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“How did you come to that conclusion?” Shacklebolt’s deep voice asked, barely audible.

“Dumbledore did. He had told Snape to tell me so when he saw Voldemort protecting Nagini. He never got the chance until just before he died.”

“So how did you kill the Horcrux without dying yourself?” Kingsley queried. A thick silence fell in the room before Harry began telling the rest of his story.

“After reviewing Snape’s memories I knew what had to be done.  I knew that in order for Voldemort to be defeated I had to die. I put my Invisibility Cloak on and started walking toward the Dark Forest because I knew that’s where Riddle was waiting for me. I paused only long enough to speak to Neville about Nagini and to look at you, Ginny, for what I thought would be the last time. I didn’t stop to speak to you, to say goodbye, because I knew if I did I would falter in what I knew had to be done,” Harry was watching Ginny as he said this and he could see her fighting back tears, trying not to cry.

“I used the Resurrection Stone to speak with loved ones who have passed, mostly just to give me strength. They helped guide me through the line of Dementors eliminating the need for a Patronus, I don’t think I could have produced one anyway. I managed to walk right into the Death Eater’s camp. I stowed my wand so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it, and I revealed myself to them. Riddle never even thought twice about why I had chosen to come to him freely. He never comprehended why I didn’t have my wand drawn. Sirius was right, it didn’t even hurt really, just a flash of green light and it was done.”

“I don’t understand,” Kingsley uttered. Harry could hear sniffling coming from Hermione and Ginny. Harry didn’t want to see them crying so he tried to keep his gaze from straying to them.

“It’s all very complicated but the short version of why I’m still alive is Riddle was. When he returned to full power he used my blood to do so, doubling the link between us, linking me back to the living. I woke up but didn’t move, I feigned death. Riddle had collapsed after attacking me, maybe it was because he had just killed his own Horcrux, I’m not sure. He told Narcissa Malfoy to check to see if I was dead. I think if it would have been anyone else my cover would have been blown,” Harry gave a derisive snort.

“So she lied for you?” Ginny asked softly.

“Yes, she asked me if Draco was alive and in the school as she was feeling for my heartbeat, I managed to breathe out a ‘yes’ and she lied and said I was dead.”

“That will have to be taken into account during her trial you realize?” Kingsley told Harry.

“I figured as much.”

“So then they had Hagrid bring you back to the school and Voldemort announced to us that you were dead,” Kingsley said, narrating what he already knew.

“Yes, the worst part of that was not reacting when I heard everyone’s cries. I wanted so much to reassure everybody I was alright but I couldn’t. Words can not describe how elated I was to hear that everyone did not give in to Voldemort. Neville was brilliant, everyone was.”

“There was something I didn’t get,” Ginny interrupted as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

“What’s that?”

“His spells, V-Voldemort’s, they didn’t have a hold on us. How were we able to break them?” Ginny asked, it didn’t pass Harry by that she used Voldemort’s name instead of ‘You-Know-Who’. Harry smiled at Ginny’s show of cleverness.

“Ah, Yes, that. Well that goes back to me dying. You see I never did draw my wand. I died with the full intention of scarifying myself to protect all of you, all of Hogwarts.”

“The same protection your mother had given you, you gave to us?” Kingsley asked for confirmation.

“Exactly,” Harry told them. “I still sent blocking spells between our side and theirs whenever I could during the rush of battle that followed. The rest of what happened you already know,” Harry finished abruptly.

There was a silence in the room in which Kingsley and Ginny contemplated all the new information they had been given. Harry, Ron, and Hermione kept exchanging glances. It was Ron who finally broke the silence.

“So now you know what we were doing all year but we still don’t really know what was happening elsewhere and inside of Hogwarts?”

“Mostly the Order was helping with the defensive. Keeping communities safe as possible. Trying to keep hopes up, getting the word out that we hadn’t given up,” Kingsley answered.

“We heard some of Lee Jordan’s show,” Ron said, “it was bloody brilliant!”

“As for Hogwarts you’ll have to answer that one, Miss Weasley,” Kingsley said.

“I believe Neville already told you some things and summed up the key points for you. We tried to rebel in whatever ways we could. It wasn’t until Michael got caught that we toned it down. Then Luna got captured at Christmas. I had to go into hiding at Easter. Neville and the rest holed up in the Room of Requirement. There wasn’t a good sense of concentration for learning. McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout tried their best to keep things normal but in the end even they knew it was a futile effort. Hagrid had to Grawp and flee after his party in your honour, Harry.”

“Yeah, I had heard about that,” Harry said with a crooked smile.

“Anyway, Muggle Studies became an anti-Muggle preach and was mandatory. Defense against the Dark Arts became a Dark Arts study class. The Carrows taught those two classes. It wasn’t really a learning experience for the members of the D.A., unless you count learning what the Cruciatus Curse feels like on the receiving end.”

