The Sugar Quill
Author: Rachael DuBois (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 10 Pages or Less  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Harry Potter brushed his dark bushy hair out of his eyes, revealing the lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead

            Harry Potter brushed his dark bushy hair out of his eyes, revealing the lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead.  Vernon Dursley, his disagreeably-tempered uncle, opened the door wider so Harry could fit his trunk through the door.  “And we’re never going to see you again?” he asked, barely hiding his glee.

            “Don’t worry,” Harry replied.  “I don’t plan on ever coming back.”

            “So you make sure that Dumbly fellow knows we’re done with you.  We don’t need any more of your kind stopping by here again.”

            At Dumbledore’s name, Harry drew up short involuntarily, contemplating the benefits of cursing his uncle once and for all, but was successfully distracted by what was at the end of the driveway. 

             “I didn’t think you’d have the guts to show your face around me, Mundungus Fletcher.”  Harrry had to admit he wasn’t entirely sad to see the little thief, especially considering the apoplectic noises his uncle was making behind him at such a person being on his front lawn.

            “Tonks made me come,” Mundungus muttered sullenly. “She said I had to apologize for sellin’ Sirius’ stuff, and I had to tell you who I sold it to.”  He pulled a package from his robes.  After Harry politely declined the jelly baby, Mundungus pulled out another package, this one rather grimy.  It also smelled faintly of Limburger cheese.  “In ‘ere is the address, ‘arry, I swear.”

            Harry frowned at the lines.  Where was Hereford’s Revenge?  Before he could ask the thief, he heard a crack and Mundungus was gone.  With a groan, he put the package into his trunk.  If he had time later he’d look through the list.  They were only things, and he had more important tasks to do now.  He opened Hedwig’s cage.  “I’m going to Godric’s Hollow, so you can meet up with me there, or just go to the Burrow.  I’ll see you.”  He watched as his owl took off.  Then, gripping the handle of his trunk tightly and picturing his uncle’s horrified face at magic being performed on his front lawn, he Apparated.

            He had hoped he would recognize it.  He hadn’t counted on it looking exactly as he’d imagined. 

            All around him were hollows and, every so often, pictures of Godric Gryffindor.  There on the right was one of Godric at the first Hogwarts founder’s day feast, arm around Salazar Slytherin.  On the left was Godric at the 14th National Warlocks Convention.  And beyond that – was it?  Yes, it was.  Godric Gryffindor, one-year-old, blissfully naked on a bear rug.

            “I wondered how long it would take you to get here.”

            Harry whirled around.  A young woman in purple robes stood at a podium to his right.  “Excuse me?”

            “You are Harry Potter, are you not?”

            “Who are you?” 

            The young woman smiled.  “Who I am is not important.  What is important is what I have for you.”  She drew a wand from her robes, and Harry took a step back, fumbling for his own.  “Don’t be silly,” she reprimanded.  “If I wanted to hurt you I would have done it as soon as you arrived.  This is for you.”  She extended the wand, which was made of wood so dark it was almost black.

            “What is it?”

            “It belonged to Ravenclaw.  I obtained it through a series of harrowing events that I won’t bother you with now.  But I believe you’ve been hoping to find it?”

            Harry took the wand from her in disbelief.  He looked at her more closely and realized, under her disguise, he knew who she was.  “Madam Bones?”

            She smiled, a little sadly.  “I’d love to explain, Harry, but you haven’t got time to sit around and chat.  Suffice it to say, my death was faked so I would be able to continue my attempts at finding and destroying He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s horcruxes.”

            “But—”

            “Go on, Harry.  Visit your parents for a while.”  She gestured to her left at a rough pathway.  “Maybe we’ll see each other in the future.  The best of luck.”

            Before Harry could even say ‘thank you,’ she was gone.  Left behind was a thick letter with his name on it.  Harry picked it up and placed it in his trunk with the wand, which he secured with a heavy locking spell.

            Harry headed off into the rather wild woods that held his parents’ graves.  He made a left around a particularly gnarled tree and found a clearing with two piles of stones at the far end.  He had found them.

