The noise grew louder as Hagrid mounted the final set of stairs. He got on his tip toes to see over the final step only to find hundreds of feet in front of him. Putting his finger over his lips he made his way up the last few only to find the Hallway packed. "Here, what's going on?" he gruffly asked.
"It's OK Hagrid. No problem at all" answered Seamus Finnigan, one of the roommates with Harry, Neville, Ron, and Dean Thomas. "Something incredible is going on and we are waiting our turn."
The crowd parted to allow Hagrid, Grawp (they had to move to let them through), and Parvati and Padma Patil. Making their way around the bend they found why everyone was waiting. Several people were standing at the wall separating the Great Hall and the base of the Grand Stairway which led upstairs. Carved into it on both sides were the names of those who had fallen in both Wizarding Wars. As a student would touch the wall over their loved one their face would appear also. Dozens waited in line to pay their respects.
At the head of the line stood the Headmistress. Not being tall enough she stood staring up at one of her best friends. Two huge hands lifted her and set her on his shoulder as she touched the particular stone. "Hello Albus" she stated, placing the palm of her hand over his name. Her hand jerked back as she felt the stone shift and like the others his face appeared.
"Good likeness" Hagrid commented as he held her.
"I agree. Now if you could please set me down. People are starting to stare." The Headmistress was lowered to the ground and she motioned him to follow. Up the first flight of stairs they went until she was sure they were alone. She waved her wand casting the silencing charm to make sure. "Did you find them?"
"Yes. About an hour ago. On the way back from seeing the Headmaster they discovered a trap set by Death Eaters. The tables were turned and all eight were captured."
"Eight? But how Hagrid, outnumbered almost three to one?"
"With Harry nothing surprises me. Like I said they caught eight. The Patil twins came with us to take the prisoners downstairs. Minerva I came this close to giving them to a Death Eater dressed like an Auror!! The girls realized this and caught him too! So we gave Auror Jones nine total. Each are being held separate in the dungeons on the fifth lower level."
"Near Severus Snape's home. Good. Kingsley will be leaving shortly with the Aurors to search the Ministry. We have a job to do here. Can I count on you and Grawp?"
"Absolutely. And I bet the DA will want to help too. The Weasleys might have to go though."
"Arthur is going to be asked to be a department head. Magical Law. He will be a great help."
"He's a good man. The whole Family is. Now Harry needs to become a permanent part."
"Agreed. Nothing should stand in their way."
* * *
Disillusioned and pressed against the wall were Hermione, Ron, and Harry. As people talked about their Family they caused the wall to continue to gain carvings, both of their names and faces. Over two hours later the crowd was gone, back inside to mourn with their friends and Families.
"Harry how did you create the faces of those ones from the first War? My Uncles died when I was a baby."
"Legilimency Ron. Harry looked into their memories didn't you?"
"I did Hermione. Let them think the Castle did it please. The three of us can know. And Ginny of course if I ever get the chance."
"Which you won't get if we stay out here. By now I'm sure she is worried something bad happened, or you don't want to see her. It's all or nothing mate" Ron tried to reassure his best friend.
The three reversed the spell to disillusion themselves only to find Grawp and Hagrid standing nearby. They waved and made no effort to talk, so Ron led the way. All three slipped inside and began to walk up the main aisle.
"LOOK!! IT'S THEM!!" someone yelled. Applause began which became louder as they went further. Finally the Trio made it to the Weasleys who were standing too.
"We are so proud of all three of you" Arthur told them as he shook their hands.
"I'm sorry Mr. Weasley but we don't feel the same. Losing Fred and all these good people ... "
"Harry you must stop this. The Death Eaters did this. Each of us this last year might have done things differently, but in the end the important thing is Voldemort is dead" Kingsley reminded him.
"Never the less it took a long time. Much longer than we thought it would. Had it not ... "
"Hermione who knows what might have happened differently? If this was let's say a month ago the centaurs might not have been ready to help. Or if it took longer Voldemort's Army could have gotten stronger" replied Minerva.
"Did you see the wall outside? The Castle wants us to remember them. And never forget" Molly said as she hugged all three together. Harry was in the center so none noticed the face he made as the pain surged through him.
"Ginny? I was wondering if you and I could go somewhere and talk. I have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do" Harry said both to her and the Weasleys.
Ginny nodded not trusting herself to speak. Harry gestured for them to move away from her parents and they began to walk in the direction of the entrance. "How are you Ginny?"
"Ok" was her one word reply.
Harry did not pursue things further until they reached an empty table near the doorway. "Is this good?"
"Sure" she replied and sat down.
Harry felt sick. He knew he needed to tell her everything but it seemed like she didn't want to know. Or care, since she wasn't asking any questions. 'We have been apart a long time. She probably gave up on us. I love her and have to try, even if it is to only tell her what happened'. He sat down beside her and began to talk. "Ginny I am sorry. There are so many things I did wrong and I am at a loss to where to start. Many of my fears came true while we were gone, but the one I was most afraid of was something bad happening to you. I am glad to see that didn't take place."
Ginny continued to stare blankly at the door so Harry pressed on. "We were attacked within minutes of leaving the Wedding. From there things only got worse."
