CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN –
Aftermath Harry, Ron and Hermione stepped out of the Headmaster’s study and down the spiral staircase. Past the stone gargoyle which still hadn’t righted itself, down a long corridor where the occupants of the portraits were at last returning to their own frames and back down the cracked marble staircase and into the Entrance Hall. Students and teachers alike were leaving the Great Hall and returning to their dormitories. It seemed that, at last, the celebrations were over and despite the sun having fully risen now, everyone was returning to bed. Many faces still glanced in Harry’s direction and once again there were distinct mutterings amongst the masses but he paid little attention. He saw Slughorn leading the few remaining Slytherins back towards the dungeons; Flitwick and the Ravenclaws heading upstairs and Harry thought longingly of his own bed in Gryffindor tower. There was, however, one last thing he had to do. When the three of them entered the Great Hall they were unsurprised to see it mostly deserted, all apart from a small bunch of people that still sat at the Gryffindor table. Mr and Mrs Weasley, Bill and Fleur. George, Charlie, Percy, Luna, even Professor McGonagall was there, still dressed in her long tartan dressing gown although her hair was once more tied back in a tight bun. Harry’s eyes searched the room but it didn’t take long to spot the one face he wanted to see. There she was; her head still resting on her mother’s shoulder, her eyes ever open and full of life. When she spotted Harry she looked up and for a moment the two of them simply stared at one another, a look of longing in both their eyes. ‘God, I’m hungry,’ said Ron, sitting down just as Ginny got up and approached Harry. ‘I…’ Harry started, but didn’t get very far as he realised he couldn’t find the words. Ginny, however, smiled. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked. And there it was, one simple comment, and a broad grin swept across Harry’s face. And then he was laughing, and he couldn’t stop, because a comment as mundane as that
could never, in a million years, bring to a close everything that had happened. There had been death, great sorrow, but he was thankful that he didn’t have to dwell on this and that he could just embrace her because that was all that was left do to. Their lips met and Harry felt like he was back at the Burrow again, or beside the lake on that hot summer’s day last year. He didn’t care anymore how tired he was, or that every eye in the room was now fixed on him, or indeed that he was finally a free man with his whole life ahead of him. When they broke apart he couldn’t understand why it had taken him this long to hold her, to kiss her, or why he had ever chosen to end it with her in the first place. ‘Harry?’ Hermione’s voice brought him back down to earth with the full realisation of what he had just done. It was one thing kissing Ginny in front of a common room full of Gryffindor students, but as he looked across at the small company of people he realised that his and Ginny’s relationship was news to Mr and Mrs Weasley, to Bill, Charlie, Percy and George, and his eyes sought theirs hoping for a look of understanding that told him that they approved. Mrs Weasley was positively beaming and Harry was sure he spotted tears in her eyes. Mr Weasley stood up and smiled, one hand on his wife’s shoulder, and gave an odd sort of bow whilst Bill and George simply grinned. Ron pretended not to notice and was busy tucking into a large plate of fish and chips that had appeared before him, but Harry had come to expect that from his best friend and feeling as though a great weight had been lifted he sat down with Ginny at his side, one arm still around her waist as he refused to let her go. Harry looked around the table but all words escaped him. Part of him wanted to tell everyone what exactly he had been doing for the past year, and what it was he saw in the Pensieve and what happened in the Forest, but the words never formed. Thankfully it was Fleur who put an end to the silence as she continued a conversation that she had been having with Mrs Weasley. ‘As I was saying I theenk these are ‘orrible names,’ said Fleur with a shake of her long silver hair. ‘But…’ Mrs Weasley started.
