A continuation of my story Epilogue Minus 19, telling the story of what might have happened during the time period between the final battle and the Epilogue JKR gave us. The group is out of school...
Harry rolled out of the fireplace into a somersault and rose easily to his feet. Having given up on ever being able to manage using the Floo on his feet he had settled for adding a bit of style to his falling out. With a flick of his wand, the soot and ash that had followed him disappeared from his clothes and the hearthrug. He smiled softly as he glanced at the collection of photos that littered the broad mantle of the fireplace, they always seemed to bring a smile to his face. There were shots of his parents, Ron and Hermione, as well as a set of pictures of all the Weasleys. There were also several photos of a toddler with the most amazing collection of hair colors: Teddy Lupin.
“Ginny! I’m home,” he called out.
A soft pop from behind him alerted him to Kreacher’s appearance. “I’m afraid the Mistress is not yet home. Can Kreacher get you tea, Master Harry?”
“No thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said as he pulled his Auror’s robes over his head and tossed them towards the coat rack that stood halfway between the fireplace and the entryway to the house.
It was a huge and ugly thing that Harry had to have the instant he saw it for that precise reason. It had antlers for hooks and a gilded mirror in its center.. He couldn’t imagine such a monstrosity ever being in Number 4 Privet Drive. But then again, a few years ago he never would have imagined himself here again either. He shook his head at the memories of what had brought him back.
His last year at Hogwarts, after Voldemort was finished, was quiet, yes, but it also had its share of nightmares. About once a week Harry would awaken screaming from a dream, a memory more like, of some trauma he had gone through. Some were of the final battle, of seeing Fred die, of finding the bodies of Remus and Tonks laying in the Great hall along with the rest of the fallen from the Battle of Hogwarts, but, oddly, most of the memories came from his time with the Dursleys when he was neglected and hurt for no other reason than he was there. Hermione had told him that many muggle therapists believed that a person couldn’t just lock away his painful memories forever, he had to confront them. She told Harry that he could either take possession of his past or allow himself to be possessed by it. He had taken her advice to heart.
Over the Easter break, Harry and Ginny had returned to Surrey to see his childhood home. They had walked the streets as Harry pointed out the school he attended, and the roof he had accidentally levitated himself to. The play park where he went to escape the tedium of his relatives. The alley where the Dementors had attacked him and Dudley. He introduced her to Mrs. Figg, who still lived on Magnolia Crescent and raised Kneazle crosses to sell in the Wizarding world. Finally, he led her down Privet Drive, past numbers 10, 8, and 6, up to the front garden of Number 4.
He was quite surprised to see that a For Sale sign was stuck in the ground by the kerb and the grass long and unkempt, the garden overgrown with weeds. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d expected to see but this certainly wasn’t it. He hadn’t heard a word from either his aunt or uncle since they had gone away with Deadalus Diggle and Hestia Jones that night he left Little Whinging for good, or at least he thought it was for good. He hadn’t heard if they had returned to their home or not, or even if the Death Eaters had burned the house to the ground that night in their attack.
Well, evidently they hadn’t as the house still stood there. And it was equally obvious that the Dursleys hadn’t returned since his aunt would never have allowed the house to appear so shabby to the neighbors. He wondered how long the house had been on the market. He jotted down the agency number with the intent of finding out.
As it happened, the Dursleys had put the house on the market shortly after they left that night. Before he died, Dumbledore had set them up with a nice, modern townhouse on the outskirts of London in case the house in Surrey was compromised. It was a bit closer to Grunnings for Uncle Vernon and gave Aunt Petunia many more neighbors to collect gossip on. The fact that it was also in a much more well-to-do area didn’t hurt either. And so they chose to remain there after the war and not to return to Surrey. As for the house on Privet Drive, in spite of the high demand for housing in the area, it hadn’t sold. Several people had visited and some even seemed quite interested however, once they inspected the house and had a look at the door to the smallest bedroom, with its collection of locks and its catflap, most never returned. Those few that weren’t discouraged asked around the neighborhood and learned about the family who once lived there, the delinquent son and the deranged nephew. Somehow, the house had garnered quite the reputation for itself, and the antagonism the neighbors felt for Petunia hadn’t helped matters.
Through a solicitor, Harry made an offer on the house, less than the premium price Vernon was asking but still a fair price for the property considering how long it had sat empty and by the time Harry and the gang finished their NEWTs he had taken possession of it. Hermione was initially shocked, telling Harry that ‘taking possession of his past’ was just a figure of speech and he shouldn’t have taken it literally, but she quickly changed her mind when Harry threw his house warming party.
He invited his friends and all the Weasleys, as well as Andromeda Tonks and little Teddy, Harry took his duties as Godfather very seriously and made sure that Teddy got all the spoiling that he had not received growing up. They were all gathered in the lounge, standing amid the dust-covered furniture that came with the house, chatting uncomfortably, when Harry conjured up a fireman’s axe and smashed in the door of the cupboard under the stairs. He was grinning like an madman with tears running down his face as he turned it into splinters too small to even be used as kindling. Mr. Weasley just barely managed to salvage the telephone as the corner table it was sitting on became Harry’s next target. He failed to save the ‘eklectric’ fireplace as George and Ron got into the swing of things and tore through the false wall that covered up the real fireplace that they had used back in the summer of the world cup.
As Harry raced upstairs to deal with his old bedroom, Ginny stooped to look into what remained of the tiny cupboard. Scrawled there on the bottom of a stair tread, in brown crayon by a crooked and childish hand, were the words ‘Harrys Rum’. Fleur held Ginny as she wept while Hermione decided to visit the master bedroom. Molly, after a glance at the cupboard where her seventh son had been forced to live, decided that Petunia Dursley’s kitchen needed a bit of redecorating as well.
It was a tired and plaster-covered group that sat around the picnic lunch that Kreacher had laid out in the back garden. They laughed as they ate and told stories of the past. Molly confessed that the twins had gotten their mischievous streak from her side of the family as she told tales of her brothers Fabian and Gideon growing up. Arthur was fascinated with the lawn mower as little Teddy played with a collection of battered plastic soldiers that Harry had hidden in the shed as a boy and forgotten about. As they all left that night, Hermione leaned over and, giving Harry a fierce hug, admitted that it was a good idea after all.
