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Introduction:

harry potter fanfiction
Chapter 11: Godric's Hollow

Harry reduced the Quidditch practices to one per week as the first Quidditch match had been played and there wouldn’t be another game for months. He now spend nearly all of his free time on Dumbledore’s Army.

The DA members enjoyed the meetings more and more now that Harry was teaching them more advanced magic. That did have its consequences though. There were accidents more frequently, much to the distress of Madam Pomfrey. Despite that fact the atmosphere during the meetings had never been better. There was only one member that didn’t reflect that.

Draco Malfoy had been attending DA meetings for several months, but he still rarely spoke a word to anyone. He also never stayed in the Room of Requirement after a meeting, like the other members, but left immediately. It wasn’t until the last meeting before Christmas, when Jacinta practically begged him to stay, that Malfoy grudgingly sat with the rest of the group.

“Any news about Voldemort then?” Seamus asked while he sat down in an armchair.

“No.” Harry said. “No one seems to know where he is.”

“I really thought he would have made himself Minister of Magic when he took over the Ministry.” Parvati said. “I mean, that’s what he wants, isn’t it? Power.”

“Oh, he has power.” Harry said convincingly. “He just doesn’t want to sit behind a desk. He’s probably trying to expand his power beyond our country.”

“That Umbridge woman hasn’t got anything to say.” Hermione spoke up. “She’s just following orders.”

“What exactly is the Ministry doing nowadays?” Ernie asked interestedly.

They had all been shut off from the outside world while they were at Hogwarts. They only heard news occasionally from members of the Order or family of DA members. Hannah Abbott had lost her mother in a Death Eater attack a month ago and Luna’s father had to go into hiding after he had opposed Voldemort in his magazine, The Quibbler. Dumbledore had promised to try and find him to offer him refuge at Hogwarts.

“Making a mess.” Harry said grimly. “Remus told me they have set up a Muggleborn Registration Commission.”

“What?”

Harry looked at Hermione.

“Basically, it means that all Muggleborns have to turn themselves in.” she said. “They are saying magic can only be transferred from wizard to wizard. Muggleborns would have stolen their magic.”

“Stolen magic?” Katie laughed. “That’s ridiculous. People don’t actually believe that, do they?”

“People won’t let that happen.” Ernie said confidently.

“It’s already happening, Ernie.” Harry said after a short silence. “Tonks’ father was ordered to come in for questioning too. He’s staying here now as well.”

“Well, it’s a good thing Dumbledore is kind enough to let everyone stay here who needs it.” Luna said. “Not every headmaster would do that.”

“He is a great man.” Harry agreed. “But even Hogwarts castle can be full once.”

“So how is Remus doing anyway, Harry?” Hermione suddenly asked. “I heard him and Tonks are going strong.”

“What do you mean him and Tonks?” Ron asked puzzled.

“Ronald, could you possibly be any more blind?” Ginny sighed.

“Do you mean…”

“Yeah.” Harry said. “They’ve been going out for months. I reckon it’s rather serious.”

“Professors Lupin and Tonks?” Lavender asked eagerly. “I would have never thought!”

“But he’s a werewolf.” Malfoy suddenly said.

Everyone fell silent and every head turned in Malfoy’s direction, who reddened a bit.

“So?” Neville said finally.

Malfoy seemed very uncomfortable. “I didn’t mean it like that.” he mumbled. “It’s just… Wouldn’t it be dangerous?”

Harry shrugged. “Snape makes the Wolfsbane Potion for him every month. He can transform without being a danger to anyone. Himself included.”

“Yeah, that old bat does have his useful sides.” Ron said lazily.

“Ron!” Hermione scolded. “He’s on our side. And he saved our lives during the summer in case you had forgotten!”

“What exactly happened during the summer?” Malfoy asked. He had been wondering about that ever since they had mentioned it the first time, but he had never had the nerve to ask.

Hermione told him the story of what happened at her house.

Malfoy paled. “Bellatrix was there?” He seemed to be terrified just thinking about his aunt. “What about… What about my father?”

Harry shook his head. “Didn’t see him. But there were a lot of them who were wearing masks of course.”

“I don’t think he was.” said Hermione. “Voldemort didn’t have control of the Ministry yet back then.”

“That didn’t stop them before, did it.” Ron said.

Hermione shrugged.

They then started talking about Quidditch and the chances of the different houses to win the Quidditch Cup.

“So did McGonagall fire you yet?” Seamus suddenly asked Luna.

Luna looked at him surprised. “No. Why?”

Seamus stared at Luna with his mouth open. “She didn’t? But that commentary was – “

“Awesome.” Harry interrupted. “I never enjoyed the commentary at a game that much.”

Luna gave him a sweet smile. “You don’t have to lie. I know everyone hated me.”

“No seriously.” Ron spoke up. “It was great. Although I could have done without that comment about Hermione.”

Everyone roared with laughter. Even Malfoy had to stop himself from smiling.

“It’s okay, you can laugh.” Ginny told him. “We won’t tell anyone.”
________________________________________




Seeing as Hogwarts was the only safe place left in the entire country almost every student signed up to spend their holidays at the school. A lot of Harry’s friends were sad they wouldn’t be home for Christmas, but Harry didn’t care much. He had only spent one Christmas away from the school last year at Grimmauld Place and frankly, Hogwarts would always be the closest thing to a home he had.

Luna was also quite happy as Dumbledore had succeeded in tracking her father and had taken him with him to Hogwarts. Xenophilius Lovegood was now living in private quarters next to the Weasleys, who knew him as they lived near each other in Ottery St Catchpole.

Harry had persuaded Remus to take him to Godric’s Hollow on the day of Christmas Eve. The werewolf had resisted at first, because it could be dangerous.

“Voldemort probably has someone watching that town, Harry. He knows you’d want to go there. It could be dangerous.”

“But you’re still going there, aren't you?” Harry said.

“Yes, but I’m not as important for the Death Eaters as you are.” Remus smiled.

“You’re an Order member. I think that’s important enough for them.” Harry said. “Please? I just want to visit their graves.”

Remus finally gave in on the condition that Harry would take his Invisibility Cloak with him and that Dumbledore and a couple of DA members would join them just in case.

Ron and Ginny were forced by Mrs Weasley to help with the Christmas preparations, so Hermione and Seamus happily volunteered to go with them.

They all met in the Entrance Hall and crossed the grounds together. When they reached the gates, Dumbledore and Remus told them to wait while they quickly checked if the coast was clear. They didn’t want another surprise.

“Alright, you can come out.” Remus said after a couple of minutes.

“Harry, Hermione, take my arm.” Dumbledore said. “Seamus, you can apparate with Remus.”

Harry, who had apparated with Dumbledore before, was prepared for the sickening feeling that followed. For Hermione and Seamus however, it was the first time they ever apparated and they were both looking very pale and were slightly gagging.

“You alright?” Remus grinned, patting Seamus on the back and smiling at Hermione. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

“Is that what we are going to learn next term?” Seamus asked. “I think I’d rather use my broom.”

“I quite agree.” Dumbledore smiled. “But you will find that it will come in very handy in the future.”

“Where’s Harry?” Hermione suddenly asked.

They all looked around them, a bit panicked, but then they saw Harry standing just a few yards away, on the other side of the village square. He was looking intently at what looked like a Muggle war memorial.

“What is he doing?” Seamus asked surprised.

Dumbledore and Remus gave each other a knowing smile.

“Come and see.” Remus said.

They crossed the village square and joined Harry, who was still staring at the statue as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. Once they were close enough the war memorial changed into a statue of Lily and James Potter with baby Harry in Lily’s arms.

“Oh.” Hermione said softly. She put her arm around Harry’s waist and hugged him to her side, still looking at the statue. “Are you okay?”

Harry nodded. “I would have never imagined…” he said hoarsely.

“Minister Bagnold thought it was appropriate to leave a memorial for the magical community and magical visitors of the village.” Dumbledore spoke. “She thought there should be a reminder of what happened here. They also left your parents’ house in the same state for all these years.”

“It’s amazing.” Harry said.

They walked to the graveyard and visited the graves of Lily and James and Sirius. Dumbledore and Remus each conjured a beautiful wrath of Christmas roses to put on the graves. When they left the graveyard, Remus motioned for Harry to hang back a little.

“I wanted to tell you something in person, Harry, before everyone else knows.” Remus said. “And once we’re back at Hogwarts it will be insanely difficult to get some private time.”

Harry knew what Remus meant. Hogwarts was so crowded nowadays that it was very difficult to have a private conversation with someone. Add to that the fact that Harry was ‘the Chosen One’ and you could safely say that it was nearly impossible.

“Sure, what’s up?”

Remus smiled broadly at him. “Tonks and I are getting married.”

“You are? That’s great!” Harry said enthusiastically. “Congratulations!”

“You don’t think it’s too soon?” Remus asked. “We are only going out for a couple of months after all.”

“Yes, but you have been in love with each other for almost two years.” Harry reminded him. “I think it’s brilliant.”

“I’m glad you think so.” Remus said, grinning broadly. “Because I’ll need a best man.”

“Me?” Harry asked surprised.

“Of course you! I wouldn’t know anyone better.”

“Blimey… Yeah, of course I will be your best man!”

“What are you two so happy about?” Hermione asked when they joined the other three at the statue of the Potters.

Harry opened his mouth, but Remus shot him a warning look.

“Nothing.” Harry said. “Just Christmas spirit.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes, but didn’t elaborate on the subject.

“Professor,” Harry said to Dumbledore, “do you think we could visit my parents’ house before we go back? I’d really like to see it.”

Dumbledore seemed quite eager to leave, but after a quick look at his watch, he agreed.

“Alright then. Just a quick visit.”

It was a very strange experience for Harry to stand in front of the house where Voldemort had taken away his normal life. He had a weird tingling feeling in his stomach when he looked at the part of the second floor that had been blown away. That was the place where Voldemort had tried to kill hem for the first time. it was there that he had been hit with his own rebounding Killing Curse and had been forced to live as less than a ghost for all those years.

Harry was just about to say something when a cold voice came from behind them.

“You really need to be more careful in the current climate, Potter.”

Harry turned around instantly and saw that Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback had again found them. He immediately grabbed his wand. He didn’t even feel scared anymore. Last time Harry and Dumbledore had easily defeated the two of them and now they had Hermione, Remus and Seamus with them.

“Stupefy!”

Bellatrix deflected his curse and laughed. A series of pops and cracks announced the arrival of reinforcements. When Harry looked around him, his heart turned to ice. At least fifty Death Eaters had apparated around them. One of them – who Harry recognized as Walden Macnair, the executioner who worked for the Ministry and had been assigned to kill Buckbeak – started to charm the area with anti-apparition wards. Hermione quickly fired a Stunning spell at him, but was too late.

Remus grabbed Harry and Hermione and tried to apparate, but failed. He cursed loudly. Meanwhile Dumbledore and Seamus were already taken on several Death Eaters on their own.

“We have to help them!” Harry yelled. “Ictus Potens!”

Something that looked like a giant tornado whirled between the Death Eaters and threw some of them backwards several yards.

“Harry! Get into the house!” Dumbledore yelled at him.

“Are you serious? It could collapse!”

“Trust me, Harry, get inside. I’m right behind you.”

The headmaster gave Seamus and Hermione the same order and asked Remus to cover them. Remus muttered a few words when he came to the door and they entered the small kitchen. They quickly looked outside the window. Dumbledore was holding off about ten Death Eaters on his own. Several bodies already lay at his feet.

“That’s one badass grandpa.” Seamus muttered.

The other three looked at him with raised eyebrows. Seamus shrugged. When they looked back outside, they saw that Dumbledore was calmly walking towards the house. There were still Death Eaters standing, but Dumbledore seemed to have raised a barricade as they couldn’t follow him and no spells would reach beyond the fence.

“Why did we have to come in here?” Harry asked the moment Dumbledore entered the house. “How are we ever going to get out? They know we’re stuck.”

Dumbledore nodded. “That may be a problem.” he admitted.

Harry was not for the first time amazed by how calm Dumbledore seemed to be in any situation.

“Won’t they be able to get in here?”

Dumbledore shook his head. “That barricade should hold for a couple of hours. And even then, they won’t be able to get past that door.”

“The Order has installed several safe houses over the country where we can take refuge if the need arises.” Remus explained when he saw Harry’s stunned face. “This is one of them. You can’t get in or out without a password.”

“That’s what you were saying when we came in.”

“Yes.” Remus said. “The password of this house is ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good’.”

“Let me guess.” Hermione said. “To get out you have to say ‘Mischief managed’?”

“Surprisingly, yes.”

“Well that leaves us with the problem of getting back to Hogwarts.” Seamus said. “They know we’re in here. They can just wait for us to get out.”

“Maybe we should just try to leave now.” Harry offered.

“And what? Fight more than fifty Death Eaters with the five of us?” Hermione said sceptically.

“Well, it won’t get better.” Harry shot back. “They can get more reinforcements. And if Voldemort hears I’m here he might show up himself.”

“To my latest intelligence Voldemort is currently out of the country.” Dumbledore said. “I do not think they will call him back before they…”

“Have me.” Harry finished.

“We’ll have to alert the rest of the Order.” Remus said.

“And the D.A.” Hermione added.

“Yeah of course!” Seamus said. “There are still 25 D.A. members at Hogwarts now, Fred and George included. Together with the Order we would overpower them.”

“23 members.” Harry said firmly. “I don’t want Jacinta and Dennis to come. They’re too young.” He looked at Remus who gave him an approving nod. “And we’ll have to see if Malfoy has the guts to show up.”

“Okay send the message.” Dumbledore said. “You brought your coin, I expect?”

“Never go anywhere without it.” Harry mumbled while he send a message to the rest of Dumbledore’s Army. Meanwhile Dumbledore sent a Patronus to Snape to gather the Order and to make sure all of the DA members who weren’t able to apparate got here.

Only a few minutes had passed when commotion from outside told them that reinforcements had arrived. Harry ran immediately to the window and saw that Order members and DA members, together with various Hogwarts teachers, were attacking the Death Eaters. Though still slightly less in numbers, they had the element of surprise and a lot of Death Eaters had been incapacitated before they knew what happened.

“Let’s go!” he said and without waiting for the others he ran outside, shouting the password. He came just in time to see Bellatrix flooring Ginny with a Stunning spell. His heart turned into ice when he saw Fenrir Greyback eagerly running towards her. “Like hell you will. Reducto!”

A Reductor curse even more powerful than the one that killed Peter Pettigrew almost a year ago hit Greyback right between his eyes. The werewolf was blown backwards, hit a street light and his lifeless body fell to the ground.

Bellatrix watched Greyback fall with wide eyes and turned around to see who had attacked him.

“Step away from my girlfriend.”

Bellatrix grinned broadly when she saw Harry. Without any word of her usual taunts she pointed her wand at him and started duelling viciously.

Harry realized quickly that he would be able to defeat Bellatrix easily one on one. It took the female Death Eater five minutes longer to realize that. She suddenly spinned around and disapparated away.

“What?” Harry said amazed. Apparently the anti-apparition wards had been lifted. He quickly revived Ginny. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Ginny nodded while she grabbed her wand and stood up. “I think I bumped my head.”

Harry laughed. He looked around and saw that a lot of the Death Eaters had fled. The Order and the D.A. seemed to have almost everything under control by now. “Well would you look at that.” Harry mumbled, more to himself than to Ginny.

One of the few duels that was still going on was between Rodolphus Lestrange and Draco Malfoy. Harry stood still for a moment, taking in the scene in front of him. Malfoy surely had proven himself today.

Harry paid for his moment of inadvertency immediately. A cutting curse hit him in his left shoulder and a stinging pain shot through his entire arm. He realized he was already bleeding profusely. He grabbed his wand, but by the time he saw what was going on, Ginny had already taken out Barty Crouch Jr.

“Watch yourself, Harry!” Cedric Diggory shouted, running over to him. “You alright?”

Harry nodded. “Fine.”

Cedric pointed his wand at his shoulder. “Episkey!”

The wound didn’t heal entirely, but at least it had stopped bleeding.

“Hmm, I guess the wound is too deep to properly heal with that spell.” Cedric mused. “Just have Madam Pomfrey take a look at it when we get back. It’ll be fine.”

Harry nodded and opened his mouth to answer, but was distracted by what happened to the right of him. Malfoy had fallen to the ground, wandless. Rodolphus Lestrange was standing over him, grinning viciously, pointing his wand at Malfoy’s heart.

“Sectumsempra!” Harry shouted, aiming for Lestranges hand, so he wouldn’t be able to kill Malfoy. His hand was still shaking though and the curse soared over the arm of Rodolphus and hit him in his stomach.

Malfoy crawled back with a disgusted look on his face when the life was bleeding out of his uncle right in front of him.

“Oh damn.” Harry muttered. “That wasn’t the plan.”

Malfoy turned around and saw Harry standing there, his wand still pointed at where Rodolphus stood a moment before.

“Thanks.” he said.

“Anytime.”

“Harry, Ginny, are you alright?”

Harry turned around and saw Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna running towards them, closely followed by Remus and Dumbledore.

“I’m fine, just a cutting hex.”

Malfoy finally got up and walked towards them.

“Malfoy!” Remus said, looking extremely surprised, but Dumbledore was smiling approvingly.

“Are you hurt, Mr Malfoy?” the headmaster asked.

“No, but I have Potter to thank for it.” the Slytherin said. He turned to Harry. “You saved my life.”

“You don’t know that.” Harry said uncomfortably.

“Yes I do.” Malfoy said determinedly. “He was going to kill me. Apparently Voldemort has given specific orders for when they come across me.”

“They know you changed sides.” Hermione said.

“You don’t say.”

“Was anyone else hurt?” Harry asked.

Remus shook his head. “Tonks was hit by a cutting curse too, but she’ll be fine. All the rest of our side are unharmed.”

“Death Eaters?” Ron asked.

“Greyback, Rowle and Gibbon are dead. And apparently so is Rodolphus.” Dumbledore said. He watched the body of Lestrange and looked at Harry inquiringly.

“He had his wand pointed at Malfoy.” Harry explained. “I was aiming for his hand, but… well.”

“It can happen.” Dumbledore said, patting Harry’s back. “He knew what he got into.”

Harry nodded.

“Okay, let’s go.” Remus said hastily.

When they were back at Hogwarts Harry immediately wanted to summon Dumbledore’s Army to the Room of Requirement. Although Dumbledore had assured him that none of them had suffered serious injuries, he wanted to see them all as quickly as possible. Ginny would have nothing of it though.

“You’re going to the hospital wing.” she said firmly.

“Cedric healed it.” Harry complained.

“He didn’t heal it. He stopped it from bleeding. Now come on.” And she practically dragged him upstairs to the hospital wing.

After Madam Pomfrey had healed his shoulder, she urged him to sit down and rest before he left the hospital wing. When Madam Pomfrey walked over to Tonks and Remus, who had just entered the room, Ginny sat down on the bed beside Harry and kissed him on the cheek.

“You owe me one.” she smirked.

“I think we’re even.” Harry grinned. “Who do you think stopped Greyback from attacking you when Bellatrix had stunned you?”

“Really?” Ginny asked. “Well, do me a favour. Don’t tell mom. She was trying to have us stay here while they went to help you. As if.”

Harry couldn’t help but smile. He had an idea how Ginny would have reacted to her mother telling her to stay behind.

Before they left the hospital wing they walked over to Remus and Tonks who were talking with each other quietly.

“How are you, Tonks?” Harry asked.

“Oh, I’m fine.” Tonks assured him. “So, Remus told me you agreed to his question?”

“Oh yeah, of course.” Harry said, grinning at both of them. “I’m happy to do it.”

Tonks and Remus both smiled at him, but Ginny looked at them uncomprehendingly. “What’s going on?” she demanded.

Harry smiled to himself. She really didn’t like being left out of things. Remus and Tonks looked at each other as if silently debating something. Remus finally nodded and Tonks said: “We’re getting married!”

“You’re getting married?!” Ginny yelled loud enough for the whole room to hear. Luckily they were the only people in the hospital wing. “That’s great!” She gave them both a firm hug. “And you knew about this?” she said to Harry accusingly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, we were a little busy being attacked by Death Eaters.” Harry said dryly.

“Anyway, Harry agreed to be Remus’ best man and I hoped that you and Hermione would be my bridesmaids.” Tonks said.

“Oh I’d love to!” Ginny said excitedly. “And I’m sure Hermione will too.”

“I’ll ask her tonight after dinner.” Tonks smiled.

Remus grabbed her hand and kissed it softly. A warm feeling was filling Harry’s chest when he looked at the two of them. ‘Voldemort might have taken a lot from all of them,’ he thought while he grabbed Ginny’s hand himself. She gave him a sweet smile. ‘But there was a lot more that he would never be able to take.’
________________________________________




“You are my best friend as well as my lover and I do not know which side of you I enjoy the most.” – Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

________________________________________
Chapter 12: Breakthrough

Although everybody was still a bit shaken by the battle at Godric’s Hollow, the news of Remus and Tonks’ approaching wedding lifted the spirits at Hogwarts considerably. Tonks really wanted a summer wedding, so Remus had agreed to get married in July, the day before Harry’s birthday. Dumbledore happily agreed to let the service take place at Hogwarts and as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, he would be officiating too.

The day after Christmas, Harry and Ginny were walking over the grounds with Prongs. Remus had taken the dog when they had to leave Grimmauld Place and he was now staying with him and Tonks. The young couple sat down by the lake as Prongs was hopefully sniffing around the beech tree under which they had sat so many times. Harry smiled as he watched his fifteenth birthday present from Ginny.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it.” Ginny suddenly said. “Remus and Tonks. They have so many things going against them, but they’re still getting married.”

Harry nodded. “It’s great. I’ve never seen Remus this happy.”

“Do you think we’ll ever be that lucky?”

Harry smiled. He immediately recognized the desire and fear behind that question. The odds weren’t really in their favour too. Voldemort had been trying to kill Harry since he was a baby and Ginny was a Weasley and a member of Dumbledore’s Army. They would have to consider themselves lucky if they both survived this war.

“Yes.” he said finally, when he looked into Ginny’s sweet brown eyes. “I think we will be. I’m going to marry you someday.”

“If we’re lucky.” Ginny said softly. “It’s not – “

“Don’t say it.” Harry interrupted her. “Don’t even think it. We are going to get through this. I know it.”

Ginny gave him a weak smile and lay her head on Harry’s shoulder. Harry pulled her close and kissed the top of her head. “I love you.” he whispered in her ear.

“I love you too.” Ginny said. “But love isn’t always enough, is it?”

“For us it is enough.”
________________________________________




When second term started Harry had never been busier in his life. Added by his classes, homework, private lessons with Snape and Dumbledore, Quidditch practice and DA meetings, they also started Apparition lessons. Nobody was surprised that Harry was the first to successfully disappear and appear in the hoop that lay a couple of feet in front of him.

“Excellent, Potter!” Professor Flitwick said excitedly. The head of Ravenclaw house had been appointed by Dumbledore to lead the Apparition lessons. Normally someone from the Ministry came to Hogwarts, but he had fled when Voldemort took over the Ministry and nobody knew where he was.

“How did you do that so fast?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “Maybe it’s easier for me because Dumbledore took me with him a couple of times.” He didn’t really believe that, but he didn’t want Hermione to feel bad. She had had a hard enough time admitting that Harry had been performing better than her in all of their classes.

After the Apparition lesson the sixth year Gryffindors walked back to the common room together. There they joined Ginny, Jacinta and the Creevey brothers, who were looking quite bored.

“I wish we were still allowed to go to Hogsmeade.” Ginny sighed. “I’m bored out of my mind.”

They all knew what she meant. Hogwarts was amazing and they were lucky to be safe here, but it was kind of depressing being cooped up in the castle without being able to leave the grounds once in a while.

That night when everyone else had gone to bed, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were once again discussing the remaining Horcruxes.

“And Dumbledore really has no idea?” Ron asked.

“Millions of ideas, but no plausible theories.” Harry said tiredly. “If the Horcrux is at Hogwarts, it’s nowhere to find. Dumbledore has looked everywhere.”

“But has he?” Hermione asked. “There may be no person alive who knows Hogwarts better than Dumbledore, but I doubt he knows all the secrets of the school.”

“What about the Room of Requirement?” Ginny asked.

They all fell silent.

“Of course.” Harry muttered finally.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Hermione said. The other three smirked at her.

“I have to talk to Dumbledore about it.” Harry said and he stood up from his chair, despite the late hour.

“Now?” Hermione asked. “It’s already after midnight.”

“He told me to let him know right away if we thought of something.” Harry said. “Come on, Ginny.”

“You want me to come?” Ginny asked surprised.

“Of course, it was your idea.” Harry said. “Come on, let’s go.”

Harry wasn’t surprised to see that Dumbledore was still wide awake when they entered his office.

“Harry, Ginny.” Dumbledore said. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” He didn’t say anything about the late hour.

“We think we know where the Horcrux might be hidden in the school, Professor.” Harry said.

Dumbledore sat up straight immediately. “Sit down.” he said, motioning to two chairs in front of his desk that a second ago had just been one chair. “Tell me.”

“Well, it was Ginny’s idea, actually.” Harry said, looking at his girlfriend.

“I thought Voldemort may have hidden a Horcrux in the Room of Requirement, sir.” Ginny said nervously.

“The Room of Requirement.” Dumbledore slowly said. “So simple.” He stood up from his chair and started pacing around his office. “That may put us in a difficult position.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“The Room of Requirement can take the form of anything the user needs. It has over the years taken the form of hundreds, maybe thousands of different rooms.”

“And we don’t know which room Voldemort used…” Harry said hopelessly. “How are we ever going to find it?”

“I will look into it.” Dumbledore said. “Leave it to me. Now I suggest you two go off to bed. I will let you know as soon as I know something.”
________________________________________




The second game of the Quidditch season for Gryffindor was planned on the first Sunday of March, as usual. This year that also happened to be Ron’s birthday.

This would be the first time that Mr and Mrs Weasley would see their youngest two children play as they had been away on Order business when they played Slytherin. The rest of the Weasleys and Remus and Tonks also promised to come an support them.

“Alright team.” Harry said after he had explained the game plan for the match. “Don’t think it will be easy today after we beat Slytherin in the opening match. We made that mistake last year and we nearly lost that game. I want everyone fully concentrated. Smith has formed a strong team this year.“

“They lost from Ravenclaw.” Ron said.

