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When Harry awoke, he was screaming. The pain coursing through his bones felt like millions of tiny needles dipped in the deepest fiery pits of an active volcano. His blood boiled, sweat poured off him everywhere, and tears leaked from the corners of his closed eyes. He thrashed violently, convulsing from the pain, wishing that it would end, wishing that he could die; anything to stop the torture he was feeling.

Faintly he heard people shouting around him but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. His ears weren’t working properly or maybe his screams were too loud to hear anything else. The pain lasted for two absolutely unbearable minutes. It began to dull in his hands and feet first, then traveled up his arms and legs, and finally from his middle all the way to his head. A terrible headache pounded against his skull. Harry’s screams slowly dissipated as the pain faded away.

Someone was furiously shaking his upper arm. “Harry? Harry! Are you alright? Answer me?”

Harry’s furrowed brow relaxed a little. It was his mother. Just hearing her voice made the last of his tension disappear. Eyes still closed, he answered, “I’m alright.”

Lily stopped shaking him. Her hand traveled down his arm to rest in his. Squeezing it gently, she said with obvious relief, “Thank Merlin.”

Harry finally forced his eyes open. The Hospital Wing was mostly dark but he could make out a large crowd gathered around his bed. Students that were probably injured from the Quidditch Field battle had made a large half circle five feet away from his bed. No one dared to draw closer to him, all of them wearing expressions of shock and concern.

Then one stepped forward. It was Dennis Creevey. “Harry,” he whispered, “what just happened? You were screaming…and you were a stag…”

Harry managed to sit up. The others couldn’t see the Gate Framers to which Harry was grateful; he didn’t really feel in the mood to explain their presence too. He sighed. “I’m cursed,” he replied in answer.

“Cursed how?” asked a girl with black plaited hair.  

“I turn into a stag from sunset to sunrise.”

Enlightenment filled every Gryffindor’s eyes. “That’s why you haven’t been in Gryffindor Tower all year,” said Dennis.

Harry nodded. Several opened their mouths to ask further questions but then the doors to the Hospital Wing opened and Dumbledore stepped in followed by a man in red that Harry suspected was Alex’s master. Speaking of Alex, the girl was fast asleep on the bed next to his, her curls falling all over her face.

Dumbledore noticed the gathering. “Well, I assume by the hour of dawn that Harry awoke all of you with his screams?”

Harry flushed and looked down at his hands. He didn’t want to appear weak but screaming his head off in front of so many of his fellow students made him feel exactly that way. He wished Dumbledore would let the subject drop. A hand rested on Harry’s shoulder and he looked up to see his father’s reassuring eyes. Plainly he was saying that Harry needn’t be ashamed of screaming. But Harry still couldn’t help feeling that way. He looked down at his hands again.

Dumbledore spoke briefly to the students, ordering them all back to bed, before turning to Harry. “There is much to be done,” he said, “however I must first ask, are you alright?”

Harry nodded mutely.

Dumbledore observed him over his half moon spectacles. The red robed man came over from Alex’s bedside to stand next to Dumbledore and observe Harry too. His golden eyes held a depth of knowledge and wisdom comparable to Alex’s. Harry wasn’t too surprised; this was her master after all.

“Harry Potter,” he said in a rich English accent, “it is an honor to meet you, young man.”

Harry blinked. “Er – good to meet you too.”

“Forgive me,” he said, “I know your name yet you have yet to know mine. I am called Asalon.”

“Asalon is here to help us travel to Egypt in the form of Magic Circle Travel,” Dumbledore added.

Harry’s brow furrowed. “Magic Circle Travel?”

“It’s an ancient form of magic,” Hermione said, “thought to have become extinct when the Egyptian dynasty fell.”

“Oh,” was Harry’s only reply.

Asalon looked him up and down again with that intense, uncomfortable stare. “You’re body must feel like it’s been tortured for hours.”

Harry blinked and then nodded. “It does.”

“Do you think you can move around?” Asalon asked.

“I think so,” Harry said confidently. “When do we leave?”

“Immediately,” came Dumbledore’s reply. “Arriving in Egypt is just the first task. Once we get there we have to locate Sephtus’s tomb, fight through his army of evil, and reach Ginny before sunset.”

Harry’s heart constricted. Amidst all his pain and slightly incoherent thoughts, he had forgotten the current situation. Cursing for being so selfish with his thoughts, he ripped the blankets off himself and stood up despite the Gate Framers’ protests. “I’m fine,” he said, refusing to let his nausea overwhelm him.

“Harry, you are not fine,” said Elle who had also joined the group sometime during the night. “You’re as green as grass.”

Harry closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “I’ll be fine,” he muttered though nobody believed it.

“You’re definitely not fit for traveling,” said Lily firmly.

“I’m not going to lay in this place another minute,” Harry replied fiercely. “The thing I care about most is Ginny and she’s in danger of joining all of you! I’m sorry to say it but I really don’t want her to join the list of current Gate Framers at the moment.”

“But you’re in no condition to go off and fight let alone stand on your feet,” Ron pointed out.

Harry glared at him. Dumbledore stroked his beard. Muttering to himself, he tapped his chin a few times and then turned to Harry. Firmly yet with kindness he said, “Harry, you are to sit down this instant.”

Harry turned his glare to his Headmaster. “Professor,” he began but Dumbledore cut him off.

“Harry, I will force you down if you don’t comply of free will.”

Harry scowled but he sat down and his whole head spun, his face probably turning a shade of green that rivaled that of his eyes.

Dumbledore turned to Severus.

“Even in death you won’t give me peace,” Severus mused, noticing his gaze. “Tell me, Albus, am I to be plagued by doing you favors forever?”

Albus smiled. “Alas, it does seem that I ask too many favors of you.”

Severus sighed. “Obviously they all have to do with Potter.” Finally he glanced at Harry who was looking terribly green still. “A potion needed for obvious symptoms of nausea?”

“If you would be so kind, Severus,” said Dumbledore. “I know you always keep one on hand.”

“Do you really?” James asked curiously. “Whatever for Severus?”

Ignoring him, Severus pulled out a vial and gave it to Harry. “Make sure not to die today, Potter,” he said.

The hand holding the vial to his lips froze as Harry took this in. Lowing the potion he demanded, “What do you mean?”

“The Dead can smell those close to death,” he whispered quietly.

Harry looked accusingly at the Gate Framers, all of who appeared guilty. “Why didn’t you guys say anything?”

“We didn’t want to worry you,” Tonks answered.

“Didn’t want to worry me?” Harry repeated. “I’m dying and none of you bothered to share that little detail?!”