Harry had moved in right away, rebuilding the house from the inside out. The cupboard was removed entirely as, with the help of a little magic, the stairs became freestanding, cantilevered from the wall with no other support. The fireplace was enlarged and connected to the floo. Kreacher had taken over the smallest bedroom and the rest of the house was decorated in a mash of styles that reflected whatever Harry stumbled across that struck his fancy.
Ginny had moved in shortly before her eighteenth birthday. Harry was expecting a huge row with Molly over this but it never occurred. He expected to be shunned for ruining the reputation of her only daughter but Molly seemed to take it all in stride, still giving Harry overwhelming hugs whenever she saw him and only dropping the occasional hints about making things proper. Harry never heard of the huge fight that Ginny had gotten into with her mother about it. It finally came down to Ginny’s being of age and able to do whatever she wanted and Molly either accepting it or never seeing either of them again.
Harry was brought out of his thoughts by the roar of a motorbike pulling into the drive. ‘That would be Ginny,’ Harry thought as he moved towards the door and opened it for his girlfriend. Ginny stepped off the bright yellow motorbike and took off the helmet, shaking her long red hair free of the plait that held it against the wind. She looked smashing in the skintight dragonhide suit she wore when she rode and she put a little extra sway into her hips as she walked past Harry into the house.
“So, how was practice?” Harry asked. Ginny had gone straight to the Holyhead Harpies from Hogwarts, spending one season in reserves before becoming one of the starting Chasers.
“It was horrid!” Ginny complained. “Gwenog worked us like horses. She really wants to win the league this year. I think she’s thinking of retiring and wants to go out on top.” Harry nodded as he listened. “And how was your day, love? Catch any big, bad Dark Wizards?”
Harry had entered the Auror program after school and had just finish the training program a few months ago. A year in a probationary position and he would be a full fledged Auror.
“Incredibly boring. You won’t believe this but one of the standard assignments for rookies is to watch the Malfoys. I spent the entire shift disillusioned and walking around their yard as Draco and Pansy did nothing at all but yell at each other.”
“She still big as a house?” Ginny asked with a grin.
“Worse,” Harry answered. “I swear, if she doesn’t drop that sprog soon, I’m gonna take a pin and pop her like a balloon!”
Ginny laughed as she poured each of them a tall glass of pumpkin juice from the tray Kreacher had just left. She sat on the couch and pulled her boots off, wriggling her toes inside her socks. Still in love with the Malfoy’s wealth, and despite their fall from grace in the wake of Voldemort’s demise, Pansy had persuaded Draco to marry her just as soon as she learned he wasn’t going to Azkaban. Of course, this was before the Goblins made their sweep of the Death Eaters’ vaults in reparations for the damage done to the bank. Narcissa had been forced to sell Malfoy Manor in order to raise enough money to live on; she refused to do something as menial as get a job and Draco was bound by his house arrest. The estate had been bought by a development firm, instigated by Hermione and funded by Gringotts with the gold taken from the Malfoy vaults. They razed the manor house to the ground and built a muggle subdivision named ‘Faith Acres’ in its place. The profits were enormous and made the goblins quite fond of Hermione. Her share was nothing to sneeze at either. Narcissa and Draco moved into a small cottage in the West Country, well small for the Malfoys as it had five bedrooms and sat on three acres of land, and lived comfortably, albeit not extravagantly, on the money gained from the sale. Poor Pansy was stuck and never missed an opportunity to tell Draco how she felt. Harry often wondered, given how constantly the couple fought, how she managed to get pregnant at all. He assumed large amounts of alcohol were involved.
“Ron and Hermione are coming over tonight,” Harry reminded Ginny. “You might want to take a quick shower before they get here, I know I do.”
Ginny gave him a leer and said, “We could do it together to save time if you’re in a hurry?” He was; they did; it didn’t.
Ron and Hermione showed up at the stroke of seven, exactly on time. Hermione looked radiant in the last stages of her pregnancy and Ron was bursting with pride. It always amazed Harry how their relationship worked out. As friends, they were constantly bickering, each liking the other but both too afraid of rejection to be the first to say anything. The end of the war had changed all that and the two were wed soon after finishing school. The money earned from co-authoring the biography of Albus Dumbledore with Harry had given them the nest egg they needed to buy a small place of their own and the money from Hermione’s real estate venture with the goblins let them live nicely. Hermione now worked for the Ministry, striving to build bridges between Wizards and the other magical races. Her contacts with the Veela through Fleur helped, as did the goblins affection for her vicious streak in business. The House Elves, however, still considered her a pariah and the Centaurs had returned to being coolly aloof to anything with only two legs.
Harry laughed as the foursome sat drinking tea after dinner. “Of all the changes that have gone on, I still think that you two are the one thing nobody thought would happen.”
Hermione looked outraged. “What are you talking about? Do you mean to imply that no one thought Ron and I really cared for each other?”
“Nah, we all knew that,” Harry answered casually. “It’s just the way things worked out with you two that threw us all for a loop.” Indeed, when the two were first married they fought worse than ever. People were beginning to think of them as the Gryffindor version of Draco and Pansy.
“Well, I will admit that things were a bit rocky there at the beginning.” Hermione had left school with a definite plan for where she was going; she had established a solid financial base and then pursued her social ideas for bettering the Wizarding world. Ron, on the other hand, didn’t; he hadn’t made the NEWTs needed to get into the Auror program and didn’t want an ordinary Ministry job. He had hoped that he could maybe play Quidditch professionally but even the Cannons didn’t make him an offer; it seems their current Keeper was just fine with them, thank you very much. The two were married with him still looking for his niche in life. He worked for George at WWW for awhile but the long hours didn’t seem to suit him.
“I’ll say,” Ginny quipped. “I guess it’s a good thing that Hermione never learned to cook.”