            The next hour was a very private one.  Harry made sure his eyes were dry when he left and returned to the empty podium.  He Apparated to the Burrow, grimly reminded that he was alone in this impossible quest.  At which point he was attacked by Fred and George Weasley.  “Harry!” Fred shouted.

            “We thought you weren’t going to make it!” George announced, slapping Harry on the back.  “’Bout time someone sane showed up here.  Mum’s driving us all crazy.”

            Harry grinned back at them.  “Somehow I wonder if it isn’t the other way around.”  He looked pointedly at The Weasleys’ Party in a Bag sticking out of Fred’s pocket – Guaranteed to Liven Up Any Friendly Gathering in Three Seconds or Less. 

            George laughed.  “The woman thinks the highlight of the evening before a man’s wedding should be the cake.”

            “Really,” Fred put in.  “The woman is nutters.” 

            Hermione dashed down the pathway to hug Harry.  “I’m so glad you made it!” she cried.  Ron strolled up behind her, a huge grin on his face. 

            “Finish up everything you needed to, mate?”

            Harry jerked his head toward his trunk.  “I’ll tell you later.”

            “We heard about you not going back to school,” Fred told him.  “The real world is the best teacher we’ve always thought.  Just don’t go talking about it too much around Mum.  She breaks things when Ron mentions it.”

            “Including my head,” he put in, patting the thatch of ginger hair atop said head woefully. 

            Harry took a moment to appreciate the laughter, and his steadfast friend who’d caused it, but he knew that his mission couldn’t wait for the good times to end.  The moment Ron closed the door on his room – which they’d be sharing with Charlie – Harry took out the wand. 

            “Is that … is that?”

            “Yes, Hermione.”  He handed it to her.  “It’s Ravenclaw’s wand.”  He sighed.  “One down, four to go.” 

            Ron turned it around in his hands.  He shrugged and suddenly whacked it against his bedpost.  The strike made a deep thwack but the wand was undamaged and Ron, who was vibrating himself, said, “Well that won’t do.” 

            Hermoine pursed her lips, probably to keep from laughing rather than scolding, and announced, “I’ve been thinking about that.”  She held up the wand.  “It’s too bad Dumbledore didn’t leave you any hints.  You managed to destroy the diary using the basilisk tooth.  Maybe we need to find something as powerful to destroy this.”

            “Where are we going to find another basilisk tooth?” Ron asked.

            “I’m not sure that would do it this time.  Maybe a particularly powerful fire, to burn it?”

            Harry frowned.  “I wouldn’t know where to start looking for something like that.”  He pulled the package and the letter from his robes.  “But I ran into Amelia Bones today, and she gave me this.” 

            Hermione opened the letter, deciding to overlook Harry’s apparent dip into fantasy (Madam Bones was dead!) to read:

Possible Methods of Destruction

1.  Curses A -Z of Bonkaroo’s Nasty Hexes and Other Foul Spells for AvengingTime-consuming, exhausting and ultimately futile.  But that Bonkaroo is rather dashing.

2.  Charms A-Z – Dear Lily tried everything she knew, but nothing seemed to come close.  I’m just glad she didn’t bother to ask why I was trying to destroy this blasted, hideous cup.

3.  Repeated, Energetic Jumping, Thrashing, or Whacking – Not so far, but highly therapeutic

4.  Ask Really Nicely – Obviously, I am fast approaching desperation, but my mother always told me that fine manners could win most things. 

5.  A Particularly Powerful Fire – Success!  The cup let out a blood-curdling scream before it collapsed into a grey-looking gold.  Used anti-coagulating charm to restore blood to normal.  

            The message concluded with a scrawled Now, where are the rest of these evil things?

            Hermione passed it to Ron.  Harry suddenly had a huge grin on his face.  He looked up from the letter he had been reading through.  “I know where Slytherin’s locket is!”  He gave Hermione the letter.  “This is a list of what Mundungus Fletcher stole from Sirius’ house.  Look at the third item.”

            It read: “Heavy silver locket, ‘S’ on the front.”