“Yeah, but only by ten points and Ravenclaw is awfully strong.” Ginny told him. “And Cho has become a very talented Seeker. I heard the Holyhead Harpies were thinking of sending a scout this year before… well.”

They all knew what she meant. All the professional Quidditch teams had been shut down when Voldemort took over the country.

“Anyway.” Harry said hastily. “I know we can beat them, but we’ll have to stay focused.”

“Why were you looking at me?” Katie asked as they walked upon the pitch under deafening roars coming from the stands.

“You know why.” Harry grumbled.

Katie laughed. “Don’t worry, captain. I feel I’m having a good day.”

To everyone’s surprise, Professor McGonagall hadn’t searched for a new Quidditch commentator, so Luna’s dreamy commentary was still to be enjoyed.

“Oh look there is Professor Lupin!” Luna suddenly said after failing to report three goals for each team. “He was our Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in second year. I really like him, he was always very friendly.”

Harry looked at where Remus and Tonks were sitting and smiled when he saw the baffled expressions on their faces.

“He’s getting married to Professor Tonks, you know.” Luna continued. “I’m really happy for them.”

Harry grinned and continued looking for the Snitch. He had noticed that Summerby had decided to shadow him instead of looking for the Snitch himself. He wasn’t the first Seeker to try that tactic against him and Harry wondered why they thought they could beat him when it came to speed.

“Miss Lovegood, I am sure the Blabbering Humdinger is a very interesting creature, but we’d really like to hear something about the match now and then.”

Harry smiled as he heard Professor McGonagall’s tired voice. Apparently the Transfiguration teacher had given up on trying to talk sense into Luna.

“Oh yes, of course.” Luna happily said. “Parvati has stolen that Quaffle quite nicely from that mean Hufflepuff player – “

“Miss Lovegood!”

“I’m sorry, Professor, I forgot his name.” Luna said innocently. “Oh look, Ginny has scored again!”

Katie had scored two more goals when Harry spotted the Snitch. Easily outflying Summerby, Harry caught it a couple of feet above the pitch and immediately jumped of his broom.

“Harry has caught the Snitch!” Luna shouted excitedly. “Well done, Harry! Gryffindor wins with… er…”

“260 to 30.” Professor McGonagall quickly said.

The loss meant that Hufflepuff had been eliminated for the Quidditch Cup, seeing as they were already too far behind Gryffindor. In two weeks Ravenclaw would play against Slytherin. If they won it would be a close call in the final game of the season between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
________________________________________


During the next DA meeting, Harry organized a small duelling tournament between all the members. He thought it would be fun and it would be a good way to see how far everyone had progressed. It sounded perfect in theory, but in reality it turned out a bit different.

“Yeah, that’s quite a nasty burn.” Harry said as he inspected Parvati’s arm. “You’d better go to Madam Pomfrey, she has an excellent ointment for burn wounds.”

“I’ll go with her.” Padma said hastily. She had been quite shocked to see what her curse had caused. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay.” Parvati smiled. “But be sure it’s a Death Eater next time.”

“How is your nose, Justin?” Harry asked the Hufflepuff who had come back from the hospital wing a few moments ago.

“Fine.” he assured him. “Madam Pomfrey’s getting a bit annoyed though. I was the fifth one to go down there.”

“Yeah well. She can’t keep acting like I’m her only patient then.” Harry said unconcernedly.

They managed to get to the end of the meeting without further incidents. After talking for a while the DA members started to leave for their respective common rooms.

“Can I help you, Malfoy?” Harry asked a bit suspiciously when he saw the Slytherin hanging about.

“I want to talk to you.”

“Alright…” Harry said slowly.

Malfoy looked at Ginny, Ron and Hermione as if he rather didn’t want to say anything in front of them.

“Whatever you have to say to me you can say in front of them.” Harry said.

“Alright then.” Malfoy shrugged. “It’s about some of those spells you teach us during the meetings.”

“Yes?”

“I wondered where you learned them.”

“From Dumbledore, mostly.” Harry said with raised eyebrows. Why?”

“Because I recognized some of them.” Malfoy said.

“I’m sure that’s possible. Most of them are in advanced spell books.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Malfoy said quickly. “I mean some of the more dangerous spells.”

“Such as?”

“Well, that curse you used on Rodolphus at Godric’s Hollow for example.”

“Sectumsempra?” Harry asked suspiciously. That was actually one of the curses Snape had taught him and he said he had invented it himself. More people knew the spell, but Harry was sure it couldn’t be found in any spellbook in the Hogwarts library.

“Yes.” Malfoy said. “I found it. In a book.”

“That’s impossible. No spellbook would have that curse in it.”

“It wasn’t a spellbook, it was a Potions book.” Malfoy said. “I found it last year in one of the cabinets in the Potions dungeon. It had all these spells and tips for Potions in it.”

“You mean someone wrote it in the book?” Hermione asked.

Malfoy nodded. Harry looked at his three best friends. They all knew Snape had taught him those spells.

“Do you still have that book?” Harry asked.

Malfoy shook his head. “I got rid of it. It gave me the creeps for some reason and Crabbe and Goyle found it once when I was still staying in the Slytherin dormitories. It didn’t seem to be a good idea for them to know about some things that were in there. With their brains it would surely mean trouble . And they probably would have used those spells against me.”

“Do you know who the book belonged to?”

“No. It says that it is the property of the Half-Blood Prince. That’s why I asked you about it, I wouldn’t mind knowing who he was.”

A look of understanding came over Harry’s face. “Sorry, Malfoy. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

Malfoy shrugged and left the Room of Requirement.

“So Snape was taking glory for another man’s work then?” Ron asked smugly.

“You don’t know that.” Hermione said.

“Do you think that book belonged to him?” Ginny asked Harry.

“Snape is a halfblood.” Harry said slowly. Snape never talked about his private life or his past, but practicing Occlumency and Legilimency for all this time had given Harry quite an insight in the Potions master’s life.

“A lot of wizards are.” Ron said.

“His mother’s name was Eileen Prince.”

“Then it must be him!” Hermione said.

“It does make sense when Malfoy found the book in his classroom.” Ginny admitted.

“And Snape didn’t miss it all this time?” Ron said sceptically.

“Maybe he didn’t want to tell anyone.” Harry said. “Or he hasn’t even noticed yet. I doubt he checks if the book is still there every few weeks.”

“Yes, but Malfoy found it last year…”

Harry shrugged. “I’ll ask him tomorrow, I have Legilimency anyway.”



Asking Snape about the book wasn’t as easy as Harry had thought. Snape was still quite an intimidating figure.

“Something on your mind, Potter?” Snape asked when Harry didn’t react on his demand to attack his mind. Harry quickly averted his eyes from Snape’s and the Potions master smirked. “Don’t bother. I haven’t been able to look into your mind for a long time now.”

“I just wondered…” Harry said carefully. “If you ever had a nickname when you were at school.”

Snape narrowed his eyes. He quickly glanced at the cabinet against the left wall and Harry realized he already knew what he was on about. “What are you getting at, Potter?”

Harry decided to just come out and say it. “Malfoy found your book.”

Snape quickly walked over to the cabinet to check if Harry was telling the truth. When he saw he had been right Snape cursed.

“How do you know this?”

Harry told him everything Malfoy had told him the day before.

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing that it was Malfoy who found it and not someone from the other side. Although I doubt there are still a lot of spells in there that the Death Eaters don’t know…”

He remained silent for a few moments before he said: “You said Malfoy had hidden the book somewhere?”

Harry nodded.

“Make sure he gets it back and gives it to you. Once you have it, you bring it to me. I will make sure it’s destroyed.”

“Why me?” Harry asked. He knew Snape had always been Malfoy’s favourite teacher. The Slytherin wouldn’t think of disobeying if Snape asked him something.

“Because it wouldn’t do good for Malfoy to know that that book was mine. And Malfoy trusts you.”

Harry laughed at this last remark. “Malfoy trusts me?”

“I don’t know how that happened either, but yes.” Snape said dryly. “Make sure you do it fast.”
________________________________________




“Good afternoon, class.”

Kingsley’s deep, friendly voice immediately quieted the sixth years that were happily talking among each other.

“We will take a break from duelling and attacking each other for a while. In the next few lessons I will teach you about other threats that may put us in danger in the near future. As it is, Voldemort does not only have an enormous army of Death Eaters behind him, he also has control over a lot of beings and non-beings to do his bidding. Examples?”

“Dementors.” Seamus offered.

“Indeed.” Kingsley said. “One of the two main groups of non-humans that serve Voldemort. Any idea what the other one is?”

“The Werewolves?” Neville said carefully.

“Quite right.” Kingsley said encouragingly.

“But Professor Lupin is a Werewolf.” Lavender said uncomprehendingly. “And he is on our side, isn’t he?”

“He definitely is.” Kingsley agreed. “Of course there is the occasional Werewolf who tries to live a normal life and doesn’t turn to the Dark Arts, but most of the Werewolves live in the marginality of our society. Voldemort offers them prey and that is bait they can’t refuse.”

“The Werewolves joined Voldemort primarily because of Fenrir Greyback. He was the most vicious Werewolf alive and he was known to enjoy attacking little children, even when there wasn’t a full moon.”

A shuddering went through the class.

“But Greyback’s dead now and the members of the Order of the Phoenix have been trying to make friendly contact with some of the Werewolves again.”

Harry wondered if Snape was still working with the Werewolves or that Remus had already given it a shot.

“But I think you are considerably informed about Werewolves and Dementors already.” Kingsley continued. “Today we will talk about a creature that I think you are not so familiar with.” He waved his wand towards the blackboard and an image appeared. It was a man – clearly dead – but still walking stumbling and apparently readying himself to attack.

“What’s that?” Lavender asked disgustedly.

“An Inferius.” Kingsley said simply.

“Looks like a Zombie.” Dean said.

“Can anyone tell me… Hermione, of course!” Kingsley laughed. “Go ahead.”

“Inferi are dead bodies animated by a dark wizard to do its bidding.” Hermione said quickly.

“Exactly like a Zombie then.” Dean said.

“Not quite, Dean.” Kingsley said. “Indeed Inferi are quite similar to what Muggles call ‘Zombies’, but like Hermione said Inferi aren’t naturally formed, but created by a dark wizard. Now I’d like you to start taking notes.”

The students hurriedly searched for parchment and quills while Kingsley started his lecture.

“The word Inferius comes from the Latin word ‘Inferus’ , which means the dead or the underworld. Inferi are created through a branch of the Dark Arts called Necromancy. Necromancy is the art of reversing death. It’s a branch of magic that has never actually worked. Although it is possible to create dark creatures like Inferi and Charmed Skeletons, these are merely mindless creatures that follow the bidding of their creator.”

“Basic duelling skills and defensive magic won’t do you much good when you deal with Inferi. As they are unfeeling dead bodies, they are immune to wounds. It is possible to stun or petrify an Inferius, but as they nearly always attack in large groups, this won’t do you much good either. Furthermore, Inferi have great physical strength. They are much stronger than humans and are capable of killing them barehanded.”

Kingsley waved to the blackboard again and images appeared of people who had been attacked by Inferi.

“Inferi like a dark and cold atmosphere. That is what you have to keep in mind when you would ever deal with them. Harry, how would you protect yourself from an Inferi attack, knowing what I just told you about them?”

Harry was a bit surprised Kingsley picked him and he couldn’t really concentrate as Hermione was hopping up and down next to him with her hand raised high in the air.

“Er. Fire?” Harry said after a few moments.

“Exactly.” Kingsley smiled at him. “As Inferi usually attack in such large groups, a simple Incendio spell will not be enough to save your skin. What you can use are the following…”

They spend the rest of the lesson practicing different spells to chase away Inferi.

“Excellent lesson.” Hermione said satisfied when they walked to the Great Hall for lunch.

“Our Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers sure are an improvement since Lockhart.” Ron agreed. “Even Moody was alright, considering it wasn’t really him.”

“I can’t believe they never found out who it was.” Neville said. “But I guess he must have been awfully smart if he could fool Dumbledore for a year.”

“Snape reckoned it was Barty Crouch Jr.” Harry said softly, so only his three friends would hear. Not everyone knew Snape had been spying for the Order for a year after Voldemort came back. “Voldemort never actually said it, but it was quite clear according to him.”

They were downstairs just in time to see Malfoy about to enter the Great Hall.

“Oi, Malfoy!” Harry called.

Malfoy turned around to see who called and waited for them.

“That book you found last year, can I have it if you don’t keep it?” Harry asked.

Malfoy shrugged. “Sure.”

“You still know where you hid it right?”

“I think so…” Malfoy said slowly.

“What do you mean, ‘you think so’?” Ron asked with raised eyebrows.

“Where did you hide it?” said Harry.

“In the Room of Requirement.”

“In the DA headquarters?”

“No, in the room where everything’s hidden.” Malfoy said.

“The room where everything’s – “

Realization suddenly hit Harry and he quickly looked at Ron and Hermione, who had the same excited look in their eyes.
________________________________________




“You cannot defeat your enemies until you know who they are” – Anthony Horowitz (Crocodile Tears)





________________________________________
Chapter 13: The Power of Friendship

“We have to...” Hermione started.

“Tell Dumbledore.” Ron finished her sentence.

“Now!” Harry said.

They started running towards the stairs, leaving Malfoy and Neville flabbergasted at the entrance of the Great Hall. When they arrived on the second floor, they ran into Ginny and Luna.

“What’s going on?” Ginny asked urgently.

“Are you being chased by a Tamperdroll?” Luna asked calmly.

“Come on!” Harry merely said. He grabbed Ginny’s hand and dragged her with them to the seventh floor and down the corridor that led to Dumbledore’s office.

“Canary Creams.” Harry said, panting heavily as they stood in front of the gargoyle that hid the stone escalators from view. When they came upstairs the door to Dumbledore’s office opened before they even knocked.

“Harry!” Dumbledore said surprised. “I was about to go down for lunch. What is going on?”

“We know where the Horcrux is.” Harry said.

“We think we know where the Horcrux is.” Hermione corrected him.

“Do you really?” Dumbledore said, inviting them to enter his office.

“Yes, do we?” Ginny asked, a bit irritated because she still didn’t know what was going on.

“Actually Malfoy gave us the idea.” Ron said.

“He told us that he used the Room of Requirement once to hide something.” Harry said.

“Yes…” Dumbledore said slowly.

“Well, he wasn’t the only one that had hidden something there.” Harry explained. “He called it the room where everything’s hidden. He probably thought of a possible hiding place which is probably…”

“The exact same thing Voldemort thought about when he wanted to hide his Horcrux.” Dumbledore completed his sentence. “Let us go.”

He left his office with the four students in his wake and quickly walked across the seventh floor towards the corridor that held the Room of Requirement.

“Professor, won’t it be dangerous?” Harry asked as they almost reached their destination.

“I hardly think so.” Dumbledore said. “Voldemort probably was arrogant enough to think that none other than he would be able to unravel the school’s deepest mysteries, so he would think the Horcrux is perfectly safe. Furthermore, he cannot have hidden magical creatures in the school for this long and if the Horcrux housed curses like the ring did, I would have picked them up when I searched the school, even if it is in the Room of Requirement.”

He stopped when they reached the piece of blank wall after which the Room of Requirement waited for them. The five of them passed the wall three times, thinking about a place to hide something or thinking about ‘the room where everything’s hidden’. Harry’s heart jumped when he saw the door appear. “It worked!”

“Let us hope so.” Dumbledore said calmly. He entered the Room and the four students followed closely. Dumbledore gestured them to wait and walked on, stopping a couple of feet in front of them. He pulled his wand and started muttering strange words.

“What is he doing?” Ron whispered, anxious not to disturbe Dumbledore.

“Probably searching the room for dark magic.” Hermione whispered back. “There are many ways to do that, but it’s extremely advanced stuff and it can take hours to pick something up.”

“But he said he would have picked up curses even when they are located inside the Room of Requirement.” Harry said.

“Yes, curses like on the ring, that are meant to kill or wound the victims. Horcruxes are not dark like that.”

“Beg your pardon?” Ron said. “Horcruxes are not dark enough to be picked up easily?”

“It doesn’t work that way. It’s not the level of how dark it is, but the level of how dangerous it is that is important. Pretty much like… in what way it is dark.” Hermione explained. “In theory, Horcruxes are not threatening to anyone. They will try to possess you and take over your mind if you come too close, but otherwise they won’t do you any physical harm. Dark curses like the ones on the ring will, so purely theoretical…”

“Horcruxes are less dangerous than most dark curses.” Harry completed.

Indeed, it took Dumbledore more than an hour to finally pick up the slightest hint of dark magic. He gestured for them to follow him, but when they found the source it turned out to be a shrunken head.

“That is disappointing.” Dumbledore said calmly.

“Do you mean, that’s it?” Harry asked. “It’s not here?”

“Oh, it can certainly be here, but Voldemort will have made it hard to trace.” He again walked a couple of feet away from them and restarted his activities from before. This time only fifteen minutes had passed when he spoke again. “I think I have something. Stronger than before.”

Dumbledore quickly started walking through the aisles of lost objects, much more eagerly than before. Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione quickly followed the headmaster and had to hurry to keep up with him. Dumbledore finally stopped in front of an old wardrobe. “Now we will see.” he muttered and he slowly opened the doors.

They only saw two objects in the closet. One was a big cage holding a five-legged skeleton of what once must have been a Quintaped. Harry involuntarily wondered if Hagrid had been the one who had hidden this here during his school years. On the top shelf of the wardrobe there was a beautiful, gold tiara with a blue sapphire, shaped like an oval. Dumbledore pointed his wand at the tiara and again muttered some words Harry didn’t recognize. Apparently satisfied that it was safe Dumbledore took the tiara and inspected it.

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” he mumbled.*

“Rowena Ravenclaw…” Hermione said slowly.

“You mean to say…” Harry said, not quite trusting what he heard.

“This is it, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “This is Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem. I have no idea how Voldemort ever got it in his possession, but this is it.”

“So…” Ron said.

“We have another Horcrux.”

Dumbledore invited them all up to his office. He put the diadem on the same three-legged table where Sirius had destroyed the locket and where Harry had destroyed Hufflepuff’s cup.

Dumbledore handed Harry the sword of Gryffindor, but Harry shook his head. “No. I think Ginny should do it.”

“What?” Ginny said.

“It was your idea.”

“You three realized which room it was. I just thought of the Room of Requirement.” Ginny protested.

“And if you hadn’t we probably wouldn’t have realized what that room meant.” Ron said.

“You should do it, Ginny.” Hermione agreed.

Ginny looked at Dumbledore, who smiled encouragingly and handed her the sword.

“Go ahead, Ginny.” the headmaster said.

Ginny took the sword and watched the diadem doubtfully. “It’s a shame it has to be destroyed.” she said. “Such an important historical object.”

“I know.” Dumbledore said sadly. “But I am afraid we have no choice.”

Ginny nodded and lifted the sword. With one powerful stab, the blade of the sword hit the diadem. The same shrill, high-pitched shriek they had heard when Harry destroyed the cup echoed through the office and the diadem trembled and broke in half.

“Well done, Ginny!” Dumbledore said. He turned to Harry and smiled. “Only one to go.”

Dumbledore sent Ginny, Ron and Hermione to their classes, giving them a note to explain to their teachers that they were late because they had been with him. He asked Harry to stay for a while.

After they had taken their usual seats facing each other with the desk between them, Dumbledore said: “So you do know what this means, Harry?”

Harry nodded. “If we kill the snake Voldemort is mortal again.”

“Indeed, he is.”

“Do you plan to go after him, Professor?” Harry asked nervously.

“I do not think we have to, Harry.” Dumbledore said calmly.

“I don’t understand.”

“Voldemort has wiped out the last bit of resistance in the outside world.” Dumbledore said sadly. “It will not be long before he will try to accomplish the task he has set on hold when he took over the Ministry.”

“He’ll come after me?” Harry asked. “But I’m at Hogwarts.”

“You are. But I think Voldemort’s army has grown to the power that even Hogwarts will not be able to hold them out indefinitely.”

“That’s madness!” Harry said. “We can’t let that happen. There are still little kids here.”

“Indeed, Harry, but there are ways to protect them. The Room of Requirement will be a valuable asset in that regard. And I must say that I think we have the greatest chance of succeeding on known ground. Plus all the members of the Order of the Phoenix are here.”

Harry thought about what Dumbledore had said and had to admit it did sound plausible. Then he thought about what would happen if Voldemort attacked Hogwarts and Harry would stay here.

“So when Voldemort attacks…” Harry said slowly. “It will be over. Either way.”

“Yes.” Dumbledore said calmly. “It will be over.”

“You know, don’t you?” Harry asked, looking into Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes. “You know when he’s going to come for me. For all of us.”

Dumbledore looked at him and sighed. “I do not know exactly when, Harry, but I know it will be in the next few months.”

“How? Do you have a spy again?”

Dumbledore nodded. “It concerns a Death Eater within Voldemort’s inner circle. Professor Snape has taken the risk of making contact. You must forgive me for not giving you the name, Harry. Professor Snape and I are the only two people who know of it. It would be catastrophic if we lost this spy too.”

“I understand.” Harry said.

“I will keep you informed if I hear something important. Now you’d better go down to your class, Harry.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

Harry quickly descended the marble stairs to the Transfiguration classroom.

“I’m sorry I’m late, Professor.” he quickly said after he entered the room.

“That’s alright, Potter. Miss Granger and Mr Weasley informed me you were with Professor Dumbledore?”

Harry nodded.

“Very well.” Professor McGonagall said not unfriendly. “Take your seat. We are working on human transfiguration.”

“So what did Dumbledore say?” Ron asked when they left the classroom. Transfiguration had been their last class for the day and the trio and Neville made their way back to the Gryffindor common room.

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” Harry said.

“Are you alright, Harry?” Hermione asked, looking worried. “You look a bit stressed.”

“Yeah, fine.” Harry said curtly.

When they reached the seventh floor they walked into Ginny and Luna who just finished their Charms lesson. Harry asked the two of them to come with them to the Gryffindor common room.

“I can’t go in there, Harry. I’m a Ravenclaw.” Luna reminded him.

“No one will care.” Harry assured her.

When they entered the common room Harry led them to a couple of chairs by the window. Luna was looking around her interestedly as this was the first time she set foot in Gryffindor Tower. When they had all sat down Harry quickly casted a Muffliato charm and told his friends about what Dumbledore had told him.

The reactions of his friends were more or less what Harry expected. Ginny and Hermione bit their lip, looking extremely worried. Neville made a fearful noise, Ron paled until he looked as white as a ghost and Luna was just smiling at him reassuringly.

“Well, it was a matter of time really.” she said calmly.

The others looked at her unbelievingly, but Harry was kind of happy with her reaction.

“Are you afraid?” Hermione asked softly.

Harry shrugged. “A bit. But I knew it had to happen eventually. Now that all the Horcruxes are destroyed, except for Nagini… Well, I’m ready.”

Ginny looked at him piercingly. She wasn’t crying. Harry had only seen her cry on very rare occasions. “You’ll defeat him.” she said determinedly. “You are stronger than him.”

“Of course you are.” Luna said, sounding very confident. “And you won’t be alone.”

“No. You won’t.” Hermione said with a weak voice.

“We’re with you, mate.” Ron said firmly.

“Until the end.” Neville added.

When Harry was looking at his friends, determined to stand by him while the final battle was approaching, he finally understood what Dumbledore was trying to tell him all this time and what Sirius had said after the battle at Grimmauld Place last year.

‘Love, Harry. Love.’
________________________________________




“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things.” – J.R.R. Tolkien (LOTR Return of the King)

*Quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

________________________________________
Chapter 14: Preparing for Battle

After consulting with his friends, Harry decided to tell the members of Dumbledore’s Army what Dumbledore had told him, or at least part of it. He wasn’t sure of it first because he didn’t want to cause any panic, but finally he realized it was better that his friends were prepared for what was coming so they could decide for themselves if they wanted to be a part of it.

After their meeting on Saturday afternoon, Harry asked everyone to stay and told them about the final battle that was approaching.

“Voldemort will attack Hogwarts?” Hannah asked flabbergasted. “But that’s awful! What about all the younger students?” She quickly glanced at Dennis and Jacinta.

“Dumbledore reckons they will be safe in the Room of Requirement.” Harry said. “And so will all the older students be who don’t want to fight.”

“Here we go.” Seamus muttered to Dean. Dean grinned knowingly.

“Now I want you to realize that none of you are forced to fight when the time comes.”

“Cut it, Harry.” Terry Boot advised him.

“No, you have to know this.” Harry said seriously. “This won’t be like the attacks on Hogsmeade and Grimmauld Place or even the battle at Godric’s Hollow. Voldemort will come after me with his entire army of Death Eaters, plus a range of the darkest creatures known to wizardkind.”

“Do you think we don’t realize that?” Dean asked.

“We all know what Voldemort is capable of Harry. And his Death Eaters.” Neville said softly.

Harry looked at the members of the DA. Each and every one of them, even Zacharias en Malfoy, had proven they had the guts to fight. He knew it won’t do any good trying to convince them to save their own lives.

When everyone started to leave Harry walked over to Malfoy. “Do you think you could show me where you hid that book now.”

“Alright.” Malfoy said. “But we’ll all have to leave first. The Room won’t work if there are still people in it.”

They waited until everyone had left for their respective dormitories and then Harry and Malfoy left the Room of Requirement, accompanied by Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna. They waited until Malfoy had summoned the room where he had hidden the book. Then they entered the Room of Requirement again that had now taken the form of the room with all the lost objects where they had found Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem.

“Let me think.” Malfoy said.

It took him a while before he found the place where he had hidden the book. Finally, he opened a wooden box that was standing on a pile of worn out books. He opened it and handed the book to Harry. Harry opened the book curiously. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw the nickname Snape had apparently fashioned himself when he was at Hogwarts.

“The Half-Blood Prince.” he muttered.

“Sure thought a lot of himself, didn’t he.” Ron said.

“You know who it is then?” Malfoy said perceptively.

“No.” Harry said quickly. He sensed that Malfoy didn’t believe him, but the Slytherin didn’t insist.

When Malfoy had made his way downstairs towards his room, Harry turned to his friends. “I’d better take this back to Snape immediately.”

