Disclaimer – The usual rules apply. I don’t own any of this and I would never dream of trying to take credit for, or make any money from, the wonderful world bequeathed to us by J.K. Rowling.
Harry gently closed the door to Dumbledore’s old office, cutting off the last round of applause and well wishes from the portraits within. He paused and took a deep breath. Never in his life – not even in the midst of the past year’s harrowing adventures – had he ever felt such exhaustion.
He glanced over at Ron and Hermione, knowing they must be equally drained. Despite the quick smiles they flashed him, there was no hiding the dark circles under their eyes.
“C’mon,” Harry muttered, stepping onto the revolving staircase.
As he descended toward the hallway outside the headmaster’s office, a thousand thoughts flashed through his brain like streaks of lightening.
It’s over! No more summer exile with the Dursleys… No more running and hiding like an animal… No more glancing over his shoulder, wondering whether death would spring from the shadows… No more terror at the thought of his friends in mortal peril… His friends…
Harry turned to look back at Hermione and Ron, and as he did so, a wave of dizziness struck him. Tiny black spots appeared before his eyes and began to merge, threatening to blot out his surroundings.
Harry swayed slightly and had to grab the wall as the staircase deposited him at the hallway. He slid to the floor and closed his eyes, leaning his back against the wall.
Instantly, his two friends were kneeling on either side of him. Ron began gently shaking Harry’s left shoulder. “Harry… Hey! Are you okay, mate?” he asked hoarsely.
Harry felt gentle hands on his face and heard Hermione speaking in an increasingly shrill voice.
“Harry! Harry! Wake up! What’s wrong?” she cried.
Harry slowly opened his eyes and gazed blearily at Hermione, whose eyes were wide with fear. All of the blood seemed to have drained from Ron’s face, causing his freckles to stand out sharply.
“It’s all right,” he said softly after a few seconds. “For a minute, I just seemed to be drifting away.”
Hermione’s hands flew to her face, and panic enveloped her. “Oh God, Harry! No! Don’t you dare think of leaving us now, not after you’ve made it through all of this! Ron, go get Madame Pomfrey. Now!”
As Ron started to bolt down the hallway, Harry reached up and caught his sleeve.
“Wait!” he said with all the force he could muster. “It’s not like that. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here to stay.”
Ron hesitated, and Hermione looked unconvinced, wringing her hands.
“Just sit down for a minute,” Harry said, glancing at Ron. Reluctantly, his friend obeyed.
“I’m just tired,” Harry went on, stifling a huge yawn.
Ron snorted. “Can’t imagine why. None of us have slept in God knows when, we’ve fought the battle of our lives in the last twelve hours, and oh yeah, Harry, you took a Killing Curse.”
Harry chuckled softly at his friend’s sarcasm, and even Hermione’s mouth quirked upward briefly before a worried expression stole back over her face.
“Harry,” she said, once again gazing into his emerald eyes. “Are you sure you’re all right? I-I just can’t help worrying. I mean, we’re talking about the Avada Kedavra. No one’s ever survived it before, and now you’ve done it twice! We don’t know if there are any sorts of side effects or…”
Harry shook his head slowly. “When I talked to Dumbledore in the, well, wherever it was, he thought I’d be okay because I hadn’t tried to fight off the curse. And really, Hermione, I do feel fine. It’s just, for a minute there I thought was going to drop off while I was standing up. I think I could curl up right here and sleep for a week.”
Hermione seemed somewhat mollified, but still was casting apprehensive looks at him. Ron seemed equally anxious.
Harry gazed at them for a few seconds, reflecting on how truly fortunate he was to have two such devoted friends. They had spent the last seven years alongside him enduring every trial and tribulation imaginable. They had stood by him, and thank Merlin, they had survived.
Harry thought briefly of his recent conversation in the afterlife with Dumbledore, and was pained to realize that he’d missed his last opportunity to find out more about his mentor’s life and dreams and hopes. There was so much he’d wanted to say. He’d wanted to tell the old man how much he’d loved and respected him, but now the chance was gone.