“Who used that spell on you?!” Ron demanded.

“It’s not like any of us suffered permanent damage, well, except maybe Michael. But that wasn’t typical, that was because he got caught unchaining a student, like I said. Most of us tried to hold our tempers and our tongues to avoid punishment. Most of the time it was just Crabbe and Goyle and their curses weren’t as bad as the Carrows’. We held our own, really. Neville only got hit as much as he did because without you guys he sort of made up for your cheek,” Ginny said trying to lighten what she was saying by making a little joke, although Harry already knew it was true. It didn’t make Harry laugh, he was extremely angry at the thought of anyone daring to harm Ginny.

“Yeah, he did say he got a little cheeky,” Harry heard Ron say with a chuckle.

“I still have another meeting with Hogwarts’ staff so what I’m about to say is still tentative,” Kingsley said regaining Harry’s attention. “I’ve been speaking with the professors about the option for a repeat year. Any student that wishes to can retake the last school year.”

“Does that include us?” Hermione asked eagerly.

“I believe it would, yes. Furthermore, because of the extensive damage to the school, we are forgoing the rest of the school year this year. Most families are only just reunited anyway and aren’t ready to be separated just yet.”

“Is the castle going to be able to be repaired?” Harry wondered.

“Yes, but it’s going to take some time,” Shacklebolt said solemnly.

“If you need any volunteers to help let me know,” Harry offered.

“Let us know,” Ginny amended. Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement.

“I’m sure Minerva will probably take you up on your offer. I’ll mention it to her that you’re willing to help.”

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you, Harry. Thank all of you, you’ve done more than most wizards for the sake of goodness,” Kingsley said in earnest as he stood to shake everyone’s hands and they stood to depart. Shacklebolt handed Harry a slip of paper.

‘It has the address of the safe house we put the Dursleys in,” he explained.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. If there’s anything you ever need, Harry, don’t hesitate to ask. You know, information…a job,” Kingsley quipped.

“I just might take you up on that offer someday,” Harry tossed back. “There is one thing, Gringotts-”

“Already know the break in was for something regarding the fight against the Dark Lord. I’m assuming, in hindsight, it was a Horcrux? We’ve negotiated them to drop the issue on the condition that you offer them information.”

“Yes, it was a Horcrux, Hufflepuff’s cup. Offer them what information?”

“I can only guess that it has to do with how you managed to break in and then escape. Gringotts is very serious when it comes to security.”

“So I’ve heard,” Harry recounted Bill telling them about where a few people had had a probity-probe stuck and Hagrid’s description when Harry first visited Gringotts. He now had his own experiences with the place to know how they were about security.

“There should be no incidents for you when you make any deposits or withdrawals so long as you agree to the terms.”

“That sounds fair enough.”

“Arthur tells me you’re taking a trip?”

“Yes, to go get my parents. Actually, I was wondering who is in charge of the Floo Network? I’d like to have the fireplace where my parents are hidden temporarily connected,” Hermione inquired of Kingsley.

“When do you need it?”

“That depends on how long it takes us to find them and for me to reverse the memory charms I put on them. I‘m pretty sure I‘ve located where they live and work so hopefully tomorrow we‘ll be ready.”

“Send word through Arthur when you have a set time and I’ll be sure to get the message to the Floo Network to be ready to make the connection.”

“Thank you.”

“Well, then, good luck on your trip,” Kingsley said as the group walked out of his office. “I’ll be sure to send an owl to all of you when I find out if Minerva accepts your offer to help.”

They all said their goodbyes and then Harry led his group of friends down the corridor to the lift. Ron punched the number for his father’s office floor. When the doors opened again the level they stepped out onto was buzzing with activity. Ron led the way to his father’s office.

“Is it always this busy?” Ginny asked looking up at a large swarm of flying memos.

“Not usually,” Harry answered.

“You there, what’s going on?” Ron asked a passing wizard.

“You haven’t heard?” the man asked, his eyes wide in disbelief.

“Heard what?” Ron demanded impatiently.

“Harry potter is somewhere in the building with some of the members of his group known as the D.A.! Can you believe it?”

“Er,” was all Ron could manage.

“I know, hard to believe, right? It’d be neat to meet them,” a witch chimed in next to the eager wizard.

“What are the names of the members of the D.A. that are with Harry Potter?” the wizard asked.

“Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Ginny Weasley or at least that’s who Judi said they were,” the witch, who was wearing a set of lilac robes that would make Lockhart envious, answered.

“Weasley, surely not?” a second wizard who had been eavesdropping asked.

“Yes, Arthur Weasley’s two youngest. He must be so proud,” the witch said beaming.

“Well, er, it was nice to meet you all but we best be going,” Hermione said as she tugged on Ron’s arm. Harry could hear the conversations in the hall were all about him and his friends as they walked toward the office at the end of the hall. He self-consciously made sure his hair was covering his scar. Ron knocked on the doorframe, the office door was partly opened.