            “Oh, Harry.  Are you sure?”

            “The cup has been destroyed!” Ron said with a shout.  He was no less excited when Harry and Hermione brought him up to speed on the second letter.  “This is brilliant!  It’s like someone’s trying to make this as easy as possible for you!” 

            Harry snorted, locked the wand away again, opened the door – and stood face to face with Ginny Weasley.  “Yeah, easy,” he muttered. 

            “Hey, Harry,” Ginny said calmly.  “What’s brilliant?”

            “Nothing,” Ron replied.  “Don’t you have a last minute fitting or something?”

            Ginny frowned.  “I just wanted to let you know—Luna, Neville, and I have decided we’re not going back to Hogwarts either.  Harry, if we can help you, we want to.  You know we can.”

            Harry looked into her sincere eyes and knew she meant it.  “Thanks, Ginny.  It means a lot—it really does.  But right now I just want you all to be happy and enjoy tomorrow.”

            “Fine,” Ginny said.  “But don’t go getting killed without me.”  She turned and left.

            “Sisters,” Ron grunted.  “Lemme see that letter, Hermione.”

            “Where’s Heresford’s Revenge?” Hermione asked.

            “Doesn’t sound like somewhere I want to go, anyhow.”  Ron turned over the letter.  “On the other hand …”

            The listing had been written on the back of a photocopied newspaper article.  In faded type, the trio read about an elderly Mr. Cratchett who lived in a house named Heresford’s Revenge.  After winning the national lottery in mid-age, he’d shut himself up in the isolated house, put a sign outside (“This here’s Heresford’s Revenge, now go away.”), and was seen in town only on Christmas and Banging Budgie Day (Don’t ask). 

He was rumored to have an extremely rare and extremely obliging disease nicknamed Magpie Madness.  If it was shiny, Mr. Cratchett would buy it. 

            “I have some really shiny pennies,” Ron muttered.  “I bet I could get a couple of pounds out of the codger.”

            “Ron, try to focus on the problem at hand.”  Hermione looked anxiously at Harry.  “How are we going to get the locket back?” 

            Harry stared at the picture grimly.  “We’ll find out tonight when we get there.”

            Several hours later, after the sounds of the dinner had faded into the night to be replaced with Charlie’s satisfied snores, Harry, Ron, and Hermione snuck quietly out of the front door of the Burrow.  When they had crept far enough away that they wouldn’t be heard, they Apparated to Heresford’s Revenge.

            The house was large and creepy and the lawn looked like it hadn’t been cared for in years.  Ron tripped over a root in the walkway to the front door and cursed loudly. 

            “Shhhh,” Hermione scolded.  “How do you expect to get in?” she asked Harry.

            “We’re going to knock on the front door,” he announced firmly.  “Got those shiny pennies still, Ron?”  Ron rattled his pockets in response.  Harry started up the massive front door and grasped the silver knocker.  It clanged loudly and resonated through the yard. 

            No one expected the woman who opened the door.

            “Can I help you?” asked the tall, fiercely once-beautiful woman. 

            “Wh- wh- what are you doing here?” Harry croaked.

            Bellatrix Lestrange frowned.  “I live here.  What are you doing here?”  She frowned even more heavily, and the cold, cruel look he was used to began to steal into her gleaming eyes.  “Do I know you?”  

            “No, no, definitely not,” reassured Ron.  “We just came to … uh …”

            “To say hello to Mr. Cratchett,” put in Hermione.  “Is he in?”

            The suspicion didn’t leave her face, but she obligingly opened the door and lead them down the crowded, dusty hallway. 

            Hermione gasped. “Oh, Harry!”  She pointed to the end of the hallway, where Slytherin’s locket was on display in a glass case.  A shaft of moonlight illuminated it so it shined. 

            Bellatrix was eyeing them warily.  “What do you want with it?”

            “It’s just so beautiful,” Hermione answered carefully.          

“You’d better not touch,” the dark-haired woman warned.  “It’s mine.”  