* * *
"I'm glad all of you are here because we want to share some of what happened. Harry is doing the same with Ginny. He loves her and wants them to be together but he feels he has to both apologize and explain like he said. From the time we left the Wedding we had problems." Hermione, with Ron's help, described the search for the horcruxes. Luna Lovegood and Neville were waved over and the 'Muffliato' charm covered them too as Ron back tracked to catch them up.
It was dark out by the time Hermione and Ron finished. "That only scratches the surface. Many other things took place but these were some of the most important."
"That was amazing Hermione! To live after all those bad things happened" Fleur Weasley said for them. "When you stayed with us we did not discuss this."
"We did not want to burden you more. I'm sorry but we had no alternative" she replied.
"How is Harry coming?" Ron asked. "I didn't want to turn around and stare."
"I've been keeping my eye on them. They sat down and Harry started talking. It didn't take long for him to kneel down in front of her. I think she may be making him earn her back" teased George.
"Or maybe he is proposing?" wondered Charlie.
"She would have dragged him back here to tell us. It looks like you two finally figured things out" joked Bill.
"We did" replied Ron who surprisingly did not blush. "Yes I am a little slow but eventually it sunk in. I am in love with this incredibly beautiful, talented Witch."
"And I am in love with this very handsome, brave Wizard" she answered as she kissed him.
"Good. One couple down, one to go. George, be a dear and wander over there. Harry may need help getting up if he has been kneeling this whole time" instructed Molly.
"Yes Mom. So I am the bad guy interrupting them this time" he said winking at Ron who was busy snogging Hermione again. He shrugged his shoulders and made his way to the opposite end, pausing occasionally to shake hands with people he knew. Reaching the last table he found Ginny sitting alone, clutching a tattered rag to her chest.
"Hey kid. Where's Harry? Off to the loo?" When she didn't answer he knelt down to see her sitting in a daze, both her arms wrapped tightly around the cloth.
"Ginny? I said where's Harry?" he asked a little louder this time. He attempted to pull the garment away from him but she pulled it even closer and began to cry. Helping her up he put his arm around her and half walked/half pulled her back up to their Family.
* * *
Harry continued to talk to Ginny, trying to explain the bad things which happened to them. At one point he shifted onto his knees to look directly at her since she was not facing him. Her blank stare did not help him but he continued, thinking she thought he didn't want to be interrupted. On and on he went, alternating between saying how much he loved her and relating the events in the approximate order they took place. After an hour he noticed she began to mumble something after he again said how much he loved her and wanted to make it up to her. "I'm sorry Ginny what?" he asked as he leaned closer.
"Is it? Do you really think so?" he asked, overjoyed that she wanted them back together. He squeezed her hands tighter at her reply. Unfortunately she continued so he pressed his ear against her lips.
"Probably not a good idea" came out this time.
Harry was shell shocked. Her mouth continued to move, and he leaned close again wishing he was wrong. "Probably not a good idea" came out again, showing him he heard correctly.
"Ginny I'm so sorry. Sorry that I hurt you like this. I should have asked you to come and taken the chance but I didn't and you hate me for it. It has been almost a year and people change. Maybe you want to be with Dean or Michael? Or someone I never knew. Either way you should be happy. I want you to know that I love you. So much that your life will be better without me in it. Goodbye Ginny."
Harry disillusioned himself as he stood. His knees creaked as he did this but his whole body was numb. As tenderly as possible he kissed Ginny's forehead before apparating away.
* * *
"Ron. Hermione get up. Something is wrong" Arthur directed. The couple leaped up wands drawn and saw George bringing Ginny to the table. Grabbing her shoulders he gently but firmly pushed her down so she was sitting next to Molly.
"Ginny what happened? Where is Harry? And what is this you are holding?" Molly softly asked.
The mumbling continued from her daughter. She leaned close to hear better. "Probably not a good idea? What does that mean?"
"Something has happened. That is Harry's shirt he had on when we came in" Ron told his shocked Family.
"We need to organize a search. The Ministry can wait. By the way Arthur you are the new Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Your first job is to find Harry Potter."
Arthur Weasley took his promotion in stride. "Neville gather the DA as quickly as you can. The Aurors are already here, so we can have them go to ..."
As this was happening Molly tried to talk more to Ginny but got no response.
"Molly she is exhausted. A short nap and maybe she can give us more information" suggested the main Healer Madam Pomprey. She handed Ginny a glass to drink which she automatically did and quickly fell asleep. They laid her on a bench to let her rest with George remaining behind.
* * *
Harry Potter found himself in an empty corridor. He passed many empty portrait frames as he walked, not caring what part of the Castle he was in. Eventually he recognized where he was and continued on, going up two more flights of stairs. One of them shifted as he did so, but he levitated himself to the space he wanted. A short trip and he was standing in front of the stone gargoyle which guarded the entrance to the Headmasters Office. He waved his wand and it opened for him, allowing access to the secret set of steps. Up he went, knocked, and entered.
Inside all was quiet. The magical trinkets, which constantly moved when Professor Dumbledore was there, were still. Harry walked over to the large portrait which hung behind the desk chair and found it empty too. "I wonder where he is off to? I wanted to say goodbye to him." He waved his wand and the small items began to spin and twirl on the shelves, causing him to smile. Nearby was the empty case the Sword of Gryffindor was usually in. "I bet Neville still has it" he said placing a hand upon it. He took one last look at the empty gold frame before leaving.
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