“This book belonged to Snape?” Neville said surprised.

Harry nodded. “But don’t tell anyone, okay? It won’t be good if too many people knew about it.”

When Harry entered Snape’s office he was surprised to see that the Potions master wasn’t alone. He had apparently been talking with Remus ,Dumbledore, McGonagall, Moody and Kingsley.

“How are you, Harry?” Remus asked friendly.

“Fine.” Harry smiled. “I came to give you your book back, Professor.” he said to Snape.

“Ah, thanks Potter.” Snape said. He took the book from Harry and put it in a drawer of his desk without further comment. The curious faces of the others told Harry that Snape hadn’t told anyone about the book and Malfoy finding it.

“Well, I’ll go then.”

“Actually, Potter, your arrival is most opportune.” Snape said.

“I was just about to call Dobby to fetch you.” Remus said.

“We wanted to discuss something with you.” Dumbledore added.

Snape gave a lazy flick with his wand and another wooden chair appeared. “Sit down, Potter.”

Harry sat down on the chair a bit nervously. He wondered what the most important members of the Order of the Phoenix had to talk to him about.

“I have informed the members of the Order of the Phoenix about the information I already told you about.” Dumbledore explained. “Am I right if I suppose you have informed the members of Dumbledore’s Army as well?”

“Yes.” Harry said. “Part of it. I thought they should be warned.”

“You were quite right.” Dumbledore said. “And their reaction was?”

“They want to stay here to fight. All of them.”

Dumbledore nodded as if he hadn’t expected anything else.

“Are you sure that is wise, Potter?” McGonagall asked. “I understand that you will not let Miss Malfoy and the youngest Creevey fight, but the others… I am sure they are all capable and brave students, but all of them are underage, except for a few exceptions.”

“No, I’m not sure, Professor.” Harry said. “But I can’t make that decision for them.”

“The group may be called Dumbledore’s Army, but the members are especially loyal to you.” McGonagall tried to persuade him. “They trust you blindly and if they fight it would be for you. If you would tell them to bring themselves to safety, I’m sure they would – “

“But I won’t.” Harry interrupted her. “I’m sorry Professor, but you’re right, they are extremely loyal to me. If they are loyal enough to fight with me, not for me, I won’t forbid them. I may have given them an opportunity by forming the DA, but it’s not for me that they are fighting. They are fighting for their own lives and their freedom. And all of their families and friends.”

McGonagall clearly didn’t agree with him, but Harry received help of an unexpected source.

“They are ready for this, Minerva.” Moody said gruffly. “I have seen them fight on three occasions before. Those teenagers have more guts than most of the adults I know. Their assistance during the battle will be of vital importance to the Order and the remaining Aurors.”

“Agreed.” Kingsley said. “I’m not thrilled to have teenagers fighting in this war either, Minerva. But we cannot shield them from everything anymore. They have a mind of their own.”

Harry looked at Remus. The werewolf sighed deeply before he said something. “I’m afraid they are right. We will need every wand possible.”

McGonagall looked at Snape, hoping to find a partner in her protest. “I believe Dumbledore’s Army would be a valuable asset in any battle.” the Potions master said softly. “I have heard more than once that Potter’s calm and efficient assessment of a situation has been effective on various occasions. Especially when the Death Eaters attacked Hogsmeade last year.”

“Well, I see I’m outnumbered.” McGonagall said. “And I accept the decision of the Order. But I still think it’s a bad idea.”

Harry felt rather guilty when he looked at the head of Gryffindor house. He had always liked McGonagall. She may be strict and often short-tempered, but Harry knew she had a good heart and she always had the best interest of her students at heart.

After a short silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Well then. It has always been my belief that we can only defeat the forces that threaten us by showing unity and therefore I think it is only fitting that Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix will be working together as leading forces of the castle’s defence.”

He paused. When no one objected he carried on. “I think it would be best if we have an Order meeting where every member is present and invite the DA members too. That way we can discuss our plan of defence and assign tasks to certain people.”

When all of them agreed, Dumbledore dismissed them. Harry and Remus left the dungeons and climbed the marble staircases. When they had reached the fifth floor where Remus had been living with Tonks for the previous months, the werewolf turned to Harry.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of everything you have done and of the way you have led Dumbledore’s Army, Harry. You are one of the bravest people I have ever known… But be careful. I don’t think I would be able to handle it if I lost you too.”

Harry looked at Remus’ lined face and felt a wave of compassion for him. This man had always been shunned because of something he had no control over. But still he had fought his entire life to do the right thing, losing almost everything he held dear.

“I will be.” Harry said reassuringly. He walked towards his friend and gave him a firm hug. “But you don’t disappear on me either.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”
________________________________________




I’m a godfather! Today, Friday 31st of July 1980, Harry James Potter was born. I was kind of surprised when Lily and James asked me to be Harry’s godfather. I’m happy of course, but I always thought they would ask Remus to do it. He’s the most responsible of us all, after all. He didn’t really seem upset about it, but Lily and James assured him that it would be his turn next time. Lily wants to have a daughter at all costs. I hope she doesn’t have to wait as long as the Weasleys. Molly and Arthur had their sixth son last March. It certainly would make babysitting quite a bigger challenge. One baby already seems enough work to me…

“Harry? Everyone is here.” Hermione said.

Harry looked up. He was sitting in one of the armchairs in the Room of Requirement. He had been so absorbed in one of the diaries Sirius had left him in his will that he hadn’t realized that all the members of the DA had arrived for what they thought would be a normal meeting.

“Hi everyone.” Harry said quickly, walking over to where the students were waiting for him. “We won’t be practicing today, I’m afraid.”

“Why not?” several voices said.

“Well, since you have all so admirably showed your willingness to help defend the castle when the final battle comes, Professor Dumbledore decided to invite us to a meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. He wants to make some plans so we will be ready when the day comes.”

Most of the DA members seemed excited and impressed that they would be attending a meeting with the legendary Order of the Phoenix.

“They are expecting us…” Harry quickly checked his watch. “In fifteen minutes. So, we’d better go.”

“Where is the meeting, Harry?” Dean asked when he realized they weren’t going to Dumbledore’s office.

“It’s in classroom eleven. The entire Order of the Phoenix will be there, plus all of us. It would be a bit too crowded in the headmaster's office.”

When they arrived downstairs, Harry knocked on the door of the unused classroom and entered. “Hi everyone.” he said when he saw the entire Order was already there, seated around a large wooden table.

“Good evening, Harry.” Dumbledore said pleasantly. He was seated at the head of the table. “So, did you bring the rest of the DA?”

“Yes, Professor.” he motioned for the members to come in. They entered the room a bit apprehensively, but were quickly reassured by Dumbledore’s friendly smile.

“Thank you for coming, all of you. We really appreciate it. Please, sit down.”

After Dumbledore introduced everyone he started the meeting.

“We all know why we are here. Lord Voldemort has enhanced his powers to the extent that even Hogwarts will not be safe anymore one of these days. It has been brought to my attention by a reliable source that Voldemort will be attacking this school at full force in the near future. We have no other place to go, so we will have to stand up and defend our freedom right here.”

“You want to fight a battle at Hogwarts?” Hestia Jones asked, looking fearful.

“No, I most definitely do not want to fight a battle at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore said. “Actually, I do not want to fight a battle anywhere, but I do not think that we have a choice in the matter.”

He paused. Dumbledore let the silence linger a bit before he carried on.

“When the time comes, our first concern will be bringing the younger students to safety. Harry, am I right if I assume I can count on you and your members to take care of that?”

“Absolutely.” Harry nodded. “The Room of Requirement will be safe enough.”

“Thank you.” Dumbledore said gracefully. “I think we do have to permit every student from the top two years to help us if they want to. We will need all the help we can get. The defence of the castle will be led by the members of the Order and the members of the DA.”

“The members of the DA?” said Sturgis Podmore condescendingly. “They’re teenagers.”

“Those teenagers have proven just as much as you have over the last months, Podmore.” Moody said sharply. “And some of them a lot more.”

Podmore wanted to say something back, but Dumbledore raised his hands.

“Now Kingsley and Nymphadora, I think it would be best if the two of you take command of the remaining Aurors.”

Kingsley and Tonks nodded in agreement. Tonks had a defiant expression on her face, like she usually had when someone dared to call her by her first name.

“Mad-Eye, you will be in charge during battle. You are the most experienced and accomplished duellist.” Dumbledore continued.

“What about you, Albus?” Mrs Weasley asked.

“I will be otherwise occupied.” Dumbledore merely said. He looked at Harry, who nodded. They had already agreed that the two of them together had the best chance to get close enough to Nagini to kill her.

Dumbledore proceeded the meeting, giving specific orders to certain people. He appointed several people to guard the Room of Requirement to protect the younger students.

“What about the secret passageways?” Harry asked suddenly. “There are still two of them that can be used.”

Regulus nodded. “I entered the school through the passageway from Honeydukes.” he said to Dumbledore.

“Indeed.” Dumbledore said. “After the Ministry has fallen I have made sure that they can’t be used anymore. They have both been closed off from the entrances in Hogsmeade. I secured the passageway from the Shrieking Shack myself and the owner of Honeydukes has closed off the one in his cellar on my request.”

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to guard them anyway.” Harry said. “Just in case.”

“Agreed.” Snape said. “No defence is flawless, especially against our current enemies.”

“Seems like a job for us.” Fred said, looking at George and Lee.

“Very well.” Dumbledore said. “Furthermore – “

The door suddenly banged open and Professor Flitwick stormed inside, panting heavily and grabbing his chest. “Albus!” he said. “Thank Merlin, I found you!”

“What is it, Filius?”

“I just went to Hogsmeade to visit my good friend Barnabas Cuffe and his wife Cornelia.” Flitwick said. “When I got there, the door to the shop was open. I entered and…”

Harry’s insides turned to ice when he saw the distress in the eyes of the tiny Charms Professor.

“Are they – “

Flitwick nodded. He looked like he could be bursting into tears any moment now. “They were both killed.”

“Was the Dark Mark above the shop?” Dumbledore asked urgently.

“No.” Professor Flitwick said. “That’s what struck me too. If it were Death Eaters they would have casted it. Unless…”

“Unless they wouldn’t want to attract attention.” Harry said fearfully. “Professor!”

“I know, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “Everyone follow me to the third floor. We have reason to believe that Death Eaters have gotten into the school.”
________________________________________


“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

________________________________________
Chapter 15: Nagini

The whole room jumped to their feet immediately. The members of the Order of the Phoenix and the DA followed Dumbledore towards the third floor. Harry was thinking about Jacinta and Dennis and the other younger students that were still in the common rooms, unknowing and unprotected.

“We have to go to the common room!” he said to Ginny, Ron and Hermione.

“No, Harry.” Dumbledore quickly said. “Send other DA members. You have to stay with me.” There was something uncharacteristically demanding in his voice.

“Alright. You three go.” They started to protest, but Harry raised his hand to quiet them. “We don’t have time for this. Please, just go. Keep them safe.”

Ginny still seemed reluctant to leave him, but Ron and Hermione took her with them towards the seventh floor.

“Terry, Anthony, Michael, you go and make sure the Ravenclaws stay safe.” Harry ordered. “Hannah, Susan and Justin, you do the same for the Hufflepuffs.”

The DA members nodded and without another word they ran off to their respective common rooms. Harry turned back to Dumbledore. “Why do I have to stay with you?” he asked. He thought Dumbledore had already been trusting Harry to take care of himself for a long time.

“I have a feeling…” the headmaster said slowly. He didn’t finish his sentence. Before they rounded the corner of the corridor of the one-eyed witch, he stopped Harry.

“Harry, listen to me.” Dumbledore said eagerly, while screams and shouted incantations told them the Order members and the DA members had ran into Death Eaters and a battle had begun. “I think the only purpose of this attack is weakening us before Voldemort comes himself. I need you to keep yourself safe.”

Harry nodded and made to go towards the fighting, but Dumbledore grabbed his arm. “I need you to understand me clearly, Harry. Whatever happens, protect yourself first.”

“Alright…” Harry said slowly.

Dumbledore nodded and let go of Harry’s arm. “Stay close to me.” he said.

Side by side, the old and the young wizard faced the Death Eaters. They were immediately engaged in a duel with three masked figures. Three killing curses were soaring towards them, but Harry quickly raised a powerful gold shield and the green beams of light were deflected. Harry reacted with a powerful stunning spell that took out the Death Eater on the left, while Dumbledore took out the other two by knocking them together and binding them in robes.

Harry looked at the battle in front of him. All was chaos. He saw his friends and teachers taking on dozens of masked figures. Harry was tempted to use the tornado spell he had used in Godric’s Hollow again, but then he would be incapacitating Order and DA members as well as Death Eaters. He took out three hooded figures that were fighting his friends. By the time he had stunned the fourth one, all the other Death Eaters had noticed that Harry and Dumbledore were there.

“I’m leaving.” a tall, broad-shouldered man said. He ran towards the one-eyed witch statue and disappeared out of sight.

“Come back!” a familiar female voice shouted. “You coward!”

“Hello, Bellatrix.” Dumbledore said calmly.

Bellatrix took of her mask and smirked at the headmaster. “Always the polite man, aren’t you Albus?”

She didn’t wait for Dumbledore to respond and quickly shot a killing curse at him. Dumbledore swiftly raised the same shield that Harry had conjured moments ago. The killing curse bounced of the shield and hit Sturgis Podmore right in the face. The Order member fell to the ground, lifeless.

Meanwhile Harry was engaged in a duel with Antonin Dolohov and Augustus Rookwood. Both of them were accomplished duellists, but even together they weren’t able to incapacitate Harry.

“Ignis Hyacintho!” Harry shouted. A stream of purple fire brushed Dolohov’s chest and the Death Eater fell unconscious. Harry couldn’t help but smile inwardly at the irony. Snape had told him this was one of Dolohov’s preferred curses.

Rookwood seemed to know that he wouldn’t stand a chance now that his companion had fallen and he too fled towards the secret passageway behind the one-eyed witch and disappeared. Harry realized Voldemort must have given orders to make sure not too much of them were captured or killed, although the Death Eaters who were here tonight probably were only a small part of Voldemort’s army.

Harry turned around and saw that Dumbledore and Bellatrix were still duelling each other.

“You’re getting old, Dumby.” Bellatrix said tauntingly. “Not that fast anymore, are you?”

“It’s the inevitable effect of reaching a blessed age, Bellatrix.” Dumbledore said calmly. “Maybe one day you’ll know what it’s like too. Although I doubt it.”

Bellatrix opened her mouth to give him a sneering response, but then she spotted Harry. “You!” she shouted furiously. “You killed my husband.”

“My bad.” Harry said. “He was busy killing his 16-year old nephew though, so I can’t say I’m really sorry about it.”

A grimace of anger and pure loathing appeared on Bellatrix’ face. Harry had always known the woman was mad, but seeing her like this made it perfectly clear that Sirius had not been exaggerating when he said how crazy she was.

“Sectumsempra!”

Harry blocked the spell and walked towards Bellatrix and Dumbledore.

“So where is my dear nephew?” the woman asked. “The Dark Lord has given us special instructions for when we encounter him.”

“So I have been told.” Harry said. “But he’s not here.”

“Yes, I am.”

“What are you doing?” Harry grumbled. “Get out of here.”

Malfoy chose to ignore him, but it didn’t matter. Bellatrix took advantage of Harry’s moment of inadvertency and shot a powerful Reductor curse at him. He was blown backwards and hit something hard. Everything went black.





When Harry opened his eyes, there was still fighting going on around him, but no one noticed him. He realized he had been blown back by Bellatrix’ curse and hit the stone wall with his head. He saw that Malfoy and Dumbledore were still battling Bellatrix and realized he had probably only been unconscious for a few minutes.

Harry quickly looked around him. He saw that a lot of Death Eaters had fled and a lot of the others were on the ground and being rounded up by Order members and DA members. Only about ten Death Eaters were still standing, but Bellatrix was the only one who was still fighting viciously.

“Now tell me, Bellatrix...” Dumbledore said as he deflected another cutting curse.

“Don’t tell me you want to know how we got in?” Bellatrix sneered. “I thought your brilliant mind would have figured that out by now.”

“Surprisingly, it did.” Dumbledore said calmly. “What I was asking myself is how you knew there wouldn’t be as much people patrolling the corridors as usual. How did you know you wouldn’t be met by Aurors or Order members at the exit of the passageway?”

Bellatrix grinned. “We had a surveyor.”

“Are you telling me that you have a spy inside of the castle?”

“Yes, because I would definitely tell you that if we did.” Bellatrix said sarcastically, using her usual taunting voice again. “We sent someone inside before us, you fool.”

“And exactly how did this person remain undetected?” Dumbledore asked, still perfectly calm.

“That’s easy. The same way her congener did.” Bellatrix laughed when she saw Dumbledore’s uncomprehending face. “Pipes.”

Suddenly her eyes were sparkling in expectation. Harry turned around.

“Professor, watch out!”

But it was too late. Nagini’s long fangs were sinking deeply into the headmaster’s throat.

“No!” Harry shouted. “Confringo!”

The snake was thrown backwards against the stone wall and hit the floor hard. It was stirring slowly, but Harry fired a Sectumsempra curse at it and Nagini’s head was neatly separated from the body. The snake was dead, but Harry couldn’t even think about that now.

Harry kneeled beside Dumbledore and fruitlessly tried to stop the wound in his throat from bleeding, while Malfoy was shielding them from attack. Bellatrix laughed when she saw Dumbledore on the floor and Harry’s despair.

“Everybody back to the passageway!” she yelled to the Death Eaters that were still fighting. “Time to go.”

Harry barely registered the fact that the Death Eaters had left and the fighting had stopped. All he cared about was that Dumbledore would be fine. “Don’t die, Professor. You can’t die. You’ll be alright.”

Dumbledore grabbed one of Harry’s hands and held it in an iron grip. Harry panicked when he saw that nearly all the colour had drained out of the headmaster’s face.

“Get Madam Pomfrey.” Harry shouted at the bystanders, who were looking at them helplessly.

“Harry…” Dumbledore said with difficulty, squeezing his hand as hard as he could. “Harry, it is too late.”

“No, it’s not.” Harry said firmly. “It can’t be. You can’t leave me like this.”

“I am sorry, Harry.” Dumbledore said. He seemed to have more and more difficulty with talking. “But you will be alright. I know you will end this.”

Tears were streaming down Harry’s face as he looked at his dying headmaster. “I can’t end this without you.”

“Yes, you can. You are a great wizard. It has been a privilege knowing and teaching you, Harry. And I’ll always be there…”

The old and wrinkled hand slipped out of the young and strong hand. Dumbledore’s head fell to its side. The Hogwarts headmaster had breathed his last.
________________________________________


Harry didn’t know how long he had been kneeling besides Dumbledore’s body and he didn’t care. If he left him he would have to admit that his headmaster was gone and he would have to go on without him. He didn’t think he would ever be ready to do that.

“Harry.” a soft voice said. Remus knelt beside him and put a hand on his shoulder.

“He’s gone.” Harry croaked. His voice didn’t sound anything like his own.

“I’m so sorry, Harry.”

Harry started crying and Remus pulled him in a tight hug.

“Come on, Harry. I have to get you to the hospital wing. You’re in shock.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Please, Harry. You need help.”

Remus guided Harry towards the hospital wing. They passed a lot of DA members and Order members, but Harry didn’t see one of them. The fact that he just came with Remus without asking him about the others told the werewolf he was doing the right thing taking him to Madam Pomfrey.

When Harry and Remus entered the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey was already treating Hestia Jones and Lavender Brown, who had both suffered minor injuries. When she saw the two newcomers, she quickly hurried over to them.

“Remus! What happened?”

“He’s in shock, Poppy.” Remus said. “Please, help him.”

Madam Pomfrey noticed that Remus had been crying and she realized that something bad must have happened that he wasn’t telling her about, but as always, her priority was helping her patients. She gave Harry a dreamless sleep potion and within five minutes, Harry had fallen asleep.

“What happened, Remus?”

“It’s Dumbledore. He…”

He didn’t seem to be able to say it out loud, but Madam Pomfrey immediately understood what must have happened. She gasped, but before she could say something, Tonks and Kingsley appeared, bringing more casualties.



Meanwhile on the seventh floor, Professor McGonagall was standing in front of the Fat Lady’s portrait. She was putting off the moment of going inside the Gryffindor common room, where she would have to inform the students of what happened. This would definitely be the most difficult task she ever had to perform as head of Gryffindor house. Finally, she took a deep breath and gave the Fat Lady the password.

Despite the late hour she wasn’t surprised that nearly every student was still awake. Ginny, Ron and Hermione had been guarding the common room in case Death Eaters managed to get in, like they had promised Harry. They were the first to stand up when McGonagall entered.

“Professor!” Hermione said. “Is everything – “ She immediately stopped talking when she took a good look at McGonagall’s face. She had never seen the Transfiguration Professor looking so desperate.

Ginny noticed it too and felt her insides turn to ice. If something had happened to Harry… If he had been injured or worse and she hadn’t been there…

“What happened, Professor?” Ron asked urgently.

“I am afraid I have bad news.”

“Is Harry okay?” Ginny asked. “Where is he?”

“Mr Potter is in the hospital wing, but he will be fine.” McGonagall said. “But – “ Tears were welling up in her eyes. She grabbed a tartan handkerchief and blew her nose. “We have lost Professor Dumbledore.” she finally said.

It had probably never been so silent in the Gryffindor common room before. Everyone was staring at Professor McGonagall, who had sunk down into an armchair after she had given them the news.

Hermione started crying softly. Ron walked over to her and put an arm around her shoulders, but Ginny was walking determinedly towards the portrait hole. If it was true that Dumbledore had died then Harry needed her. She wasn’t even thinking about the effect this would have on the war or the wizarding world or even herself or anyone else. All she was thinking about was how Harry must be feeling now and that he needed her.

When she arrived at the hospital wing she saw that Harry was laying on a bed at the end of the room. Remus and Tonks were with him.

“How is he?” she asked when she saw Harry was sleeping.

Remus and Tonks turned around when they heard her voice. Neither of them seemed surprised to see her.

“He’ll be fine.” Remus reassured her. “Well, physically at least. I don’t know if…” The werewolf sighed deeply, looking at his adopted godson.

“It’s true then?” Ginny said. “Dumbledore…”

“I’m afraid so.” Remus said.

Ginny sat down on the rim of Harry’s bed and took his hand. “I’m so sorry, Harry.” she said, softly stroking his hair.

Harry opened his eyes and smiled when he saw his girlfriend. Than the memories of what happened came back to him and his smile faded. It hadn’t been a dream.

“Ginny…” he said slowly, while Remus and Tonks were tactfully leaving the two of them alone.

“I know, Harry.” Ginny said curling up close to him on the bed. “I know.”

Neither of them knew what to say, but they didn’t need words to understand each other now. They simply held each other close while they sought comfort in each other’s arms for the terrible loss they had suffered.
________________________________________

“Nitwit. Blubber. Oddment. Tweak.” – J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

________________________________________
Chapter 16: Goodbye

All classes and other activities were cancelled indefinitely. The next day Mad-Eye Moody – who was now the new leader of the Order of the Phoenix – called in an emergency meeting for Order members and DA members. After they had worked out the necessary changes in the plans for the final battle, they talked about what had happened at Hogwarts the day before.

“What was Nagini doing here anyway?” Harry asked Mad-Eye. He knew the ex-Auror was one of the few Order members that knew about Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

“Voldemort must have given her the task of surveyor. Had he known how much Dumbledore knew, he probably wouldn’t have risked it. Her death means that we’re at least fully prepared for what’s coming.” He ignored the uncomprehending looks he received from various Order members.

“But at what price.” Harry mumbled.

Ginny, who was sitting next to him, grabbed his hand and held it firmly. “Do you think that was the goal of their attack?” she asked as she turned to Mad-Eye.

Moody didn’t have to ask what she meant. “Definitely.” he grumbled. “They left right after he…”

A silence fell as Mad-Eyes voice faded away. The pain of Dumbledore’s death was still fresh and several people had tears in their eyes as they thought about the departed headmaster. After a long silence Professor McGonagall cleared her throat. “As you do or do not know, it was Professor Dumbledore’s wish to be buried on the school grounds when his time came. Despite that it is highly unregular, it wouldn’t occur to us to deny him his last wishes. Professor Dumbledore will be buried on Thursday morning.”

“What about succession?” an Order member asked. “Who will be headmaster?”

“I have been named temporary headmistress.” McGonagall said. “At least until the end of the year. Then the governors can appoint a new headmaster.”

After Mad-Eye had dismissed everyone, the new headmistress called to Harry: “Mr Potter, would you care to stay for a minute?”

“I’ll see you guys later.” Harry mumbled to his friends and he walked over to Professor McGonagall a bit anxiously. Even in this circumstances, he always felt like he did something wrong when she wanted to see him.

“I wanted to see how you are doing, Harry.” McGonagall said with an uncharacteristically soft voice. “The events of yesterday have given us all quite a shock, but for you… It was clear for all of us to see that you were Professor Dumbledore’s favourite student and that you had a special relationship with him.”

Harry gave her a weak smile. “I’m fine, Professor. I will be, at least.”

McGonagall nodded an put a hand on his shoulder. “You meant a great deal to him, Harry. And you do to me too. I will not try to replace Professor Dumbledore, for I know that would be an impossible task, but I will always be there when you need me.”

“Thank you, Professor. I will keep that in mind.”

Harry highly appreciated Professor McGonagall’s words, but she had definitely been right about one thing. No one would ever be able to replace Harry’s mentor. He had left another void in his heart that would never be filled again.
________________________________________


“All students, please follow the head of your house to the grounds. Gryffindors follow me.” McGonagall said after breakfast. Dumbledore would be buried on the school grounds today. McGonagall, although named temporary headmistress of the school, had left the chair of the headmaster unoccupied since Dumbledore had died. She hadn’t set foot in the headmaster’s office yet either, she still used her old office.

The Gryffindors followed McGonagall to the grounds were rows of chairs had been lined up, facing the lake. A lot of the chairs were already occupied by members of the Order of the Phoenix and family of students that had gone into hiding at Hogwarts.