“Thanks a lot, Snivellus,” Sirius muttered angrily.

“Having been around Potter for more years than any of you,” said Snape snidely, “I have come to know that he does not appreciate being left in the dark. Eventually he would have figured it out on his own -like he always does- but I decided to go against usual tradition and share the news. So sue me.” He finished, glaring at Sirius who was looking on him with contempt.

Sirius opened his mouth to argue but Dumbledore intervened. “Enough all of you! Harry, take that potion now! Sirius, sit back down. There’s no reason to be growling. I was planning on telling Harry myself before we left anyway. And Severus, do try not to provoke a fight.”

“He started it,” Severus muttered.

“Did not!” Sirius snapped.

“Did too!” Severus snapped back.

Harry couldn’t believe he was watching these two grown men acting like two year olds having a fight. Wanting to say something but suddenly noticing his Headmaster eyeing him impatiently, Harry brought the vial to his lips and drank the foul potion down. Immediately his nausea disappeared.

“Just because you were his teacher doesn’t mean you have the right to be blunt and go about shouting that he has a death sentence!” Sirius shouted, rising to his feet again.

“And just because you feel you need to shelter him from this doesn’t mean that I have to be entitled to your same opinion,” replied Severus hotly.

Sirius opened his mouth to retort when James cut him off. “Will you two shut up?! Merlin, you’re both so annoying! Drop it already!”

Harry wasn’t sure who was more stunned; Sirius, Severus, Remus, or himself. His father, instead of joining Sirius’s side, had demanded an end to the banter. Was the world coming to an end?

Lily looked at her husband, impressed. James tried to ignore this as he stood up and glared at his two friends. “Now is not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves. If Harry and Ginny’s deaths are to take place today, shouldn’t we be leaving instead of bickering over something as stupid and trivial as this?”

Sirius opened and closed his mouth like a fish. Severus turned his back on everyone and walked over to the window without another word. Dumbledore nodded to James with high approval. “James is right. Harry’s taken the potion. We need to be on our way. Asalon, will you do the honors?”

“Of course, Albus,” Asalon replied before turning around and walking several paces away from the bed. Closing his eyes, lifting his arms, and speaking in Ancient Egyptian, Asalon summoned a large magic circle. It formed around his feet and then spread out so as to fit several people within the space. “It is ready,” Asalon announced.

The doors of the Hospital Wing opened with a bang and Draco Malfoy strolled up the ward. Alex awoke with a start. “Draco!” she said, sitting up.

Asalon’s face tightened. “Your treasure, little Hazel?”

Alex swallowed. Looking down at her hands she nodded.

Draco came to her side but had his eyes on Asalon. His body language was clearly radiating with defiance and challenge as if he were daring the older man to stop him from being at Alex’s side. Asalon pursed his lips and folded his arms.

“What are you staring at?” Draco snidely replied while intertwining his and Alex’s hands.

Asalon’s golden eyes flashed with anger. “I would have thought you would choose someone less defiant and childish, Alexandria.”

Alex shuddered a little. It was Draco’s turn to display anger. “And I would have thought someone like you wouldn’t try to delude yourself with thoughts that Alex is still a child and can’t choose things for herself.”

Harry, feeling the tension, spoke up. “Look, if we’re going somewhere then let’s go. Draco’s coming whether some here like it or not.” Asalon opened his mouth to argue but Harry rushed on. “He has as much right to come as any of us. The Death Eaters murdered his parents. All of them are going to be there and though most here don’t think revenge is the best thing, I support Draco.”

Dumbledore looked sad at these words but he decided not to argue. “Revenge is never the solution,” he said, “however, I understand your feelings, Draco. If you feel that this is the path you should take, I will not stop you.”

Draco stood straight and inclined his head. “Thank you, sir.”

Asalon scowled, clearly unhappy. Alex got out of bed and brushed the wrinkles from her shirt. “Let’s get going,” she said briskly, walking past everyone with Draco in tow. Coming upon the shimmering magic circle, she stepped into it and disappeared. Draco followed right behind her, disappearing as well.

Asalon sighed. “Who’s next?”

Ron and Hermione stood up. “We’ll see you on the other side, Harry,” Hermione said before she and Ron walked into the magic circle.

Harry looked at Elle and the Gate Framers. “Are all of you coming?”

“Wherever you go we go,” Remus replied.

“You’re staying here,” Sirius said to Elle.

She folded her arms and looked defiantly out of her tangles of curls. “And miss all the fun? No way! I’m coming!”

Sirius began to argue but Elle stood up, broke out into a run, and leapt into the circle. Sirius swore. “She’s so stubborn! Come on, Harry! I need to make sure she doesn’t run off and kill herself.”

Harry stood up, brushed off his Quidditch robes, and walked forward with the Gate Framers behind him. Severus didn’t seem like he wanted to join the procession but one look from Dumbledore changed his mind. Joining the others, he followed after Harry as he walked toward the circle.

“Don’t do anything until we arrive,” Dumbledore ordered.

Harry nodded before stepping forward. It was comparable to stepping into a food processor without experiencing pain. Harry’s body felt like it had been separated into a thousand tiny pieces, floating around in a strange wind. The anomalous sensation continued for several seconds before all the pieces shot back together and became whole. Harry found himself breathing heavily, his lungs seeming to need more oxygen than usual.

Amidst his deep breaths, he noticed Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Elle experiencing the same lack of air. Alex stood straight and tall, unaffected. She did look sympathetic however. “You’ll get used to it,” she promised. “It’s very different from apparating.”

“No…kidding,” Ron grumbled, breathing heavily.

“Are you alright?” Lily asked to Harry, who had squeezed his eyes shut and was leaning slightly forward.

Harry nodded. “Just…feels…like I have….asthma or something.”

Sirius went over to check on Elle. Her head was tilted back. “I’m alright,” she kept repeating.

“I hate to see what happens to Albus if these spry young people are reacting so,” worried Severus.

Everyone else became concerned. Harry’s eyes locked on Alex who moved across the room to a small cupboard. Rummaging through the contents, she pulled out a vial. “This should do,” she said, holding it up. The potion within was periwinkle and held a slight sparkle like glitter.

Harry’s breathing started to slow when Dumbledore appeared. Alex ran forward and ordered him to drink the potion. Without hesitation, he did as requested. Severus made a disapproving sound. Dumbledore finished the concoction and looked up. “I trust her, Severus.”

“You trust everyone,” Severus replied, rolling his eyes. “It’s going to be the death of you.”