The one thing about Ron that never changed was his appetite, and Hermione wasn’t domestic in the least. Meals were an ongoing feud with them, as Hermione refused to get a House Elf to do the cooking and Ron continued to insist that the meals she made were inedible. One day, Hermione got fed up and demanded, ‘If you think you can do a better job than you are welcome to try!’ And he did. His first forays into the world of cooking weren’t the best but they were at least as good as Hermione’s. And he learned from his mistakes. It didn’t take long for him to comfortably settle into the role of househusband. At first, he would just cook the meals and Hermione would clean up afterwards. He quickly became adapt at all the other householdy charms that his mother was such an expert with and settled into place nicely. The house was tidy, and a hot meal was on the table when Hermione came home from work. And since Ron had cooked it, Hermione had no place to complain when he ate his fill. The fights disappeared as domestic tranquility settled in. Whoever would have thought that the perfect wife for Hermione was Ron? The pending arrival of their first child put a bit of a spin on things but since it would be a boy, Ron had no trouble with the idea that he would be the one to raise him to become a real man, apron and all. As long as the Weasley blood ran true to all boys then all their problems were solved.
Ron spoke up, “And speaking of domestic tranquility, Harry, when are you going to make an honest woman of my sister and start raising a brood of your own?”
Hermione swatted him on the arm as Ginny winged a brocaded pillow at his head – it was a throw pillow after all. Harry blushed slightly at the fuss.
“We’ll get married when we are dammed good and ready, MUM!” Ginny snapped. “And when that will be is none of your business. You’ll be lucky if you even get an invitation at this rate.”
“Easy there, tiger,” Harry said, mollifying her only slightly. “He didn’t mean anything by it.”
Ginny stewed for another second and said, “Well, he ought to engage his brain before he sticks his foot in his mouth.”
Harry grinned, “Yeah, then he’d have even more room in there for pudding.”
Hermione looked at him in shock, before bursting into a fit of giggles. Ginny soon followed and the anger of the moment was lost in the joy of just being together.
They laughed together until well past midnight when Hermione finally admitted that she had an important meeting with the Goblin Liaison Office the next morning and needed her sleep. Ron guided her into the floo and home.
As Ginny got ready for bed, Harry lay quietly under the covers, content that life was good and he was the happiest he had ever been or could even imagine being. He smiled as she came into the bedroom and draped her dressing gown over the back of a chair. Harry had been shocked to discover that Ginny slept in the nude but was more than willing to join her in the habit. She slid between the sheets and snuggled close to him.
“I love you so much, Harry,” she said with the emotion raw in her voice.
“I love you too, Ginny. You make me happier than I ever thought I could be.”
She kissed him soundly before rolling over and spooning up into his warmth.
“Ginny?” Harry asked tentatively.
“Hmm?” she answered.
“Did you really mean what you said earlier?”
Ginny turned to look him in the eye. “You mean when I said I loved you? How could you even doubt…”
Harry shushed her with a kiss. “No, not that. I know you love me and I hope you know that I love you.” She kissed his shoulder and burrowed down further into the covers. “I meant after dinner when you told Ron that you weren’t ready to get married. Did you mean that?”
Ginny rolled on top of him, straddling his hips with hers. She put her hands firmly on his shoulders, holding him in place. “Just what are you talking about, Harry Potter?”
Harry shrugged slightly. “You know, when Ron asked when we were going to get married, you said that you weren’t ready. Did you mean that or were you just saying it?”
Ginny looked at him. “I didn’t say I wasn’t ready to get married, I said that we weren’t. And yes, I meant it.”
Harry looked up at her, her pert breasts fighting to distract him. They weren’t really what you would call big, Hermione’s were bigger, but they were firm and high and Harry thought they were just about perfect. By their own will, his hands wandered up to cup them as he spoke. “But what about you… just you?”
Ginny thrilled to his touch, she could never get enough of having him touch her; she had dreamt of it so long. “Harry, I don’t need some piece of paper to prove that you love me, and I certainly don’t need one to know that I love you. I don’t need the Ministry to sanction our relationship. I just need you. If you want to get married then fine, we’ll get married, but don’t do it for me. If you want to do it for yourself, for us, then I’m ready. If not, well then all I need is you here with me.” He looked to be struggling to say something. “Stop worrying about it, Harry. You’ll know when you’re ready. And getting married won’t change anything; we’ll still be us, so what difference does it make?”
“But how will I know? Maybe I’m ready now and I just don’t know it?”
Ginny laughed, causing her breasts to bounce pleasantly in his hands and her hips to slide even more pleasantly against his own. “Oh, you’ll know all right. As big a Gryffindor as you are, you’ll probably sweep into the middle of a Quidditch match and kidnap me right out of the game to elope on the spot!”
Harry smiled at her antics and she, noticing his other reactions, continued her movements.
“Forget Ron,” she said huskily. “Take me. Forget the rest of the world and take me. Make me yours.”
Her eyes grew dark with desire and Harry responded by pushing her off of him and onto her knees on the bed beside him. He knelt behind her and did as she asked to their mutual satisfaction. When he was finished, he rolled her gently onto her back and lay down atop her. He kissed her deeply, pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into the kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. Joined again they lay together, barely moving except for the beating of their hearts, until their mutual love brought them together to the heights of passion once again.
As night slowly faded from the sky, retreating from the warmth of the coming dawn, Ginny lay wrapped in Harry’s arms, her back spooned against his chest His deep and regular breathing testimony to his slumber. She slowly eased her hand up and pressed it against her lower belly, feeling the emptiness there. A single tear slid down her cheek. Was she really good enough for him, she wondered silently. Would he ever be ready to plant the seed that she so desperately wanted to feel grow within her. She screwed her eyes shut at her own twisted emotions. She loved her life. She loved playing Quidditch, the thrill of the game, the joy of victory and even the bitterness of defeat. But was it enough? She loved being here with Harry but would he ever want her with him in the deepest, most magical sense. Did he want her forever or only until he found something better? She knew Harry loved her, she truly did, but she also couldn’t help the insecurities that came that whispered in her ear that he wanted more than just little Ginny Weasley, that one day he would find someone else and she would be left alone. She wanted to have his babies. In her head she realized that there was still plenty of time for that, they were both still quite young. She still had several years to enjoy her playing career before she settled down. Her head said there was no need to rush but her heart only felt the emptiness in her womb that could only be filled with a child… their child. She pulled Harry’s arms closer around her like armor against her own thoughts and, still asleep, he responded by holding her tight to his chest. She held him and prayed for the dawn that would banish these thoughts from her head.