The members of Dumbledore’s Army were seated on the front rows, together with the Order members. Harry swallowed with difficulty when he saw Dumbledore’s body. His hands were folded on his chest and they had left his half-moon glasses on his crooked nose. Harry sat down next to Ginny and grabbed her hand. He was glad she was there with him, because he didn’t think he could face this alone.

McGonagall had asked Harry to say something during the funeral. He refused at first, not feeling up to it, but his friends had convinced him to do it. Dumbledore had always been more than a teacher to him. He was almost family. He realized he should be one of the people to say goodbye to him. Hermione had offered to help him write something, but Harry had declined. He didn’t want to rattle of a meaningless speech. He wanted to say something personal, but he still had no idea what.

First Professor McGonagall stood before the mourning crowd. She talked about Dumbledore’s academic achievements, like discovering the twelve uses of dragon’s blood and defeating Grindelwald. She also talked about the influence Dumbledore had always had on his students, including herself.

When McGonagall had stepped down, Aberforth stood before the crowd.

“Albus was a brilliant, talented man. I realize that his death is a big blow for our magical world. But he was also my brother.”

He looked at his brother’s body and sighed. “It wasn’t easy growing up with Albus. Although extremely kind and loyal to his family and friends, you knew that when you were in Albus’ presence, you’d always come on the second place. Of course I was happy for my brother and his success, but it also made me quite jealous and it drove a wig between us. There has been a lot of tension and fighting between us during our younger years. The death of our sister Ariana, seemed to have blown up all the bridges between us. Instead of supporting each other in our grief, we blamed each other for what happened. Something I have never apologized for.”

Aberforth turned to his brother’s body and bowed his head. “I’m happy that we had the chance to sort out our differences later and found a common goal to bring us together. First, the defeat of Grindelwald and later opposing Lord Voldemort. You were my brother in more than blood, Albus. I will miss you terribly.”

When Aberforth had sat back down, Ginny nudged Harry in the ribs and he realized it was his turn to say something. He stood up from his chair and slowly walked towards the platform.

“I have only had the privilege to know Professor Dumbledore for the last six years.” Harry started. “Which is not nearly enough time to be in the company of such a brilliant, but primarily kind, good-hearted wizard. I am too young to witness about his earlier triumphs, but I have seen him fight Death Eaters. Professor Dumbledore has spent his entire life opposing and fighting the Dark Arts. He is a hero that doesn’t know his match in this world.”

“To me, Professor Dumbledore also stood for a lot of other things. Teaching was his true calling and he has taught me everything I know. He has taken me under his wing and he has made me the man I am today. I can never thank him enough for that.”

“The dark forces that took Professor Dumbledore away from us are still out there. Before, I would have never thought that we would be able to face those forces without him by our side. He convinced me otherwise. He convinced me to believe in myself and trust on my own powers. Something I know he has done with every student that he had under his guidance.”

Harry watched the crowd and saw several teachers and Order members nod with tears in their eyes. Many of them had been at Hogwarts when Dumbledore was still teaching Transfiguration.

“That is for me the most beautiful part of Professor Dumbledore’s character. He always saw the good in a person. Even when that person didn’t see it himself.”

He turned to Dumbledore’s body. “Thank you. For everything.” He put his hand in the inside pocket of his robes and pulled out a pair of thick, woollen socks that Dobby had knitted for him. They were scarlet and gold, designed with lemon drops and phoenixes. He carefully put them beside his headmaster.

“A man can never have too many socks right?” Harry said softly. “Goodbye, Professor.”
________________________________________


Professor McGonagall had cancelled classes for the rest of the week to give everyone, students and teachers, the time to grieve for their fallen headmaster.

Harry spend the following days in the Gryffindor common room, in the company of Ginny, Ron Hermione, Neville and Luna, who now usually only returned to the Ravenclaw tower to sleep. They didn’t even go down to the Great Hall to eat, they just asked Dobby to bring them something whenever they were hungry. Most of the time they just talked or they sat by the window, overlooking the lake and the white tomb where Dumbledore’s body now rested.

On Saturday, after they had finished a small lunch that Dobby had brought them, Hermione finally found the courage to ask Harry if he wanted to schedule a DA meeting. To her surprise and relief Harry reacted positively. He had been putting off calling a meeting, because he knew they would talk about Dumbledore and what happened that week, but he knew the members expected to hear something from him soon. He decided to schedule a meeting for that night.

Dean Thomas had drawn two pictures of Dumbledore to hang on the wall of the Room of Requirement, next to his drawing of Angelina. The first drawing showed Dumbledore in dark purple robes, pointing his wand. The other one showed Dumbledore smiling characteristically with open arms as if he was welcoming his students at the start of term feast.

Harry felt tears welling up in his eyes as he watched the second drawing. It was the side of Dumbledore he was going to miss the most.

“We’re all going to miss him, Harry.” Luna said, putting an arm around his shoulders. She gave him a weak smile.

“He was a great wizard. And a great man.” Hermione said.

“One bad-ass grandpa.” Seamus added.

Harry smiled at the memory. Pulling himself together, he sat down with the rest of the DA members on the couches and armchairs that stood in one corner of the room.

“First of all, thanks all of you for what you did earlier this week. You have once again done a terrific job. But I’m afraid you can’t expect the final battle to be like this. It will be much more dangerous and there will be a lot more Death Eaters.”

“You’re not going to try to talk us out of fighting again, are you?” Anthony Goldstein said.

Harry smiled. “Not this time. But I am going to make sure that each and every one of you will be ready when they come.”

Harry stood up from his chair and started pacing in front of the other DA members.

“We could mope around and give up hope after what happened, but it wouldn’t do us any good. And it’s definitely the last thing that Dumbledore would have wanted. Together with the Order of the Phoenix we will make sure that he didn’t die in vain. Dumbledore gave his life fighting Voldemort and his Death Eaters, trying to stop them. And we will make sure that his work is finished.”

“Hear, hear!” Seamus said.

“So we’re going to start training again.” Harry continued. “We’re going to train harder and more frequently. From now on, nothing is more important than the hours we spend in this room. Not Quidditch, not exams. Not even O.W.L.’s or N.E.W.T.’s. We’re going to show them that they won’t break us. Agreed?”

A chorus of support and encouragement rose from the present students. Harry noticed that they hadn’t sounded this hopeful in a long time.

“Then let’s get to work.”
________________________________________


“There is some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.” – J.R.R. Tolkien (The Two Towers)

________________________________________
Chapter 17: The Centaur Village

The weeks after Dumbledore’s death were mostly filled with classes and DA meetings. Professor McGonagall had cancelled all the other extracurricular activities, including Quidditch. It wasn’t a popular decision, but understandable.

Dumbledore’s Army now met almost daily in the Room of Requirement and their practices were harder than ever. As a consequence there were more accidents too. Madam Pomfrey was visited regularly by DA members.

It was after such a meeting that Harry and Ginny found themselves alone in the Room of Requirement. Ginny had noticed that Harry was working harder than ever during the meetings, but when he wasn’t busy with classes or the DA he often grew quiet and shut himself off from the others. Ginny sighed when she saw her boyfriend looking into the fire with a haunted look in his eyes. She sat beside him on the couch and took his hand.

“You really miss him, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

Harry jumped out of his deep thoughts. He looked at Ginny’s worried face and gave her a reassuring smile.

“Yeah, I do. It’s just… He always knew what to do or what to say. It’s so weird to realize that he’ll never talk to me again. That he’ll never give me advice anymore…”

Ginny snuggled close to him. Harry put his arms around her small body and hugged her tight. “When it just happened… I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to go on without him, that I would fail to do what I have to do without him beside me. But he always made me believe in myself when he was alive. He made me trust my own powers and taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to. And I’m not planning on disappointing him.”

“You won’t disappoint him, Harry.” Ginny said. “You have become a very powerful wizard.”

Harry smiled wryly. “I’m still not as powerful as Voldemort.”

“Maybe not. But that’s the difference between you and Voldemort. All he has is power, he has nothing to fight for. You do. You have so much worth fighting for. That will make the difference when you’re facing him.”

“We’ll be outnumbered.” Harry said, thinking about the battle that was approaching. “He’ll come after us with everything he has.”

“And we will be ready for them.”
________________________________________


May came to an end and still there had been no news from Voldemort. No one had heard anything about him or his Death Eaters since the night of Dumbledore’s death. It gave Harry an uncomfortable feeling. It was as if they wanted to give them a false sense of security.

On the first day of June, Harry was hanging out by the lake with his five friends. They were just enjoying the nice weather and savouring what might be their last moments of peace before all hell broke loose.

“Harry, I have been thinking…” Hermione suddenly said.

“Sure, you have.” Harry said lazily.

His best female friend gave him an exasperated look before she continued. “You said Voldemort would probably have a whole range of dark creatures with him to fight his battle. Like Dementors and Inferi.”

“Yes…” Harry said slowly.

“Well, what if we do the same?”

“What? Use dark creatures?”

“Of course not dark creatures.” Hermione said. “But there are a lot of creatures living in the Forbidden Forest that would be a valuable asset in battle.”

“Really? Like what creatures?” Harry asked. “I don’t think Aragog will let us use him for our benefit. Although he would like the fresh meat.” he added as an afterthought.

“Don’t talk about that ugly beast.” Ron shivered. “And how would you plan to ask them. They would just eat you on sight.”

“Acromantulas would actually come in very handy!” Hermione said. “But they’re far too uncontrollable. I doubt that even Hagrid would be able to cope with them.”

“Believe me, he tried.” Ron grumbled.

“I was more thinking about creatures like the Hippogriffs. And the Thestrals.” Hermione said, ignoring Ron.

“What are Thestrals?” Ginny asked.

“They’re those weird horse things that pull the carriages.” Ron said. He was still taking Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid.

“What horse things?” Ginny asked. “The carriages are pulling themselves, aren’t they?”

“No, they’re pulled by Thestrals.” Ron said. “You can’t see them because they are invisible except for when you have seen someone die.”

Hermione was looking at him proudly.

“But then how come you can see them?” Ginny asked.

Ron quickly looked at Harry worriedly. It was because of the death of Sirius that Ron was now able to see the Thestrals. Ginny seemed to realize that now too. “Oh… I’m so sorry, Harry.”

“That’s alright.” Harry said quickly. “So Hippogriffs and Thestrals? I’m sure they’d help us if Hagrid asked them to, but how do you plan to convince him. He wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.”

“I’m sure he’ll understand that it is for the greater good.” Hermione said softly. She seemed to hesitate for a moment before she said: “I think you should ask the Centaurs to fight too.”

Harry, Ginny and Neville were looking at Hermione unbelievingly, while Ron burst into a laugh.

“You’re not serious, are you?” Ron asked. “Did you forget what they did with Firenze when he accepted the new Divination position at school? They were furious about that and you expect them to fight for us?”

“Not for us. With us.” Hermione said. “This war concerns them too, however they may think otherwise. If the school would fall into the hands of the Death Eaters, what do you think would happen with them?”

“I think you’re right.” Luna spoke up. “Centaurs are very intelligent creatures and great warriors. They would definitely be helpful in a battle.”

“But how would you convince them?” Harry asked.

“Like Luna said, they are very intelligent creatures.” Hermione said. “I’m sure they must have already realized that this war can have consequences for them too. But I don’t really know how you should approach Centaurs. Their customs are completely different than ours.”

“We could ask Hagrid.” Harry offered.

“Yes, we should.” Hermione said, already standing up.

“What? Now?” Ron asked.

“Of course now. We don’t know how much time we have, Ron!”

As always, Hagrid was happy to see his favourite students. “And you brought Neville and Luna with you, I see. Come in, come in.”

After Hagrid had offered them all giant mugs of tea and they had talked about one thing and another, Hermione brought up the actual reason for their visit. Hagrid nodded when she talked about the Hippogriffs and Thestrals. “I thought about it myself too.”

“You mean you would be okay with that?” Harry asked surprised.

“Well, yeah.” Hagrid said. “Would be a shame of course if some of them gave their lives, but people are risking their lives too.”

Harry nodded, looking at his friends. They were risking their lives willingly to fight with him. He didn’t have a choice, but they did. But he realized that choice had been made a long time ago.

When Hermione brought up the Centaurs, Hagrid was less optimistic. “Yes, they would be very helpful if they agreed to fight, but I can’t see that happening to be honest.”

“But if we would just talk to them. Surely they realize this war will affect them just as much as us.”

Hagrid nodded. “I’m sure they do. But you remember Firenze, right? They don’t get along that well with humans.”

“They do with you.” Harry rebutted. Technically Hagrid wasn’t fully human, but he chose to ignore that fact.

“Well, yes.” Hagrid said. “Because they have to. I’m the gamekeeper.”

“Couldn’t you talk to them, Hagrid?” Hermione asked. “Try to convince them?”

“Oh alright.” Hagrid said. “But you’d better come with me, Harry.”

“Me?” Harry asked surprised. “Why me?”

“They know all about you. Even among centaurs you are famous.” Hagrid said with a proud smile. “They know you are an important figure in this war. I heard them talking about you a few times. Discussing the ‘role you have to play’ or something like that.”

Harry quickly looked at his friends before he answered. “Alright then. When do you want to go?”

“Let’s do it tonight.” Hagrid said, looking at his clock. “Meet me here at nightfall. They’re most approachable at night, them Centaurs.”



Harry felt slightly anxious as he was walking through the forest with Hagrid that night. He had only had contact with Centaurs once before in his life and it hadn’t been a very nice experience. He remembered how Bane had been furious with Firenze for saving him from Voldemort, yelling that Centaurs didn’t help humans and he wondered if he was being stupid trying to convince them to fight in a battle.

“Just stay calm, Harry.” Hagrid advised him as he made his way through the bushes. “Don’t let them think you are nervous. They’ll take that as a sign that you’re hiding something or that you aren’t speaking the truth. And that won’t go down well with them.”

“Okay.” Harry said slowly.

“Be polite.” Hagrid continued. “He’ll value that very much. Especially because you have never met him before.”

“He?”

“Oh yes, Magorian. He’s the leader of the Centaur herd here in the forest.” Hagrid explained. “He’s a nice enough bloke. Where almost there.”

Harry nodded. After about five more minutes Harry noticed that they were descending. He got an ominous foreboding when he thought about the valley where Aragog lived with his offspring. But then he saw that they were approaching a small village build of wooden huts. From above, they could see that the village was surrounded by a high wooden wall.

“Alright, we’re here.” Hagrid said softly as they were almost at the gates that closed of the village from outsiders. “Remember, be polite. And whatever you do, don’t sit down when you are talking to a Centaur. They’ll take that as a terrible offense. Oh and don’t shake hands. They don’t do that.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”

They walked towards the gates that were guarded by two Centaurs, armed with bow and arrow. “Good evening, Abaccus, Zebedee.” Hagrid said friendly, nodding at the two Centaurs.

“Good evening, Hagrid.” Abaccus said. “What brings you here?”

“First, let me introduce you to a good friend of mine.” Hagrid said, motioning to Harry. “Harry Potter.”

Harry saw the familiar look of recognition in the Centaurs’ eyes, but they merely bowed their heads to him. Harry nodded back politely.

“It is an honour to meet you, Harry Potter.”

“Likewise.” Harry said.

“May I ask what the purpose of your visit is?” Zebedee asked. He sounded a lot less friendly than Abaccus and he watched Harry suspicuously. “We are not used to humans visiting our village. In fact, it is highly discouraged.”

Harry didn’t know what to say, but Hagrid came to his aid. “Mr Potter would like a private meeting with Magorian, leader of the Centaurs. If you would please ask your leader to take his request into consideration?”

Zebedee seemed to be even more suspicious now, but Abaccus nodded. He opened the gates and motioned them to follow him into the village. He asked them to wait and approached a younger looking Centaur and talked to him for a few minutes. Then the younger Centaur left and Abaccus returned to Harry and Hagrid.

“Breman will meet Magorian with your request, but I cannot promise you anything. It could be that you will have to return on another day.”

Harry and Hagrid nodded and thanked Abaccus elaborately for his help. The centaur nodded approvingly. It took Breman fifteen minutes to return, but he told them that Magorian was waiting for Harry Potter in his hut.

“You go talk to him, Harry.” Hagrid muttered. “I’ll wait here for you.”

“I will escort you to Magorian’s hut, Harry Potter.” Abaccus said. “Breman, take my place at the gates until I return.”

Abaccus guided Harry to the centre of the Centaur village. They attracted quite some attention along the way. The Centaurs weren’t used to humans visiting their village.

“Magorian.” Abaccus said respectfully when they reached the biggest hut they had encountered so far.

Waiting at the entrance of the hut was a tall, chestnut Centaur. When he saw Abaccus and Harry, he looked at the Centaur and said: “Make sure that we are not disturbed.” Then he turned around and entered his hut without saying another word.

“You can follow him.” Abaccus said when he looked at Harry’s confused face.

“Harry Potter.” Magorian said when Harry entered his hut. “It is an honour to meet you.”

“It is an honour to meet you too, Sir.”

Magorian’s face darkened and Harry immediately realized he had said something stupid.

“I’m – I’m sorry.” he stammered. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Magorian looked at Harry severely for a few seconds, but then his face softened. “We Centaurs do not use such words to address one another. We take that as a sign of coldness and restraint.”

“I am sorry.” Harry repeated.

“I realize that you must have little experience with Centaurs and as a human you do not know anything about our world. Therefore I will not take offence for what you said. You can call me Magorian.”

“Okay, Magorian.” Harry said, trying his best to hide his nervousness.

“So Breman told me that you wished to speak to me about something?”

“Yes.” Harry said. “It is about the war that is currently going on in the wizarding world. We are quite certain that the fighting will soon reach Hogwarts.”

Magorian nodded. “We Centaurs have known for a long time that evil will strike the school. The greatest evil this school have ever seen.”

“Indeed.” Harry said. “Therefore, in the name of the protectors of the school, I would like to ask you for your help.”

“Our help?” Magorian said. His face was inscrutable. “Centaurs do not help humans, Harry Potter. You may not know much about our kind, but I am certain that you must know that.”

“I do know that.” Harry said quickly. “Maybe I did not express myself clearly.”

“I understood you quite clear.” Magorian interrupted him. “You want us to fight in your battle.”

“Yes, I do.” Harry said. “But it is your battle too, Magorian. This is not about wizards against wizards anymore. If Voldemort takes over this world every human, Muggle or wizard, but also every creature will suffer from the consequences.”

“That is absolutely true.” Magorian agreed. “But have you asked other creatures to fight too, Harry Potter? You cannot expect the Centaurs to meddle in a war when no other kind than the humans do.”

“The Hippogriffs and the Thestrals will fight too.” Harry said.

“Those are animals.” Magorian said. “I am talking about House-Elves. Goblins.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. He was sure the House-Elves would fight if they were asked to, but he didn’t want to think about what Hermione would say if Harry proposed that. And the Goblins were certainly not likely to fight.

“We have not yet discussed it with House-Elves or Goblins.” Harry admitted.

“Do you plan too?”

Harry thought about it for a minute. “Yes. We plan to.”

Magorian nodded. He remained silent for such a long time that Harry began to wonder if he should leave. “Alright, Harry Potter. I shall take your request into consideration. For now, this is where our ways part. I will know how to find you when I have made my decision.”

Harry nodded gratefully. “Thank you for considering my request, Magorian. I highly appreciate it.”

Magorian nodded approvingly and walked out of the hut, with Harry in his wake. “Abaccus will escort you back to the gates.” he said. “Good luck, Harry Potter.”
________________________________________

“United we stand, divided we fall.” – Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers)

________________________________________
Chapter 18: House-Elves and Family

Harry woke up late the next morning as it was well after midnight when he came back from the Forbidden Forest. When he came downstairs he saw that his friends weren’t in the Gryffindor common room. Thinking that they probably decided to visit their family, like they often did on Sundays, he made his way to the Weasleys’ living quarters.

“Oh good morning, Harry!” Mrs Weasley said when she saw him. “Did you sleep well? Ginny told us you went to negotiate with the Centaurs last night.”

“A curious kind, aren’t they?” Mr Weasley said. “You should have heard the stories Percy heard from his friends at the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”

Harry smiled at the Weasley patriarch. It was the first time he had heard him mention his deceased son since his death last summer.

“They sure are.” he said. “But I must say that it went better than I expected.”

“How did it go?” Hermione asked eagerly.

“Well, I talked to their leader and I seemed to have gotten through to him.” Harry said, walking over to the table. Breakfast was still on the table and the smell of sausages made his stomach growl. “Can I?” he asked Mrs Weasley.

“Oh, yes of course dear.” she said hurriedly. “You must be starving.”

“So are they going to fight with us?” Ginny asked as she handed Harry some French toast.

“It won’t be that easy, I’m afraid. They like to think a lot before they decide something. But he seemed to realize that the war would affect the Centaurs too if Voldemort would gain control over the school. It seemed to me that he was prepared to fight.”

“But…?” Hermione asked, sensing that there was more to the problem.

“They know that this war isn’t just between wizards any more, but they don’t want to fight if they are the only magical creatures that do.”

“Do you mean…”

“They want the House-Elves and the Goblins to fight too.”

“They can’t be serious! House-Elves are completely different than Centaurs. They can’t fight.” Hermione said heatedly.

“I don’t know, Hermione.” Fred spoke up. “House-Elves are actually very powerful if they want to be. They just don’t use their magic unless their masters want to.”

“So you’re saying that you want them to fight?”

“No, I don’t want anyone to fight.” Harry said firmly. “But it’s true that this is not just a war between wizards, Hermione. This concerns our entire world.”

“What about the Goblins then?” Hermione asked sceptically. “You surely don’t expect them to agree to fight?”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” Bill said thoughtfully. “Normally, Goblins don’t meddle in wars between wizards, but even when I still worked there they already realized this wouldn’t be just a wizarding war. And now that You-Know-Who has taken over the country they are even forced to work with wizards at the bank. It won’t be long before they will be driven out of Gringotts if You-Know-Who stays in charge.”

“Do you think they would be prepared to fight?” Harry asked.

“Maybe. It’s hard to know what drives them most of the time. It would certainly not be out of loyalty for wizards. If they fight it will only be for themselves.”

“I don’t think that’s a problem.” Harry said slowly. “We need allies, not servants. It would be the same if the Centaurs decided to fight with us.”

“I could make contact with them.” Bill offered. “I still have some friends among them.”

Harry nodded. “That would be great, Bill. Thanks.”

The Weasleys and Hermione got into a discussion about the various magical creatures in the country and their rights and duties. Harry chose to stay out of the conversation and used the time to quietly finish his breakfast.

“I’ve been thinking, Harry.” Fleur suddenly said after a while. “You’re absolutely right when you say this war doesn’t just concern witches and wizards. But I think it also doesn’t concern just this country.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know I’m from France. And people are following the developments in Great Britain with great interest. They know He Who Must Not Be Named will not stop trying to expand his power once he has full control here. The people of Europe know that the war may come their way.”

“Well, we’ll try to make sure it doesn’t go that far, won’t we?” Harry said confusedly.

“That’s not really what I meant.” Fleur smiled. “I was trying to say that there are probably a lot of people on the continent that would be prepared to come and fight with us.”

“Really?” Harry said surprised. “I didn’t even think of that.”

“I could get in touch with Madame Maxime.” Fleur offered. “She is in an excellent position to make contact with possible allies.”

“Yeah, absolutely. That would be great, Fleur!”

“What about Durmstrang?” Ginny said.

“Are you barking mad!” Ron said. “They’d probably end up fighting with Voldemort if they come here.”

“Not all the people that went to Durmstrang are dark wizards, Ron.” Mr Weasley said. “Sure Karkaroff was a Death Eater once, but he would never go back to them.”

“Yeah, because he know he would be killed.” Ron said.

“Krum is alright.” Harry said. “I’m sure he wouldn’t turn to the dark side.”

Fleur nodded agreeingly. “We could write him.” she said.

“What about other countries?” Hermione asked.

“Charlie is travelling to Hogwarts as we speak.” Mr Weasley said. “And he said that a lot of Romanian wizards where coming with him.”

“How are they getting here?” Harry asked.

“Brooms. Flying is the only way to get into the country now.” Mrs Weasley explained.

“So we are going to have wizards from all over Europe coming here to fight in a war?” Ron said unbelievingly. “That’s madness.”

“Well, this might just be the biggest battle the wizarding world has ever seen.” Mr Weasley said softly.

Harry looked at Hermione, who was the only one there who knew anything about Muggle history. “Are you ready for World War III?”
________________________________________


“I still think it’s wrong to order them to fight for us.” Hermione said.

Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna were approaching the painting of the fruit bowl that hid the entrance to the Hogwarts kitchens. They had received permission from Professor McGonagall and Mad-Eye to talk with the House-Elves about the battle.

“We’re not ordering them, we’re asking them.” Harry said firmly. “There’s a difference.”

“We’ll make sure that they understand that they have a choice.” Ginny said soothingly.

Harry tickled the pear on the painting and entered the kitchen with the others in his wake.

“Master Harry!” Dobby said immediately. He had started to call Harry master since he had stayed with him at Grimmauld Place. In Dobby’s mind, he was now Harry’s servant, however Harry might say differently. The little Elf hurried over to them. “How can Dobby be of service, sir?”

“Actually, we came here to talk to the House-Elves about the war, Dobby.” Harry said nervously. He didn’t know how Dobby would react. “Do you have some kind of representative for the Elves at Hogwarts?”

“Polly is in charge over the Hogwarts House-Elves, sir. Follow Dobby.” The little Elf quickly made his way through the kitchen with the six students in his wake.

“Polly.” he suddenly said, pointing to a female House-Elf who was apparently supervising the preparation of dinner.

The elderly House-Elf looked at them when she heard her name and quickly walked towards them. “Good afternoon, Sirs and Misses. How can Polly be of service?”

“Good afternoon, Polly.” Harry said politely. “We came to talk about the war that is currently threatening us. I’m sure you know about that?”

Polly nodded eagerly. “Polly knows that He Who Must Not Be Named has taken over the country and is planning to attack the school.”

“Indeed.” Harry said, not asking how the House-Elf knew so much. “This war has escalated to the extent that it does not only affect witches and wizards. All magical creatures are in grave danger as long as He Who Must Not Be Named is powerful.” He deliberately avoided saying Voldemort’s name as he didn’t think Polly would handle it so well.

