Godric Gryffindor, is now a part of the sword?”
Harry’s head swam for a moment, could the sword somehow have become a horcrux? Would it then be possible to resurrect Godric Gryffindor?
“Not exactly,” Hermione said. “At least I don’t think so. I think that his magic may have been absorbed by the sword and some of his personality as well as his morality too. The sword has become a sort of independent entity, acting as it sees fit in accordance with the magic and personality it has obtained.”
The Goblins nodded.
Harry spoke again. “And so the sword is no longer in Gringotts possession. Under our agreement, Griphook, I agreed to turn over the sword to the Goblins. And even though the sword wound up in your possession after our… little adventure, I never really turned it over, did I?”
“No, indeed you did not,” Griphook agreed, curious as to how this would all play out.
“So that’s why I am here today. I wish to turn over the sword to you and fulfill my end of the agreement.”
With this Harry nudged Hermione who opened her beaded bag. Harry reached carefully inside and slowly drew out the Sword of Godric Gryffindor. It fairly glowed in the light of the small conference room and there seemed to be an almost audible hum of power radiating from the blade. Gently, Harry set the blade down on the table halfway between where he was sitting with Ginny and Hermione and the Goblins on the opposite side of the table. It was easy to see that the older Goblin, the descendant of the sword’s maker, was fighting the urge to snatch up the weapon and run but decorum had to be maintained. Instead he slowly reached out and wrapped the sword in a silken scarf he had pulled out of an inner pocket of his coat.
“The sword has been returned. Your bargain is satisfied, Mister Potter.”
Harry nodded but he wasn’t quite finished yet. “I would caution you however…” The Goblins tensed. “should at some time in the future, a true Gryffindor have need of the sword in a just cause, it will go to him. You can protect the sword from outside threats but it will fulfill its duty.”
The Goblins paused. “We will have to think on this. Good day to you.” They picked up what was once again their sword and began to leave the room.
“Wait a minute,” Ginny called, stopping them in their tracks. They turned cold eyes on her, causing her to gulp audibly. “There is an heirloom in my family, a tiara, that is Goblin made; perhaps you are aware of it?”
Griphook looked at her harshly. “Yes, we saw Miss Delacour, now Mrs. Weasley, wearing it at her bonding.”
“And if I understand all that we talked about here today, you consider that tiara to be stolen property from the Goblins even though it has been in my family for generations?”
The Goblins gave a sharp nod.
“Well then, I would like to return it to you.” Everyone, Goblin and human, turned to her in surprise. Molly loved that tiara almost as much as her children, Aunt Muriel loved it even more so. How would she ever agree to part with it?
The Goblins sat back down and eyed the girl with some interest now. “Yes?”
“But, you see, it is such a beautiful piece, it would be a shame to see it locked away where no one would ever see it again.” Griphook cocked his head slightly to the side as he listened. “And the piece has great sentimental value to my family, I’m sure that you can appreciate that, even if you don’t agree with our possession of it.” The Goblins nodded. “It has become sort of a family tradition for that tiara to be worn by the women in the Weasley family on very special occasions, such as weddings.” Ginny took a deep breath before finishing with her idea. “Would it be possible to be able to continue this tradition? I mean, the tiara would remain here with Gringotts but you would agree that, on special occasions, it would be lent back to the Weasley family to be worn?”
“And it would be returned to Gringotts immediately afterwards?” Griphook asked.
Ginny thought for a second. “Well, I can’t agree with immediately but we would agree to return it quickly. As soon as conveniently possible. Like Fleur wouldn’t have returned it directly after the ceremony was over, but the next day she or someone else in the family would have brought it back.”
Griphook answered, “Do you have it with you now?”
“Oh Merlin, no, it’s safely locked away, but it could be brought here soon, likely not today but soon.”
Griphook nodded his head in thought for a moment. “I think that would be acceptable.”
Ginny grinned and took Harry’s hand again. He was beginning to like having her hand in his.
“Oh, and one other thing,” Harry said hurriedly. The goblins turned with a look that showed that they were beginning to grow weary of this discussion. “I was wondering if I could possibly make a withdrawal from my account? I know that you are all busy and such but I have a need for some muggle cash…”
“Mister Potter,” the elder said with strained patience, “you are lucky to be allowed to leave with your life after the damage you have caused to Gringotts, do not presume to ask for more.”
“But my money?”
“Your gold will likely be confiscated as reparations for the damage, and let me say that it will not nearly pay for all of it. We here at Gringotts feel we are being most generous already not to pursue this further.”
Harry was devastated. He knew coming in that he wasn’t likely to get all of his money but he didn’t think they would leave him with nothing. And everything had been going so well after he gave back the sword and all.