~O~ ~O~ ~O~
The village of Hogsmeade was quiet in the warm light of that May morning. It wasn’t a Hogwarts Weekend so the sleepy village kept to its own easy pace as the residents moved about their business. Harry looked over at the Three Broomsticks, as Madam Rosemerta opened the doors on a new day. The lunch crowd would be arriving soon and Harry considered taking his early to avoid the crush.
He was assigned, along with two other Probationary Aurors, to patrol the village. It was an easy assignment that reassured the people living there and gave the young Aurors a chance to practice their people skills as they interacted with them. Harry in particular found this to be an unpleasant tasking as people still, nearly four years later, came up to him and just stared. A few of the braver ones would ask to shake his hand or mumble their thanks, which would always cause Harry to blush, much to their amusement. But he worked for the Ministry and as long as they paid his salary he would do as he was told.
Being an Auror turned out to be a lot more boring than he had thought it would be. Instead of running up dark alleys, chasing Darker Wizards, Harry spent his days walking the streets and filling out endless reports that all said the same thing: nothing. Even worse were the days when he was assigned to watch the Malfoys, or more accurately Draco Malfoy as Narcissa could come and go as she pleased. Watching the ex-Slytherin prince lounge about his garden and complain about how bored he was wasn’t exactly Harry’s idea of the best way to spend his time. But then again, as Kingsley had told him, the fact that his job was boring was proof that he was doing it right. It was when things got exciting that you had to start worrying. Still it rankled.
The morning sun was warm and through the occasional gaps in the trees Harry could just make out the movements of fliers on the Hogwarts pitch. He considered for a minute switching his patrol with Jennings, who was guarding the gates to the school and patrolling the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Then, at least, he could watch the teams practice. It wasn’t much but it was something. Harry drew his cloak around him as a sudden chill wind blew across him. He shuddered for a moment thinking that winter hadn’t yet fully conceded the changing of the seasons when a dull thrumming sound tickled at his ears.
Harry wandered a bit further down the street, pulling his collar up against the chill and thinking of the damage that had been done to the village in the war. Sure most of it had been repaired but here and there scars of it could still be seen. Just like with people, sometimes, no matter how they tried to hide it, the damage ran deep and could never be truly fixed. His breath clouded the air in front of him as the buzzing in his ears grew louder. He spun his head around looking for the source when he suddenly realized that it wasn’t buzzing, it was screaming. It was still faint but it was growing louder. It was his mother’s screams as she died.
Harry began to sprint back to the center of the village. He shouted for Jennings to cover the gates to the school and hoped that he heard. Reaching the village square, Harry skidded to a stop and reached into an inner pocket of his robes. As he noticed Rosemerta shuttering the windows of her pub again, he pulled out a small glass marble and hurled it at the cobblestone street, shattering it. It was an emergency alert beacon that would notify Auror Headquarters that some thing was seriously wrong and they would respond by scrambling a team of Aurors. He pointed his wand to his throat and incanted the Sonorus charm.
“EVERYONE GET BACK INSIDE! STAY INDOORS AND BAR YOUR DOORS! DEMENTORS ARE ATTACKING AND THE MINISTRY IS ON ITS WAY!”
Harry turned to the east and looked down the street that ran through the town and into the forest. At the end of the lane was the turnstile that led to the hill that held the cave where Sirius had hidden. But Harry couldn’t see that far today, the way was blocked by a swarm of tattered black cloaks.
Harry had dealt with Dementors before, he had encountered more than a hundred of them once back in his third year, but somehow this swarm rocked him to his core. It had been years since they had caused any trouble, not since returning to Azkaban at the end of the war and Harry wasn’t used to the idea of having to deal with them again. He shivered as the cold seeped into his bones. He pointed his wand and waited as the screaming in his ears grew louder. Just a little bit further and he would fire off his Patronus. He was confident that it would hold them off, at least until reinforcements arrived. He just had to wait a bit longer, let them get a bit closer, until…
Prongs cantered up the street to meet the Dementors as Harry focused on directing him to not let any get past. He glanced around, hoping to see Jennings or the other Probate, what was his name again? In a few minutes, the Ministry should be responding in force; he just had to hold them off for that long. A sudden movement caught his eye and Harry turned to see a young boy running down the street. Before Harry could begin to react Rosemerta had flung open her door and grabbed the boy to pull him into the Three Broomsticks. Harry turned back to Prongs and the Dementors approaching the town square when a fresh wave of cold washed over him. He spun again to see a new group of Dementors crowding around the door to the pub. One had grabbed the boy by the neck and lifted him up from the ground, about to suck out his soul while two others struggled to get hold of Rosemerta. Prongs was too far away and would never get here in time so Harry dashed across the street and flung himself at them.
He barreled into the two fighting with Rosemerta and knocked them aside enough to give her room to gather her wits but his real goal was the one holding the boy. It had already dropped its hood and its decaying cadaverous face was slowing reaching down towards to barely conscious boy. Harry had only a second to notice a slimy grey tongue beginning to extend out of the thing’s mouth before he took action. With nothing else to do, Harry jabbed his wand forward and into the back of the Dementor like a stiletto. The creature made no sound but it flung its head back in a silent howl and dropped the boy. It twisted to face this new attacker, wrenching the wand from Harry’s grasp, while the other two abandoned their previous prey for this new threat. Rosemerta grabbed the boy and pulled him into the pub, slamming the door as Harry jockeyed for position against the group of Dementors. He couldn’t allow them to surround him, he knew that much. He had to find a way to hold them off until help arrived, but without his wand there wasn’t much he could do.