Dumbledore smiled and said cheerfully, “I highly doubt that my dear professor. Thank you, Alex, for saving me from possibly experiencing heart failure due to lack of oxygen.”

“You knew?” Alex asked with surprise.

“Asalon was kind enough to warn me,” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, “Although he did put great trust and assurance that you would provide the potion necessary to heal me.”

“Where are we?” Draco asked, looking around.

They were in a small room with light stone walls made out of some kind of brick. A small table stood against the far wall next to the cabinet containing potion and other items. A couple chairs lounged around the table. A thick rug covered most of the middle of the floor, its pattern an intricate swirl of greens, blues, and reds. A few tapestries displaying Egyptian hieroglyphs hung from the stone walls. A single wooden door with an old-fashioned doorknob stood closed off to Harry’s left.

“We’re in my master’s home. This is the Visit Room,” said Alex. “People who seek advice from my master will usually receive it here.”

Asalon appeared then. With a wave of his hand, he made the magic circle on the wall behind Harry disappear, severing the connection back to the Hospital Wing. After doing this he looked to Dumbledore and then to his apprentice with obvious approval. “Thank you for being hospitable to Master Dumbledore, little Hazel.”

Alex pursed her lips. “You’re welcome, master. May I ask something?”

A smile tugged at Asalon’s lips as he noted her annoyed tone. “Yes?”

“Please call me by my name.”

“Am I embarrassing you?” he smirked.

Alex groaned. “Never mind, let’s go.” She took Draco’s hand. “We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

*~*~*~*~

They ended up combing the desert for three hours. Asalon had informed them that even though the ancient tomb they were looking for was in the Valley of the Kings, the location always changed because the doorway didn’t like to stay in the same place.

“Only just once am I finding magic cumbersome,” Ron grumbled as they searched through another section of the rock face they’d been examining for the last three hours. Wiping his brow he continued to mutter, “Wish the stupid door would just decided on one spot it likes and-”

Ron screamed. He had turned around to lean against the rock and wipe more sweat off his sunburned face when the wall had disappeared. A doorway had magically appeared behind him causing him to crash on the stone floor. Cursing, Ron accepted Harry’s offered arm.

“Well done, Ron,” said Asalon. “You found it.”

“I think it found me,” Ron grumbled, rubbing his backside.

“Come, we all must get inside before the entrance shuts,” said Alex. “And remember: do not speak unless you have to. We’re entering enemy ground.”

Everyone shuffled forward into the coolness of the tomb. Draco, the last to enter, barely made it inside before solid stone slid over the surface, encasing them all in darkness. “Wands out,” Asalon whispered.

No sooner had the words escaped his lips, the corridor echoed with the sounds of curses and the walls flared with blues and greens and reds. Harry and company barely had time to grab their wands and shield themselves when the attacks pelted into them. Screams erupted down the chamber as Death Eaters stormed into view, each shouting a variety of incantations.

Harry was met in combat almost immediately. He threw spell after spell, countercurse and curse, fighting his way through the storm of spells and opponents. Only one thing was on his mind and nothing, not even an army of Death Eaters, was going to stand in his way.

Harry had just defeated his tenth adversary when three more rushed to attack him. “OH-COME-ON!” he growled in frustration. “Is there no end to you guys?!”

“Die Potter!!!” screamed one.

All three threw the killing curse towards him. Harry leapt to the ground, rolling over and over, and came to his feet. The wall he’d been standing in front of had been blasted and an alarming crack was making its way up and down the stone. Harry didn’t have long to worry about it however as the three Death Eaters once more stepped forward, their wands raised.

“Let’s do this,” Harry muttered.

“Don’t get too cocky, Potter,” the one on the left spat. “Our new master has powers that the Dark Lord never even dreamed of.”

Harry laughed. “Is that why you all flocked to him like sheep?”

The one on the right cast a curse in anger but Harry deflected with a mere flick of his wrist, his wand still pointed towards the ground. The castor faltered a step.

“Are you sure you want to fight me?” Harry asked.

In retaliation, all three charged at once. Three different spells flew at him but Harry warded off each one with various blocks and shields, throwing his own spells in reprisal. He fought like a lion, channeling spell and curse with all his power. He dodged with the grace of a bird, the Death Eaters’ blows flying all around him, exploding in colors of red, green, purple, and orange.

The magic Harry was displaying, however, was beginning to take its toll. He didn’t want to admit it but fighting three fully powered wizards by himself was slowly draining him. If he didn’t figure out a way to defeat all of them at once, he was going to be in a lot of trouble. Not to mention in his peripheral vision he’d noticed his friends weren’t doing so well. Only Dumbledore and Asalon seemed to be showing a remarkable amount of unlimited power. They disarmed any enemy that dared to face them, tying them in chains, flaming rope, invisible cages, impenetrable boxes; Harry wished he’d known all those spells. He could certainly use some of them to stop these three from attacking him further.

“Getting weary, Potter?” one jested as they threw a Cruciatus Curse at him.

Harry deflected it with a wave but his breathing was beginning to come up short. His opponents became heartened by this. Their spells intensified. Harry tried desperately to fight them off, his wand flying and his thoughts racing with spell after spell. While he defended, his eyes moved, desperately trying to take in anything that would put an end to this. Then he noticed the large crack in the wall. It had grown larger, probably from being hit with other spells. The crack had now reached the top of the ceiling.

Harry had a plan.

Casting the biggest shield he could over himself, Harry turned his back on his attackers and ran. He could hear them casting spells at him; they hit into his shield and exploded. He knew he only had seconds before it shattered. In the middle of the room, he pointed his wand high. “REDUCTO!”    

The spell shot into the middle of the ceiling and the tunnel groaned. Shouting to his friends in between countering spells from the enemy, Harry ran as rocks began to fall loose all around them. Seeing what Harry had done, everyone ceased firing. There was a mad dash down the corridor of friend and foe alike. Harry witnessed a giant boulder fall and crush five Death Eaters at once. His stomach twisting from this horror, he forced himself to plow onward.

“Harry!”

Harry stopped in his tracks. Ron was desperately trying to move a rock and underneath the rock was…

“Hermione!” Harry screamed in dismay.

“Help me!” Ron cried.

The tunnel groaned again. With their combined wand power, they were able to lift the boulder from Hermione’s legs. She cried out in pain, tears flowing down her cheeks.

“I’ve got you,” Ron said, picking her up as if she were made of glass.

“Come on!” Harry urged. He searched around to be sure there were no others who had fallen as he and Ron ran down the corridor.