Ginny gripped his hand tightly and whispered, “Don’t worry, Harry. Money doesn’t mean anything. I’m sure Mum and Dad will let you stay at the Burrow and then we’ll think of something. We all know what it’s like not to have much money and it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change how I feel about you.”
“I know, Ginny, and thanks,” he whispered back. “It’s just that that gold was all that my folks could give me. It’s all I had from them… and Sirius.”
“That’s not true, Harry. They gave you lots. Your Mum gave you a protection that has saved your life many times. They have watched over you your whole life, even if you couldn’t see them, and they still are. Even Sirius. And you have your photos, and even your family’s cloak. You can’t forget that.”
Harry nodded, the pain of losing his money eased by the reminder of everything he still had. He got up to leave and Ginny followed, but Hermione remained seated.
“Exactly what damage are you claiming Harry caused?” she asked calmly. Harry sat back down trying to figure out what Hermione was up to.
“Look around you, silly girl,” Griphook snarled. “Did you not see anything on your way in here today?”
“Oh yes,” Hermione answered. “I saw lots of damage that was done, but none of that was caused by Harry, was it?”
“What are you talking about? That dragon tore the doors right off the building!”
“Yes, the dragon did, but who owned the dragon?”
“That was an ancient Gringotts watch dragon.”
“So it wasn’t Harry’s then?” She paused as they nodded. “Then how can you fine Harry for damages done by your own dragon? It doesn’t seem quite fair to me.”
“It was Mister Potter who released the dragon in the first place.”
Hermione smiled. “Yes, and the only damage that I can recall Harry doing was cutting the chain that held it and I think he would gladly pay to repair that. The rest of the damage wasn’t caused by him so why should he pay for it?”
“The damage was caused by a rampaging dragon that he released!”
Harry and Ginny sat stunned at the predatory smile on Hermione’s face as she set about destroying the goblin’s arguments. “Yes, he released it but who caused it to rampage? I assume that Gringotts trains its watch dragons, don’t they?”
“Yes, they are very well trained but when being attacked they can not be expected not to retaliate.”
Hermione struck. “And so the people you should be punishing and fining for all these damages are the ones who attacked the dragon and caused it to rampage, not Harry. He only played a minor part it all of it.”
The old goblin leaned in. “But none of it would have happened if Harry hadn’t broken in,” he said with a sneer worthy of Snape.
Hermione only smiled the wider. “Harry and I were here under an agreement made with one of Gringotts’ employees. That is even why we are here today, to fulfill our end of that agreement. Our presence was totally authorized by you! So again, the damages caused were not his fault.” It was obvious that the two goblins were reeling from the onslaught when Hermione moved in for the kill, “Besides, you said yourself that Harry didn’t have nearly enough money to pay for all the damages, didn’t you?” Both Goblins nodded, Gryffindor’s Sword left propped against the wall, almost forgotten in the by-play. “Where could you possibly find people with enough gold to recoup all of your losses? Perhaps the Death Eaters who were attacking both you and us?”
Now the Goblins sat back, their eyes wide as the possibilities whirled in their minds.
“Were the Death Eaters here at the invitation of Gringotts?”
“No,” the goblins were forced to admit. “They and the Ministry forced their way in.”
“It seems to me that we saw a lot of gold in the LeStrange’s vault, and I’m sure that the Malfoy vault has even more.”
“No Malfoy was in Gringotts that day, Miss,” Griphook said politely.
The change in attitude wasn’t lost on Hermione. “No, but he was one of the Inner Circle and was undoubtedly involved in issuing the orders to invade the bank. Therefore, he could legally be held responsible.”
“Hmm,” the goblin mused. “This does have possibilities.” It took only a moments thought before he came to his conclusion. “In light of this new evidence, Gringotts will re-evaluate its findings with regard to the incident in question. Mister Potter’s accounts with us may still be subject to being reclaimed, however I do not feel it would be remiss on my part to permit a small withdrawal from his account considering he did voluntarily come to complete his agreement. How much would you be needing?” The goblin’s eyes went round when Hermione, after consulting with Harry, quoted a figure.
“Hermione,” Harry said as the three strolled the streets of London looking for a travel agent, “remind me to never get on your bad side. That was absolutely amazing what you did in there! The goblins didn’t even see it coming until it was too late.”
Hermione blushed at the praise. “It was nothing really. It was obvious what the goblins were trying to do and I just pointed them in a more profitable direction was all.”
“Obvious to you maybe,” Ginny added, “not the rest of us.”
“Yeah, thanks loads, Hermione. I don’t know what we would have done without the money to buy airline tickets.”
Ginny asked, “Why did you ask for so much though? I don’t really know but I suspect that it’s far more than we need to find your parents.”