‘We’ve already talked about this, Mum,’ said Bill. ‘We’ve decided that for a girl we would call her Victoire.’ It took Harry a moment to realise what they could possibly be talking about, but then it dawned on him and he turned to Ginny hoping she could shed a bit more light on the situation. ‘Fleur,’ he whispered. ‘She’s not -’ Ginny shook her head. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘Figured her and Bill must have been discussing the possibilities of having a baby though, and Mum’s been trying to subtly drop hints for weeks now that she would like a grandchild. I don’t think they felt safe raising a baby at this time, not with You-Know-Who … but now he’s gone I guess …’ She stopped and Harry didn’t blame her, it sounded strange to say it out loud, that Voldemort was gone. ‘Well I think it’d be wonderful,’ came Hermione’s voice from across the table, though Harry saw that as she said it she didn’t look up from the piece of parchment that she was writing on. Ron seemed to have noticed this too for he said, ‘Hermione, what are you doing?’ but before she could answer the doors to the Great Hall burst open and a huge shape appeared in the doorway. ‘Harry!’ boomed Hagrid as he entered the Hall and reached the Gryffindor table in a few great strides. ‘I haven’t had a chance ter … I mean, congratulations on …’ but he gave up on what he was trying to say and instead grabbed Harry and pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. ‘I got summat fer yeh,’ Hagrid continued when Harry could breath again. ‘Really?’ Harry gasped, struggling to breathe, and he remembered an image from seven years ago when Hagrid had reached into his coat and protruded a squashed birthday cake and several white mice from out of it. This time, however, he produced something of much more value and familiarity to Harry, something long and thin with a tail of perfectly clipped twigs. ‘My Firebolt!’ Harry exclaimed as his eyes fell upon the broomstick that had been dropped when they were escaping from Privet Drive. ‘How did you…?’ ‘I know it was my fault yeh dropped it so I wen’ back after the weddin’ an’, well, I mean’ ter give it ter yeh when yeh arrived back at Hogwarts only yeh didn’…’
Harry felt a surge of guilt but he was sure Hagrid understood why exactly he hadn’t returned to Hogwarts that year. After all, everyone in the Order knew that Dumbledore had left Harry a task to do, it was just that no one knew what exactly that task was. Again he felt like it was time to tell everyone the truth but all he managed to say was, ‘Thanks, Hagrid,’ before he was back at the table again and tucking into a plate of sandwiches which had appeared in his absence. And then a nagging sense for closure surged within him and he knew there was something he had to ask. ‘Professor,’ he said, turning to Professor McGonagall. ‘What happened with my Aunt and Uncle, I mean, did they…?’ ‘Your Aunt and Uncle are fine, Potter,’ Professor McGonagall replied. ‘Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones are returning them to Privet Drive as we speak. Why, would you like to go and see them?’ Harry considered this for a moment but then simply said, ‘No.’ Professor McGonagall smiled. ‘I quite understand,’ she said. ‘We shall send someone around to pick up your school things which I know you left there, I daresay you’ll be needing to study before next year.’ ‘Next year?’ Harry started. ‘But -’ ‘You missed your final year of school, Potter,’ Professor McGonagall pointed out. ‘You have exams to complete, you -’ ‘Exams!’ blurted out Ron, succeeding to spray pumpkin juice all over Hermione’s parchment. ‘But what about - I mean to say - don’t we get honorary N.E.W.Ts for saving the world?’ Professor McGonagall looked almost flabbergasted, like the suggestion was something of an insult. ‘No, Mr Weasley, you don’t,’ she said. ‘You will start the school year in September and sit your exams like everybody else.’ Ron looked like he was going to be sick and he let his head collapse onto Hermione’s shoulders, but she quickly brushed him away and continued to scribble down notes onto her parchment. ‘We’ll sit our exams together!’ said Ginny, happily, and Harry had to admit that even without Ginny he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Hogwarts quite yet. He let his eyes