Suddenly, his mind drifted back to Sirius, and he realized he’d never truly told his godfather how deep his feelings ran for him. Now Harry glanced back up at his two best friends, and before he knew what he was doing, his thoughts came tumbling forth.
“Look, th-there’s something I need to say. I- Thanks, thanks for coming with me. I know this has been an awful year for both of you. Hermione, I’m sorry you didn’t get to come back for our last year at Hogwarts. I know how much school means to you, and it got all bollixed up.”
Ron and Hermione opened their mouths to protest, but Harry held up his hands.
“Let me finish. Ron, I’m sorry you missed out on the Quidditch season. And I’m sorry you had to spend months in a drafty tent wondering whether your family was alive or dead. I’m going to find a way to make all this up to you both, I promise.”
Now that he’d started, Harry couldn’t seem to stop, and the words began to flow faster.
“I am so incredibly lucky to have two friends like you. You’d both probably have been better off if you’d never wandered into that compartment on the Hogwarts Express all those years ago, but I’m so glad you did. The worst thing about walking alone into the Forbidden Forest last night was knowing that I’d never see you and Ginny again. Y-you both mean the world to me, and I…”
Harry’s eyes began to sting as he dropped his gaze to the floor. A Bludger-sized lump appeared in his throat, making it impossible to talk. His vision suddenly blurred, and he tightly pressed his lips together in a futile effort to choke back a sob.
A dam inside him broke, and tears of gratitude, pain and joy began flowing down his cheeks. Once again, Harry felt a gentle touch, and then Hermione leaned over and tenderly kissed his scar before breaking down.
“H-H-Harry… I’m s-so s-sorry you had to go through that. Es-s-specially all by yourself. I wish we could have done something to h-help you, or to ease the burden.”
Harry felt a painful squeeze on his left shoulder and glanced over at Ron. Ron’s eyes were wet, and he was struggling to speak.
“Don’t ever say… that we shouldn’t have stopped in that compartment that day,” the red-headed boy said, his jaw clenching. “If it hadn’t been for you, and all the trouble you got us into, I wouldn’t be half the guy I am today. And I wouldn’t have got to know Hermione…”
And suddenly Harry grabbed Ron and Hermione and pulled them both into a fierce hug. How long the three of them sat there, sobbing with relief, none of them knew. At last, the waves of emotion receded, and they all sat back, drawing long, shuddering breaths. Finally, Hermione spoke. “Well, now what?”
Harry swallowed and wiped his eyes again. “I dunno,” he replied. “All I want to do now is get some rest. And avoid that crowd in the Great Hall.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ron said. “But there’s one person in that Hall that you can’t avoid any longer, and if we don’t get you down there to her soon, she’ll hex all of us into next week. Think you can stay on your feet long enough to see her?”
A slow grin spread across Harry’s face. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s a trip I can make.”
He noted with amusement that Hermione’s eyes were shining as she gazed at Ron. Clearly the youngest Weasley son truly had learned some of the lessons of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches.
“C’mon,” Ron said, getting to his feet and giving Harry and Hermione a hand up. The three then linked arms – Ron and Hermione, like protectors, on either side of Harry – and headed toward the Great Hall.
It was a long walk. The halls were filled with people, all of whom rushed to Harry the minute they spotted him – wanting to hug him, shake his hand, thank him for lifting a cloud from the Wizarding World.
Harry was pleased to see that lots of praise and thanks also were flowing to his two best friends, both of whom had for too long been eclipsed by the myth of “The Boy Who Lived.” And if all went well, they and several other people would be sharing a lot more of the credit for the final victory.
At last they reached the Great Hall. Hundreds of people were milling about inside. Some were mourning the dead. Others were tending the wounded. Efforts were already under way to clean up the damage from the battle. The house-elves clearly were back at work, as there was food on many of the tables.
But the bulk of the crowd was laughing, crying, reveling in the knowledge that Voldemort was gone for good. That never again would he sow chaos and terror across the land. The Threesome hesitated for a moment in the doorway. Harry glanced about uncertainly. He wanted one thing now – to find Ginny and slip away quietly. Ron gave him a nudge, and he stepped into the Hall.