            “What do you think is up with her?” Ron mumbled to Harry.  “Maybe she’s caught whatever the old codger’s got wrong in the head?”            Harry glanced back at the woman.  Loyal Death Eater, unrepentant murderer, Bellatrix Lestrange was hopping from foot to foot and flapping her arms.  “Yep,” said Ron.  “Completely bonkers.”

            “Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful,” murmured Harry.  “I don’t like how she’s chomping her teeth.”

            “Urgh,” agreed Ron.  “Get ready to grab it, Harry.”  Ron rummaged in his pocket, pulled out his pennies, and pitched them down the hallway.

            Bellatrix squealed and dashed after them.  Harry ripped the cover off the locket.  An alarm began sounding and Hermione clapped her hands over her ears.  “We didn’t think of a security system!”

            Ron drew his wand.  Bellatrix had stopped gathering up the pennies and turned back to them.  “Harry,” Ron said warily, “look out.”

            “Come on,” Harry said, grasping the locket and pulling his wand with the other hand.  He pointed to the door to their right.  “We’ll go through there.”

            This plan worked well enough for the first few steps, but suddenly they were sliding down the dark, rickety staircase.  With a crash and a painful thump (which was mostly drowned out by Ron’s high-pitched “eeeeeee”) they landed on what felt like several metal cacti.

            “Blimey . . .” Surrounding them were heaps of treasure.  Jewels, gold, silver, in every shape and shade imaginable.  “There must be millions in here—thousands just under my bum.”  And with no further ado, Ron began to shovel handfuls into his pocket.

            “Ronald!” Hermione admonished.

            “Do you want a birthday present or not?”

            She hesitated.  “Leave the jewels.  They’re harder to sell.”

            Ron grinned and continued what he was doing.  Harry looked around.  “How do we get out of here?”

            Hermione stood up unsteadily on the piles of treasure.  She lit her wand and peered around.  There were no doors, only windows.  She ran to one and tried it but found it was locked.

            The sounds of a scuffle reached them from above.  “My treasure!” a man’s voice shouted.  The three below spun around.  An old man with wild gray hair was pushing Bellatrix out of the way at the door.

            “No, my treasure!” Bellatrix screeched.  “It’s mine!”

            “She really is mad,” Hermione breathed.

            “Get us outta here before we catch it,” Ron demanded.

            With a quick Alohamora the windows flew open and they hopped to the ground.  Hermione spun around and locked the windows behind them.  Bellatrix threw herself against the glass, futilely scratching her fingers against it as the old man began to count his coins behind her.

            With practiced ease, they Apparated back to the Burrow.  All three paused, certain Mrs. Weasley would fall on them with questions, rebukes, and commands.  When this failed to happen, Harry felt rather more disappointed than relieved.

            “C’mon,” Hermione said quietly.  “Let’s try to destroy these things.”

            Really, it proved ridiculously easy.  Crouching in the Weasley shed, Hermione conjured one of her famous fires to smelt the locket much as Madam Bones had.  Harry cast Muffliato to muffle the shrill shrieks it emanated as it melted.  After sneaking back into the house to grab the wand, Harry snapped it by wedging it between the lid of a trunk and jumping on the protruding end.  Hermione burnt the rent pieces, too, just for good measure.  They sat there for a time as their hearing returned, suddenly at a loss for action.  A rooster called the hour.

            “It’s almost time to be getting up,” remarked Ron tiredly.

            “At least it should be a relaxing day.”  Hermione rested her head on his shoulder.

            They dragged themselves into the kitchen, just as Mrs. Weasley was coming down the stairs.  “Are you three up already?  Good.  You can start setting the table for breakfast.  We’ve got a real horde waking up soon.”  She cheerfully sashayed to the stove.

            Ron groaned and banged his head on the table.  Harry felt if it wasn’t for the relief of knowing that only one horcrux remained he would be right there with him.