“Yes, it is,” Hermione explained. “You see, I’m still not sure if the goblins are going to confiscate any of Harry’s money so I reckoned it was best to ask for as much as possible in order to be safe. Now, if they decide to, Harry will still have enough gold to start over.” She glanced over at Harry. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get all of it.”
Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulder and gave her a brief hug. “Forget about it. You did far better than I ever could have. If it was just me there, I likely would have walked out penniless.”
“If they let you out at all,” Ginny added.
“While we’re on the subject,” Harry said, “how do you expect to get your dear Auntie Muriel to agree to give the goblins her tiara?”
“First, I won’t have to convince Aunt Muriel, I’ll have to convince Mum. You see, after the chaos settled down at the wedding, Aunt Muriel decided that Mum should have the tiara now, seeing as how so many of her boys will likely be getting married soon and she would want the brides to wear it. Ever since, Mum has been going spar worrying that someone like Mundungus was going to break in and steal it. I’ll simply tell her that the goblins will be storing the tiara in one of their special and highest security vaults, and that we’ll be able to go and get it whenever there is an occasion where it should be worn.” She stopped and gave Harry a wide-eyed and innocent look. “I won’t really be lying, now will I? Mum will stop going grey, the goblins will have their tiara back, and the world will be at peace.”
All three of them burst out laughing.
The threesome walked a bit more before Ginny spoke again. “Now that we’ve stamped paid to the Malfoys, and Umbridge, and laid the foundation for rebuilding Wizard – Goblin relations, what should we do now? Plug the hole in the Ozone layer?”
Hermione giggled. “I’ll settle for just getting my parents back if it’s all the same to you. It is nice though, to know that at least some people are getting what they deserve. I only wish we could have done more.”
“Oh,” Ginny said, “who else would you like to see taken care of, hmm?”
“Rita Skeeter,” Harry said hollowly. “She made a right fortune off that book about Dumbledore and it’s all a pack of lies. I’d like to see her get what she has coming.”
Hermione pursed her lips for a second. “Well, unfortunately Harry, there is little that we can do there. There’s no law against writing books and she was very careful to base all her lies and innuendo on enough provable facts that there is little anyone can do.”
“It just irks me, is all,” Harry went on, “that all people will remember of Dumbledore now is what she wrote.”
“That’s not necessarily true, Harry. Lots of people don’t believe what she writes. Look at all those messages people wrote on that sign back at your parent’s house in Godric’s Hollow. None of them believed the lies Rita and the Ministry were spreading.”
“Yeah, but remember Ginny’s Aunt Muriel back at Bill and Fleur’s wedding. She just lapped it all up. And all the nasty letters you got, back during the Tri-Wizard tournament. Remember how many people believed that rubbish about you.”
“Besides, Harry,” Ginny added, “I thought you weren’t too keen on Dumbledore anymore. After all the things he did to you, all the lies he told you?”
“Yeah, I’ll admit that I’m not his biggest fan anymore. He did do a lot of really awful stuff to me.”
“Like sending you to the Dursleys.”
“And letting you go off and fight all the battles when he knew it could kill you.”
“Knowing that one day it would have to kill me if Voldemort was ever going to be really defeated.” Harry paused for a moment. “But still, I can’t help but have some feelings for him and I think he had some for me as well. I think I was more than just a tool to be used, although I did have to be used.”
“But you didn’t have to be used as shoddily as you were,” Ginny spat. Harry only shrugged.
Hermione grabbed his arm in hers and the three of them continued to walk, all linked together. “You know it’s perfectly normal to be ambiguous about this.” At Harry’s confused look, she tried again. “It’s alright to be confused about how you feel. After all that’s happened, it’s to be expected. You admired Dumbledore, we all did. You looked up to him and maybe even felt some affection for him, like he was the Grandfather you never had growing up. He was also a very powerful wizard and did much to be admired for. However, he was also just a man, with all the faults and foibles men are prone to.”
“Unlike women,” Ginny snickered, making sure to keep the mood from getting too dark.
“You are also perfectly justified in being angry with the way he treated you. He used you and manipulated your life to accomplish his goals without ever asking your permission or even having any real right to do so. He wasn’t your legal guardian after all. You can even hate him for how he hurt you. He kept you in a neglectful and borderline abusive environment. He prevented you from seeking help when you were in pain after Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s rebirth. He actively hid information that could have helped you deal with your connection with Voldemort in order to… Well, I don’t rightly have any idea why he did that but he did it.”
“So, it’s OK that I hate Dumbledore?” Harry asked. Ginny and Hermione both nodded, Ginny a bit more firmly. “And it’s also all right that I love him?” Nods again. “How can I do both without my head exploding?”