The four Dementors spread out and Harry could tell that they were trying to surround him. He looked up the street, hoping that Prongs would see his distress and come to his aid but didn’t see the stag at all. When he lost hold of his wand the spell must have dissipated. He needed his wand back and Harry looked at the Dementors ranged in front of him to see if he could recognize which one had it stuck in its back. It was then that he saw them, another crowd of Dementors had come in from the other side of town and were now spreading out behind him. He was already surrounded and unarmed. Where was Jennings? And where were the rest of the Aurors? If someone didn’t show up soon Harry knew he was lost. Harry flexed his fingers, trying to keep away the stiffness the cold had brought and struggled to find some way out of this. His mind began to fog as the screams of his mother blended into the general din of battle. The image of Fred crushed beneath fallen stone in the castle corridor flashed across his mind. If he had only been a little faster he might have gotten there in time to prevent it. He saw Tonks, her pink hair lying lifeless across her cold staring eyes as she lay dead next to Remus. If he had just done his job better none of them would have died.
‘Lily, take Harry and get out!’ he heard his father call. Maybe if he had just died that night then none of them would have died at all. They died to keep him alive; he killed them to save himself.
The vision of Ginny came next. Her bright eyes began to fade as the life drained from her. She would die too, he thought. She would die saving him. Saving him so that he could kill again. Who needed a Dark Wizard when the Boy-Who-Lived would kill everyone himself just to stay alive.
“NO!” Harry screamed as he lunged forward. One of the Dementors had limped, just a little, and that was all the clue Harry needed to see where his wand was. He dove onto the thing, struggling to knock it aside, to slip behind it so he could grab his wand. But the thing was faster. It turned to the side and Harry fell to the cobbles. In a rush, the Dementors were on him. He felt their clammy hands grasping at him, forcing his head back as one of them lowered his face down to his.
‘This is it,’ Harry thought to himself. ‘I’ve just run out of tricks and come to the end.’ His thoughts turned towards Ginny once again. ‘I’m sorry, Ginny. I guess I just wasn’t good enough.’ He vainly tried to struggle, to escape their clutches but he had no strength left. The cold was sapping the last of his will to fight and he could almost taste the putrid breath of the Dementor that would suck out his soul. He wouldn’t even get to see his family again because he wouldn’t really die. He would be trapped inside this thing until the end of time. ‘I’m sorry, Mum, I’m just not good enough. If I only had some help… I really need help.’
Harry flapped his arms impotently when suddenly his hand was filled with a solid weight. A feeling of warmth surged up his arm as he clasped his fist around whatever it was. His mouth snapped shut, almost biting off the tongue of the Dementor who was trying to Kiss him. Strength and power and light flooded Harry’s body as he swung his arm up and the Sword of Gryffindor flashed in the light.
The Dementors backed away as Harry slashed the blade before them. He turned to see another dozen approaching his rear and swung the blade to face them. He was about to charge when a cold hand grabbed onto his shoulder and spun him around. On reflex, he jabbed the sword forward and into the chest of the Dementor. The air was rent with a horrible scream as cold steam began to pour out of the wound. Harry thrashed the sword around, trying to free it from the monster where it was stuck fast, when Harry saw it. Sticking out of the side of the Dementor was his wand. Harry shot his hand forward and grasped it. Pulling now with both hands Harry managed to wrench his wand free first and, as the Dementor collapsed, he pulled the sword loose as well.
Holding his wand in his left hand, Harry shouted, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” and the great silver stag burst forth and began to charge down the Dementors. Harry staggered back as he finally got a moment to breathe. He saw two large groups of Dementors, more than a hundred in each, converging on the village square in a pincer movement. He didn’t see any civilians on the street and he hoped that he had gotten his warning out in time. This many Dementors could easily wipe out the entire population if they weren’t stopped.
Speaking of that, Harry looked around to see if he could find the Auror reinforcements that should have arrived by now. He saw nothing of them, only more Dementors. Taking a deep breath he prepared to re-engage them when he saw the Dementor he stabbed struggling on the ground, trying to get up. It reached out a feeble hand to grab at his ankle when Harry swung the blade of his sword down onto its head, cleaving into the creature’s skull. More freezing fog poured out of the Dementor as Harry stepped around it to attack the others.
The Dementors hesitated but Harry did not. Swinging the sword like a scythe, he plowed into the crush of black robes. The thin blade of the sword, ideal for piercing the tough hide of a Basilisk, wavered as it encountered the Dementors, still it did damage. Reluctant to stab one of the creatures lest the sword get stuck again, Harry lopped down at arms and shoulders. He could tell he was doing damage as that cold steam began to spread and block his vision. He felt a hand grab at his shoulder again and, turning, stabbed upwards under the chin of a Dementor; the blade ran through the top of its skull. The thing collapsed, again almost pulling the sword from his hand.
Warmth continued to pulse through Harry’s arm as he fought. The Dementors retreated and Harry took a moment to catch his breath. He glanced up the street to see if his Patronus was still there. Prongs was standing at the far end of the lane watching as one group of Dementors sailed off into the sky. He didn’t watch long enough to track them though, as he returned his attention to the group in front of him. He was surprised, and pleased, to see at least four piles of robes lying in the street. He watched as the Dementor’s bodies decayed and turned into a mixture of dust and frigid steam. The remaining ones continued to back away from him and Harry, fearful of another ambush, was reluctant to follow. Prongs had no such fear and with silver sparks ringing up from the cobblestones under his hooves, he charged.
Rising slowly into the air, the Dementors began to glide away, hurried along by the waving antlers of Prongs. Harry drew great ragged breaths of sweet clean air into his lungs and felt the burning need for oxygen begin to fade. Too soon, the adrenaline began to wear off and Harry, his limbs shaking, looked for a place to sit down. He staggered towards a bench outside one of the village shops when Prongs walked over to him. The silver stag seemed to sniff the air and reach out its head towards the sword Harry still clutched in his hands. Tentatively, Harry held out the sword as his Patronus leaned in. As the stag’s muzzled touched the blade there was a slight whoosh as it appeared to be absorbed straight into the metal. Harry was shocked for a heartbeat before his eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed to the street.
~O~ ~O~ ~O~
The wind was pulling at her hair as Ginny dove at around 100 miles per hour. A pair of Bludgers were hot on her tail as she went through her maneuver for what felt like the hundredth time today. Suddenly, a sharp whistle pierced the air.
“WEASLEY!” a shrill voice screamed, “What the effing hell are you doing up there? Bring those Bludgers in closer for Merlin’s sake! The whole point of that move is to bring them in under your control not run away from them!”