For a split second, all conversation died. And with a mighty cheer, the crowd surged toward him.
Ron and Hermione stepped up beside Harry, doing their best to serve as a protective phalanx, but they were quickly overwhelmed. The best they could do was hang on to his arms and try to steer him deeper into the Great Hall. Hundreds of hands were now touching Harry’s face, body and hair. Overlapping shouts of thanksgiving and praise seemed to overload his senses, and the noise began to fade into to a dull rumble.
Harry tried his best to respond politely, but only one thought filled his head… Ginny. His heart was beating so fast he thought it would burst. Eagerly, he began scanning the Hall for her. The crowd pushed tighter and tighter against him, constricting his field of vision. And then in a corner of the Hall, he spotted a sea of red hair, and began making his way toward it, tugging Ron and Hermione along in his wake.
The Weasleys had all risen and were standing together in a knot, waiting as he approached. But the human wall was so dense that Harry could scarcely move. And there she was! Ginny had now broken off from herefamily and was trying to elbow her way through the crowd.
Suddenly, a loud bang echoed around the Hall and a stream of gold sparks shot toward the enchanted ceiling. Harry started and glanced back, his eyes widening as he realized that Ron had drawn his wand.
“Oi!” Ron shouted. “Give the man some breathing room! He’s beat! And you over there, clear out a bit, that’s my little sister trying to get through!.”
The crowd fell back from Harry, Hermione and Ron and then parted, leaving a clear path and giving Harry an unobstructed view of Ginny. Their eyes locked and some silent communication passed between them. Harry started to walk toward her but his breath hitched and he suddenly found himself unable to move.
And now Ginny was running toward him. Once again that hard, blazing look was on her face. She sprinted the last few steps and leapt into his arms, wrapping herself tightly around him.
Without thinking or hesitating, Harry kissed her as he never had before. It was a tender kiss, full of promise that quickly built in intensity.
Harry didn’t hear the roars of approval and smattering of wolf-whistles that exploded around him. Didn’t care that he was passionately kissing the first Weasley daughter in generations in plain view of her parents. Didn’t worry that there surely would be hell to pay when her brothers got hold of him later.
At last, at last he was free. Free to live and love as he’d always dreamed.
Finally their lips parted, and Harry and Ginny gazed deeply into each other’s eyes. Harry pulled her head against his chest and gently rested his chin there, contentedly closing his eyes for a moment.
Unknown hands were pounding his back, but his eyes were focused solely on the Weasley Clan.
Bill had an expression of wry amusement on his face, while Fleur’s eyes shone brightly. Percy’s mouth was open in shock, while Charlie appeared slightly ill. There was no sign of George.
At last Harry’s gaze came to rest on his surrogate parents for the past six years. Mr. Weasley looked very old and tired as he wrapped his arm around his wife, but there was a knowing gleam in his eyes as he gave Harry a little nod of approval. Mrs. Weasley smiled tremulously, even as tears glided down her face.
Harry slipped his arm over Ginny’s shoulders and she snaked her arm around his waist. Slowly they moved toward their family, Hermione and Ron walking arm-in-arm behind them.
At least they reached them. Mr. Weasley immediately stepped forward and grasped Harry’s hand with both of his own. “Thank you, Harry,” he said in a husky voice. “Thank you. You have saved us all.”
Harry looked past Mr. Weasley and saw Fred’s body peacefully stretched out on a bench. Suddenly, Harry couldn’t speak. He had not saved them all. He had failed Fred, and Tonks… and Lupin. Harry turned to Mrs. Weasley – wanting, needing to apologize for so much.
“Mrs. Weasley,” he said with a trembling voice. “I-I’m sorry… for so many things. I’m sorry for worrying you, for dragging Ron off without telling you where we were going. I’m sorry I got Fre-”
But Mrs. Weasley had dragged him into a rib-cracking hug. “Don’t you dare apologize for anything, Harry Potter,” she whispered fiercely. “None of this was your fault. You’ve saved us from the most dangerous Dark Wizard of all time. We owe you our lives. My F-Fred died fighting for what was right.”