“Us House-Elves will do whatever our masters ask from us.” Polly said quickly. “If masters want us to fight then we will.”

“We’re not here to order you to fight for us, Polly.” Harry said. “We are here to ask you to be our allies.”

“Allies?” Polly said uncomprehendingly. “Do you mean like… equals?” She almost whispered the last word.

“Exactly like equals.” Hermione said firmly.

Polly shuffled her feet uncomfortably. She wasn’t used to witches or wizards treating her as equals, but she seemed to have less difficulty with it than other younger Hogwarts House-Elves Harry had met.

“The House-Elves will do whatever it takes to keep the school and its inhabitants safe.” Polly said proudly after a long silence. “We will use every power of our kind to defeat the dark forces that try to attack Hogwarts.”

Dobby clapped his hands excitedly when she said that. “Dobby will fight too, Master Harry! Dobby will protect his friends with his life!”

“I really appreciate that, Dobby, but I don’t want anything to happen to you.” Harry said. “You keep yourself safe first.”

When Dobby was escorting the six friends to the exit of the kitchen, Hermione suddenly stopped walking and gasped. “Winky!”

Harry followed her gaze and surely there was Winky, washing dishes. She was still wearing the same clothes that she was wearing the last time they saw her, the only difference being that they were perfectly clean now. Hermione walked over to her and the others followed.

“How are you doing, Winky?”

“Miss Granger!” Winky squealed excitedly. “Winky is doing very good, thank you. Dobby has taken good care of Winky.”

“Did he now?” Harry smiled.

“Oh yes. Dobby is a very good Elf, Harry Potter, a very good Elf indeed.” Apparently she had changed her opinion of Dobby drastically too.

“That is good to hear.”

“It’s good to see you so happy, Winky.” Hermione said approvingly.

“Winky is very happy, Miss Granger. Professor Dumbledore has always been very good to Winky.” She suddenly grew sad when she mentioned Dumbledore and her ears lowered for a bit.

“We House-Elves were all really sad when we heard about Professor Dumbledore’s passing, Sirs and Misses.” Dobby said sadly. “Professor Dumbledore was a very good master. He always treated us kindly and with respect.”

The two Elves remained quiet with their heads bowed for a few moments as if silently paying their respects to the fallen headmaster. “But Professor McGonagall is a very good mistress too.” Winky said. “We all hope she will be appointed the position of headmistress after this year.”

“So do we, Winky.” Ginny smiled.



“That went well.” Ron said as they were going back to the Gryffindor common room.

“Of course it went well.” Hermione said heatedly. “You could ask them to jump of the Astronomy Tower and they would do it.”

“We made perfectly clear that they can choose for themselves if they want to fight or not, Hermione.” Harry said calmly.

Hermione shrugged. “I guess you’re right. This war concerns them too.”

When they reached the fifth floor, Harry turned to the others. “I’m going to stop by Remus and Tonks before dinner. I haven’t been there in quite some time.” He grabbed Ginny’s hands and took her with him towards their room while the others made their way to the seventh floor.

When they entered Remus and Tonks’ living quarters they saw that they already had a visitor.

“I’m sorry.” Harry said. “I didn’t know you’d have company. We can come back later.”

“Don’t be silly.” Tonks smiled. “Come in! It’s always great to see you two.”

“Everything alright, Harry?” Remus asked.

“Alright.” Harry grinned. “We’re just coming from the kitchen.” he said as they sat down on an unoccupied couch.

“You talked with the House-Elves then?” Tonks asked eagerly. “How did it go?”

“They agreed to fight.” Harry said.

“I did think they would be the easiest to convince.” Remus nodded.

When he had said that the woman that was visiting them cleared her throat.

“Oh yeah of course, I’m sorry.” Tonks said hurriedly. “This is my mother, Andromeda Tonks. Mum, this is Harry Potter and his lovely girlfriend, Ginny Weasley.”

Andromeda smiled as she shook their hands. “It’s great to finally meet you. Remus and Dora have told me so much about you two.”

“It’s great to meet you too, Mrs Tonks.” Harry said. “We were very sorry to hear about your husband.” he added.

“Thank you, Harry.” Mrs Tonks said. “It did come as quite a shock.”

Tonks put her arm around her mother’s shoulders.

“So when did you get here?” Ginny asked.

“Well ever since Ted was killed, I have been in hiding myself.” Mrs Tonks explained. “I may be a pureblood, but marrying a Muggleborn has put me in a difficult position in the current climate. When I received the news that Death Eaters had gotten into the school and that Dumbledore… Well, I decided to come here and play my part. It is no secret in the outside world that He Who Must Not Be Named is planning a full blown attack on the school. The Ministry has been discrediting Hogwarts for months.”

Harry and Ginny ended up having dinner with Remus and Tonks and Andromeda. When they had finished dinner they sat down in front of the fireplace and had tea. Harry enjoyed the evening tremendously. It was the first time that he really felt like being a part of a family.

It was the first time in weeks that he could just relax for a while without being bothered instantly. At least until someone knocked on Remus and Tonks’ door.

“I thought you would be here.” Professor McGonagall said when she saw Harry. “Bill Weasley is looking for you, Harry. He needs to talk to you.”
________________________________________

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” – Angela Schwindt

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Chapter 19: Ragnok

When Harry entered the private room where McGonagall had brought him to, he saw that Bill was waiting there for him with an important looking Goblin.

“Harry!” Bill said. “I’m glad you could come on such short notice. This is Harry Potter.” he said to the Goblin, who was watching Harry with narrowed eyes. “Harry, this is Ragnok. He’s the current manager of Gringotts bank and a direct descendant of Gringott himself.”

“It’s an honour to meet you.” Harry said politely.

“Likewise.” Ragnok said shortly. “Bill has made your wish known to us and I wanted to meet you in person before we make a decision.”

“Bill already told you about the battle?”

“Nothing we didn’t know already.” Ragnok said. “His request of the Goblins to fight however, did come as a surprise.”

“It was me who asked him to contact you.” Harry said quickly.

“I know that. That’s why I’m here. Shall we?” Ragnok pointed to the table and the three of them sat down.

“First of all, I should tell you that we Goblins have the utmost respect for you, Mr Potter.” the Goblin said. “But surely you know that it would be highly irregular for us to interfere in a war between wizards.”

“It would be.” Harry agreed. “If it were indeed a war between wizards.”

“I’m not sure that I know what you mean.” Ragnok said slowly.

“Before Voldemort took over the country, did any Ministry official ever try to interfere at Gringotts? Did they ever try to take over the bank?”

“You said his name.” Ragnok said calmly, but he didn’t seem to have a problem with it. “And no, there have almost never been problems with the previous government. But still…”

“Voldemort is determined to win this war, Ragnok.” Harry said firmly. “He will fight you, whether you’re fighting back or not. A lot of Goblins have been killed during the last year too. Not to mention the First Wizarding War.”

“And a lot more will be killed if we fight in this war!” Ragnok said heatedly.

“Not as much as if Voldemort would remain powerful!” Harry said. “I understand that it must be a difficult decision to make, Ragnok – “

“I will not be known as the first Goblin leader to lead his folk into a war.” Ragnok said through clenched teeth.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.” Harry said calmly. “I personally think that saving the entire magical world would be more important than your image.”

Ragnok opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to change his mind. He stood up from his chair and walked towards the door. Before he left he turned around and said: “I will think about it. But don’t expect me to change my mind.” And with a short nod, the Goblin was gone.

Harry breathed out slowly after Ragnok had closed the door behind him. Bill smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Harry. You did the best you could. They are awfully difficult to negotiate with.”

“You can say that again.” Harry grumbled.

“I honestly think that you got through to him.” Bill said thoughtfully. “But we’d better not expect too much. Like he said, Goblins are very unlikely to change their minds if they have made a decision.”

“Let’s just hope the Centaurs don’t refuse to fight because the Goblins did.” Harry said.

“Centaurs are more intelligent than Goblins.” Bill said as they left the room. “They’ll know that it’s the best thing to do.” Harry didn’t seem convinced and Bill felt bad for the younger boy. “Chin up, Harry.” he grinned. “Why don’t you come to our living quarters for a bit? I think Fleur had some news for you.”

As always, the Weasleys were happy to have Harry over. Despite the late hour they invited him to stay for a cup of tea.

“So Fleur, Bill told me you had news?” Harry asked when they had all taken a seat in the sitting room.

“Oh yes.” Fleur said happily. “I received an answer from Madame Maxime. She says that she will come here with the teacher of Beauxbatons and some of the older students, along with some friends and acquaintances that want to do their bit in the war.”

“That’s amazing news!” Harry said.

“I thought so too.” Fleur smiled. “So did you write to Viktor then?”

“Yes. I thought I would have heard something by now.” Harry said slowly. “I hope nothing has happened to Hedwig.” He knew he had taken a risk using owl post to contact Krum, but he didn’t know how to reach him otherwise.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine, Harry.” Mr Weasley reassured him. “Bulgaria isn’t exactly close.”

After he had finished his tea, Harry stood up and bad them all goodnight.

“I’ll walk you back.” Bill said raising from his chair. “It’s late.”

Harry raised his eyebrows. He knew the eldest Weasley brother was aware that Harry didn’t need protecting within Hogwarts. Bill’s real reason became apparent when they reached the seventh floor.

“So, you’re still together with Ginny then.” It wasn’t a question.

“Er… yes.” Harry said anxiously. He had thought that the Weasley brothers had founded peace with the fact that their little sister was in a relationship.

“Relax, Harry.” Bill grinned. “I’m not going to badger you about it.”

They turned left to the corridor of the Gryffindor common room and slowly walked towards the portrait of the Fat Lady.

“It’s just that you were still very young when you started dating.” Bill continued. “But now you both are older, more mature. I just want to know if the relationship is more mature too.”

Harry looked at him surprised. “If you mean…”

Bill laughed. “That’s not what I mean. And I don’t need to know about that.” he quickly said. “I know Ginny would hate me for asking you this, but I kind of need to know… Are you serious with her? Or is this just a schoolboy relationship?”

Harry looked at Bill seriously. “I understand that you’re worried about your sister, Bill, but I love her. I really do. I know it may seem strange to you because we're still young and none of us have ever seen other people, but we do love each other. And we don’t plan to stop.”

Bill nodded approvingly and gave Harry a pat on the back. “That’s what I thought. And that’s all I need to know. Goodnight, Harry.” He turned around and started walking away. After a few yards, he turned back to Harry and said: “I must say I’m glad it’s you, Harry. It would have been a lot more difficult if it was some other guy she came home with.”

Harry grinned and entered the Gryffindor common room. Ginny, Ron and Hermione were the only ones that were still up. They were sitting by the fire, talking quietly. They stopped talking when they saw Harry.

“What’s up?” Harry asked.

“We were talking about Krum.” Ron said. “Don’t you think it’s weird that we haven’t heard something from him yet?”

Harry shrugged. “It is a long trip to Bulgaria, even for Hedwig. And maybe Krum wants to be sure of everything before he makes any promises.” Harry then told his friends everything about his confrontation with Ragnok and about what Fleur had said. He chose to leave out the part with Bill at the end of the evening.

When Ron and Hermione had gone to bed, Ginny curled up close to Harry on their favourite couch in front of the fireplace. “It’s been a long time since we’ve done this.” she muttered contently.

“It sure has.”

Ginny kissed him softly.

“So I had a talk with Bill today.” Harry said while Ginny was pressing kisses in his neck.

Ginny smirked. “So you had the big brother talk?”

“Kind of.” Harry said. “He wanted to know if I was really in love with you.”

“So… What did you say?” Ginny said, softly caressing his chest.

“Oh so very much in love.”

Ginny chuckled. “He didn’t threaten you, did he?”

“No, he seemed fine with it, actually.” Harry said.

“I thought so. They don’t really mind you going out with me. I guess it’s because you’ve been a part of the family long before we started going out.”

“Have I?”

“Of course.” Ginny said. “They all just see you like another brother.”

“It’s a good thing you don’t.” Harry smirked.

“Very good…” Ginny said, resuming her activities from before.
________________________________________



This war is becoming worse and worse by the day. Now Lily and James will have to go into hiding because Voldemort has singled them out personally. Dumbledore didn’t really explain why, but it had something to do with Snape. I still can’t believe that Snape has taken the Dark Mark… After everything we’ve been through! It crushed Lily when she heard it. We were all friends, but Lily always had a special bond with him, because they had already been friends before Lily even knew she was a witch. How could he bring them into danger after being friends for all those years? I’ll never forgive him for that.

Dumbledore is sure that there is a traitor among the Order of the Phoenix and he believes it is one of the Potters’ closest friends. I really hope he’s wrong this time. I can’t believe that one of the Marauders would ever turn to the dark side. Then again, I wouldn’t have believed it from Snape too a couple of years ago.

Dumbledore wants to perform the Fidelius Charm on Lily and James’ house in Godric’s Hollow to keep them safe. He wants to act as Secret Keeper himself, but James insists that it should be me. I would be happy to do it, but that’s what everyone would expect. It’s a well-known fact that James and I have been best friends since our first train ride to Hogwarts. Maybe we should act like I’m the Secret Keeper and make Remus Secret Keeper in my place. It sure would lead Voldemort astray. But then again, what if Remus is the traitor. I can’t believe I’m even considering it, but he has been acting rather strange lately. Maybe Peter would be the best choice. No one would ever expect Peter to be Secret Keeper…

Harry was sitting by himself by the window in the Gryffindor common room. It was still early and on a Sunday morning, he didn’t expect everyone to get down for quite some time. He was trying to focus on Sirius’ diary that he was reading, but he constantly caught himself thinking about what happened on the couch in the common room the night before. He knew that he and Ginny were both still too young to have a real physical relationship, but last night it had been rather hard to control themselves. He thought about the forbidden places where his hands had wondered and Ginny’s hot, excited breath.

"Good morning, Harry."

“Hermione!”

“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked with raised eyebrows. “You’re looking at me like I’m a ghost.”

Harry felt his face reddening. “Nothing.” he said hastily. Hermione looked at him with an amused expression on her face, but Harry was saved by a soft tapping on the window. “Hedwig!” He hastily opened the window and Hedwig hopped inside. She looked extremely tired. “I was getting worried.” Harry said, softly stroking Hedwig’s feathers. The snowy owl lazily closed her eyes, happy to be back with her owner.

“She has an answer.” Harry said. He carefully loosened the parchment envelope and opened it eagerly.

“Read it out loud!” Hermione said excitedly.

Dear Harry

We have been following the developments in your country with great interest here. We know that Hogwarts is currently the only place in Great Britain that hasn’t fallen into the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named, so the news that there will be a battle at the school didn’t come as a big surprise.

You’ll be glad to know that after Karkaroff ran away, the board of governors of Durmstrang has appointed a new, decent headmaster. His name is Bogdan Petkov and he is fanatically opposed to the Dark Arts. A big relieve here at Durmstrang! He is an old friend of Dumbledore and was one of the most feared opponents of Gellert Grindelwald.

Professor Petkov was already determined to come to Great Britain with the teachers and some of the older students to fight in the near future. He was very enthusiastic when I told him about your letter. We will be leaving soon and will arrive by the same means that we did two years ago. A couple of friends of mine will also be joining us.

Give my best to your friends and to Fleur and Cedric if you happen to see them and I will see you in a couple of days!

Viktor

“That’s amazing!” Hermione said excitedly.

“What’s so amazing?” Ginny asked walking over to them. “Good morning, sweetie.” She smiled at Harry and set on his lap. She gave him a kiss and Harry felt his stomach give a little jolt. Ginny was just wearing a plain white t-shirt and pyjama bottoms and her hair was still messy from coming out of bed, but she had never looked more beautiful to him.

“Good morning.” Harry smiled back.

“You want to get some breakfast?” Hermione asked. “Ron won’t be up for hours.”

“Hey!”

“Oh, good morning, Ron.” Hermione said surprised. “You’re up early for a Sunday morning.”

“Didn’t sleep well.” Ron shrugged. “But I won’t say no to that breakfast.”

“Give me a minute to get dressed.” Ginny said. She quickly walked up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories and not even five minutes later she was already back down, fully clothed and her hair brushed.

“That was fast.” Harry said.

“Six brothers, Harry. Six.”

She took his hand and the four of them left the common room. Harry felt perfectly happy, feeling Ginny’s warm hand in his. He had been seeing her for over two years and had been in love with her for almost just as long, but it was as if his feelings for her had intensified even more since last night. He had never felt closer to her.

Hermione was looking from one to the other with raised eyebrows. She opened her mouth to ask something, but apparently decided that she didn’t want to know.

When they finally reached the Great Hall they ran into Hagrid. Literally, in Ron’s case.

“Hello, Hagrid!” Ginny said happily.

“Hi, you three.” Hagrid said. He guiltily looked at Ron who has rubbing his head. “I’m sorry, Ron.” he said apologetically. He gave him a pat on the head what caused Ron to fall to his knees. “Oh dear.”

“That’s alright, Hagrid.” Ron said, getting back to his feet. "At least I'm awake now."

Hagrid smiled and continued his way to the front doors. “Oh right, Harry!” he said quickly before they entered the Great Hall. “I ran into some Centaurs in the Forest yesterday. They had a message from Magorian. He wants to see you again. Tonight.”
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“Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood.” – Oscar Wilde



A/N: Please review to let me know what you think. Only if it is just a couple of words, I would really appreaciate it. Thanks to everyone who did leave reviews!

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Chapter 20: Allies

“Good evening, Harry Potter. It is good to see you again.”

“It is good to see you too, Magorian.” Harry said politely. Hagrid had again guided him through the forest towards the Centaur village. He had attracted a lot of attention again when he walked through the village, but this time the Centaurs seemed to be less surprised to see him. Magorian must have told all of them about the reason he had been here last time.

“I have taken your request into consideration and I have conferred with some of the most aged and most wise Centaurs of our herd.”

Harry didn’t break the silence that followed, waiting for Magorian to carry on.

“I assume that you have gone with the same request to the House-Elves and the Goblins?” Magorian asked.

“We have.” Harry said. “The House-Elves agreed to be our allies during the battle, but the Goblins…”

“Will not fight.” Magorian finished his sentence. “I expected that it would be a fruitless attempt.”

“They told me that about approaching the Centaurs too.” Harry said. “Were they also right?”

Magorian raised his head proudly. “No. We have decided to do what we have to do to keep peace in our Forest.”

“That is great news!” Harry said.

“I want to make something clear now.” Magorian said firmly. “We have agreed to fight alongside humans. Something we have never done before. But we will not allow any witch or wizard to give us orders. Is that clear?”

“Of course, Magorian.” Harry said quickly. “You can be sure of that.”

“Then we have an understanding.” Magorian said stately. Harry almost made to shake the Centaur’s hand, but remembered just in time what Hagrid had told him last time they came here. He chose to just follow Magorian’s example, who was bowing slightly towards him.

“Thank you for your time, Magorian.” Harry said. “I really appreciate it.”

“You are welcome, Harry Potter. Perhaps I will see you again. We will know when the time comes.”

Harry left Magorian’s hut and Abaccus guided him back to the gates of the village. A lot of Centaurs were watching them as they walked through the village. Most of them nodded when they saw Harry, with an unperturbed, but not unfriendly face. Some of them, however were watching him disapprovingly and murmured between their teeth when he passed.

“It is outrageous.” a deep voice came from Harry’s right. “Centaurs have never before meddled in wars between humans. We are above such brute violence.”

Harry looked to his right and saw that it was Bane, the black-haired Centaur that he had met in the Forbidden Forest during his first year. Next to him stood Ronan.

“Magorian has done what he thought best.” Ronan said calmly.

Harry quickly walked on and was glad when he reached the gates where Hagrid was waiting for him. They thanked Abaccus for his help and quickly left the Centaur village. Hagrid was euphoric when Harry told him that the Centaurs would be fighting in the battle.

“They are great warriors, Harry, don’t you underestimate them.” he said determinedly. “They’ll be of great help.”

When Harry was on his way back to the Gryffindor common room, he ran into Ginny, Ron and Hermione.

“Oh you’re already back!” Ginny said excitedly. “How did it go?”

“Good, actually.” Harry said. “The Centaurs are fighting.”

“That’s amazing, Harry!” Hermione said, smiling widely at him. “You must have really made an impression on them.”

“How’s that?” Harry asked. “I just went and talked to Magorian.”

“Centaurs have never been known to fight in a war, Harry.” Hermione said. “This will be an important event in magical history.”

“Yeah, well…” Harry said. “Where are you guys going anyway?”

“Mum and Dad.” Ron said. “Charlie has arrived. We wanted to go say hello. You coming?”

“Sure.”

After they had spent some time with the Weasley family, the four of them returned to the common room. The room was almost empty. The only two people sitting in front of the fire were Jacinta and Dennis Creevey. They both seemed to be rather embarrassed when they saw the older students.

Ginny looked at Harry with raised eyebrows. Harry shrugged. “Don’t ask me.” he mumbled.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” Ron asked, grinning broadly. The four older students plumped down in seats close to Jacinta and Dennis.

“Not much.” Dennis said softly. He was watching Harry nervously.

“Wow, this is really awkward!” Ron said, still with a wide grin on his face.

“Oh, would you relax.” Ginny smiled as she watched the embarrassment of the two younger students.

“We’re not your parents.” Hermione said.

“Who would have thought.” Ginny mused when Jacinta and Dennis had gone to their dormitories.

“Well, it kind of makes sense really.” Hermione said. “They have been spending a lot of time together, being the two youngest members of the DA.”

“You don’t think that they are serious, don’t you?” Harry said. “Jacinta’s only thirteen years old.”

“I was still thirteen years old when we started dating.” Ginny said with raised eyebrows. “Wasn’t it serious for you?”

“Of course it was.” Harry said quickly. “But that was different. And you were almost fourteen.”

Ginny shrugged. “I think it’s great. Dennis is a good kid. And just imagine old Lucius’ face if he finds out his only daughter is dating a Muggleborn.”

“It does have its perks.” Harry admitted.

Harry decided to continue reading Sirius’ diary before he went to sleep that night. He had just gotten to the point where Wormtail had been appointed Secret Keeper and desperately wanted to know more about what happened during the time that his parents were in hiding. He quickly read through some passages about Order missions until he reached an interesting part.

Today was Harry’s first birthday. Lily and James were kind of upset that they couldn’t throw Harry a real party, but they are still in hiding and Harry is too young to realize that it’s his birthday anyway. It was just the Potters, Remus, Dumbledore and I. Even Peter didn’t come, but of course he has gone into hiding himself since he has been appointed Secret Keeper. The Fidelius charm has been holding for months now, so I guess that I made the right choice choosing Peter to take my place.

I got Harry a toy broomstick as a present. James was thrilled. Lily didn’t seem to like it at first, because she had doubts about it being safe, but she quickly came around when she saw how much fun Harry was having.

The only damper for the festivities was the news Dumbledore had brought with him. Fabian and Gideon were killed by Death Eaters during a secret Order mission. What mission, nobody knows. It was some secret task they received from Dumbledore. They were sent to Albania. It’s a real shame. They were great men and very accomplished duellists. It took a group of six Death Eaters to defeat them. Maybe the worst part is that it was a planned attack. The Death Eaters were sure Fabian and Gideon would be there and only some of the most trusted Order members knew where they were at the time. Remus and I almost got into a fight when we heard it. We were practically accusing each other of being a double agent. I don’t like what this war is doing to us. It’s tearing us apart. We have been inseparable through our entire time at Hogwarts and now we are drifting apart. This war has to end soon… Before we all lose our minds.

Harry closed the diary, lay it aside and put out his wand light. He thought how it must be like to be sure that one of your friends is a double agent who works for Voldemort. His thoughts wondered to Dumbledore’s Army. Every member had signed a contract that stopped them from giving away certain information or giving away the identity of the members, but it wasn’t a fool-proof system. In theory, there could still be a traitor in their midst. And he didn’t really know for sure that there was no way around the contract. He trusted Hermione’s abilities, but surely a strong dark wizard could get around it? He thought about Malfoy and how he had turned to their side. Would it be possible that he was really working for Voldemort? But Harry quickly dismissed that thought. Malfoy had been sincere, he was sure of that. And despite everything that happened in the past, he loved his sister. He wouldn’t do that to her… He hoped.
________________________________________





The next weekend brought the arrival of the entire teaching staff of Durmstrang. A lot of DA members were outside to see the familiar black ship emerge from the lake. Viktor Krum, who had taken a break from his Quidditch career during the war to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts at his old school, greeted Harry and his friends happily.

“This is Grozdan.” he said gesturing to the man besides him. “My boyfriend.”

“Your what?” Ron asked. He looked at the two of them with open mouth and immediately received a blow to the head from Hermione.

Krum nervously looked at them, wondering if they would say something, but Harry merely smiled and shook Grozdan’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“It is an honour to meet you.” Grozdan smiled. “I have of course heard a lot about you.”

After introductions were made and Ron had closed his mouth, Krum took Harry with him. “I want you to meet our new headmaster, Harry. He is a great man. There he is. Professor Petkov!”

Professor Petkov was a tall wizard, with long grey hair and a long beard. He reminded Harry a bit of Dumbledore, but instead of twinkling blue, Petkov’s eyes were dark and penetrating.

“Harry Potter! How great to finally meet you. Bogdan Petkov.”

They shook hands. “It’s good to meet you too, Professor. Viktor told me that you are the new headmaster at Durmstrang.”

“Indeed.” Petkov said silkily. “I have been rather busy cleaning up the mess of my predecessor. One of my priorities is improving the relationships with the other European wizarding schools. Durmstrang, Beauxbatons and Hogwarts have always worked together well in the past, but due to certain… choices of the last headmasters, we have some patching up to do.”

“I’m sure Professor McGonagall will be glad to hear that.” Harry said.

“Ah, yes of course.” Petkov said sadly. “It was a great shock when we heard about what happened to Albus. It’s a real shame.”

“Viktor told me you knew him?”

“Yes indeed. We have fought together during the war against Grindelwald. He had taken over Germany and from there, he was expanding his empire over all eastern Europe. When he invaded Bulgaria, Dumbledore came to help us defeat him. Now I finally have the chance to repay him and all the Hogwarts teachers for what they did for us back then.”

“Bogdan!” a voice came from behind them.

“Minerva!” Bogdan said enthusiastically.