wander down the table and he saw Luna and Dean discussing something in great detail, Mrs Weasley and Fleur arguing over baby names, but his eyes came to rest on Aberforth Dumbledore and he felt a great pang as he tried to imagine what Hogwarts might feel like next year without it’s old headmaster. But then he realised that there would be a new occupant to that portrait filled, circular study upstairs and he turned once more to address Professor McGonagall. He had expected her to fill Dumbledore’s position last year; after all she was the deputy head and had long since proven her loyalty to the school and to Dumbledore, and now he wondered if she might at last take her place. ‘Professor…’ ‘Yes, Potter, I will be the school’s headmistress,’ said Professor McGonagall, having predicted what Harry was about to ask before he had even opened his mouth to speak. ‘You will?’ said Ron, and Harry couldn’t quite decide if it sounded like he approved of this revelation or not. ‘But then, who will teach Transfiguration?’ ‘Me,’ grunted Aberforth from down the table, before Professor McGonagall had the chance to speak. ‘Figured it about time I reacquainted myself with this school,’ he continued. ‘For my brother’s sake, y’know?’ Hermione suddenly gave a little squeal and hurriedly started writing on her parchment once more, but Harry was too deeply lost in thought to ask what she was doing. There was going to be a Dumbledore at the school after all, teaching the post that the old Dumbledore had taught before he had become headmaster… ‘What about Defence Against the Dark Arts?’ asked Ron. ‘I mean, is the job still cursed now that You-Know-Who is dead?’ ‘What do you mean cursed?’ asked Mr Weasley, who had been listening from a couple of seats away. ‘Voldemort put a curse on the position after Dumbledore denied him the job,’ explained Harry. ‘No teacher lasted for more than a year after that, but now he’s gone I guess…’ he trailed off, making a mental note to ask the portrait of Dumbledore if he thought the job was still cursed. Ron, however, scoffed. ‘Cursed or not, what could anybody possibly teach you, Harry? I mean, you’re the one who defeated the Dark Lord!’
Everyone laughed, even Professor McGonagall had to suppress a smile, but a moment of awkwardness followed, and Harry knew what was on everybody’s mind. They wanted to know the truth. They wanted to know what it was he had been doing for the past year, what this mission was that Dumbledore had left him, and how it was that he had finally come to beat Voldemort. They had all listened intently, of course, to what Harry had said to Voldemort when they were circling each other, but he knew that the time had come in which he had to fill in the gaps. Whether he wanted to recount it right now or not, he owed them the truth. But where to start? ‘This is it, isn’t it?’ he asked. ‘That moment when I explain everything that happened.’ ‘You left us in the dark, Harry,’ said Mr Weasley. ‘It was -’ ‘Dumbledore’s orders, we know. To respect the wishes of a dying man is a very noble thing, Harry, but to feel as though he didn’t trust the Order enough to -’ ‘He trusted you,’ interrupted Harry. ‘This was, however, about me from the very beginning.’ He took a deep breath. ‘There was a prophecy,’ he said, ‘telling of a boy who would vanquish the Dark Lord, born as the seventh month dies. Neither can live while the other survives … Dumbledore knew, from the moment that Voldemort killed my parents, that it would come down to just me and Voldemort, and only I could be the one to stop him.’ ‘Dumbledore’s man through and through,’ nodded McGonagall, more to herself than anyone else. ‘We all said so.’ Harry felt Ginny squeeze his hand and it gave him warmth, but strangely he did not dare look her in the eyes, not yet. Instead, with his gaze fixed steadily on his half eaten plate of food, he began to tell them everything that had happened to him for the past two years, giving details that he had sworn would only ever be shared between himself, Dumbledore, and Ron and Hermione. He explained as best as he could but he could not deny that some parts he did not fully understand himself. He found it easiest to tell them exactly how Dumbledore had told him, about the life of Tom Riddle, his rise to Lord Voldemort and the construction of the Horcruxes. Finally he began to tell them of the events of the past year, but this time with help