Hermione chortled. “You’re not a teaspoon, Harry. You’re allowed to have complex emotions and even conflicting ones. It’s all part of being human. Maybe it would help you to write your feelings down. You know, the simple act of putting it on paper may help you sort them out and come to terms with them.”
“You mean like in a diary?” Ginny asked unable to hide the shudder that went through her. Harry hugged her hard to him.
“Not necessarily, some therapists say that it is helpful to write a letter to a departed person you have unresolved issues with, telling them all the things you feel. It’s a good way to get closure.”
“A letter?” Harry scoffed. “I could write a bloody book.”
Hermione’s eyes grew wide and shone with determination as she turned to him. “Yes! That’s exactly what you should do!”
“What? Write a book about Dumbledore?”
“Yes, you were saying just a few minutes ago that you hated the fact that Rita Skeeter is getting rich on that pack of lies she wrote and that now people will think of that when they remember him. Well, write your own biography of Albus Dumbledore. Whose book do you think people would refer to when the want to learn about him, one written by someone who never knew him or one written by the wizard who was probably closer to him than anyone?”
“I hardly think that I…”
“No, I think she’s right here, Harry,” Ginny said. “There may be people who knew Dumbledore longer than you did, like Dedalus Diggle, but no one knew him, I mean really knew him, like you did. He told you things, admitted his mistakes, things that he never told anyone else. You could tell the world the real story of Albus Dumbledore. Not a glossed over tribute or a muckraking scandal rag but an honest and open biography.”
“Warts and all,” Hermione chimed in.
“You mean tell about his family, his fight with his brother, Grindelwald, the whole thing?” Harry could hardly believe what they were saying.
“Exactly, the good and the bad. You can tell of his faults honestly and not sensationalize them,” Hermione said. “You could even get Aberforth to open up finally and tell his side of things. The world deserves to know and you have the need to tell it. By writing this book you can put the past behind you once and for all.”
“Not to mention that you would likely make enough money from it that it wouldn’t matter if the goblins took every Knut out of your vaults,” Ginny added.
“True, it never hurts to have a backup plan,” Hermione said. “Besides, we’ll have lots of time to work on it next term when we’re all back at school.”
Harry was dumbfounded. “School???”
Hermione took her stern, junior McGonagall face and stared Harry down with it. “Yes, school. We’re going back next term to finish our education and sit the NEWTs!”
“Don’t you ‘but’ me Harry James Potter. It’s all well and good that we took a year off and fought a war but that’s over now and it’s time to get serious again. You are going back to Hogwarts for your seventh year and you are going to study and you are going to do your very best on your NEWTs! You have your whole life ahead of you and I am not about to see you stuff it up by being lazy!”
“Ron is going back as well.”
“Does he know this?” Harry asked beginning to smile.
Hermione hesitated a bit. “Well, we haven’t exactly had a chance to discuss it but…”
“Can I be there when you do?” Harry looked like a little boy going to the circus and Ginny couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of it. Harry turned and mock scowled at her. “You knew this all along, didn’t you?” She said nothing. “You set me up!”
“Get used to it, Harry,” she answered. “You’re mine now.” She took his elbow once again and dragged him down the street. “So what say we take a little of that Muggle money you have so much of and get ourselves some dinner? I’m starving.”
As they walked into a small local pub to eat, Harry held the door open for the two girls. Hermione thanked him kindly and Ginny rose up on her toes and placed a gentle kiss directly on his scar.
A/N: There, I can now feel comfortable transitioning to the Epilogue in Deathly Hallows, feeling that justice has been done to a realistic extent. With one obvious exception of course, I can’t for the life of me justify Harry naming one of his sons after Snivellus. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!?! As portrayed for us in Canon, Snape is a vile individual. The best thing that can be said about him is that he was consistant in his obsessions. He was a stalker. He was prefectly happy with the idea of killing Lily’s husband and child so long as he got to take possession of her. Her happiness and welfare were meaningless to him. “Boxing Helena” anyone? He was unrepentant right to the very end, nor did he ever foresake his pure-blood bigotry in spite of his own half-blood status. I can only think that JKR had somethingn else planned for him but the story took a left turn on her, as they so often do to me, and she could no longer fit it in. I see her trying to make Snape into a character like Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” but then I was never able to see Heathcliff as much of a tragic hero either.
Anyways, here is my DH compliant one-shot. I hope you enjoyed it. I know it had no action but, believe it or not, it has inspired a bunny for a follow-on Epilogue Minus 14 that is filled with action as Harry finds a way, thanks Shack for pushing that idea on me, to destroy the Dementors as a new Dark force arises in their midst. I might give it a go when I finish “Like Some Song You Can’t Unlearn”.
Finally, my undying gratitude to Helen for beta’ing this tale for me. Her aid and support is, as always, key to making this story work.