The two heads walked off to catch up with each other and Krum turned to Harry: “So did you hear anything from Beauxbatons?”

“Yes, they’ll be arriving today too.” Harry answered. He checked his watch. “In fact, they should be here any minute.”

“I bet they’ll be arriving with that weird carriage thing again.” Krum said.

“Probably.” Harry looked around him and noticed that a lot of young wizards had come with the Durmstrang delegation that were too old to still be in school, but didn’t seem to be teachers either. Some of them were vaguely familiar to him.

“Students from my year at Durmstrang.” Krum explained, seeing Harry’s pensive face. “They still have friends here from when we were here for the Triwizard Tournament. They wanted to come.”

Harry and Krum walked back to where they had left Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Grozdan. They were now in the company of the other Weasley brothers and Fleur. Fleur was awaiting the arrival of the Beauxbatons delegation impatiently. Her parents and sister would be coming with them too and she hadn’t seen them in almost a year. When the light-blue carriage landed on the grounds, Fleur quickly dragged Bill with her to introduce him to her parents.

“Poor lad.” Ron said sympathetically. “He has just gotten used to one Delacour and now there are four of them.”

“Fleur is alright.” Ginny said.

Harry raised his eyebrows at her. Ginny hadn’t been a big fan of the relationship between the French girl and her oldest brother when they started going out.

“I thought you hated Fleur.” Harry muttered.

“I never hated her!” Ginny said. “I just didn’t think she was right for Bill at first, but I must say that they are suited to each other in some weird way.”

Professor McGonagall had asked the House-Elves to prepare a feast for the arrival of the new guests that night. It proved to be a good thing that there were less students at Hogwarts than before, because the school was more crowded than ever. The house tables were barely respected anymore. Everyone just sat where they wanted to. Only the Slytherins held themselves apart from the others.

When Harry and his friends left the Great Hall to return to the Gryffindor common room, he was approached by Remus. “You’d better come with me, Harry. Emergency meeting.” he said hurriedly.

“Er… Alright. I’ll see you guys later.” he quickly said to the others as Remus dragged him with him. “Where are we going?” Harry asked when he noticed Remus wasn’t going towards the marble staircase.

“Severus’ office.” Remus said shortly. “He said he had news.”

When Remus and Harry entered Snape’s office, they saw that the Potions master was already accompanied by Professor McGonagall, Mad-Eye and Kingsley. They were all looking rather seriously.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked.

“I have received a message from our contact in the Dark Lord’s inner circle.” Snape said.

“Are they…?”

Snape nodded. “The Dark Lord is planning to attack next Saturday at nightfall. He expects to have full control over Hogwarts by dawn.”
________________________________________




“I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies, this is the dawning of the rest of our lives.” – Greenday (Holiday)

________________________________________
Chapter 21: The Betrayal

“A week.” Ginny said slowly. “They’ll be here in a week?”

Harry was sitting in the Gryffindor common room with all the DA members from Gryffindor plus Luna gathered around him.

“Yes.” he simply said. No one said anything. There really wasn’t anything to say. Voldemort would come after them and there was nothing they could do about it. All they could do was stand up for themselves and hope for the best.

When everyone had gone to bed, Harry remained behind in the common room with Ginny. When he looked into her eyes he saw the fear that he had been feeling himself since Snape had broken the news to Harry. Not the fear of Voldemort or the fear of dying, but the fear of losing the girl he loved.

“It’s going to be fine, Ginny.” he said softly. “We’re going to be fine.”

“We can’t be sure of that.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. She was right of course. They couldn’t be sure that they would be fine. In fact, there was a good chance that they wouldn’t be.

“I love you, Ginny.” he finally said. “I love you so much. I don’t know what I would do if you… I wish I could keep you safe until this is all over.”

“Not a chance.” Ginny muttered, burying her face in Harry’s shirt. “I’m staying with you. Until the end.”

“Ginny, if I – “

“No, Harry.” Ginny said firmly. “Don’t say it. Don’t ask me to stay strong if you are killed. Don’t tell me to be okay. You know I won’t. I couldn’t ever…” She looked up at him. Tears were streaming down her face, but she still had that determined look in her eyes. “How could I ever be okay when I can’t be with you?”

Harry wanted to protest, but he decided against it. He knew how Ginny felt. He could only hope that if Ginny gave her life during the battle, his life would be taken too. Any life without her wouldn’t be worth living for him.

“We’ll stay together.” Harry said soothingly, stroking Ginny’s long, red hair. “One way or another… We’ll stay together.”
________________________________________


The first thing that Harry did on Sunday morning was scheduling a DA meeting for that night. The members from the other houses didn’t know about the news yet. When he had told them that Voldemort was planning to attack the school within a week, they were looking at him frightfully. Malfoy had never looked paler.

“Do you think we are ready?” Justin finally said.

“Yes.” Harry said after a short silence. “Yes, I think we are. You have no idea how much progress you have made in the last two years. Each and every one of you.” He looked at his fellow DA members proudly. “But a bit of extra practice can’t hurt.”

They spent the meeting rehearsing all of the defensive and offensive spells that Harry had taught them over the past few months. He was happy to see that no one had any difficulties remembering all of them. He knew that this people would be a great help during the battle, not only because they had all proven to be accomplished duellists, but also because they were all friends. They would all go through fire and water for each other. Well, nearly all of them. Draco Malfoy had been accepted by every DA member when he joined and he had proven himself by fighting in two battles, but he was still keeping a distance between him and the others. Then there was also his relationship with one of the other DA members. Malfoy and Zacharias Smith had been living like kneazle and crup from the moment Malfoy had joined the DA. The main reasons for that were that there had been a conflict between the Malfoy family and the Smith family for generations and Zacharias didn’t have an inch of trust in Malfoy , but over the last few weeks every reason was good enough for a shouting match between the two. This time it had been a curse of Malfoy that had gone astray and nearly hit Zacharias.

“What is the matter with you two!” Harry said as he stood in between them.

“He’s trying to curse me, that’s what’s the matter!” Zacharias said heatedly.

“It was an accident, Zacharias.” Justin tried to calm the furious Hufflepuff. “He was aiming for me, I just dodged it and it nearly hit you.”

“Why are you practicing with that vermin anyway?”

“Watch who you call vermin!” Draco said, who was also losing his temper. “Big words coming from a Smith!”

“Don’t you start on my family again!” Zacharias said threateningly. “At least no one there has the Dark Mark on his arm.” Malfoy cursed and pointed his wand at the Hufflepuff.

“Expelliarmus!” Harry shouted and both Malfoy’s and Zacharias’ wands flew towards him. “I’ve had it with you two! There’s a war coming this way. It’s time you put your petty differences aside and you realize that you are on the same side here!”

“I’m on the same side as you are!” Zacharias said to Harry. “But I wouldn’t be so sure of him. He’s a Death Eater. I’m sure of it!”

Malfoy laughed scornfully. “Sure. I fought against the Death Eaters in Godric’s Hollow and here in the school, but yeah, I’m one of them.”

“I don’t know what twisted game you are playing, Malfoy, but you are one of them.” Zacharias said firmly. “Or is it a coincidence that you’re always wearing long sleeves?”

Harry shook his head when he heard the accusations of Zacharias, but when he looked at Malfoy he noticed the sudden fear in the Slytherin’s eyes. The content of Sirius’ diary flashed before his eyes. Even the people from who you would least expect it could be passing information to the other side. And even Harry had to admit that if he would know there was a spy in Dumbledore’s Army his first guess would be Malfoy. He slowly pointed his wand to the Slytherin. “Roll up your left sleeve.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Malfoy said. He had quickly regained his cool composure, but Harry had seen his initial reaction to Zacharias’ accusation.

“Roll up your sleeve, Malfoy. I’m serious.”

Slowly Malfoy rolled up his left sleeve, revealing the Dark Mark of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. The black tattoo was contrasting with his pale skin.

A long silence followed while everyone was staring at the tattoo on Malfoy’s arm. Zacharias was looking extremely smug.

“Leave.” Harry finally said. “Everyone but Malfoy, get out. Go back to your common rooms.”

Everyone left without saying another word. When Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna made to follow the others, Harry stopped them. “You guys stay.”

“Potter, I can explain this.” Malfoy began.

“Shut up, Malfoy.” Harry said.

“But –“

“Save me the crap. I’m not interested.” He turned to his friends. “Ron, Hermione, could you go get McGonagall? She’s probably in her office. Her old office, not Dumbledore’s. Neville, Luna, please go get Moody.”

When the four of them had left, Malfoy started talking again. “Please let me explain, Potter. It’s-“

“You can explain when the others are here.” Harry interrupted him again. “Now shut up. I don’t want to hear another word out of you.”

Harry felt betrayed and humiliated. He had been the one convincing everyone to let Malfoy join the DA. He had been the one who was stupid enough to trust him. To believe that he had actually changed. He could only guess how Jacinta must be feeling now. He knew he should be there for her, but he needed to handle this first. He only hoped Dennis would be able to cheer her up.

Ginny put a comforting hand on Harry’s arm and gave him a weak smile. She was saying with her eyes what she didn’t want to say out loud. That it wasn’t his fault and that she had trusted Malfoy too, but it didn’t really make Harry feel better. They waited in silence, guarding Malfoy, until finally Ron and Hermione returned with a confused Professor McGonagall with them.

“Harry!” she said urgently when she spotted him. “Could you please tell me what’s going on? Mr Weasley and Miss Granger – oh sweet Merlin!” She had spotted the Dark Mark on Malfoy’s forearm.

“Apparently Draco Malfoy has been spying for the other side, Professor.” Harry said coolly.

“I haven’t – “ Malfoy started, but he was interrupted by the return of Neville and Luna. They were accompanied by Mad-Eye, Remus, Tonks and Kingsley. Tonks groaned when she saw the Dark Mark.

Moody looked at Malfoy with pure loathing in his eyes. “I suspected that they had someone in the castle since Bellatrix’ remarks at our last encounter.”

“What do we do with him?” Remus said harshly. He too was looking at Malfoy disgustedly.

“We could keep him in the dungeons until all this is over.” Professor McGonagall said. “He wouldn’t mean us any harm there.”

“You can’t just lock me up!” Malfoy said.

Kingsley walked towards Malfoy and looked down at him. “I am the Head of the Auror Office, Malfoy. I am the one who will decide what happens to you. Now, answer this. Do you or do you not admit that you joined the Death Eaters?”

Malfoy lowered his eyes. “I do.” he muttered.

“Then you will be kept in custody in the dungeons of this castle. You will appear before the Wizengamot when this war is over. They will decide about your punishment then.”

Kingsley and Mad-Eye grabbed Malfoy on each side and guided him out of the Room of Requirement. Malfoy went with them willingly, his head bowed towards the ground. Once the door had closed behind them, Harry cursed loudly.

Ginny put an arm around his waist. “Don’t blame yourself, Harry.” she said softly.

“I was so convinced that he was sincere.” Harry said. “I guess I’m not that good at Legilimency as I thought.”

“He fooled us all, mate.” Ron said sympathetically. “I wasn’t all for it at first, but I really thought he changed sides too. I mean, he did fight with us twice, didn’t he?”

“He has played his part well.” Remus said. “That whole scheme about Voldemort ordering his Death Eaters to kill him was quite clever of them. And he did seem frightened when you killed Rodolphus in Godric’s Hollow.” he added, nodding to Harry.

“Well yeah. I just assumed that he was shocked by seeing his uncle die before his eyes. I mean, who wouldn’t be?”

“I’m sorry, Harry.” Hermione said.

Harry shrugged. “I’m just glad we found out now. Who knows what he would have done once the battle had started.”



When the six teenagers returned to Gryffindor Tower they saw that only the members of the DA were still up.

“What the hell was that all about?” Seamus asked the moment they sat foot into the common room. A storm of questions and accusations followed, but Harry raised his hands to quiet them.

“It seems that Malfoy has taken the Dark Mark. He has probably been spying for Voldemort ever since.”

Katie cursed loudly. “I can’t believe this.” she grumbled.

“I’m sorry.” Harry said to them. “If it weren’t for me he would have never gotten in. You all had your doubts and I should have listened more to you.”

“Don’t say that, Harry.” Parvati said sympathetically.

“We voted on it.” Lavender added. “No one voted against it. We’re all to blame here.”

“Yeah, but you trusted my judgement.” Harry said.

“Don’t blame yourself, mate.” Seamus said. “We all trusted him once he came through. I would have never thought he…” His voice faded away.

No one knew what to say next. They all felt betrayed, but none of them felt as betrayed as Harry. He had trusted Malfoy, he had stood up for him back when the others didn’t. And now this. He was snapped out of his thoughts by Hermione’s voice.

“Where’s Jacinta?”

Harry quickly looked around and noticed that she indeed wasn’t with them. He felt ashamed that he hadn’t noticed before, but he had so many things on his mind.

“She went to bed.” Dennis said. “She was pretty shaken up about it. I think she just wanted to be alone.”

“You should go see her.” Hermione said to Harry.

“How? I can’t go up to the girls’ dormitories remember?”

“You can if a girl takes you upstairs.” Ginny said, smiling mischievously. She grabbed Harry’s hand and pulled him up from his chair.

Ron opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again when he saw Hermione looking at him. “Not now.” she hissed.

Ginny took Harry up to the second year dormitories. She softly knocked on the door but there was no response. When they entered they saw that Jacinta’s roommates were all fast asleep, but Jacinta herself was sitting straight up on her bed. Her eyes were still red from crying.

The two older students sat down on the rim of her bed. “Muffliato.” Harry muttered so they wouldn’t wake Jacinta’s roommates.

“I’m so sorry.” the young girl said when Harry grabbed her hand.

“What are you sorry for?” Harry asked.

“I begged you to let him join. You did it for me.”

“Don’t ever think that Jacinta.” Harry said firmly. “And don’t you ever blame yourself for what happened. He had all of us fooled.”

“I should have known.” Jacinta sniffed. “He was always Lucius’ favourite. I should have known he would grow up to be just like him.”

Harry noticed that Jacinta referred to her father by his first name, but he didn’t comment on it. He pulled his adopted sister close to him and kissed the top of her head.

“Now everyone will think again that I’m a dark witch too.” Jacinta said in a small voice, burying her face in Harry’s shirt. “They did when they found out who my family was and now it will start all over again.”

“It won’t.” Harry said soothingly. “I’ll make sure of that.”

“Do you still trust me?”

Jacinta looked up at him and Harry looked into her big, grey eyes. “Yes.” he said firmly. “How could I not trust you?”
________________________________________


“It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.” – Confucius

________________________________________
Chapter 22: The Curious Case of Draco Malfoy

Professor McGonagall had cancelled all the classes after Snape had told them about Voldemort’s plan to attack Hogwarts on Saturday. Harry spent the whole Monday together with Ginny and Remus and Tonks. He knew that Kingsley and Mad-Eye were interrogating Malfoy, with the help of McGonagall. They had all offered Harry to witness the interrogation, but he declined. He didn’t want to listen to what he had to say. He would be happiest if he’d never see Malfoy’s face again.

Ginny, Remus and Tonks wisely avoided the subject of Draco Malfoy and they had a rather nice day together. That was, until Kingsley came by after dinner.

“So, how did it go?” Remus asked.

“We’re not getting anywhere with the boy.” Kingsley said. “He admits that he has joined the Death Eaters, but keeps maintaining that he has never worked for them.”

“How does that even make sense?” Tonks asked with raised eyebrows.

Kingsley shrugged. “It’s all we’re getting out of him. He just keeps repeating that he’s innocent and that he wants to talk to Harry.” The Auror looked at Harry. “That’s partially what I’m here for.”

“No way.” Harry said immediately. “Forget it. I don’t want to talk to him.”

“That’s what I thought.” Kingsley said. “I won’t force you, Harry. I totally understand.”

Ginny looked at Harry thoughtfully. “I think you should do it.”

“What?!”

“What do you have to lose?” Ginny asked reasonably.

“Nothing. I just don’t want to talk to him.” Harry said firmly.

Ginny shrugged, knowing it wouldn't do any good arguing with him right now. “Then you don’t have to.” she said soothingly.

“What’s the other reason you’re here, Kingsley?” Remus asked, making an end to the discussion.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to bother you again, Harry.” Kingsley smiled. “Professor Snape wants to see you. He’s waiting for you in his office.”

Harry sighed. He just knew that Snape would talk to him about Malfoy. He had always liked him. “You want to come?” he asked Ginny.

Ginny looked at him surprised. “Er… sure. If it’s alright with him.”

She looked at Kingsley. “I’m sorry, guys. He asked you to come alone.”

“Of course he did.” Harry grumbled.

Ginny quickly kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll wait for you here, alright?”

Harry nodded. He waved at the others and made his way downstairs towards the dungeons.

“Enter.” Snape’s voice said when Harry had knocked on his door.

“Good evening, Professor.” Harry said politely.

“Ah, Potter.” Snape motioned to the chair in front of his desk. Harry sat down, facing Snape and waited until he would say anything, but the Potions master didn’t seem to be in a hurry to cut to the subject of Malfoy. He merely sat there in silence, looking at Harry. Suddenly Harry felt a weak pushing inside his head. He quickly blocked Snape out of his mind.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked surprised. He wasn’t really mad at Snape for trying to penetrate his mind, because he knew Snape had been aware that Harry was a far more accomplished Occlumens than him for a long time.

“Testing your Occlumency shields.” Snape said lazily. “And they seem to be just as effective as always.”

“Why?”

“Because I think it is rather disturbing that I – in my own opinion a rather accomplished Legilimens – am not able to even pick up a little emotion from you, while Draco Malfoy, who is a novice when it comes to Legilimency and Occlumency, seems to be powerful enough to deceive you.”

“Don’t try to get him out of this.” Harry said firmly, not caring about being polite. “He’s one of them.”

“You trusted him.” Snape said. “You even trusted him enough to allow him to join Dumbledore’s Army.”

“Well then I made a mistake!”

“Then you are a fool!” Snape said loudly.

“If making a mistake makes someone a fool then how would you call yourself?” Harry said, glaring at his Potions master.

Snape stood up from his chair abruptly. “I know I have made mistakes in my past, Potter. I don’t need you to tell me that!” he said furiously. “But it’s not the mistake that makes you a fool. What makes you a fool is that you don’t trust your own judgement while you know that you weren’t wrong back then!”

“Obviously I was.” Harry said through clenched teeth.

Snape leaned forward on his desk and looked Harry right in the eyes. “Draco Malfoy is not working for the Dark Lord. He’s on our side!”

“He’s been branded with the Dark Mark!” Harry yelled, now jumping up from his chair too. “He is a Death Eater!”

Snape roughly rolled up his left sleeve and revealed the Dark Mark on his forearm. “I have been branded with the Dark Mark.” he said in a softer, but still angry voice. “What does that make me?”

Harry looked at Snape with open mouth. He had known that Snape had been a Death Eater of course, but to see the proof of that right in front of him was quite confronting.

“Do you think I still work for the Dark Lord too, Potter?”

“No.” Harry said softly.

Snape rolled down his sleeve again, concealing the ugly mark on his arm. “There’s only one person in this castle that can decide if Draco Malfoy is to be trusted or not.” he said slowly. “I think you know who. You can go.”

Harry walked back to Remus and Tonks’ living quarters, absorbed in his own thoughts. Had he done the wrong thing handing Malfoy over to Mad-Eye and Kingsley immediately? But then what was he supposed to do? It wasn’t like Snape who had been spying for years and had now shown open loyalty to the Order of the Phoenix. Malfoy was only seventeen years old and had already been branded with the Dark Mark. Surely that meant that he was working for Voldemort?

When he arrived at Remus and Tonks he saw that Kingsley had left and Andromeda Tonks had arrived since he went to see Snape. He told them everything the Potions master had said.

“Maybe he’s right, Harry.” Ginny said. “Maybe you did judge too fast.” Remus and Tonks quickly exchanged an amused look. They knew Ginny was the only person who would tell Harry straight to his face that he was wrong, aside from Ron and Hermione maybe.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know what to think anymore.” he mumbled.

“I’m only an outsider.” Andromeda spoke up. “But I have heard the story of Draco and I thought it was very similar to a story of another wizard who was believed to be a part of He Who Must Not Be Named’s inner circle.”

Harry looked at her for a few moments before he realized who she was talking about. “Sirius didn’t have the Dark Mark on his arm.” he said.

“Indeed he didn’t.” Andromeda admitted. “But he spent twelve years of his life in Azkaban, Harry. Something that could have been prevented if someone had taken the time to listen to him. Remus has told me about the animosity that has always hung between you and my nephew, but surely you don’t wish for him to go through the same thing that Sirius did?”

“Not if he were innocent.” Harry said. “But he isn’t.”

“Sirius was my favourite cousin, Harry. When I heard that he had been arrested and that he had betrayed his best friends… It was horrible. I felt like I had never really known him. I never tried to visit him while he was in Azkaban, although that might have been allowed as we were family. I just assumed that he was indeed guilty and decided to try and erase him out of my memory. Later I found out that I was the one who was guilty. Guilty of not knowing that Sirius wouldn’t be capable of such horrid deeds. Guilty of not believing in him. The only consolation that I have today is that I was able to reconcile with him before he passed away. But still the guilt is there. And it will be there for the rest of my days.”

Harry thought about Malfoy. How he had come to Godric’s Hollow with the rest of the DA to help Harry and the others get away safely. How he had walked up to Bellatrix during the battle of the One-Eyed Witch and duelled her. Had he done that out of defiance of the Dark Arts or because he had to keep his cover and he was sure that he had nothing to fear from his aunt?

Harry raised from his chair and everyone looked at him in expectation. “I have to talk to him.”



When Harry and Ginny arrived at the dungeon where Malfoy was held, they were stopped by two of the Aurors that were staying at Hogwarts since the Ministry had fallen.

“We just need to talk with him.” Harry said.

“Does Kingsley know you’re here?” one of the Aurors said sternly.

“No, but he won’t have a problem with it.”

“That’s for him to decide, isn’t it?” the Auror said.

Harry raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth to retort, but he received help from the second Auror. “I’ll go and find Kingsley to let him know. You’ll be alright by yourself for a while, won’t you Dawlish?”

Dawlish nodded grudgingly and let Harry and Ginny into Malfoy’s cell. When the Auror wanted to follow them inside, Harry turned around and said: “We’d rather be alone for this.”

“Sorry, but if something happened to you I would be held responsible.”

“There’s two of us and he doesn’t even have a wand. I think we’ll be fine.” Harry said and he closed the door in front of Dawlish’ nose.

“Way to make friends with the future colleagues.” Ginny said dryly, but Harry was already looking at Malfoy, who seemed to be extremely relieved to see them.

“Potter.” he said hoarsely. “You came.”

“So it seems.” Harry said. He waved his wand and two armchairs appeared. Harry and Ginny sat down while Malfoy remained seated on the wooden board that seemed to be his bed.

“Please, just let me explain what happened.”

“That’s what we’re here for.” Harry said shortly. “We’re listening.”

“Last year, during the Christmas holidays, father came home with what he said was great news. Voldemort had asked him to bring me with him to the next Death Eater meeting. I would be branded with the Dark Mark and I would be admitted in Voldemort’s inner circle. Although it was expected from me that I would join the Death Eaters after I graduated Hogwarts, it was a surprise that I would receive the Dark Mark while I was still at school. Voldemort has strict rules about children from Death Eaters. None of them are allowed to join until they are away from Hogwarts.”

“Except you.” Ginny said.

Malfoy nodded. “The reason for that became clear after the ritual. Once he branded me with the Dark Mark, Voldemort gave me a task. A task that I had the greatest chance to succeed in, because I was still going to Hogwarts.”

“What task?” Harry asked.

“I had to kill Dumbledore.” Malfoy said softly. “I had been doubting the beliefs of my father and the dark side for a while back then, but I never voiced it. But when Voldemort gave me the task I knew that I had no choice. I would have to leave my home one way or another and defy my family and Voldemort or I would have to not only join the Death Eaters and become a murderer, but also give a possible fatal blow to the people that were opposing them.”

“I barely left my bedroom at home for the rest of the Christmas holidays. My parents suspected nothing. They thought I was working on a plan to kill Dumbledore. I actually considered doing it.” Malfoy looked away from Harry and Ginny, ashamed. “I really considered trying to kill him, but I knew that it would be nearly impossible. He was far more powerful than I will ever be. And if I was honest with myself, I knew that even if I had the chance, I probably wouldn’t be able to bring myself to do it.”

“I spent the rest of the Christmas holidays in my bedroom, coming up with all kinds of scenarios to get out of the situation. I considered everything, from killing Dumbledore to just run to Dumbledore’s office the moment I got back at Hogwarts and tell him everything. I didn’t know what to do. And then…”

“Then your father attacked Jacinta.” Harry said softly.

Malfoy nodded. “He’s an animal. When I was younger I always looked up to him. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. But now I see him like he really is. An animal.” He quavered as he thought back about that day. “He could have killed her. He would have killed her if I hadn’t stopped him. My mother brought Jacinta to St Mungo’s and left me alone with him. That was the first time that he ever laid a hand on me. I swore to myself that it would be the last time.”

“I planned to just pack my bags and leave by myself. To leave the country if I could. But I knew that wherever I tried to flee, Voldemort would find me and kill me for defying him. So I returned to Hogwarts.”

“Did you tell Dumbledore?”

Malfoy shook his head. “I didn’t have the guts.” He let out a bitter laugh. “I was afraid that Dumbledore would kick me out the moment he knew that I had the Dark Mark on my arm. Then I would have to go back home and wait for Voldemort to kill me. I considered telling Snape. We had always gotten along quite well and I knew that he had always liked me, but back then he was still a double agent and I must say that I was convinced that Snape was really on Voldemort’s side. But then Snape told me that Dumbledore wanted to see me in his office.”

“I was terrified. I thought that Dumbledore must have found out about my joining the Death Eaters, but when I got there he merely talked about Jacinta. He said that he wanted to make sure that she would never have to return to my parents. I was so grateful for that. Then he did indeed tell me that he knew about everything that happened over the holidays. He promised me to tell no one and offered me protection, in exchange for one thing.”

“You had to testify on your parents’ trial, so Jacinta would be taken away from them.” Harry nodded.

“Yes.” Malfoy said. “That’s the whole story. Yes, that Dark Mark is on my arm, but I never really was one of them.”