There was a loud grinding noise. Harry glanced up and his eyes widened in horror. All the years of his life passed in the blink of an eye as the ceiling fell, the dark rocks rushing towards him with no mercy. Someone screamed. A rush of wind struck Harry, blowing him off his feet. Disoriented, he became aware that the ceiling was no longer falling and that he was gently being laid down on the ground. Ron landed next to him.

“That was the stupidest thing you could have ever done!” Lily shouted, the first to reach Harry’s side.

Harry looked up at her. For some reason his vision was blurred. Then he realized his glasses had been blown off his face. A pair of hands appeared in his blurred vision and his glasses were placed over his eyes. James came into focus.

“You idiot,” he said, though his voice was filled with relief. Tears were in his eyes. “You could have died. Don’t you ever do anything like that again! Do you hear me?!”

Harry nodded mutely.

A long white beard gleamed behind James and Dumbledore came into view, his face stern, his eyes blazing with inner fire. There were a couple of cuts on the old man’s face from pieces of rock debris. “Harry,” he said, his voice as severe as his gaze, “you’re lucky to be alive, my boy.”

“You stopped it from collapsing,” Harry realized.

“It is a temporary spell,” Dumbledore replied. “We need to get you out of here before it crumples indefinitely.”

Then there was a moan followed by a scream. “Hermione!” Harry shouted, sitting up.

Ron still had her in his arms though she looked as pale as a ghost. Dumbledore stepped forward to examine her. “Broken legs,” he muttered. “We’ll have to set them but we can’t do it here. Draco!”

As if popping out of the ground, he appeared. “I’m on it,” was all he said before lifting Hermione into his arms.

Harry and Ron stared in disbelief. Two years ago, neither would have thought it possible that Draco Malfoy would ever be seen carrying Hermione, a muggleborn, to safety. It took the urging of his parents to finally cause Harry to rise to his feet. He offered Ron a hand.

Ron took it and tried to stand but then cried out in pain. He latched onto Harry, barely managing to stay up. Looking down, Harry realized Ron’s ankle was purple and swelling fast. Cursing himself for causing all of this pain on his friends, Harry lifted Ron into his arms and rushed down the tunnel with Dumbledore and his parents.

Turning a bend, they came to a large open doorway decorated in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and pictures. As they stepped inside, Harry found himself in a room as large as the Great Hall in Hogwarts. Giant pillars supported the ceiling decorated with even more pictures of Egypt’s history. Tied to three of these pillars were unconscious Death Eaters. Upon their arrival, Asalon looked up, apparently finished with checking on the chains.

“We secured them just as you asked, Albus,” he said.

Dumbledore gave his thanks. “I appreciate it, Asalon.”

Asalon turned to stare at their captives. “Must we keep them alive? It is the custom to put to death evil sorcerers.”

Dumbledore looked stern. “Asalon, it may be the laws of this land but these men -and possibly women- are not from here. Their trial should be made by whichever land they belong to.”

Asalon didn’t look happy but he nodded just the same. “Very well.” He turned to Harry. “That was not a wise thing you did, One of Prophecy.”

The last thing Harry needed now was to have someone else tell him something he already knew. Glaring at Asalon, he pushed passed him and carried Ron over to the rest of their party where Hermione was already being treated by Remus.

“I’m just going to set them so the bones lie straight,” Remus was saying as Harry set Ron down. The redhead crawled closer to Hermione’s side and took her hand.

“You’re going to be alright,” Ron whispered in Hermione’s ear.

No whimper escaped Hermione’s lips. Nodding with a determined expression, she closed her eyes. Remus performed the spell. Hermione screamed and then fainted in Ron’s arms. Ron cradled her back and forth, pushing the hairs out of her tear streaked face.

“You next Ron,” said Remus.

Ron grimaced. “Why is it that you’re always the one setting my broken leg?”

Remus smiled sadly, thinking back on the night in which Sirius, as a dog, had broken Ron’s leg trying to drag him into the Whomping Willow. After settling a series of disputes, Remus had set Ron’s leg so he was able to walk back up to the castle. “Just hold still, Ron.”

Ron closed his eyes and waited. He didn’t scream or faint like Hermione but it was obvious that he was in no shape to continue. Harry turned and began to walk away. Anger surged through his veins, curling his stomach, and tightening his throat. He had been so stupid! At the time it had seemed the perfect way to get rid of the Death Eaters but now that Harry looked back on it, collapsing that tunnel was also a death sentence for his friends.

Wishing for nothing but to be left alone, he continued to walk towards another entrance – the hall opposite to the now collapsed tunnel. Before he could reach it however, someone called out from behind.

“Going somewhere?”

“Leave me alone, Sirius.”

But his Godfather joined his side. After a pause, “Harry, you did what you thought was right.”

Harry stiffened. “I nearly killed everyone,” he whispered.

“True,” Sirius agreed.

Harry bristled and turned to face his Godfather. “What do you want? Are you trying to comfort me? Because if so, please continue, you’re doing a bang up job.”

“Harry, I’m trying to tell you that it isn’t right to dwell on this. We still have to find Ginny and we’re running out of time.”

“Hermione and Ron nearly died because of me!” Harry shouted. “How am I to know that Ginny is going to live if I come along and try to save her? My decision was entirely stupid and because of it I nearly joined you on the other side!”

“And Ginny is going to end up there if you don’t snap out of it,” Sirius retorted.

Harry glared at him.

Sirius sighed. “Harry,” he said, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Hermione and Ron came with you knowing full well that their lives were on the line. So did the others. There is no point crying over something that didn’t happen. For Ginny’s sake we need to keep going. Hermione and Ron will be well looked after. Tonks has already decided to stay behind with them. We need to keep going. Besides, if you quit now, Hermione and Ron would have been injured for nothing.”

These last words were like a blow in Harry’s stomach. He looked over his Godfather’s shoulder at his two best friends. They’d followed him and he’d caused this to happen. It was entirely his fault. But Sirius was right. If he gave up now, they would be disappointed in him and their injuries would have been pointless pain.

“Thanks, Sirius,” Harry whispered.

Sirius smiled. “Any time. Now, come on, we need to talk to the others about what we’re going to do next.”

Harry began to follow him but then stopped mid-step. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and a terrible feeling began to curl within his stomach. Whirling around, he sensed more than saw that something was lurking in the shadows of the doorway he was about to enter. Something sinister. Something evil.

“Harry?”

Ignoring Sirius, Harry took a step forward, taking out his wand. Then he heard the hissing. The animal slowly stepped away from the shadows. Harry had seen a lot of strange creatures since joining the magical world but this was one he’d never seen nor heard of before.