from Ron and Hermione. All the while he refused to look too long into the faces of those around him, scared of what he might see or how they might be seeing him now. Ginny’s hand never left his and that was a comfort, and the only sounds heard were the voices of Harry, Ron and Hermione. It wasn’t until Harry recounted the events in the forest and seeing Dumbledore again did anybody else dare to speak, and then it was as though everyone had something to say at once. ‘You died?’ whispered Ginny, almost choking on the words as she said them. ‘Yeh saw Dumbledore?’ said a tearful Hagrid. ‘Snape was a good guy?’ exclaimed George. It was as George said this that Hermione gave another excited squeal and immediately forgot the story and went back to her parchments, and feeling a little better having got everything off his chest, Harry finally decided to ask her what she was doing. ‘I’m making notes, if you must know,’ Hermione replied. ‘For Hogwarts: A History – Revised Edition.’ ‘You’re crazy,’ said a bemused Ron. ‘I most certainly am not crazy, Ron,’ replied Hermione, ‘I just happen to think that the events of tonight have been and will be an incredibly important part of the schools history and deserve to be properly documented … and whilst I’m doing it I may as well go back and re-do the rest of the book, I mean there’s so much that needs to be included, the Chamber of Secrets for one … Oh, and I can put in something about S.P.E.W and, of course, Dobby…’ Harry was only half listening to Hermione now because at last, it seemed, he couldn’t fight sleep any longer and as he rested his head against Ginny’s shoulder he closed his eyes and started to drift… ‘Harry, Harry!’ Reluctantly he opened his eyes again. ‘What is it?’ he asked Ginny. ‘Dad wants you,’ Ginny said. ‘Can’t it wait until tomorrow?’ Harry asked, but one look at the excitement on Mr Weasley’s face told him it that he had clearly been itching to break his news to Harry for some time now, so out of courtesy Harry listened. ‘It’s about Sirius’s old bike,’ Mr Weasley revealed, whispering slightly as though he
was afraid that someone else might overhear. ‘You see I’ve, urm, I’ve been having a bit of a play and I think I’ve managed to get it going again!’ He grinned. ‘It’s about time it was passed onto you, I think,’ he said, winking. ‘Only … don’t tell Molly, will you? I don’t think she would…’ ‘Don’t tell Molly what, Arthur?’ came the voice of Mrs Weasley from behind Harry. ‘Oh nothing, Molly, dear,’ Mr Weasley said, hurriedly. Mrs Weasley didn’t look satisfied but seemed to let it pass. Instead she turned to Harry and squeezed herself in between him and Ron, muttering something about always being the last to know what was going on. ‘Harry, dear’ she said, ‘I’ve just been having a word with Minerva about the holidays, and she told me that you’re not all that keen to go back to your aunt and uncles, is that right?’ ‘Yes,’ Harry said. ‘But it shouldn’t make any difference now whether I do or I don’t, should it? I mean Dumbledore always made me go to protect me, but now there’s nothing to protect me from I…’ ‘Of course I understand, Harry,’ Mrs Weasley continued, ‘and obviously we would be delighted to have you stay with us over the summer, however in light of recent events…’ she looked from Harry, to Ginny, and back to Harry again, ‘… I’ll have no sneaking off into each other’s rooms at night, not whilst you’re living under my roof!’ ‘We wouldn’t dream of it, Mum,’ Ginny said, giving her most innocent look. Then, as soon as she was sure her mother wasn’t listening, she turned to Harry and said, ‘Still got that invisibility cloak?’