Harry and Ginny looked at each other.

“I know what you’re thinking.” Malfoy said quickly. “I had a whole night and a whole day to come up with this story. But it’s the truth. I swear.”

Harry looked into Malfoy’s eyes. The Slytherin didn’t avert his gaze but looked straight back into the green eyes of his former nemesis, who was now his only hope.

“I believe you.” Harry finally said. “I guess I owe you an apology.”

Malfoy let out a breath of relief.

“I’m going to get you out of here.” Harry said, raising out of his chair. “One thing: why didn’t you tell this to the Aurors while they interrogated you?”

Malfoy shrugged. “Like it would have made a difference. I knew that you were the only one that would maybe believe me.”

“Alright then.” Harry said. “I’ll get Kingsley so you can get out of here. I’ll call in a DA meeting tomorrow to sort everything out. I’m afraid you’ll have to tell your story another time. They have the right to know the truth.”

Malfoy didn’t seem to look forward to it, but agreed. Despite everything he seemed to be quite relieved to finally have everything off his chest.

“Okay.” Harry said, still a bit disconcerted by everything he had heard. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He took Ginny’s hand and the couple left Malfoy’s cell.

“Thanks.” Malfoy muttered to the empty room.
________________________________________


“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway

________________________________________
Chapter 23: So It Begins

On Tuesday afternoon, the members of Dumbledore’s Army gathered in the Room of Requirement. None of the members knew what they were summoned for, except for the six leaders and Jacinta. Malfoy had already told his sister everything that morning.

“What’s he doing here?” Zacharias said loudly as the DA members were starting to arrive. He was looking at Malfoy furiously.

When everyone was there and had sat down Harry spoke up. “I know you must all be wondering why Draco is here again. The truth is that there is more to the story than all of us thought. He agreed to tell evryone what happened to him over the last year and a half. The only thing I ask from you is to give him a chance to explain himself.” Everyone nodded and Harry looked at Draco. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Draco nodded and cleared his throat nervously. Once he finished his story, the room fell extremely quiet.

“Voldemort asked you to kill Dumbledore?” Cho asked unbelievingly.

“Last year…” Lavender said slowly. “But you were only fifteen years old!”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hannah Abbott asked.

Malfoy shrugged. “It’s not exactly something that I’m particularly proud of.” he said softly.

“How do we know you’re not lying?” Zacharias asked firmly.

“Everyone has the right to decide for themselves if they do or do not trust someone.” Harry said. “No one else can make that decision for you.”

“Do you trust him?” Seamus asked, who was sitting in the chair besides Malfoy.

“Yes. I do.”

“That’s enough for me.” Seamus said. He held out his hand to Malfoy, who looked surprised but shook it. “Sorry I doubted you, man.”

Some of the members seemed to have a bit more trouble to trust Malfoy again, but none of them objected about him staying with the DA.

“It’s more important than ever that we stick together right now.” Harry said. “We’re all members of the DA and we have been through a whole lot together. We experienced both hope and loss in this room.” He quickly glanced at the pictures of Dumbledore and Angelina that were still pinned to the wall. “If we can’t trust each other, there is no one in this world that we can trust.”

He looked at his fellow DA members who were all hanging on his every word. “Voldemort will attack us in just a couple of days. All of you have decided to stay here and fight. The only way that we will have a chance of defeating him is to stick together and fight as one.”

“Hear, hear!” Dean said.

They didn’t practice anymore that day. Harry thought that they had gotten enough of practice over the last two years. He decided they’d better enjoy the few days of peace they had left by hanging out with each other and trying to have a bit of fun. All the members of the DA stayed in the Room of Requirement, talking and laughing with each other until it was time for dinner. When everyone was preparing to leave, Harry stood up.

“This was probably our last meeting.” he announced. “Unless something else comes up. I want to thank you all for everything you have done and what you are going to do. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate it.”

“Thank you, Harry.” Parvati said. “You have been an amazing teacher.”

Harry grinned as the whole room erupted into applause. “Thanks, guys.” he said. “And don’t throw away those coins. You never know.” He walked towards his friends as all the other members started to leave.

“Are you coming to dinner with us, Luna?” he asked.

“No thanks, I have a date.” she smiled. “Bye guys.” She was humming a cheerful tune as she left the room.

“She has a date?” Ron asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yeah, she’s been seeing someone for a while.” Ginny said. “Seems to be going quite well actually.”

“Who?” Harry asked surprised. He didn’t know that Luna had been seeing someone and it came as a bigger surprise than he cared to admit. He really liked Luna, but he couldn’t really see what guy would be able to look past her eccentricity.

Ginny shrugged. “She doesn’t want to tell us.” Hermione said, clearly annoyed by the fact that her friend was able to keep such a thing from her.

Harry looked at Neville, who happened to be looking the other way. “Neville?”

“Let’s go to dinner!” Neville said quickly. “I’m starving.”

“You know, don’t you?” Harry grinned.

“Please, don’t try to get it out of me. She made me promise not to tell anyone.”

“Alright, we won’t try to get it out of you.” Ron grinned.

They left the Room of Requirement and made their way towards the Great Hall for dinner. “Is it Colin?” Ron asked as they reached the end of the corridor on the seventh floor.

“Ron, leave him alone.” Hermione said, but she couldn’t help smiling when she saw Neville struggling to keep quiet.

“Is it Seamus? It’s Seamus, isn’t it? He’s weird enough to date her.”

“Ron!” Ginny scolded. “Luna’s not weird. She’s just…” She didn’t seem to know a word that described Luna.

“Different.” Harry finished her sentence.
________________________________________


Saturday came far too soon for everyone’s liking, but they all knew that the battle would happen eventually. There was no point trying to win time. Voldemort would come, if they were ready or not.

Harry had let all the DA members know to be in their headquarters in the Room of Requirement at 5 o’clock sharp. Then they would lead all the younger students who wouldn’t fight in the battle to the room and Harry would appoint a couple of DA members to stay there in case they needed protecting. They would all have their coins with them so they could send short messages to each other if it was really necessary.

After lunch Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville sat together in the Gryffindor common room quietly. They hadn’t seen Luna all day. None of them said anything during the next few hours. They just sat together, thinking about what was coming.

When four o’clock came, Hermione suddenly jumped from her chair. “We might as well go to the Room of Requirement already. Maybe some people will come early.”

The four others nodded in agreement and followed her out of the common room. Every Gryffindor who was there watched them leave, but no one said anything. It had probably never been that quiet in Gryffindor Tower.

The five friends walked across the seventh floor in silence. When they entered the headquarters of the DA they saw something that brought their minds of the battle for the first time that day. There were already two people in there, namely Luna Lovegood entangled in a tight embrace with Fred Weasley. The couple hadn’t even noticed that five people had suddenly entered the room.

“Bloody hell.” Ron said loudly.

Fred and Luna let go of each other and looked at them. None of them seemed to know what to say, probably for the first time in their lives, but they didn’t seem to be embarrassed at all.

“You have to be kidding me!” Ginny said.

“Not awkward, guys.” Fred said, grinning broadly. “Not awkward unless we let it be awkward.”

Neville smirked as his four friends were looking at Fred and Luna with open mouth.

“Alright, you can stop staring now.” Fred said.

“Aren’t you happy for us?” Luna smiled.

“Oh of course we are!” Hermione said quickly. Together with Ginny she walked to Luna and both girls gave her a hug.

“Well, you certainly picked out a special one.” Ron said to his brother.

Fred grinned. “Did you expect anything else?”

Over the next hour the DA headquarters was filled with people. Luckily, the Room of Requirement simply expanded as more people arrived. All the members of the DA were there, together with all the members of the Order of the Phoenix, the teachers, some older students that weren’t part of the DA and the delegations from France, Bulgaria and Romania. Over the last few days there had also arrived a small group of witches and wizards from various European countries like Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. When everyone was seated and had quieted down Mad-Eye stood up and faced the crowd.

“Tonight is the night that we expect Voldemort to attack this school. He won’t stop at nothing before he has full control over Hogwarts. It is our duty to stop him. In a few moments we will leave this room and go to the school grounds. The House-Elves are waiting for us downstairs and the Centaurs are waiting at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The school also has a herd of Hippogriffs and a herd of Thestrals. They will also be assisting during the battle. The members – “

He stopped talking when the door of the Room of Requirement slowly opened and Bill Weasley entered. He quickly walked towards Mad-Eye and whispered something in his ear. “Bring them in.” Mad-Eye grumbled. He turned back to the crowd and said: “It seems that we have gained another group of allies. The Goblins of Gringotts have decided to fight too.”

Bill entered the room again, followed by a large group of Goblins who were all dressed in armours and armed with knives and swords. Harry raised his eyebrows when he recognized the Goblin who was leading them as Ragnok. The manager of Gringotts bank saw Harry and nodded shortly. Harry looked at Bill who merely shrugged and winked at him.

“Alright.” Mad-Eye continued as everyone quieted down again. “As I was saying, only the members of Dumbledore’s Army will stay here. They will make sure that all the younger students, who are still in their common rooms will be brought here safely. Some of them will stay here to keep the students safe, the rest of them will join us in the battle. Harry Potter is the one in charge.” Mad-Eye divided the crowd into smaller groups and appointed a leader in each of them. “Everyone follow me to the grounds.” he said when everyone knew what to do.

Before he left the Room of Requirement, Mad-Eye walked over to Harry, together with the Weasleys, Remus, Tonks and Kingsley. “Good luck, Potter.” he said shortly. Both of his eyes, magical and normal, were looking straight at him. “We all have faith in you.”

Mrs Weasley sniffed loudly and gave them all a bone-crushing hug, even Neville and Luna. “I wish you kids wouldn’t have to do this.” she said tearfully. “You’re so young.”

“It’s going to be okay, mum.” Ginny said, carefully breaking out of her mother’s embrace.

Remus walked towards Harry and pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m not good at this.” the werewolf said softly.

Harry grinned. “That makes two of us.” When he saw Remus’ worried face, he grew more serious. “I’ll be fine, Remus.” he said softly. “Make sure you are too.”

Remus nodded with a serious face. “I will.” He turned around to follow the last Order members out of the room. Tonks was waiting for him by the door. When he had almost reached the door, he turned back to Harry. “When you face him… Remember that your greatest strength is his greatest weakness. Remember that you have much more to live for than him.”

Harry didn’t know what to say, but Remus had already turned around. He took Tonks’ hand and left the Room of Requirement, leaving Harry wondering if he would ever see his last remaining father figure again.

A small hand slipped into his. “Are you alright?” Ginny asked.

“Yeah.” Harry said, pulling himself together. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He turned back to the room and saw that all the members of Dumbledore’s Army were looking at him expectantly.

“Alright, I want at least four members going to every common room to evacuate the students. Lavender, Parvati, Seamus, Dean: you guys take care of the Gryffindor students. Ernie, Zacharias, Hannah and Susan for Hufflepuff and Terry, Michael, Marietta and Cho for Ravenclaw. Draco, Professor Snape is waiting for you in the dungeons. He’s going to let you into the Slytherin common room as you can’t get in there anymore. I’m going to need two volunteers to go with him.”

“We’ll do it.” George said after exchanging a quick look with Fred.

“Excellent.” Harry said. “The rest of us will be waiting here. Be quick.”

It didn’t take long for the Gryffindors and the Ravenclaws to get there, as their common rooms were both on the seventh floor too. It took a while longer for the Hufflepuffs to get back and it took Fred and George nearly half an hour to get the small group of Slytherins to the Room of Requirement.

“What happened?” Harry asked. “Where’s Malfoy?”

“They’re already fighting. And Malfoy took off.” Fred grumbled.

“What do you mean he took off?” Ron said sharply.

“When we arrived in the dungeons Snape was already waiting for us.” George explained. “He let us into the Slytherin common room and left to help the others outside. The moment Snape disappeared out of sight, Malfoy left. We couldn’t go after him, we needed to get this guys here, before the Death Eaters got into the castle.”

Harry nodded. “Good work, guys.” He looked at the small group of Slytherins who were looking around them frightfully. “Where is the rest of them?”

“All the older students left.” George said.

“We searched all of the dormitories. They were all gone.” said Fred.

Hermione gave Harry a meaningful look and he realized that she had come to the same conclusion as he had.

“Alright DA members, gather around. We’ll leave soon.”

“What about Malfoy?” Ginny whispered.

Harry shrugged. “I’m not his babysitter. If he chose to run for it then that is his decision.”

He turned to the members of the DA. “Okay. As we decided, Hannah, Susan and Colin are staying here with the younger students. The rest of you will be going outside with me.” He divided the DA members into small groups. “When we get outside we will spread, but always stick with your group. Don’t go wandering around alone. Keep your coins close to you. If you are cornered and need help urgently, send a message and someone will come and help you.”

Harry took a deep breath and looked at his fellow DA members. “It has been an honour training and fighting with you. We may be fighting older and more experienced wizards today, but remember: we know what we're fighting for. They don't. Good luck, everyone.” He raised his wand . “For Dumbledore.”

The others followed his example, raising their wands.

“For Angelina.”

“For Sirius.”

“Let’s show them what we’re made of.” Seamus said firmly.

They all followed Harry outside the Room of Requirement. Harry quickly looked outside at the first window they passed. The fighting had already broken out. It was a surreal sight. Hippogriffs, Thestrals, Centaurs, Goblins and House-Elves were fighting together with the defenders of the castle against an enormous army of masked Death Eaters, Dementors, Giants, Trolls and other creatures. The violent image made them all realize what they were getting into. Harry reached for Ginny’s hand beside him and squeezed it tight.

“I love you, Ginny.”

“I love you too.” Ginny said softly. Her brown eyes had widened when she saw the sight below them, but when she looked at Harry her face had changed back to the determined expression he knew and loved. She kissed him full on the lips. It was a brief, but probably the most meaningful kiss she had ever given him.

“Let’s go.” he finally said. He didn’t let go of Ginny’s hand as he walked towards the silver staircase. Ron swallowed, grabbed Hermione’s hand and followed them downstairs.

When they reached the double front doors, Ron turned to Hermione. “Hermione, I –“ He didn’t seem to find the words to express himself.

Hermione gave him a weak smile and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “I know. Me too.”

Harry and Ginny raised their eyebrows at each other as they saw the brief exchange between their best friends, but they knew this wasn’t the time to comment.

“Everyone ready?” Harry asked, pointing his wand at the wooden front doors. “Let’s go.”
________________________________________

“There is no greater glory than to die for love.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera)

________________________________________
Chapter 24: The Battle

Ron came to stand next to Harry as their fellow DA members were running outside. He swallowed as he looked at the fighting in front of them.

“Take care of my sister, Harry.” he said softly.

Harry nodded without looking at his best friend. “You take care of mine.” Then he looked at his five best friends who were watching him in expectation. “You guys stay with me.” He pointed his wand at a Death Eater who was about to curse Dean from behind. “Stupefy!”

“It’s Potter!” several shouts followed. A group of about ten Death Eaters immediately charged towards them, sending green and red beams of light their way. The six teenagers were being driven back into the castle’s entrance hall.

“Don’t bother, Potter.” a familiar voice said. “You don’t stand a chance today. You’d better just give up and spare us all a lot of time and trouble.”

“Lucius.” Harry said calmly. “I’m surprised to see you alive. I thought Voldemort would have killed you himself by now.”

“The Dark Lord forgives his most loyal followers.” Lucius said proudly. “And once I have brought you to him, he will forget everything.” Lucius was slowly walking towards Harry.

“Don’t be too sure of yourself.” Harry said. “I’m not an eleven year old girl. I’m a little more experienced than your usual victims.”

Lucius pulled of his mask. Harry almost didn’t recognize the wizard in front of him. He seemed to have aged years since he last saw him and he had a strange, mad look in his eyes. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that! Crucio!”

Harry quickly raised his trusted golden shield and the Cruciatus Curse was deflected harmlessly. “Stupefy!”

Malfoy blocked his stunning spell easily and grinned. “You’ll have to come up with a bit more than that, Potter. A lot of my colleagues seem to think that you might be a lot more powerful than the Dark Lord expects. But I know that you are still just – “

“Sectumsempra!” Harry shouted. Malfoy, who had been too busy taunting Harry didn’t raise his wand in time. He quickly jumped aside but the spell still brushed his shoulder. He started bleeding immediately.

“You little brat!” Malfoy shouted outraged.

Harry was distracted for a moment, when he saw that Ron had trouble keeping up with the two Death Eaters that were fighting him. He quickly took one of them out with a full body bind, but by the time he had turned back to Malfoy, it was too late. Malfoy’s spell hit him in his stomach and he was blown backwards. He landed flat on his back right in front of the marble staircase. All the air was pushed out of his lungs and what was even worse, he had dropped his wand. Malfoy walked towards him, his wand pointed at Harry’s face.

“It’s a pity. Even I thought that you would be more of a challenge, Potter. Incarcer – “

“Stupefy!” shouted a voice coming from above Harry.

Malfoy blocked the spell and cursed. “You!” he said furiously.

Harry quickly grabbed his wand and jumped back to his feet while Malfoy was distracted, but when he saw who had come to his aid, he was rather surprised himself. “You came back.” he said.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m a bloody hero.” Draco grumbled.

“How dare you attack your father!” Lucius shouted. “How dare you defy your master!”

“You’re not my father.” Draco said firmly. “And Voldemort was never my master.”

Lucius cursed loudly and sent a Cruciatus Curse at his son, who deflected it by conjuring the golden shield that Harry had taught him. They duelled viciously until Draco was knocked unconscious.

“You and me again, Potter.” Lucius grinned.

“Don’t count on it.” Ron said from behind him. He had taken out the last Death Eater he was duelling and started fighting Lucius together with Harry. Suddenly a body landed between them, hit by a stunning spell. Harry’s heart sank when he saw it was Luna.

Lucius quickly grabbed Luna’s limp body and put his wand to her throat. “A friend of yours?” he smirked as he saw Harry and Ron’s fearful faces. “It would be a shame if something happened to her, wouldn’t it?”

“If you hurt her, I swear I will kill you.” Harry said.

“I don’t doubt you will.” Lucius said. “But that won’t bring her back, will it?” He laughed when he saw Harry’s helplessness. “Drop your wands!”

Harry and Ron slowly bowed to leave their wands on the ground.

“Avada Kedavra!”

Lucius’ eyes widened. His wand dropped to the floor and he slowly dropped to the ground, dragging Luna’s body with him. When he had fallen, Harry and Ron saw Draco Malfoy, his wand still pointed at where Lucius had been standing.

“Draco!”

The Slytherin was now staring at his father’s body with wide eyes. “I killed him.” he mumbled.

Harry and Ron walked towards him. Hesitatingly, Harry put a hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright?”

Draco nodded slowly. “I did the right thing, right?”

Harry quickly looked at Ron before he answered. “You did what was best. You probably saved Luna’s life. Not to mention mine.”

Ron pointed his wand at Luna. “Rennervate.”

Luna stirred and opened her eyes. Ron kneeled beside her. “Alright?” he asked. “We lost you there for a moment.”

Luna smiled and nodded. “I’m okay.”

“Do you need to see Madam Pomfrey, Luna?” Harry asked concerned. The nurse was also staying in the Room of Requirement during the battle, so she could treat the casualties safely.

“No, I’m fine.” Luna smiled. “I’m not leaving you guys.”

Meanwhile, Ginny, Hermione and Neville were walking towards them. All the Death Eaters that had been fighting them were unconscious and bound in robes, except for Lucius Malfoy.

“Is he –?” Hermione asked.

“Yes.” Harry said. “We had no choice.” He deliberately didn’t mention that it was Draco who had killed his father. He walked towards the other Death Eaters. “Any idea who these guys are?”

“No.” Ginny said. “But they’re not the best fighters. I’m surprised Lucius was with them actually.”

Harry pointed his wand at the nearest unconscious Death Eater. “Ennervate.” He waited patiently until the Death Eater had regained consciousness. “Where is Voldemort?”

The man was watching Harry through his mask with wide eyes, but he didn’t say anything.

“Answer me!” Harry said firmly. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know!” the Death Eater said in a panicked voice. “I don’t know where he is.”

The voice sounded rather familiar to Harry, but he wasn’t sure because he hadn’t heard it that much over the years. When he looked at Malfoy however, he knew he was right. He pulled the mask of the Death Eater’s face and looked at Vincent Crabbe. “Figures.” he mumbled. Realizing Crabbe would indeed know nothing he left him there. “What do you guys think?”

“The Shrieking Shack?” Hermione offered.

Harry wasn’t convinced. “I don’t know. He’s letting his Death Eaters do the dirty work, as expected, but he’d probably want to be close so he could act fast if he needed to.”

“What about the Forbidden Forest?” Ginny said.

“Possibly.” Harry said. “But we’ll need hours to search the whole Forest.”

“Let’s check out the Shrieking Shack first.” Ron suggested. “Voldemort probably knows about the passageway from Wormtail, so he would be rather close.”

“Alright.” Harry agreed. “If he isn’t there, we try the Forbidden Forest.” He walked towards the doors, but before he left the castle, he looked at Malfoy. “What about you?”

“I’m coming.” Malfoy said.

The seven of them left the castle and joined the fighting outside. It was completely dark now, the only light that shone over the grounds was coming from the windows of the castle. They hadn’t set five steps outside when they felt the coldness and despair that could only be coming from one thing. Or in this case ten things. The ten Dementors were quickly gliding towards them, enticed by the hopeful and combative emotions that were radiating from them.

“Expecto Patronum!” seven voices shouted. A stag, a horse, an otter, a terrier, a lion, a hare and a scorpion charged towards the Dementors, who were thrown backwards by the force of the Patronuses.

They quickly made their way towards the Whomping Willow, fighting the Death Eaters that came along their path, but keeping focus on where they needed to go. They had to find Voldemort before too many lives were lost. This war needed to end.

When they had almost reached the Whomping Willow, Harry was distracted by the sight of Remus battling three Death Eaters, struggling to keep up with them. “Stupefy!” he yelled and one of them fell to the ground, unconscious. Ron quickly bound him in robes, while the others took out the other two Death Eaters.

“Thanks.” Remus sighed, wiping the sweat of his brow.

“Where’s Tonks?” Harry asked when he saw Remus was alone.

“She was fighting Rookwood.” Remus said. He tried to sound calm, but Harry knew how worried Remus was about his fiancée. “What about the DA?”

“Everyone’s fine as far as we know.” Harry said. “Now, go find Tonks. We’ll be alright.”

They ran the last few yards towards the Whomping Willow.

“How on earth do you plan to get in there?” Malfoy asked.

Hermione pointed her wand at a twig on the ground. “Wingardium Leviosa.” She guided the twig towards the knot of the tree and suddenly the Willow stopped moving.

“You’re kidding me right.” Malfoy said. “It’s that simple?”

“You have a lot to learn, mate.” Ron said patting his shoulder, before he followed Harry, Ginny and Hermione into the secret passageway. Malfoy raised his eyebrows at Neville and Luna. Neville shrugged and followed the others with Luna and Malfoy closely following him.

Quietly, they followed the passageway that led to Hogsmeade. It took about twenty minutes for them to get there. As Harry had predicted, the Shrieking Shack was as deserted as ever, but they still searched every room. Maybe there was a sign that someone had been there.

“What now?” Ron groaned when they realized that no one had set foot in here since their third year.

“The Forbidden Forest.” Harry said. “It’s the only possibility that I can think of.”

They had only been gone from Hogwarts for about an hour, but when they returned the situation had changed drastically. The Giants, Trolls and Dementors had apparently fled the scene, saving their own skins and a lot of the Death Eaters had been incapacitated. But still it wouldn’t be easy to get to the Forbidden Forest. There was still a lot of fighting going on between them and the edge of the forest. With great effort they pushed their way through the duelling wizards.

“Potter!” A Death Eater jumped in front of them and sent a stunning spell at Harry, which was easily deflected.

“Dolohov.” Harry said, recognizing him from the battle of the one-eyed witch. “I see you recovered quite well from our last encounter. You wouldn’t force me to do that again, would you?”

“Still cocky, aren’t you?” Dolohov sneered. “I must say I was surprised to see you use such magic. Probably learned it from that filthy traitor. Speaking of traitors.” He grinned at Malfoy and before anyone could react, he had pointed his wand at him. “Sectumsempra!”

The curse hit Malfoy in his stomach and he fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. “Neville, Luna, get him inside!” Harry shouted quickly. “Bring him to Madam Pomfrey.”

Neville and Luna quickly did as they were told and Ginny, Ron and Hermione followed Harry’s example, pointing their wands at Dolohov.

“Are you going to kill me?” Dolohov taunted. “Are you going to avenge your new friend?” He pointed his wand at Ginny. “Cruci – “

“Adversum Praecantatio!” Harry shouted before Dolohov could complete his spell. A bright white beam of light shot out of his wand and hit Dolohov in the face. The Death Eater fell to the ground and was screaming out in pain.

Hermione quickly stunned Dolohov and bound him in robes while he was on the ground. “You never showed us that one.” she said to Harry. “Reverse-spell effect?”

“A form of.” he said. “It’s an extremely difficult spell. That’s why I never…”

“You mean to say that he was hit by his own Cruciatus Curse?” Ginny asked.

“Not really.” Harry said. “He just felt the results of his own magic.”

Harry took a minute to catch his breath. The spell had taken more out of him than he had expected. “Come on, we have to go.”

None of them said anything while they were quickly walking towards the Forbidden Forest. They were all thinking about what they had to do, but also about all of their friends who were fighting right now. It would be a miracle if everyone came out unscathed. And Draco was already fighting for his life this very moment.

When they passed Hagrid’s hut, a soft voice called out to them from the gamekeeper’s garden. “Potter! Over here!”

Harry quickly pointed his wand towards where he thought the voice came from. “Who’s there?”

“Come here.” the voice said. “I mean you no harm.”

“Stay behind me.” Harry muttered as he slowly approached Hagrid’s garden. After a few steps he could discern a slim, hooded figure with both hands raised, showing that she wasn’t armed.

“Who are you?” Hermione asked.

Once they were close enough, the figure lowered her hood and Harry recognized her.

“You!” he said, raising his wand again. “What do you want?”

“I have been looking for you for hours.” Narcissa Malfoy said, clearly not impressed by the fact that there were four wands pointed at her. “I have information for you.”