And now all of the rest of the Weasleys and Hermione had gathered around him in an enormous group hug. Even George had appeared and was patting Harry’s back and gently ruffling his hair.
At last the group broke apart. Mrs. Weasley dried her tears and suddenly cast a critical eye over Harry. As she did so, the energy that had been keeping him going seemed to evaporate. Harry swayed slightly. Mr. Weasley and George both reached out and steadied him.
“You’re much too thin,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly. “You haven’t been eating properly lately, have you?”
“And the same goes for you two,” she added, glaring at Ron and Hermione, who had begun to snigger. “I can see I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Mrs. Weasley drew Harry to her once again. “Let’s get you home, Harry,” she said quietly. “You need a good meal and some sleep.”
Ginny had slipped her arm back around Harry’s waist, while Mr. Weasley kept his hand on Harry’s left elbow. “We’ll walk out the front gate and Disapparate back to the Burrow,” Mr. Weasley said. “Think you’re up to that, Harry?” Harry nodded wearily.
Mrs. Weasley glanced back at Fred’s body, a sorrowful look on her face. Percy stepped forward. “Don’t worry, Mother,” he said gently. “I’ll help George bring Fred home.” George nodded in agreement.
Harry and the Weasleys turned and began making their way across the Great Hall. Once again the throng pressed in around them. Suddenly Kingsley Shacklebolt had appeared at Harry’s side. Drawing his wand, he pointed it at his throat. “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please,” he said, his deep voice echoing around the Great Hall. The crowd quickly grew silent. “This young man,” he said, gesturing at Harry, “is exhausted. I’m asking you all to make way so that he can get out of here and get some much-needed rest.”
Harry felt his heart swell with affection for the tall, dark-skinned Auror. A chorus of groans erupted from the crowd, but Kingsley silenced them by holding up his hands. “As Acting Minister of Magic, let me assure you all that in the near future, there will be a series of ceremonies at which you’ll have ample opportunity to thank this fine young man, who has saved…”
At these words Harry fumbled for his wand, pulled it out, pointed it at his own throat and muttered “Sonorus.”
“Wait, Kingsley, wait!” he said, instantly silencing the crowd. Kingsley nodded. Harry looked out at the sea of faces, took a deep breath and began to speak.
“I-I didn’t do this on my own. There are a lot of people who deserve just as much credit as I do for beating Voldemort.” A few screams rang out, and there was an audible gasp from the crowd – all of which acted like a shot of adrenaline on Harry.
“Oh, good grief! He’s dead! Didn’t any of you learn anything from Dumbledore? Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself, and there’s nothing to fear from that twisted wreck,” Harry said, gesturing toward the room containing Voldemort’s body. “Say it with me, people – Voldemort! No, better yet, Tom Riddle!”
By now the entire crowd was gaping at Harry in silence. He shook his head and continued.
“Look, the important thing is that you know a lot of people made this victory possible. If it wasn’t for Ron Weasley, I’d have never survived this past year. Ron saved my life more than once.” Ron blushed scarlet at these words, but Harry plunged ahead.
“And Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born… it was her brains that helped us put together all the clues and got us out of a lot of sticky situations. Remember that the next time you hear somebody talking about the need to keep bloodlines pure.” Hermione’s eyes were suspiciously bright as a wave of applause broke and Ron pulled her close for a quick kiss.
After a moment, Harry raised his hands for quiet and then continued. “And all of us owe a debt to Dumbledore’s Army – a group of Hogwarts students who did everything they could to resist the Death Eaters here at the school.”
More applause. Harry’s eyes were searching the crowd, until they finally found the person he was seeking.
“I also want to thank Neville Longbottom for his bravery. Not only did he lead Dumbledore’s Army this year, he helped end the battle today by killing Tom’s snake, Nagini. If that hadn’t happened, we’d still be fighting.” Neville stiffened, clearly embarrassed, as all eyes in the Hall turned to him and then a mass of students swarmed him – shaking his hand and hugging him. Harry smiled at the sight before continuing.