* They all left the hall not soon after and headed in their separate directions. With the majority of students having been evacuated there were a lot of empty beds so finding a place to sleep was not a problem, but it was just before Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny reached Gryffindor tower did something happen they weren’t expecting. Standing alone next to a portrait that Harry remembered used to house an exceptionally foul mouthed wizard was Draco Malfoy, his face bruised and his once sleek, silver hair was knotted and tangled. He looked up as Harry approached but he didn’t say anything, he just stood there in silence with an odd sort of emptiness in his
eyes. There was no sorrow, but no joy either, and yet Harry was sure he had seen a similar look before: atop of the Astronomy Tower a year earlier, mere moments before Dumbledore’s death. Harry glanced at him and their eyes connected but he didn’t stop walking. Not until he heard Draco say, ‘Potter?’ did Harry realize, just as he had with his Aunt and Uncle, that he needed closure on the matter, and so reluctantly he turned around and walked slowly back towards his enemy of seven years. ‘Don’t,’ Harry said when he got there, knowing exactly what Malfoy had tried to get out. ‘You don’t get to say sorry, you hear me? You don’t get to put the past behind you, act like nothing has happened. I mean what? Now the Dark Lord has gone you’re wondering which side you should be on, or that maybe we would welcome you with open arms? You’re deluding yourself, Draco. You have made the wrong decisions, and now you have to atone for them.’ He paused. ‘I won’t hear an apology from you, and I don’t think you’re really ready to give one.’ Malfoy was silent for a moment, and Harry thought that for a split second he saw something that looked like remorse on Malfoy’s face. ‘I’m not completing my education,’ he said at last. ‘At least not here. Father said I don’t need to, or I’ve got nothing to prove by doing so or something.’ He trailed off, and then after a moment’s hesitation he stuck out his hand. ‘See you around, Potter,’ he said. Harry didn’t take the prompt and did not extend his own hand, however he allowed a gentle nod in acknowledgment and understanding, and then turned and headed back to join the others. Malfoy slouched away back in the direction of the Great Hall, and neither one of them looked back at the other, safe in the knowledge that would be the last time either of them had any reason to speak to each other ever again. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny finally reached the Gryffindor tower and were unsurprised to see that the Fat Lady had left her portrait and the frame was open and willing to accept anyone. Mr and Mrs Weasley, George, Charlie and Percy were all fast asleep in several armchairs stationed around the blazing fire, Bill and Fleur, it seemed, having found a bed elsewhere in the dormitories. Careful to not make a single sound, the four friends climbed the spiral staircase until they reached Harry and Ron’s old room, the sign on the door now reading ‘seventh
years’. The sight inside was exactly as Harry remembered it. Five, four-poster beds with red velvet drapes covering them stood at even spaces around the walls of the circular room, and the high, narrow windows had apparently been bewitched to make the sky outside appear dark. Seamus and Neville were already in bed but Dean, it appeared, was still talking to Luna in the Great Hall, or had found somewhere else to sleep for his bed, which looked odd without his poster of West Ham football team pinned to it, remained empty. ‘Well, I guess this is it then,’ yawned Ron. ‘Don’t wake me up tomorrow, will you?’ Harry lay down with Ginny beside him, and Ron was already slouched on his bed, however Hermione remained standing, unsure of what she should do. Ron noticed this and politely moved up, making space for Hermione beside him, but still she didn’t move. ‘I … I can’t,’ she said. ‘What do you mean, can’t?’ Ron asked, astounded. ‘This is … the boys’ dormitory,’ Hermione replied, pointedly. Ron grunted. ‘Hermione, we have just spent the past year camping out in a tent, just the three of us, you didn’t have any problem then.’ ‘Well, that was different, I mean we were … or weren’t …’ Ron scoffed. ‘Well, I’m tired,’ he said. ‘You decide what you want to do, but I’m going to sleep.’ Hermione sighed, took several small steps, and lay down beside Ron. ‘Promise not to snore?’ she asked. ‘Snore!’ exclaimed Ron. ‘I don’t snore! Harry, tell Hermione I don’t snore.’ Harry, however, was only half listening. He lay with his arms wrapped tight around Ginny and finally he felt complete. He remembered when he had awoken in Grimmauld Place last summer to find Ron and Hermione laying next to each other and how empty he felt, and how he longed that Ginny could have been there as well. He smiled, ran one hand through Ginny’s long, crimson hair, and then finally gave into the sleep.