“Why would you want to give information to me? You’re a Death Eater.”

“I was the contact of Dumbledore and Snape inside the Dark Lord’s inner circle, you foolish boy.” Narcissa sneered. “I am the one who warned Snape about tonight.”

“How do I know that you speak the truth?” Harry asked.

Narcissa rolled her eyes. “The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution.*” Harry lowered his wand and Narcissa smirked. “I thought so.”

“Harry?” Ron said carefully.

“She’s telling the truth.” Harry said. “Where is Voldemort?” he asked Narcissa.

“That’s why I was looking for you.” Narcissa said. “But first, where is Draco? Is he alive?”

Harry bowed his head. “As far as we know, he is alive, but he’s hurt. He was hit by a cutting curse from Dolohov.”

“Dolohov.” Narcissa grumbled. “Where is Draco now?”

“Neville and Luna brought him back to the castle. Madam Pomfrey will take care of him.”

“To the castle?” Narcissa paled.

“What? What’s wrong?” Ginny asked sharply.

“The Dark Lord is in the castle. He expected that the members of the Order of the Phoenix would order Potter to stay in the castle while they fought the battle. He used the passageway from Honeydukes, together with his most trusted Death Eaters.”

Harry’s heart sank. He thought about all the younger students in the castle and about Fred, George and Lee who had stayed there to guard the one-eyed witch. And he had sent Neville, Luna and Draco straight towards them.

“We have to go.” he said. “Now.”
________________________________________


*Quote from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

________________________________________
Chapter 25: This Is The End

Harry sent a message to all the DA members to gather in the Great Hall as soon as possible. Then the four of them made their way towards the castle again, leaving Narcissa Malfoy by the edge of the Forbidden Forest. They were extremely relieved when they ran into Mad-Eye and Kingsley on the way. When they had told them what they just heard, Mad-Eye cursed loudly. “I knew it was going too well.” the ex-Auror grumbled.

“I’ll send a message to the rest of the Order.” Kingsley said calmly. “You go ahead with them Mad-Eye.”

Harry saw the silver light of Kingsley’s lynx Patronus out of the corner of his eyes as they quickly made their way towards the castle.

“What if they got into the Room of Requirement?” Hermione said fearfully.

“They can’t have.” Harry said. He was trying to convince himself as much as the others.

“Voldemort knows about the DA, Harry.” Ron said.

“That doesn’t mean he knows where our headquarters is.” Harry said. He took Ginny’s hand and squeezed it softly.

“Fred and George.” Ginny muttered.

“I know.” Harry said softly. “Let’s hope we’re not too late.”

When they were almost at the front doors of the castle, their path was blocked by a group of fifteen Death Eaters. A heated duel broke out between the two groups. If Harry hadn’t been with them, the Death Eaters would probably have little difficulty defeating them, but by protecting his friends and incapacitating four of them, Harry levelled the odds. Suddenly the Death Eaters were falling, hit by arrows coming from their left side. The Centaurs galloped by, snorting angrily and charging towards another group of Death Eaters farther away from the school. The way to the castle now lay open for Harry and his friends and they quickly went inside. The silence of the castle seemed strange and almost sinister after the fighting outside. The only thing they heard were muffled voices coming from the Great Hall.

Harry quickly walked towards the double doors, with Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Mad-Eye in his wake. He had only just entered when someone pulled him into a tight embrace.

“Harry! Thank Merlin, you’re alright.”

“I won’t be if you don’t let me breathe.” Harry said, but he was immensely relieved to see Remus. When the werewolf let go of him, Harry quickly looked around to see who else was there. He was greeted by Tonks, Professors McGonagall and Snape, Hagrid and most of the members of the DA. “Everyone alright?” he asked them. They all nodded and Harry quickly counted them. “We’re six short, not counting Hannah, Susan and Colin.”

“Seamus and Dean aren’t here.” Lavender said. She looked extremely worried.

“We got separated from them outside.” Parvati explained. “We haven’t seen them since.”

Ron cursed loudly.

“Maybe… Maybe they are still fighting outside.” Harry said, not really believing it himself. “It doesn’t have to mean…”

“Who else isn’t here?” Ginny asked after a long silence.

“Draco is upstairs too.” Neville reminded them.

“Is he alright?” Harry asked.

Neville shrugged. “Madam Pomfrey was still treating him when we came here, but she reckoned he would pull through. He has lost a lot of blood…”

Harry nodded. “Thanks for taking him there. If he had stayed outside for much longer…”

“They’re still three people missing.” Hermione spoke up.

“Fred, George and Lee.” Ron said. “You didn’t count them.”

Harry nodded and the fear for his friends came back. He had left the three of them there to wait for Voldemort and his most feared Death Eaters. If something would have happened to them… He was distracted from his worries when the rest of the Weasley family entered, followed by Kingsley and couple of other Order members, including Regulus, Fleur, Cedric and Oliver Wood.

“We have to go.” Harry said, the moment they were all inside. “Voldemort has entered the school through the passageway from Honeydukes, together with his most trusted Death Eaters. He expected me to hide in the castle while the Order fought the Death Eaters outside. This whole battle was just a diversion.”

Mad-Eye took over command and he led the Order members and the members of Dumbledore’s Army out of the Great Hall. The Weasleys didn’t follow them, but walked towards their two youngest children and their friends, together with Fleur, Remus, Tonks, McGonagall and Snape.

“Are you all alright?” Mrs Weasley fretted.

“We’re fine, mum.” Ron reassured her.

Mr Weasley looked at Harry. “Fred and George stayed upstairs, didn’t they?”

Harry nodded, not able to look Mr Weasley in the eye. “I’m sorry.” he mumbled.

“It’s not your fault, Harry.” Remus said softly.

Mr Weasley nodded. “They volunteered for the task. You didn’t force them to stay.”

“Let’s go.” Remus said.

They all left the Great Hall, but before they reached the marble staircase, the front doors of the castle opened again. Two House-Elves were shuffling inside backwards, each dragging a body with them.

“Dobby?” Harry said.

“Master Harry!” Dobby said, looking very relieved to see Harry. “Dobby and Winky have found Harry Potter’s friends, sir. They were being attacked by the bad wizards.”

Harry hurried towards them. His heart sank when he saw the mauled bodies of Dean and Seamus. “Are they – ?”

“They are still alive, Master Harry.” Dobby said quickly. He seemed to be afraid that Harry would punish them. “Dobby and Winky did everything we could.”

“You did very well, Dobby. And you too, Winky.” Harry said, while Mrs Weasley was already examining Dean and Seamus.

“I have to move them.” Mrs Weasley said. “But we can’t get them to Poppy. We don’t know where the Death Eaters are.”

“Bring them to my office.” Snape said. “You’ll be relatively safe there.”

Mrs Weasley nodded and conjured two stretchers to move Dean and Seamus to the dungeons. “I’ll help you.” Fleur said quickly and Mrs Weasley nodded gratefully.

Harry turned to the two House-Elves who were still looking at the wizards fearfully. “Dobby, Winky, I want you two to go with them. Do everything you can to help them. Alright?”

Winky nodded fervently and Dobby said: “Of course, Master Harry!”

When they had disappeared in the direction of the dungeons, the rest of them quickly climbed the marble staircases towards the third floor. When they arrived at the corridor of the one-eyed witch however, it was deserted, except for three bodies lying on the floor.

“No!” Ron said, recognizing his brothers. He ran towards them and kneeled beside them. “They’re alive!” he said relieved.

“Oh, thank God.” Ginny mumbled.

“Harry?” Hermione said anxiously, looking at her best friend who was kneeling beside the body of Lee Jordan. He looked up at them and slowly shook his head.

Ron groaned. He revived Fred and George and the twins slowly opened their eyes. “Lee.” George, said the moment he saw who had found them.

“I’m so sorry.” Ron said softly.

“They took us by surprise.” Fred said. He didn’t seem to be able to tear his eyes away from the body of one of his best friends. “Lee… He never knew what was coming.”

“They were looking for you, mate.” George said to Harry. “They thought you were in the castle.”

“I know.” Harry said. “That’s why we’re here. But we have no idea where they are.”

“Let’s go back to the Room of Requirement.” Ginny offered. “We’ll be sure that everyone is alright then. And you can check the Marauder’s Map while you’re there.”

Harry looked at Professor McGonagall, who nodded. “Alright. This way.” He led his friends to a secret passageway behind the tapestry of Uric the Oddball, who was wearing a jellyfish as a hat. Where the passageway ended, there was a spiral staircase leading directly to the corridor of the Room of Requirement on the seventh floor. His heart was in his mouth as he opened the door of the DA headquarters.

The Room was full of activity. Madam Pomfrey was busy treating all the casualties from the battle, assisted as much as possible by some of the students. Harry quickly searched the Room until he found Colin.

“Colin! Everything alright here?” he asked as Colin was quickly walking towards them.

Colin nodded. “No Death Eater has gotten in here, but there are a lot of casualties.”

“How’s Draco?” Harry asked.

“He’s alright. He’s been nagging Madam Pomfrey to leave for an hour, but she won’t let him.”

“Anyone else?”

Colin grew sad at the question. “Madam Hooch died. She was hit by a cutting curse too, but she had already lost too much blood by the time they got her here. Madam Pomfrey couldn’t do anything.”

“Harry!” Remus hurried towards him, holding the Marauder’s Map. “Voldemort is in the Great Hall.”

“What? How is that even possible?”

“We must have crossed them somehow.” Remus said. “Look.”

He handed Harry the Map and indeed, the Great Hall was crowded with dots. The rest of the castle seemed to be deserted, except for the six dots in the bottom left corner of the Map. He saw that a lot of Order members and DA members were fighting the Death Eaters, who had been joined by the remaining Death Eaters that had been fighting outside.

They quickly left the Room of Requirement and hurried downstairs towards the Great Hall. Before he followed the others inside, he took Ginny’s hand and stopped her. “Ginny, I…”

Ginny grabbed the front of his robes and pulled him towards her, kissing him passionately. “I love you too.”

Together they entered the Great Hall and were immediately embarked in a duel with Alecto and Amycus Carrow. While he was duelling the brother and sister alongside Ginny, Harry tried to search the Great Hall for Voldemort. He wanted to end this as quickly as possible, before any more lives were lost. Finally, Harry saw him. He was at the other side of the Hall, on the platform where the staff table stood. He was duelling no less than three opponents at once. Kingsley and Professor McGonagall were both very skilled duellists, but weren’t able to harm him. Harry recognized Voldemort’s third opponent from one of the memory’s Dumbledore had shown him during their lessons. It was Horace Slughorn, the old Potions Master who talked with Tom Riddle about Horcruxes.

“Impedimenta!” Amycus squealed like a pig as he was hit backwards by Harry’s jinx. Meanwhile, Ginny had succeeded in disarming his sister and quickly stunned her. Harry moved towards the other end of the Great Hall, but two figures jumped in front of them.

“Potter!”

“Not you again.” Harry sighed as he recognized Dolohov.

Dolohov grinned at him. “Get the Dark Lord.” he hissed to Rookwood, who was standing beside him. I will take care of Potter for now.”

Rookwood grinned too and made his way through the fighting crowd towards the staff table. He wasn’t even halfway there however, when a Killing Curse hit him in the back.

Meanwhile Harry was driving Dolohov up the wall. “You keep underestimating me.” he said. “Stupefy!” The red beam of light hit Dolohov in the face and he crumpled to the ground. Harry turned around, looking for Voldemort and Ginny. The first one was still duelling the same three opponents, but Ginny was duelling with Bellatrix Lestrange and her brother-in-law Rabastan. His heart turned to ice when he heard Bellatrix’ cackling laugh. He knew how much satisfaction she would get from killing Harry’s girlfriend. He quickly made his way towards her, but his path was crossed by Gregory Goyle, Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott.

“There you are, Potty.” Pansy said tauntingly.

“What the hell are you guys doing here?” Harry asked. “Since when is Voldemort recruiting morons freshly out of Hogwarts?”

“Don’t say his name.” Goyle snapped. “Crucio.” The curse missed Harry by a couple of feet.

Harry had little difficulty keeping up with the three Slytherins. He quickly managed to disarm Nott and was about to take him out with a stunning spell, when he was distracted by something that happened behind him. Bellatrix had fired a Killing Curse at Ginny that only missed her by a few inches. Anger exploded in his chest and his three opponents were thrown backwards by an unknown force.

“Reducto!” Harry’s curse narrowly missed, but it had the desired effect. Bellatrix turned her focus from Ginny to Harry. She smiled and pointed her wand at him.

“Sectumsempra!” Ginny’s curse hit Bellatrix in her throat. She was killed instantly.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked. Ginny nodded, but was still shaking. There wasn’t time to catch their breath however, as the death of Bellatrix had finally attracted Voldemort’s attention. Furiously, he tried to get to Harry, but they were still separated by a lot of Order members and DA members.

Meanwhile Harry was engaged in a duel with Nott Sr. Apparently his son had been killed inadvertently by Harry and Nott was determined to get revenge. “You can’t win from us, Potter!” he raged.

“Is that so? It seems that you are one of the last Death Eaters standing though.”

Nott grinned. “Maybe. But at least I was able to kill that pathetic little Auror who wanted to marry your Werewolf friend.”

Harry’s heart sank and he lowered his wand for a moment. That was enough for Nott to fire a cutting curse at him.

“Harry, look out!” Ron pushed him aside and conjured a shield. The curse was deflected and hit George Weasley in the arm.

Nott was suddenly hit by a stunning spell and Mad-Eye Moody calmly walked towards them. “Constant vigilance, Potter.” Mad-Eye grumbled.

The words had barely left his mouth when the ex-Auror was hit in the back by a Killing Curse. Voldemort grinned as Mad-Eye fell at his feet. “Good evening, Harry.”

“Coward!” Harry yelled at him. “Sectumsempra!”

Voldemort blocked his curse with a lazy wave of his wand. “Don’t bother, Potter.” he sneered. “You can’t win from me. No one can win from me.”

“We’ll see about that.” Harry muttered.

Voldemort laughed. A high, humourless laugh. “You cannot kill me, Harry. There is no person in this world who can kill me.”

“You would think that, wouldn’t you Tom?”

“What are you talking about?” Voldemort narrowed his eyes.

“I guess you didn’t find it necessary to check on the rest of them after I killed your snake.”

Voldemort’s eyes widened in horror. “You know?”

“Of course I know.” Harry said. “Do you really think that Dumbledore would never find out about your secret? We found them all, Tom. We found them and we destroyed them. You’re just as mortal as any person in this Hall.”

“It doesn’t matter!” Voldemort said furiously. “It doesn’t matter if I’m mortal or not. The idea that a 16-year old wizard would be powerful enough to defeat the most feared wizard of all time is ridiculous. Avada Kedavra!”

Harry’s golden shield easily deflected the Killing Curse. Meanwhile, the people in the room who were still standing had formed a large circle around them.

“This is the end, Tom.” Harry said. “It’s over. None of your Death Eaters are standing anymore. You’re all alone.”

“I have always been alone.” Voldemort sneered. “Trusting people is what leads to failure.”

“Like trusting Severus Snape to stay loyal to you after you killed two of his old friends?”

“I will deal with Snape later!” Voldemort said firmly. “First I will finish what I started fifteen years ago. Avada Kedavra!”

“Stupefy!”

The two spells hit each other mid-air. Harry’s wand suddenly was connected with Voldemort’s wand by a beam of light. The green and red of the spells had disappeared and the beam of light was now bright gold. Suddenly the two wands started vibrating heavily. A large dome formed around them, in the same golden colour as the beam of light that was connecting the two wands. Slowly, both Harry and Voldemort’s feet came off the ground.

“What are you doing?” Voldemort said and for the first time, Harry heard something like panic in his voice. “What is this magic?”

Harry didn’t say anything. They were now steadily floating towards the entrance hall and soon, they were outside on the grounds again. Suddenly they landed, but the golden cage didn’t disappear. Distinct voices told Harry that the defenders of the castle had followed them outside, but they couldn’t possibly break through the dome, even if they had wanted to.

Suddenly Voldemort roared furiously and violently jerked up his wand, breaking the connection between them. Both wizards were hit back several yards. Harry dropped his wand and landed flat on his back. He quickly sat up and searched for his wand frantically, but it was already too late. Voldemort had jumped to his feet immediately and was now walking towards him with his wand pointed at his face. “It seems that you were right about one thing, Potter.” he said with a hideous grin on his face. “This is the end.”

Harry closed his eyes and waited for the fatal blow, but then he heard it. The sound that he had heard only once before in his entire life. The most beautiful sound he ever heard and ever would hear. The sound of hope. The sound of Dumbledore watching over him.

He opened his eyes and saw that Voldemort was looking around him frantically. Suddenly something fell before Harry in the grass and Fawkes landed heavily on his shoulder. His talons softly clawed in Harry’s flesh.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Voldemort asked, but Harry’s heart jumped when he saw what Fawkes had dropped in front of him. He quickly picked up the Sorting Hat and without hesitance he pulled out the Sword of Godric Gryffindor. Voldemort’s eyes widened, but before he had raised his wand again, Harry had jumped to his feet. The blade of the sword sank deep into Voldemort’s chest. He looked down at his chest unbelievingly. Slowly, he dropped to his knees and looked up at Harry, defeated. Laying by the feet of The Boy Who Lived, the Dark Lord breathed his last.
________________________________________


Harry opened his eyes. He felt like he had been asleep for days. Suddenly images of the final battle came back to him. Mad-Eye, Bellatrix, Nott, Lucius, Voldemort, Draco, Ginny… He quickly sat up straight.

“You’re awake!” Ginny’s voice came from beside him. She nearly jumped at him and hugged him tight, kissing the top of his head. “You did it, Harry. It’s over!”

Harry carefully let go of Ginny and looked around him. He realized that he was in the hospital wing, but he had no idea how he got there. The last thing he remembered was stabbing Voldemort with the Sword of Gryffindor. He looked at the people who were sitting beside his bed. Besides Ginny, there was also Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna, Remus and Professor McGonagall. They all seemed to be eager to follow Ginny’s example, but showed a little more restraint.

“What happened?” Harry asked.

“What happened is that you saved our world.” Remus said calmly, giving him a weak smile. “You killed Voldemort. The battle had taken a lot out of you and you kind of… passed out. You have been in here for almost two days.”

“Remus, where is Tonks?” Harry asked urgently when he remembered what Nott had said during the battle.

Remus’ face darkened a bit, but he tried to smile reassuringly. “Nott hit her with a cutting curse, but she survived.”

“Is she alright?”

Now Remus succeeded in giving him a real smile. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?” He gestured to the bed on the other side of Harry.

“Wotcher, Harry.” Tonks winked. “About time you woke up. It’s incredibly boring here by myself.”

Harry smiled at her. He had never been more happy to see Tonks than right now. “I’m so glad you’re okay.” he said.

Tonks grinned. “Don’t you worry about me. Nott never really was great with his aim.”

“What about the others?” he asked. “Is everyone else alright?”

Their faces fell and Harry looked at them anxiously, waiting for the bad news, but before they could say anything, Madam Pomfrey came and sent them all away so Harry could rest.

“I’m staying.” Ginny said stubbornly.

Madam Pomfrey wanted to protest, but she realized it would be no good. “Just as well.” she mumbled. “How are you feeling, Potter?” she asked as she felt Harry’s brow.

“I’m fine. Really.” Harry said quickly. When Madam Pomfrey had left, Harry took Ginny’s hand. “Ginny?”

She didn’t have to ask what he wanted to know. She sat down on the rim of his bed. “Mad-Eye was killed by Voldemort, so was Lee. Bellatrix killed Regulus before she came after me. Katie… Katie was killed by Goyle.”

“By Goyle?” Harry grumbled. “How?”

“He cursed her from behind. She didn’t have a chance.” Ginny said softly.

Harry shook his head. He knew Goyle would have never been able to harm Katie in a fair duel. “What about Seamus and Dean?”

Ginny bowed her head. “Mum was able to rescue Seamus, but Dean… He didn’t make it.”

Harry’s heart sank. Dean had been his roommate for six years. They would be starting their N.E.W.T. year together in September, but now their dormitory would always be one boy short. “Anyone else?” he asked after a long silence.

Ginny shook her head. “No one else from the DA or that we know from the Order, but…”

“What is it?” Harry asked carefully.

“It’s Padma.” Ginny said. “She was kissed by a Dementor. No one knows how it happened. She was one of the first who could produce a Patronus in the DA. She hadn’t had any problems with it for months.”

“That’s awful.” Harry muttered.

“And George lost a hand.”

“Lost a hand?!”

Ginny nodded. “He was hit in the arm by a Sectumsempra curse. It’s impossible to let it grow back. Dark Magic…”

Harry nodded. “How is he?”

“Fine actually. You know how he is. He’s already joking about it. Lee’s death hit him a lot harder.” Ginny lay down on the bed beside Harry and pulled him close. “But it’s over.” she said. “We can have a future now. And I guess we have a wedding to look forward to.”

Harry paled and Ginny couldn’t help but smile at the expression on his face. “I meant Remus and Tonks!” she said.

“Oh right.” Harry said dumbly. He looked at the sleeping form of Tonks in the bed next to him. “Yes. I’m certainly looking forward to that.” He turned back to Ginny and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. “I’m going to marry you one day, though.”

“You’d better.” Ginny said. “And in the meantime? You still want to be an Auror?”

“I guess so…” Harry said slowly. “It’s the only career I ever actually considered. But first I’m looking forward to finally have a quiet year at Hogwarts.”

“Don’t count on it.”
________________________________________

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it will always be an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.” – Jimmy Carter
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A/N: This was the last chapter of this story. I wasn’t planning on writing an epilogue, but I think I will add a short one, just to give a glimpse of the future. I want to thank everyone who has followed both ‘What If’ and ‘This Is The End’ until the very end. Especially those who were kind enough to leave (a) review(s).

Teddy1993

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Epilogue: 38 years later

Harry Potter was sitting at his desk in his new office. He had been reading the Daily Prophet, but couldn’t really concentrate. Even at the age of 55, the saviour of the wizarding world still felt nervous to start with a new job. He turned around to look at the portraits that hung behind him. His two predecessors were looking down at him smiling.

“Are you ready for your first day, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.

Harry nodded. “I think I am. But I’ll have a hard time following two of the greatest headmasters that Hogwarts has ever seen.”

McGonagall smiled lovingly at her successor. “You will do great, Harry.” she said friendly. “I don’t think there is one person in this world that cares more about this school than you do.”

“You have our full support.” Dumbledore smiled.

They were quickly backed up by various other portraits. “All of us strongly approve of the choice the school board made.” the voice of Armando Dippet said firmly.

“The only right decision.” said the friendly voice of Newt Scamander.

“Thank you all.” Harry smiled. He looked at the portrait of the last headmaster that had ever been sorted into Slytherin. “Even you, Phineas?”

“I suppose so.” Phineas said silkily. “Despite the fact that you are the third headmaster in a row that comes out of Gryffindor!”

Harry grinned. He stood up from his chair and walked towards the window. He looked down at the lake. In one year, two graves had been added next to the one of Dumbledore. His heart filled with sadness as he thought about the passing of one his oldest friends and probably the most loyal man he had ever known. He had been the one to tell Harry that he was a wizard and who had made him accustomed to the wizarding world. He turned around and saw that Dumbledore was looking at him with a comprehending smile.

“He lived a long and happy life, Harry.”

“I know he did.” Harry smiled. Before he could say anything else, someone softly knocked on the door of his office. “Come in.”

The door opened and Neville Longbottom, the new head of Gryffindor house and deputy headmaster entered. “The students have arrived in Hogsmeade, Harry.”

Harry nodded. He walked towards the shelf where he kept the Sorting Hat, above the show case that held the sword of Godric Gryffindor.

“Are you alright?” Neville asked as Harry handed him the Sorting Hat.

“Yeah, sure.” Harry smiled. “It’s just… weird.”

“Yeah, I know.” Neville said understandingly. His eyes moved towards the portraits that hung right behind Harry’s desk. He smiled when he saw that both Dumbledore and McGonagall were awake.

“Good evening, Neville. Harry told me he chose you to take over his tasks now that he is headmaster.” McGonagall said. “I must say that I strongly approve of his choice.”

“Thank you, Minerva. That really means a lot.” Neville smiled. “I’d better go, Harry. Charlie will be arriving with the students soon.”

“Alright, Neville. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

After Neville left, Harry walked towards Fawkes and absent-mindedly stroked his scarlet and golden feathers. After a few minutes he walked to his desk, opened the top drawer and took the golden coin that lay on top of a pile of parchment. He looked at it for a moment, before he put it in his inside pocket.

“Here I go.” he said softly. When he reached the door, he turned around one more time and looked at Dumbledore and McGonagall. “Thanks.” he said. “For everything.”
________________________________________

“Good evening and welcome for another year at Hogwarts. As you probably all know, our dearest headmistress Professor McGonagall has regretfully passed away over the summer. I have been appointed to be your new headmaster and I sincerely hope that this decision meets with your approval.”

A thunderous applause rose from the students. Harry smiled and raised his hands. “Thank you.”

He cleared his throat before he continued. “I can announce now that our Herbology teacher, Professor Longbottom, will be taking over my duties as deputy headmaster and head of Gryffindor House.” The students at the far left table clapped enthusiastically at that news.

“It is also my pleasure to introduce to you our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: Professor Ted Lupin.” Harry’s godson, who was seated at the far end of the staff table, rose from his chair and bowed towards the students, who were applauding politely.

“I will not bore you any longer while you are all hungry enough to eat a Hippogriff. I just want to finish with these few words. Nitwit, blubber, oddment and tweak. Tuck in!”*
________________________________________

“No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best, do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – J.K. Rowling
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A/N: I’m sorry this last chapter is very short. I didn’t actually plan to write it, but I wanted to include a look into the future. Now this really is the end… I don’t know when I will be posting a new story, but I will definitely keep writing. Thanks again to all of you who read the story and a big thanks to all the people who left a review. I appreciated every comment!

Teddy1993

*Quote from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (page 92), by J.K. Rowling.

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The end.
2 comments

Anonymous readerReport

2014-04-19 05:16:01
I concur

Anonymous readerReport

2014-04-11 08:52:32
please keep writing your the best author on this site
your work is really unbelievable and realistic

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