Ginny pulled out of her dive just a foot above the ground while the two iron balls buried themselves into the dirt. She hovered there and glared at her team captain. “It worked, didn’t it?” she muttered under her breath.
“And don’t give me that, ‘It worked’ rubbish either!” Gwenog snarled as she stalked across the pitch. “You were all alone up there, of course they would follow you. The whole point of this move is to draw the bleeding Bludgers in so that they won’t get drawn off to anyone else. The way you were flying they would have been all over the seeker and maybe cost us the game! Let that happen in a real match and you’ll be back on the bench gathering splinters in your arse.”
Whatever Ginny was going to say next was lost as a group of people poured onto the pitch from the players’ entrance. Ginny looked as she idled there with her feet skimming the grass. She immediately recognized Hermione waddling in the lead and her brother Percy following.
“Ginny, thank Merlin we found you,” Hermione panted as she reached them. She held a hand to her protruding stomach as she gathered her wits and her breath. “I wanted to make sure we got here before you heard anything on the wireless.”
Ginny’s blood suddenly ran cold. Harry. There couldn’t be anything else that would cause Hermione such distress. Something had happened to Harry. She felt the world spin beneath her for a moment before she clamped down on her emotions.
“Is he alive?” she asked, almost not wanting to hear an answer. “Is Harry all right?” She grabbed her friend by the shoulders and began to shake her. “Tell me what happened to him!” Panic was rising in her voice as all sorts of images ran through her mind. What if Harry had been attacked by a group of rogue Death Eaters? Even now, he would occasionally get threatening notes in the post. Harry had gotten used to them years ago but they still gave Ginny pause. What if one of them wasn’t an empty threat. “Where is he?” she practically screamed.
Hermione held up a hand to try to get a moment to catch her breath before speaking when Percy answered instead, “We don’t have any real details as of yet. We know that Dementors attacked Hogsmeade…”
“That’s where Harry was stationed today, Hogsmeade,” Ginny said, anxiety rising in her voice.
“They also attacked Diagon Alley and the Ministry itself,” Percy continued pompously. “Many people were Kissed in the Atrium before the Aurors were able to drive them off. Luckily those things never made it into the Ministry proper.”
“But what about at Hogsmeade,” Ginny snapped at her brother, she didn’t give a damn for the bleeding Ministry it was Harry she was concerned about.”
Percy coughed into his hand to regain his composure before speaking again. “Two of the three Aurors assigned there were Kissed as well…”
“Nooo,” Ginny moaned, the strength leaving her knees as she began to stumble. Hermione caught her before she could fall.
“Ginny, Ginny, breathe,” she pleaded. “Harry’s alive. He drove off the Dementors, there are even unconfirmed reports that he somehow managed to kill some. But he was injured. We don’t know how badly.”
“Then he’s at St. Mungo’s?” Ginny asked, running her hands through her hair.
“No, he’s at Hogwarts. St. Mungo's is full dealing with what happened in Diagon Alley and the Ministry,” Hermione said. “Hogwarts was closer anyway.” This last was said to empty air as Ginny had remounted her broomstick and was already halfway out of the stadium.
“Ginny!” Hermione screamed after her. “Get back here! We can floo to the Ministry and get Portkeys from there! GINNY! Don’t you dare try to Apparate while flying, you could…” In midair and while accelerating past 135 MPH, Ginny stood on the footpegs of her broom and threw it into a pirouette. Halfway through she disappeared with clap of thunder. “…splinch yourself.” Hermione humphed. “They deserve each other, they do. They never listen. One of these days they’re going to be sorry they didn’t pay attention.”
With a matching clap of thunder, Ginny appeared in the sky above Hogsmeade and dove down towards the gates of Hogwarts. Remembering at the last minute the wards against broom travel over the boundary of the school, Ginny dove even lower, down to ground level. Pulling out of the dive at waist height and slowing down just enough, Ginny slid off the side of her broom and dashed through the gates holding the broom in her hands. Once through, she jumped up and in two steps was back at full speed and racing for the doors of the castle.
If those doors hadn’t been closed, Ginny likely would have flown straight on up to the Hospital Wing.As it was, they weren’t, so she had to dismount and open them herself. In a way it was better this way, at least for the students who were crowding the entrance to the Great Hall for lunch as none of them got bowled over. As it was several of them had to scatter to avoid being trampled as she stormed up the stairs, her broom now tucked under one arm. She practically ran the whole way and pushed through the doors into the infirmary.
Ignoring everything and everyone else in the room, Ginny ran to the bed where Harry lay unconscious. Taking his head in her hands, she began to kiss his face, covering it completely. Next she start running her hands over his torso and limbs, looking for injury.
“I assure you, Miss Weasley, Mister Potter is not injured, merely exhausted from magical overexertion,” came the stiff voice of Madam Pomfrey.
Startled, Ginny finally looked at the people who were gathered around. There was Poppy, of course, as well as Headmistress McGonagall; there were also several Aurors, including the Head Auror, Dawlish Ginny thought his name was. Finally, there stood the Minister for Magic himself, Kingsley Shacklebolt with his shaven head and gold hoop earring. Ginny smiled as her cheeks colored slightly at being caught out. She turned to face the Healer.
“Are you sure he is going to be all right?”
“Yes, Miss Weasley,” she said indulgently, “I can give you my personal guarantee that he will be just fine, however how long he remains that way after he leaves my ward I can not say.”
Whatever Ginny was going to reply was cut off as Harry moaned softly and everyone turned to see.
~O~ ~O~ ~O~
Harry awoke to the scratchy feeling of starched linen sheets against his skin, combining that with the smell of antiseptic potions forced a groan from his lips. He was once again back in hospital. He was having such a pleasant dream too, he had been dreaming that Ginny was smothering him with kisses, but now it was time to get back to work.
He opened his eyes and saw the faces around him, Dawlish and a group of fellow Aurors, he noticed Kingsley was also here, things must have really gone pear shaped to get the Minister directly involved. Looking over, Harry saw Madam Pomfrey and he groaned again.
“I’m back at Hogwarts?” he asked sullenly.
“It was the closest place to bring you,” Dawlish answered, his short grey hair bristling up as if he had been raking his hands through it. “Besides St. Mungo’s has its hands full with the casualties from Diagon Alley and the Ministry.”