“There’s one other person who deserves a lot of praise,” he said, now struggling with the words. “Professor Snape…” A low rumble of disagreements rippled through the crowd.
“No, listen!” Harry said sharply. “Everything he did that seemed so bad, he was doing on Dumbledore’s orders. He spent the past three years serving as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. He fed misinformation to Voldemort. He… he saved my life. And Voldemort killed him last night, in his quest for more power.”
Dead silence had fallen over the Great Hall. Harry knew many of those present doubted his words. He glanced around. Suddenly feeling reckless, he spoke again.
“There’s just one more thing I’d like to say. Look around you. We’re all standing here alive because we worked together. Purebloods, half-bloods and Muggle-borns all fought side-by-side to stop Riddle. We had help from the centaurs, from the house-elves and even from a giant.”
More silence. Harry swallowed hard but continued.
“Don’t you see? Nobody was thinking about who has the oldest bloodline or who has the biggest Gringotts vault. We can’t let this spirit die! We’ve got to get rid of all those old prejudices. We’ve got to learn to treat all of our fellow magical creatures, and Muggles too, with dignity and respect. If we don’t, then everything we won here today won’t mean a thing. All of that hatred will just fester, and then the next Dark Lord will use it to build an army of followers.
“I- Thanks,” Harry said, pointing his wand at his throat and mumbling, “Quietus.”
And suddenly the Great Hall erupted in cheers. Harry glanced over at Shacklebolt, who had a wide smile on his face. “Well done,” he whispered to Harry. “Dumbledore himself couldn’t have said it any better. Now go sleep. I’ll be in touch shortly.”
Harry nodded and smiled back before again starting the walk across the Hall. He glanced at Ginny, who beamed and squeezed him tightly. Harry looked up and realized that Professor McGonagall had fallen into step beside him. She flashed him a warm smile and tears sparkled in her eyes.
“Thank you… Harry,” she said, coming to a stop. “Thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you for saving us and, most of all, thank you for your goodness. We need more people like you in the world.”
Harry felt his face flush, and he suddenly found very interesting the pattern of cracks in the floor. When he looked back up, Professor McGonagall had resumed the stern, no-nonsense expression that was so familiar to him. “Go rest now. I’ll send Poppy round later to check you over. Oh, and Potter… I’ll be coming to see you and your friends in a few days so that we can discuss the continuation of your magical education.”
McGonagall shot an especially pointed look at Ron. Harry couldn’t help but grin at the Ron’s look of horror, compared to the sheer rapture evident on Hermione’s face. McGonagall gave the slightest of smiles and turned to go, but Harry stopped her. “Wait,” he said. “Sna… Professor Snape’s body is in the Shrieking Shack.”
A mixture of emotions passed over McGonagall’s features before she gave a curt nod. “I’ll have somebody go retrieve him,” she said, and then she melted into the crowd.
Harry and the Weasleys continued slowly making their way through the mass of well-wishers. Suddenly there was a chatter of small voices, and a horde of house-elves burst from behind the knees of the onlookers. Kreacher was leading the pack. Harry stepped away from the Weasleys and knelt before Kreacher.
“Master Harry,” the elf said, bowing low.
Harry gently placed his hands on Kreacher’s shoulders, and the old elf looked up at him.
“Kreacher,” Harry said softly. “I’m so glad you’re alive. I-I’m sorry couldn’t come back to Grimauld Place. We nearly got caught at the Ministry of Magic. We tried to Apparate out, but someone grabbed on and they were able to figure out the location of Grimauld Place. We couldn’t go back.”
Kreacher gazed at Harry with watery eyes. “The bad men came,” he said in a low croak. “They tore apart the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. They wanted to know where Master Harry and his friends were and what they were doing. Kreacher had to flee.”