The body, white and sleek, was that of a large hairless dog while the neck and head were that of a white snake. The creature’s blood red eyes were focused right on Harry, its mouth opening occasionally to display a pair of sharp poisonous fangs. It was obvious from this creature’s movements that it only had one thing in mind and that was to plunge its fangs right within Harry’s throat.

“What in Merlin’s name is that?” Sirius asked.

“A sta,” Alex answered maliciously, joining Harry’s side. She stared at the creature with hate. “They are fierce creatures that caused the death of many of my people.”

“What powers do they have?” Harry asked, eyeing the sta with dismay.

“Poison, obviously,” answered Alex, “but they also have the speed of a cheetah and their coats can deflect magic.”

“Then how are we supposed to kill it?” James asked as the others joined them.

The sta moved a step closer, hissing and spitting, its eyes directed only at Harry. The group moved back a couple paces.

“The only thing that can destroy it is its enemy,” said Asalon, “the gryffin.”

Harry’s steps faltered. “You’ve got to be joking,” he groaned.

Dumbledore smiled grimly. “It would seem that this creature feels threatened by you, Harry. Do you think you can kill it?”

Alex, Asalon, and Draco looked confused. “You can’t be serious,” said Alex to Dumbledore. “Not even you or Asalon’s magic will be able to withstand it. What chance does Harry have against something like this? It can only be defeated by a gryffin! Harry can’t possibly-”

Harry’s body shivered and he transformed, freezing Alex’s words within her throat. The sta hissed angrily and backed up a pace.

“No way,” Draco muttered.

Harry kept his eyes on the creature as Dumbledore asked Asalon, “What does he have to do?”

Asalon recovered from his shock. Quickly explaining, he said, “The gryffin’s talons possess the only type of magic that can penetrate a sta’s coat. However, it is still susceptible to the poison. Only when the head of the sta is removed will the creature really die.”

“And let me guess,” muttered Draco, “the head can only be removed by a gryffin’s beak?”

“Yes,” Alex replied.

“Right,” said Dumbledore, “we’ll stay out of the way, Harry, but, should you fall into more than you can handle, we’ll intervene.”

Harry squawked in thanks before spreading his wings and taking to the air. The sta, anticipating this move, shot out a stream of poison that Harry barely managed to miss. The poison hit the ground and immediately dissolved the stone. Harry’s now superb eyes glared down at the ground where the sta was once again crouching, anticipating his next move. Deciding to mess with it a little bit, Harry folded his wings and plummeted downward, extending his talons. The sta panicked.

With a jolt of speed, it took off, running at 70 mph right off the bat. Harry threw out his wings before he hit the ground and beat them furiously to regain height. As he flapped, the sta leapt into the air, snapping at Harry’s lion feet with its poisoned fangs. Someone shouted a warning from below but it wasn’t necessary; he was already well out of the sta’s reach.

That is… he was until the stupid creature started climbing the pillars by leaping from one to the other, gaining in speed as well as height. Scrutinizing Harry’s position, the sta leapt from a pillar seventy feet in the air. Harry spun around, spread his talons wide, and screeched loudly. The sta’s fangs elongated, its blood red eyes flashing with venomous anger. Harry waited for the opportune moment; just before the sta’s fangs could sink into his leg, he whipped to the side, grabbed the creature in his talons and struck with his beak. Before the sta even knew what happened, its severed head was hanging limply from Harry’s mouth, its body hanging limp within his talons.

The others cheered as Harry flew towards the ground. Dropping the sta’s remains on the cold stone, Harry landed and ruffled his feathers in disgust. Turning to the horrible creature that he literally killed with his mouth (gross), Harry used Obscurvirgum to set the beast on fire. The others reached him as he transformed.

“Did I mention how much I hate snakes?” Harry asked bitterly as he wiped his mouth.

“Well done, Harry,” said Alex, clasping his hands. “You were amazing! I had no idea you were an animagus!”

“Neither did I,” Draco grunted.

Harry looked apologetic. “I wanted to keep it a secret.”

“Did Hermione and Ron know?” Draco asked, not looking at him.

Harry sighed. “Yes.”

“I see.”

“Draco–”

“We should be getting on,” Draco interrupted, turning toward the hallway the sta had previously occupied.

Alex gave Harry’s hand a squeeze. “Don’t worry, Harry, he’ll get over it. He’s just upset about being left out.”

Harry frowned. “Right…come on; we can’t let him take all the glory.” Looking over his shoulder, he saw Ron and Hermione lying on conjured cots. “Take care of them Tonks.”

“I will,” she promised.

They found themselves in another corridor, this one lit with torches and Death Eater free. Even so, Harry was cautious. That fight with the sta had left his adrenaline pumping hard and fast through his veins. He found himself drawn to every torch flicker, every slightly moving shadow. His nerves were going to fry him by the time this ordeal was over. Praying that Ginny was still alive, he dared ask Dumbledore for the time.

“You have an hour,” he replied grimly after consulting his watch.

Harry groaned. “I pray we can find where she is before then.”

Dumbledore placed a hand on his shoulder. “We will, Harry,” he consoled. “We will.”

And then another round of spells lit up the corridor as Death Eaters seemed to melt out of the shadows. Draco, being in the front of their party, got the worst of the attack – three spells hit him directly in the chest.

“NO!” Alex screamed. She rushed to Draco’s side, casting curses like a she-devil. Five Death Eaters went down but their supposed friends didn’t stop to see if they were alright. Instead they stepped over the fallen bodies and continued attacking Harry and the others. Alex engaged battle with two Death Eaters while standing protectively in front of Draco.

Harry rushed forward to help but was stopped as two Death Eaters blocked his path. Twisting and turning, throwing spells and trying his hardest to fight his way through the battle, Harry managed to disarm his opponents in less than ten minutes. Conjuring a rope, Harry waved his wand and lassoed them together, securing them with a tight knot.

“You seriously think a rope will stop us, Potter?” one spat.

Harry stepped forward, his wand still raised. “Not in the slightest,” he admitted, “Which is why I’m going to do this.” He waved his wand and transfigured the rope into solid steel. “That should make things a little more difficult for you. “ He disappeared back into the fray.

From the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry came to the conclusion that the Death Eaters had grown in number since Voldemort’s passing. There were hundreds of them gathering in this chamber. Harry was positive the only reason he and his friends hadn’t been overrun was because of Dumbledore and Asalon. Harry looked around desperately for Alex and spotted her lying face down over Draco’s body.

“No!”  He rushed to them, dodging spells and rendering any Death Eater helpless that decided to cross him.  “Alex,” he shouted, finally reaching her. He rolled her over to look at her face. “Alex, are you alright?”