“What?” Harry said, sit up straighter at the news. “Then it wasn’t just a single attack?”
Kingsley shook his head. “No, they attacked all three locations at about the same time. What we don’t know is why. What made the Dementors abandon their posts?”
“Well, obviously they’re being led…” Whatever Harry was going to say was cut off by Dawlish, his superior at the DMLE.
“We are also uncertain of the numbers of Dementors involved. I’ve already sent a team of 10 Aurors to conduct a survey at Azkaban to determine the numbers of Dementors still remaining.”
Harry stared at his boss in shock. “Conduct a survey? And you only sent ten?”
“That’s all the men we could spare at this time, our resources are spread quite thin keeping the public calm,” Dawlish replied with a sneer, as if he didn’t usually deign to answer such surly questions from Probationary Aurors; he rarely spoke to them at all and when he did it was to issue orders not answer questions.
“Then you’ve got ten more victims to deal with,” Harry answered.
Dawlish seemed about to dress Harry down when Kingsley stepped in. “What do you mean, Harry?”
“How many Dementors were involved in the attacks on Diagon Alley and the Ministry? There were at least a couple hundred at Hogsmeade.”
Dawlish sniffed. “There were approximately 50 Dementors at both those locations, we can only assume that it was a like number attacking the village.”
“No, there were at least two hundred. My Patronus dealt with one group while I got involved with the other.”
“That’s ridiculous, no one wizard could hold off so many. One can only assume that it is shock that is affecting your judgment and not a desire to inflate your own role in this situation.”
“What?! I’m giving you an honest evaluation…” Harry began.
“How dare you call Harry a liar!” Ginny barked as she started to reach for her wand. Harry turned at the sound of her voice, not realizing until then that she was in the room.
“Ginny! What are you doing here? I thought you had practice?”
Ginny stopped as Harry addressed her. She bent down and kissed his forehead once again. “Hermione and Percy came to tell me about the attacks - they didn’t want me to hear it over the wireless – and I came straight here.”
“But you said that Gwenog has been…”
“Oh bugger Gwen,” Ginny spat then, after thinking for a moment, grinned. “It might even improve her mood. You’re a lot more important to me than any practice. Now a game,” she said waggling her hand back and forth, “that’s another kettle of fish, but definitely a practice.” Harry grinned and took hold of her hand.
Kingsley broke in, “Let’s get back on topic here. What makes you say the ten Auror team has been Kissed, Harry?”
Harry sat up straighter and took his glasses from the side table. “Well, it just stands to reason. We know that Dementors are naturally ambush predators. They will wait in hiding until a target of opportunity comes their way. To have several hundred of them stage three different coordinated attacks tells us that something, or someone, is behind them, giving them orders.”
“And what makes you so sure, Cadet Potter?” Dawlish said.
Harry ignored the slight of being referred to as a cadet rather than an Auror and answered, “Well, you haven’t heard anything from them yet, have you?”
“I don’t expect a report until after their survey is complete and that shouldn’t be until this evening.”
Harry snorted, “Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.”
Dawlish gave Harry a look as if he had just been sick on his new rug. “I’ll put your insubordination down to the stress of the attack and make no official note of it in your record, Potter, but watch your tongue from here on out. He turned and began to walk towards the door. “I’ll be returning to my office to coordinate the recovery efforts, Minister.” Half the remaining Aurors left with him, the others, the Ministers bodyguards, clustered about Kingsley all the more tightly.
Shacklebolt himself gave Harry a wry little smile and said, “I know he can be a bit of a prig, Harry, but he is your superior and deserves respect.”
“He was a fool six years ago when he was toadying up to Fudge and he’s still a fool. He sent those ten men out to die.”
Kingsley nodded slowly, “That may be, if what you say is correct.” He held up a hand to forestall another rant from Ginny, and possibly a good hexing. “And we have no reason to think it is incorrect. But what I’m really interested in is the four sets of empty robes we found in the square at Hogsmeade. Were they from Wizards, Harry?”
“No, Dementors,” Harry said softly. “I saw a few on the ground as I fought and I got to watch as one died.” This got everyone’s undivided attention.
“How did you do it, Harry?” Kingsley asked.
“I don’t rightly know but I’ve got an idea I need to pursue.” He looked around the room as if searching for something. “Did anyone find Gryffindor’s Sword? I had it with me out there.”
One of the attending Aurors, Wilson, reached over to the next bed and picked the sword up from where it lay. “Yeah, we found it on the ground next to you.”
Harry reached out and took the blade, once again he felt the warmth, although significantly less intense this time, course up his arm.
“Is that what killed them?” Kingsley asked.
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I was about to be Kissed when it appeared in my hand. I was able to fight them off with it and it seemed to actually be able to damage them.” He sniffed a bit. “From what you say and I saw, it actually killed four.”
“And you say there were two hundred of them?”
Harry squeezed Giny’s hand and pulled her down to sit on the bed next to him. “About that. They attacked in two coordinated groups in a pincer movement. I sent a Patronus after one group and the other snuck up from behind me.”
“Yes, we’re gathering statements from witnesses in the village now.”
“Make sure they talk to Madam Rosemerta, she saw a lot of it. And there was a kid, a boy of around eight or nine as well. Rosemerta pulled him into the Three Broomsticks.”
One of the Aurors was taking notes while, at a nod from Shacklebolt, another ran from the room to get the word to the team in Hogsmeade.
“OK, we’ll take it from here, Harry,” Kingsley said. “You just rest up for a couple of days before coming back into work.”
”With your permission,sir,” Harry broke in, “I’d like to pursue this thing with the sword. I’ve got an idea of why it happened and I think I can run it to ground. I might need Hermione’s help to deal with the Goblins for a bit.”
Everyone grinned, as the Minister spoke, “Sure thing, Harry. Just rest up first. Get back to one hundred percent before you go charging off again.” Harry nodded as Kingsley gathered up his guard and left the room.
As the doors swung shut behind them, Madam Pomphrey bustled over. “So it seems, Mister Potter, that you will once again be my guest.”
“Well, I really don’t think that’s...” Harry began before Ginny stopped him with a glower.