Harry’s eyes were beginning to sting. “I’m so sorry, Kreacher,” he said. “I hope they didn’t hurt you. Kreacher, I want you to go and get some rest. I’ll be at the Burrow. When you feel up to it, you can find me there. Can you do that for me, Kreacher?” The little elf nodded and flashed a toothless smile before vanishing with a sharp crack. Harry rose and walked back to Ginny, once again putting his arm around her.
They were almost at the doorway to the Great Hall. Slumped in a corner nearby were the Malfoys.
Lucius Malfoy looked up as they approached and shot a look of pure loathing at Harry. His scowl deepened as his gaze came to rest on Hermione. Ron glared back at Lucius and defiantly planted a kiss squarely on Hermione’s lips.
Narcissa Malfoy stared at the Weasleys with her usual expression of contempt but appeared… relieved when she looked at Harry. Harry glanced at Draco, who had fixed him with fathomless look – a mixture of resentment, jealousy and… respect. Harry gazed back at him unwaveringly. Finally, Draco gave him a curt nod before turning back to his parents.
Harry and his family stepped into the Entrance Hall and walked slowly out of the front doors of the castle. Though all of the bodies had, thankfully, been removed, signs of the battle were everywhere. The grounds were pockmarked from the impact of spells and giants’ clubs. Grass and shrubbery were scorched and covered with rubble. Professors Flitwick and Sinestra were already trying to repair several of the gaping holes in the castle walls.
The little group picked up its pace, now moving more briskly toward the gates. Harry felt a wave of tiredness wash over him. He was considering asking whether he could just lay down and sleep here when a booming voice rent the air. “’Arry! ’Arry!”
And there was Hagrid racing toward them, Fang bounding along at his side. Hagrid dropped to his knees and pulled Harry – and Ginny along with him – into a bone-crushing hug.
“Aw, ’Arry,” he said in a choked voice. “I din’ think yeh’d made it for a while there. I-I jest couldn’ believe it. I thought You-Know-Who had won. I shoulda known better than ter underestimate yeh.”
Tears were now leaking from Hagrid’s beetle-black eyes and flowing freely into his whiskers. Harry awkwardly patted his elbow. “It’s all right Hagrid,” he said. “It’s over. We won. Everything’s fine. Thanks. Thanks to you and to Grawp for helping out. We couldn’t have done it without you.” Hagrid broke into fresh howls at these words. Hermione had moved over and was now patting his arm.
Harry glanced longingly at the Hogwarts Gates – so near and yet so far away. He swayed slightly on his feet, and felt Ginny steady him. “Hagrid,” Ginny said suddenly. “We’ve got to get Harry home. He really needs to rest. Can you see us out the gates? Give him a chance to rest, and then come for a visit.”
“Right,” said Hagrid, smiling and drying his tears. He lumbered over to the massive gates, shoved them open and ushered out the little group.
At last, Harry thought wearily. Mr. Weasley stepped forward, his eyes full of concern, and held out his arm. “You’re knackered, Harry,” he said kindly. “Why don’t you let me do this. No need in a ruining a good day by having somebody Splinch themselves.” Harry smiled wanly and latched onto Mr. Weasley, pulling Ginny closer with his other arm. They turned on the spot, there was the familiar unpleasant squeezing sensation and suddenly he was looking up at the ramshackle building that was his second home.
The Burrow clearly had been abandoned for some time. The garden was completely neglected. There was no sign of the chickens that normally pecked contentedly around the front steps. Several of the window panes had been broken out – a likely product of Death Eater raids on the place.
There were several loud pops, and now Mrs. Weasley, Charlie, Bill, Fleur, Ron and Hermione had appeared. Together they approached the house – wands at the ready in case of booby traps or lurking Death Eaters. The front door had been kicked in and now hung crookedly on its hinges. “Reparo,” said Mr. Weasley, pointing his wand. Instantly, the door was hanging properly, and a large hole in the middle mended itself.
The group stepped over the threshold and into front hall. The place was a wreck. Clearly the Death Eaters had thoroughly – and roughly – searched the place after the Weasleys went into hiding. Pieces of furniture were overturned. Books and bits of parchment were strewn everywhere. The family clock had been smashed to the floor.