Her brow furrowed. Eyes closed, she nodded and moistened her lips. “Is…Draco…?”

Harry looked over her shoulder to where Draco lay; after a moment’s observation Harry sighed with relief. “He’s alive,” he told her, “Only stunned.”

“Good,” she sighed. And then she slipped into unconsciousness.

Someone right behind Harry screamed. Whirling around, wand raised, Harry looked at the fallen Death Eater at his feet. Raising his eyes, he saw his father, wand raised, face radiating a strange glow. The other Gate Framers were glowing too. And after observing further, Harry realized -judging by the Death Eaters petrified expressions- that they could see them.

James came over to Harry. “We’ll handle things here, Harry,” he said. “You go on.”

“What about all of you?” Harry asked.

“We’ll be fine. The Dead can’t be killed again Harry. However,” he said, looking deeply into his son’s eyes, “they can be called home through rare magical means.”

Harry furrowed his brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

James only grasped his shoulders. “You’ll figure it out, son, when the time comes.”

Then, before turning around and running off to help Lily fight off her five opponents, he pulled Harry toward him in an embrace. Harry returned it. He remained confused as he watched his father rush to his mother’s aid.

Deciding not to dwell on the words for now, Harry looked around briefly. The Death Eaters had mustered some kind of courage to fight the Dead and were now engaged in heavy combat. Dumbledore was even further away, bringing down ten Death Eaters at once. Asalon too, was performing brilliantly, thrashing his wand through the air as he fought several attackers.  

Praying that all would be safe, Harry turned and rushed down the empty corridor. There were many twists and turns, the passages only visible from the burning torches hanging off the walls. The images in stone on either side of Harry began to show gruesome depictions of maidens lain upon altars with some kind of strange light surrounding them. Harry shook himself and redoubled his pace, praying with all energy of heart that he would reach Ginny in time and that no further delays would hinder his progress.

Turning a corner at top speed, Harry suddenly felt the floor fall from under his feet as the walls disappeared around him. His heart screamed in his chest as he realized that he was freefalling into a black pit of nothingness. Overcome by panic, he flipped end over end several times before his senses kicked his brain and he was able to transform into the gryffin. Righting himself, Harry spread his wings and began to flap desperately upward.

It seemed extremely difficult. Harry had a ludicrous idea that the pit was actually sucking him in, the darkness trying to swallow him. Keeping his eyes focused on the light flickering hundreds of feet above, Harry beat his wings with mighty strokes, his determination to reach the top fighting against the sucking force below him. It took several minutes but somehow Harry’s talons finally touched down on solid stone in a corridor opposite to the side where he’d fallen from.

Breathing heavily, he dragged himself further down the corridor away from the pit and transformed. His body felt like it usually did after he’d already endured transforming into the stag. Sweat poured down his face into his eyes, stinging them terribly. After crawling forward several feet, Harry collapsed, his chest heaving, his face cooling against the cold stone beneath him. He lay there for what felt like an hour but he knew it was less time because he was still a human. Forcing himself to stand, he gripped the wall and walked further down the hallway, ignoring the intense pain of his bones.

Where had this pain suddenly come from? Harry wondered as he winced from another wave that traveled through his legs. It hadn’t been present when he was fighting against the Death Eaters moments ago. Had it appeared while he was a gryffin? Was it the cause of why it had been so difficult to get out of that pit? And how were the others going to reach him when that cavity had been as vast as a Quidditch stadium?  

A flash of light filled Harry’s vision, blinding him. Holding a hand up to his face, he realized he’d stepped into a gigantic chamber comparable in size to the Chamber of Secrets. Identical stone statues of hooded figures in robes holding the Egyptian symbol for life, the Ankh, stood along the wall every few feet. They were made of the same black stone as the walls, floor, and ceiling. The torches between them glowed with purple fire, casting the entire room in eerie shadow. The flash of light, Harry realized, had come from a wall of flames lining the wall opposite to the entrance that had erupted the moment he’d stepped into the room. And in the middle of the room, lying on a long dark stone, her beautiful red hair cascading off the side, was…

“Ginny!” Harry shouted. He took a step toward her but then a flash of brilliant purple fire erupted around the stone, encasing her in a flaming cage.

“I wouldn’t try to interfere, One of Prophecy,” said someone in the shadows.

Harry twisted to his right. Sephtus stepped out of the shadows, a cruel smile spread across his face. “You,” Harry whispered, his voice filled with pure rage, “what right do you have to take her?”

“She was chosen, One of Prophecy,” Sephtus replied simply. “The Ankh of Death requires her in order to regenerate itself.”

“You have no right to take someone else’s life for the sake of your own,” Harry wearily retorted.

Sephtus smirked as he faked concern. “What’s the matter Harry Potter? Not feeling well?” He took a step closer as Harry’s breathing became irregular and his limbs began to shake. “My, my, my,” Sephtus whispered, circling around him, “it appears as if your time is nearly up.”

Harry knew he was right. From the pain in his limbs he figured he had around fifteen minutes. “Just enough time to stop you,” he managed to say between deep breaths.

Sephtus laughed. “Oh, I wish the Dark Lord could be here to watch me kill you. I’m sure he’ll be quite satisfied to know that one who followed his ways wiped you from existence.”

Harry didn’t have time to listen to this tripe. “Impedimenta!”   

The spell shot from his wand at the old sorcerer but Sephtus only waved his wand lazily. The spell slammed against a powerful shield and made a sound like cannon fire upon impact. “You’ll have to do better than that to defeat me, Potter!” and he waved his wand.

Harry’s mind was wiped blank as the invisible spell slammed into him. He felt weightless and completely carefree, becoming unaware of his current situation and the pain he’d felt moments ago.

Bow to me, someone said within his mind. 

Harry snorted. “As if,” he shouted aloud.

The curse was removed and the fiery feeling returned to his limbs causing them to shake. Sephtus was looking upon him incredulously. “The Imperius Curse has no effect upon you?”

Harry smirked. “Surprise.”

Sephtus bellowed with rage and directed his wand at Harry’s chest. A purple flame erupted from its tip, shooting towards Harry with blinding speed. Protego Totalum, Harry thought and Sephtus’s curse was blocked. Harry rushed to the left, waved his wand and thought, Levicorpus.

“AAAAAGGGGHHHHHHH!”