“Oh no you don’t, Mister! You need your rest and you are going anywhere until Madam Pomphrey releases you.” She turned her head to hide a sly wink from the matron. “It’s bad enough that she is going to have to deal with an endless parade of students coming in here, pretending to be sick, in order to gawp at you, tracking mud and goodness knows how many germs through her hospital wing. If Madam Pomphrey says you stay, then you stay!”
Harry looked over and saw the torn look on the Healer’s face. On one hand, she had an exhausted patient who needed rest, on the other she had her students and the chaos they would create in her pristine infirmary. They would also be disrupting the rest her patient needed so badly. Ginny gave her another few moments to consider before beginning again.
“And you should consider yourself lucky, Mister. If you were under my care you wouldn’t be getting out of bed for at least four days. Maybe a week! You need rest in order to recover,” She turned a wide-eyed face to Poppy. “Isn’t that right, Madam?”
Giving Ginny a stern nod of approval, she said, “Miss Weasley, if you can give me your word that Mister Potter there will get his rest, I may be willing to release him to your care. That will spare him from being disturbed by the student population.”
Ginny turned and sent Harry a definite leer before answering sweetly, “I promise you, Madam Pomphrey, that he won’t even be getting out of bed for at least 24 hours.”
Poppy nodded curtly, “Very well, then you may take him home. If he experiences any further weakness, dizziness, or other symptoms, I expect you to contact me immediately.”
~O~ ~O~ ~O~
DEMENTORS RUN AMOK!
Harry Potter Saves The Day Again
by Ivana Wright
Dementors attacked in three different locations yesterday, leaving dozens Kissed. Several hundred Dementors, the supposedly trustworthy guards of Azkaban Prison, staged three daring daylight raids on different locations leaving the Wizarding world wondering if we are once again on the brink of war.
At two of the locations, Diagon Alley and the Ministry building itself, nearly sixty people were left Kissed before Aurors were able to drive the foul beasts off. At the village of Hogsmeade things could have been much worse.
“There were hundreds of them,” stated Madam Rosemerta of Hogsmeade. “They swept in and would have Kissed us all if it hadn’t been for Harry Potter.” Ministry officials denied that Hogsmeade was the primary target for the attacks and claimed that the numbers of Dementors sighted in the village is still uncertain. A Ministry Investigative Team, sent to Azkaban to determine the cause of the attacks has not been heard from…
Harry dropped the paper on the bedside table, not wanting to be bothered to read the rest of the article. He pulled on a pair of khaki trousers and reached for his shoes. Across the bed, Ginny was sitting cross-legged wearing one of Harry’s t-shirts.
“So, you’re heading out?” she said trying to hide the worry in her voice.
“Yeah, I spoke with Hermione yesterday and arranged it. She cleared her schedule and will be going with me.”
“And what about Ron?”
Harry looked at her with scrunched up eyebrows as he thought about her question but didn’t see the hurt, anger, and fear that mixed in her eyes. “I don’t reckon he’d be of much use. Hermione will be handy but…”
Harry didn’t get to finish his thoughts before Ginny bolted from the room. Harry ran after her and caught her before she could dive into the floo. He spun her in his arms and finally saw the tears coursing down her cheeks.
“Ginny, what’s wrong?” he asked totally confused. “Why are you crying?”
She just glared at him.
“Come on, Ginny. Tell me what’s wrong; did I do something?”
“Do something! No, you’ve done nothing at all and that’s the whole problem!” She tried to squirm out of his arms but he held her fast. She kicked out and caught him in the shin but he refused to let go.
“No!, I’m not going to let you go! Not until you tell me what’s bothering you.”
She looked up at him and Harry could see that she was giving up. He watched as her anger dissolved and the tears began again. He hugged her hard and she broke down against his shoulder.
“I knew…” she practically moaned out between her sobs, “I knew you would be leaving. I knew I couldn’t hold you and that someday you would be running off again.”
Harry scooped her up in his arms and carried her over to the sofa where he sat and positioned her across his lap so that he could maintain a tight hold on her and still cuddle her at the same time.
“I knew something was going to happen,” she cried quietly. “I knew you would leave me someday, I just hoped I’d have more time with you.”
Harry was thuroughly confused, he hugged the crying girl tightly and said as gently as he could, “Ginny, what the bloody hell are you talking about?”
She looked at him with pain filled eyes. “Don’t lie to me, I know you’re leaving me. At least the last time you had the decency to tell me the truth.”
Ginny smacked him on the arm. “You already admitted that you are leaving so don’t deny it. You’re taking Hermione and leaving Ron behind too!”
“Yeah, I need Hermione but Ron would just get in the way.”
“That’s a wonderful way to talk about someone who is supposed to be your best friend.”
“But it’s true. Ron doesn’t get along with the Goblins and Hermione does. I’m gonna need all the help I can get to make this work. With a little luck it will only take a hour or so, so I don’t see what you’re so angry about.”
Now it was Ginny’s turn to be confused. “An hour or so?”
“Yeah, I reckon the Goblins will either agree rather quickly or we’ll get thrown out on our arses. Either way, we’ll likely spend more time getting there and back then actually talking to them.”
“Harry, what are you talking about?”
“What do you think I’m talking about?”
Ginny sniffed and wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “You’re leaving me. Just like the last time, You’re going to run off on some foolhardy crusade and leave me behind.”
Harry suddenly realized he was dealing with something much bigger than just a trip to Gringotts. He pulled Ginny close to him and hugged her tightly.
“I love you, Ginny, and I have no intention of leaving you. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
She looked up at him with wet eyes and a runny nose. She sniffed loudly and totally adorably. “Really?”
“Really,” he affirmed and kissed her. Ginny threw her arms around him and squeezed for all she was worth. When she seemed to settle a bit, Harry continued, “That doesn’t mean I don’t have things to do; you know that I do.” She nodded slowly into his shoulder.
A/N So here ya go, another installment of my Epilogue tale. If you liked it, please leave a review. If you didn't like it, then really leave a review and tell me why. Whether you liked it or not, please don't tell helen, my Beta, as she will be pissed that I posted this instead of working on the project SHE wants me to work on.