“Come in,” they heard Arthur Weasley call out. They visited with him for a while. Mr. Weasley seemed oblivious to the buzz outside his office or maybe he was just ignoring it. After they had chatted for a bit, Hermione was explaining to Mr.Weasley about microwaves, they said goodbye. Mr.Weasley hugged both of his children and told all of them to be safe.

“I’ll let your mother know you’re departing. Enjoy yourselves, behave, and it is wise to still be on your guard. Make sure you let us know when you get to Hermione’s parents.”

“How?” Ron wanted to know.

“Hermione gave this to me,” Mr.Weasley said holding up what looked like a galleon, “I think you recognize it.”

“It’s one of the fake galleons I made for the D.A., I thought it would be best if I made a few extra.” Hermione said.

“Who else has one?” Harry asked.

“So far, other than the D.A. members, just the Weasley’s. I handed them out a few days ago. I thought it best to still limit who has one.” Harry nodded in agreement to Hermione’s decision, it was best if the coins did not fall into the wrong hands.

Ginny gave her father another hug and then they left Arthur’s office. The hallways were still filled with wizards and witches gossiping about Harry but thankfully not as many as before for most of them had gone back to work. So lost in their conversations or work the ministry associates did not notice when the four heroes snuck back onto the lift. Harry pressed the button for the Atrium.

“Where to now?” Ron asked.

“Gringotts, we’ll need travel money,” Harry told him.

“Oh,” Ron’s shoulders slumped. Money was always an issue with him because, more often then not, he did not have any.

“Atrium,” the witch’s voice of the lift announced. The elevator doors opened to the main floor.

“There they are!” someone’s voice shouted. A large group had gathered in the Atrium waiting to catch a glimpse of Harry and his friends. Applause broke out among the witches and wizards in the Atrium. It was so loud it was nearly deafening.

“What do we do now?” Ron shouted to Harry.

“Er,” was how Harry responded. How were they supposed to get through this crowd? Hermione said something to Ginny that Harry couldn’t hear the next thing he knew Ginny was tucking her hand at the crook of Harry’s elbow and Hermione did the same to Ron.

“Oh, come on then,” Hermione said tugging Ron a little. “We’ll just walk straight through. Just keep walking until we get to the fireplaces.”

“Brilliant idea, Hermione,” Ron said his voice dripping with sarcasm. “they’ll just let us walk through will they?”

“Well we’re walking through,” Ginny told them. “When you two finish arguing you’re more than welcome to catch up.” Without letting Hermione or Ron reply Ginny started walking and Harry fell into step with her for the simple reason that he thought it would look kind of stupid if Ginny dragged him off the elevator. The crowd seemed oblivious to their conversation and now along with applause people were shouting out questions and their thanks.

Harry took a quick backward glance and saw Ron grab Hermione’s hand and together they hurried to catch up with Ginny and Harry. The crowd did part to let them through and eventually they got a fireplace exit.

“Ron, why don’t you go first,” Harry suggested. Ron stepped into the grate and dropping a handful of the Floo powder he had picked up out of the pot near the fireplace he called out his destination.

“Diagon Alley!” with a flash of green flames Ron was transported away. Hermione followed Ron leaving just Harry and Ginny.

“Harry! Hey, Harry! Any statements for the paper? What have you been doing since the end of the war? Any details about how you conquered You-Know-Who?” a male reporter asked.

“Yes, do tell, Harry,” a silkily cunning voice asked without shouting but her voice was easily heard never-the-less. “And who is this beautiful young lady, Harry? Is she your new girlfriend?”

“Is that true, Harry? Is Miss Weasley your girlfriend?” a woman in the crowd asked.

“I’m sorry but I won’t be answering any questions today. I have important business to attend to,” Harry said curtly.

“Miss Weasley, perhaps there is something you’d like to share?”

“Rita Skeeter, if I did have something to share I certainly wouldn’t tell it to you. Anything you write about Harry is usually something scathing you’ve fabricated to further your career.”

“Can we quote you on that?” the male reporter asked. Ginny didn’t answer but Rita Skeeter stormed off with an angry growl, her photographer in tow. The crowd laughed at her departure and, realizing there would not be anything more to witness they began to break up and go back to their normal daily routines.

“You’re next, Ginny,” Harry said leading her to the Floo hearth.

“You’ll be right behind me?”

“Course I will be. Where else would I go?”

“Just make sure you pronounce Diagon Alley properly,” Ginny said with a wink. She stepped into the fireplace and like Ron and Hermione before her she was gone with a burst of green flame. Harry stepped into the hearth right after her and he was quite sure to enunciate properly as he dropped the Floo powder. He felt the familiar dizzying spinning sensation as he was being whisked toward his destination. When he stepped out of the fireplace he had been transferred to, Ron Hermione and Ginny were waiting for him. They were standing in the bar at the Leaky Cauldron.

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