Sephtus screamed as he was lifted by the ankle into the air, his robes exposing his legs which were thankfully covered in a pair of pants. Taking advantage of his opponent’s moment of disorientation, Harry waved his wand again, thought, Impedimenta, and was satisfied to see Sephtus’s limbs snap together. Using the countercurse to Levicorpus (Liberacorpus), Harry lowered Sephtus’s frozen body to the ground.

Expecting to see Sephtus glaring at him in anger, Harry faltered. The sorcerer’s face was anything but anger; an insurmountable, iniquitous emotion of utter triumph and glee radiated from his eyes.

Utterly bemused by this reaction, Harry found his eyes drawn upward to where Ginny lay. The cage of flame had disappeared. Hovering over her, glowing brighter and brighter with a terrible purple light, was the Ankh of Death. A plethora of glowing white light was streaming from Ginny’s body towards the black object above her. The horrific sight was comparable to watching a black hole sucking up all the light of a brilliant star.

Tears flowed from Harry’s eyes as he forgot about his duel and rushed to Ginny’s side. “No… NO!!! GINNY!”

An invisible force field knocked him off his feet, sending him flying across the room. Feeling like his head was on fire, Harry opened his eyes and sat up. The white light surrounding the Ankh of Death was so bright it made Harry’s eyes sear. It also made his heart constrict. The light, the glorious burning white light swirling around that horrible object of the nether world, had come from Ginny… His Ginny… 

Harry rushed forward. “YOU CAN’T HAVE HER!” he bellowed.

The invisible force field hit him again but Harry was ready for it this time. He stood his ground, pushing with all his strength, fighting with all his will. He reached the stone, his face pouring with sweat, his body inflamed. His lungs heaving for oxygen, he raised his hand towards the Ankh, towards the light that he knew belonged to his heart. The light flared out as if trying to reach for him too.

Tears mingled with the sweat on Harry’s face. “Come back to me, Ginny!” he cried. “Come back! Please!”

The light inched closer to him.

“That’s it!” Harry coaxed. “Come on! Just a little more!”

The smile on Harry’s face transfigured into one of utter dismay in the blink of an eye. He watched as the light suddenly constricted as it was sucked into the Ankh of Death. It had only been inches away from his hand.

Harry’s heart shattered.

“NOOOOO!!!! GINNY!!! GINNY!!!!!”

His screams echoed around the chamber as he grabbed her hand, stroked her face, kissed her cheeks. No reaction came. Slumping over her, Harry released a torrent of sobs. She was gone. His future – his precious light – his other half – was gone.

Merciless laughter filled Harry’s ears as Sephtus broke away from his curse. “You have failed, Potter! Once more I am restored! Your lover is dead! And there is nothing you can do to retrieve her! Once more my spirit will continue to live in this world of mortals! I have trumped death again!” He laughed manically.

But a sudden burst of inspiration had filled Harry’s mind… a light whisper… as if from his heart. He knew what he had to do. Letting go of Ginny, he turned. Thinking of charging Sephtus, he took a step forward but then his strength utterly failed and he slumped to the ground.

Sephtus laughed again. “Do you feel that Potter? The curse I placed upon you last summer is finally coming to an end.”

Harry gasped. “Why? If you were going to take Ginny anyway, what was the need to place a curse upon me?”

Sephtus smugly replied, “One might say that the Dark Lord Voldemort and I were on the same team. You are a threat, Harry Potter, a threat to all magicians of Black Magic. The prophecy of you and Voldemort had many of us believing that he would become the new Black Mage, our ruler and communicator with the Evil One. But then you defeated him and such hopes were dashed. So you ask why I cursed you. For the most part it was so you would stay out of my way but it was also to avenge the Dark Lord. I am proud to be known as the one who defeated you. If you had been allowed to live, you may have become on par with Merlin and that fool, Dumbledore, with the other Mages of Light. I’m doing my kind a favor, destroying you. I could wait, watch the curse kill you from the inside out, but I’ve learned from Voldemort’s mistakes. I’ve tortured you enough this whole year. Now is the time to end your life.”

The Ankh of Death flew over Harry’s head into Sephtus’s hand, the surface crawling with swirling gray mist. In a flash, the magician was in front of Harry, standing over him mercilessly. If only Harry could reach into his robe…but his hand felt like lead. He could only lift his eyes. The Ankh of Death transformed into a dagger.

“Farewell, Harry Potter,” Sephtus whispered.

He raised his arm. Harry felt his heart constrict, and the dagger fell, plunging into his chest. An earsplitting scream erupted around the chamber. Harry looked up and found Sephtus staggering backward, holding his head, screeching uncontrollably. A pillar of black fire exploded around Sephtus and a dark presence entered the room, chilling Harry’s blood. The black fire around Sephtus formed into a giant hand, the fiery fingers latching onto the magician.

“NO!” Sephtus screamed. “IT WASN’T MY FAULT! IT WAS THE BOY! THE BOY!”

A chilling wicked laugh rattled Harry’s bones as the hand slowly descended into the floor, pulling Sephtus along with it. A crevice sprang open, splitting the ground in two and both disappeared into it, Sephtus’s screams filling the chamber until the ground glued itself back together.

Harry let out a ragged breath. Looking down, he noticed the Ankh of Death was gone. Shining though his ripped robes was the Gate Frame, its surface now cracked. Gazing upon it, Harry somehow knew it had been destroyed. Gritting his teeth, he moved the Gate Frame aside. Blood was trickling down his chest. So the dagger had pierced him. It had gone right though the Gate Frame into Harry’s heart.

Harry gasped again. It was becoming harder to breathe. His vision was dulling. He was dying, there was no denying it. Oddly, he wasn’t afraid. He’d faced death plenty of times before. Besides, now that he knew that after death came Paradise, the concept had lost its terrifying effect. And then there was the thought that he’d be able to see Ginny again.

Reaching up, he found her limp wrist and yanked on it. Her body fell into his arms. Harry rested her head against his chest and breathed in the scent of her hair. “I’m coming,” he whispered and closed his eyes.

Just as the last breath left Harry’s lips, Albus Dumbledore burst into the room.

*~*~*~*~

Albus couldn’t believe his eyes. Harry lay at the foot of a solid stone in the middle of the room, his head propped against Ginny’s, who lay in his arms. Time seemed to slow down as Dumbledore slowly walked over. Crouching down, he gazed upon them with a sorrow that he felt was ripping his heart to shreds. He took Harry’s hand; it was cold.

Tears flowing down his cheeks, Dumbledore pressed it and hung his head. “Oh Harry,” he whispered, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” His sobs choked in his throat as Elle Merrylow slumped to the floor beside him.