Still, the house itself seemed to be intact. The family moved into the kitchen, which looked as though a tornado had blown through. Pots and pans were scattered about, and someone had dumped tins of cooking ingredients on the floor of the pantry. Mrs. Weasley silently waved her wand at the cooking utensils, and they immediately flew to the sink, which automatically began washing them. She flicked her wand again, and a broom leapt from the corner and began sweeping up the mixture of flour, sugar and spices that coated the pantry floor.
Mrs. Weasley then turned to Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron. “Sit,” she commanded, gesturing to the kitchen chairs before walking into the pantry. Mr. Weasley, Bill and Charlie – wands still drawn – moved to check the rest of the house.
The four teens and Fleur collapsed into the kitchen chairs. Ginny sat down next to Harry and began rubbing his neck, trying to work out the knots. Hermione sat down on Ron’s lap and draped her arms around his shoulders. A moment later, Mrs. Weasley emerged from the pantry. “Well,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s not much here in the way of food, but I’ve got the makings of tea and cocoa. That’s a start.”
She bustled about the kitchen, setting the kettle to boiling. Mr. Weasley, Bill and Charlie returned. “The rest of the house is clear, though just as untidy as the ground floor,” Mr. Weasley reported.
“We did make up the beds,” Charlie said with a smile. “The rest can be put to rights later.”
Everyone took a seat around the table, and soon Mrs. Weasley brought over a tray laden with mugs of hot chocolate and tea. There were also a couple of tins of stale-but-edible biscuits that had escaped the ransacking. Nobody spoke as they picked up their mugs. Instead, a companionable silence settled over the kitchen.
Harry gazed at the group – his true family – and his heart swelled with affection. Mrs. Weasley refilled his teacup and then walked to the pantry, returning with a small vial of purple liquid, which she held out to Harry. “This is especially for you,” she said, handing it to him.
Harry smiled back at her. “Dreamless Sleep Potion?” he asked.
“Only if you want it, dear,” Mrs. Weasley replied. “If anyone has earned a day of uninterrupted sleep, it’s you.” Harry shook his head. “I think everybody around this table deserves a little peace,” he replied softly, glancing around the kitchen.
“Go on, Harry,” Ron said. “You’re entitled. You’ve only returned from the dead today.”
“Ron!” Hermione said, smacking his arm as Mrs. Weasley shot him a glare of disapproval.
But Harry grinned back at his friend and started to uncork the vial.
Ginny reached out and stopped him. “You might want to wait until you get upstairs,” she said with a smile. “That stuff is really strong.”
Harry nodded and rose – a little too quickly, as the world suddenly went dark for a moment. Ginny, Ron and Hermione were instantly at his side, steadying him. Once again a wave of exhaustion washed over him, and this time it would not be denied.
He barely registered his friends half-carrying him up the stairs to the twins’ old room. Didn’t notice Ron and Hermione quickly turning down the covers on Fred’s bed… or Ginny slipping off his trainers and socks.
He sat down on the bed, and someone thrust the opened vial into his hands. Harry gazed up at his friends and raised the vial to them. “Bottom’s up,” he said, draining it in one gulp.
The effect was almost instantaneous. He fell sideways onto the bed, unaware of the warm hands that tucked him in and carefully removed his glasses.
Darkness took him, and he didn’t feel the soft lips that brushed his own before the bedroom door closed, leaving him alone.
A/N – Well, I’ve returned to writing fan fiction a bit sooner than I thought I would. I loved “Deathly Hallows,” and after a re-reading am even satisfied with the Epilogue. Still, I wish there had been one more chapter describing events shortly after the final battle. And so begins a modest attempt to do just that. This story will run three or four chapters and will, I hope, include most of the stuff that so many fans will enjoy.
I’d like to thank Melindaleo, who has inspired so many fan fic writers and who graciously pre-betaed this story. Her insights on magical theory kept me out of trouble at several points.
All praise must go to my beta, Arnel, who helped greatly with the action flow and consistency of many scenes. Her keen eye for canon details surely will spare me the wrath of attentive readers.