“No,” Elle gasped, tears rupturing from her beautiful brown eyes. “No! GINNY! HARRY!” She buried her head in her hands. “They can’t be gone! They can’t be gone!”

Dumbledore still sobbed louder than she. He had done so much for this boy. He’d sacrificed everything. He’d loved Harry like no other. Seeing him here, lifeless, was almost too much to bear. In the back of his mind, he knew all was not lost. But temporarily he was rendered in shock. He never thought Harry would die before him. It was supposed to be the other way around. The young were to have long prosperous lives, filled with adventure. Albus was determined to make sure that would happen for these two miraculous people before him.

He squeezed Harry’s hand, studying the handsome features of the boy he loved so dearly as a son. “I’ve kept you waiting, Harry,” he whispered. “Forgive me of my shock. I’m going to make everything right.”

Elle looked up from her tears. “What are you saying Albus?”

Just then the room was filled with the shouts of Hermione, Ron, Draco, and Alex. All four young adults rushed into the chamber and stopped when they saw the obvious grief of Albus and Elle.

Hermione looked beyond them. “No,” she whispered. “NO!”

Ron rushed over with her. Dumbledore stood and moved aside. Both collapsed before Ginny and Harry’s bodies. Screams of sorrow escaped from Hermione’s lips while Ron sobbed openly into her arms.

Draco came up behind them and stared at Harry in disbelief. “He can’t be gone,” he whispered, his voice thick with emotion, “he can’t be!”

Alex took Draco’s hand but stared at Albus. “What are you going to do?” she asked. “You were too late.”

Everyone turned at these words.

“What are you talking about Alex?” Hermione asked between great gasping sobs.

Alex ignored her, keeping her eyes fixed on Albus. “Well?”

“I am not too late,” Albus replied, wiping the last few tears from his eyes.

“Ginny is dead!” Alex shouted. “You were supposed to save her! By saving her, you would have saved Harry as well! He wasn’t supposed to die! You can’t bring back two souls, Master Dumbledore! It’s against the laws of magic!”

“What’s going on here?” Ron demanded, standing as well. “What do you mean ‘bring back two souls’?”

Albus smiled sadly at Ron. “I’m afraid there is something I have been hiding from all of you. There was a reason I did not die as I had originally planned back in your sixth year – this reason, in fact.”

Hermione’s brow furrowed. “I still don’t understand, professor.”

“None of us do,” Draco snapped.

“Master Dumbledore has been saved so as to bring Harry Potter’s spirit back to the world of the living,” answered Asalon, joining Albus’s side.

“That’s crazy!” Ron cried, looking from Asalon to Dumbledore. “You can’t do something like that!”

“Not with any magic you know, Ron,” said Albus gently. At his confusion, Albus continued, “The magic Asalon speaks of is as old as the world itself. It is still possible to perform in this day and age but a specific, complex magic circle is needed in order to do so.”

“And the knowledge of magic circles died out with the Ancient Egyptians,” Hermione gasped.

“Not entirely, Hermione,” Albus said. “Asalon and Alex are the last living beings -besides myself of course- who know how to create them.”

“But Albus,” piped up Elle, “how on earth did you learn it if there are no records?”

Albus smiled. “While I was in the state of limbo, James came to me and handed me a set of books, giving me specific instructions to take in as much information as I could from their pages. I did as directed.”

“They were books about magic circles,” Draco guessed.

“Yes,” Dumbledore nodded. “I learned the ancient magic while studying and practicing in that limbo state not knowing what its purpose would eventually be. Now I know. An ancient magical concept that was lost when Egypt was destroyed states that in order to return a spirit to its mortal state, another spirit must replace its absence.”

Hermione clasped her hands over her mouth. “You’re going to trade with Harry!” she cried in disbelief.

Dumbledore nodded. “That is my intention. That’s the reason I was kept alive.”

“But, how could you do that?” Draco asked. “Why would you want to willingly give up your life?”

“I don’t expect one so young in life to fully understand that,” said Albus kindly. “I’m old, Draco. I’ve lived my life and fulfilled all that was required of me. But Harry’s destiny has not yet been completed. Neither has Ginny’s.”

“But Alex said you can’t bring back two souls,” said Ron.

“And he’s not going to,” said Elle.

Everyone looked to her. Hermione, Draco, Ron, and Alex were all wide-eyed with disbelief. Asalon’s expression was devoid of all emotion. Albus was practically beaming at her.

Hermione’s eyes filled with tears. Shaking her head, she whispered, “You’re not…?”

Elle smiled deeply at her. “There’s nothing left for me here, Hermione. The one I love is on the other side.”

“What about teaching us?” Ron asked.

“There will always be other teachers, Ron,” Albus replied gently, “Maybe even better than Professor Merrylow and myself.”

Ron tried to laugh through choked emotion. “That’s impossible.”

“You flatter us,” Albus said, smiling. He then turned to Elle. “You are certain this is what you want?”

Elle returned the kind smile he was sending her with her own. “You know it is.”

“Very well,” said Albus. He stepped forward and shook Ron’s hand. “Take care, Ron. And be sure to watch over Harry for me.”

Ron had tears in his eyes now. He was saying goodbye to his hero. “I will and I hope I get to see you again, professor.”

“Likewise,” Albus replied. Then he turned to Draco. Grasping the young man’s shoulders, he looked right into those deep gray eyes. “Draco, I want you to make me a promise.”

“What is it, sir?”

“If evil ever crosses your path again, do not yield to it under any circumstance.”

Draco swallowed. “I won’t, sir.”

Albus smiled at him. “Good.”

Turning to Alex and giving her a hug, he asked her to take good care of Draco before heading over to Hermione. The cleverest witch of the age had tears freefalling from her eyes and her lip was quivering uncontrollably. She launched herself onto him and cried into his shoulder. “We already lost you once,” she muttered into his robes.

“Which is why I know you will survive once I am gone,” Albus replied gently. “Take care of yourself and all those you love, Hermione.”

“I w-will,” she stuttered.

Albus reached into his robes and pulled out a bundle of letters. “Can you give these out once I am gone?” he asked.

She took the envelopes and nodded. “Yes.”

He gave her another short embrace and then pulled away. “Thank you, Hermione.”

She nodded before going over to Elle to say goodbye.

Asalon stepped up and grasped Albus’s arms firmly and wished him safe passage to Paradise. “I’m sure you will find happiness there, my friend,” he said.

“I know that I will,” Albus replied, smiling. He looked over to Elle who had just finished saying goodbye to everyone. “Are you ready?” he asked her.

Elle nodded. “Yes.”

“Then let us prepare for the next grand adventure.”

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