            Guests started arriving soon afterward for the dawn ceremony.  Lupin and Tonks, her hair a delicate shade of blue for the occasion, were the first.  Fred and George set up fireworks to greet the guests until Madam Maxime nearly tumbled into the flowerbed in shock and Mr. Weasley made them stop.  Even Moody came, his eye spinning madly in search of traps set by the twins.  Harry was happiest to see Hagrid arrive – even happier when he learned Grawp had been left behind.  “Nothn’ decent to wear,” the big fuzzy man explained.  Harry took this to be an understatement as Hagrid’s dressing judgment was notoriously bad.

            For the first time, Harry saw the ceremony site.  The old paddock where they’d practice Quidditch had been converted into something bearing resemblance to a Roman amphitheater.  Fleur, apparently, was a big fan of the classical.  She’d written in sparkling letters “The Sacred Hallows,” and they sang a little as the guests walked underneath them.

            Harry took a seat next to Lupin as Bill and Fleur joined hands in front of Madam Maxime, who was officiating.  “Marriage ez what brings us together today—”  Lupin suddenly started.  A silvery fox had appeared at his feet.  Harry looked at it in curiosity.  It certainly looked like a Patronus, but whom could it belong to?  Lupin rose suddenly and shot a silvery stream from his own wand in several directions.  He murmured in Tonks’s ear, then turned to Harry.  “That was from Snape.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but—”

            He never had the chance to finish.  Lupin was frozen on the spot.  Harry was almost too distracted to realize he had been petrified as well.  Bill and Fleur had just started exchanging vows when, with a crack, Voldemort appeared in the middle of the dais.

            The screams that should have erupted were oddly silent.  Voldemort chuckled as his Death Eaters stepped through the crowd.  “So sorry to arrive uninvited, but I have a prophecy to fulfill.”  His slitted gaze fell on Harry.  “Come here, Potter.” 

            A flick of his wand made Harry and his chair float up and over, landing with surreal gentleness in front of Voldemort.  With another flick of his wand Voldemort sent Harry’s wand soaring away from him to clatter to the ground some distance away.  A lackey – Wormtail, Harry realized – had already moved Fleur, Bill, and Madame Maxime.  As he no doubt loved, Voldemort had center stage.  “What,” he hissed, “have you done with my horcruxes, you miserable boy?”

            Harry saw Wormtail flinch, horrified understanding dawning on his pointed face.  Their eyes locked for just a moment. 

            “Speak!”  Voldemort demanded. 

            Harry suddenly found that he could.  “We destroyed them,” he explained calmly.  “There’s only one left.”  And, again, Harry looked at the man who’d been Peter Pettigrew, for in his arms he clutched Nagini, the last prodigal portion of Voldemort’s soul. 

            “My Lord!”   Just to make matters worse, Draco Malfoy arrived on scene.  Voldemort hissed in anger at being interrupted.  Draco tried to smile around his sneer.  “I have brought you spies.  I found them poking around the Riddle house and captured them.”  Harry’s heart sank into his stomach.  Draco had brought Neville and Luna with him, bound and gagged.

            “Idiot,” Voldemort hissed, turning his gaze from Harry.  

            A dark form stepped forward from the other Death Eaters.  “My Lord,” said a silky voice that grated at Harry’s nerves and made him fight harder than ever against the spell that bound him, “I can deal with the boy for you.  Please, do not be distracted.”  Snape placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder, and if Harry could have moved, even without his wand he would have cursed him where he stood.

            Voldemort’s eyes flashed.  “Be sure you do, Snape.”  He turned back to Harry.  “Destroyed?  How unfortunate for you.  I might have dispatched you quickly, but now I’ll take my time.”

            Frozen and wandless, there was nothing Harry could do to stop the Crucio curse.  He couldn’t even cry out to release the pain of it.  In this long moment, Harry knew that he wasn’t – and never would be – the equal of Voldemort in power.  And he actually felt relieved.  Released from the pressure to magically triumph, Harry relaxed into knowing that his best truly was his best, even if it meant he didn’t win. 

            Wormtail was looking at Neville, mouthing words Harry couldn’t hear.  Neville’s look of bewilderment suddenly set into determination.  Luna, standing nearly on top of Neville, was studying the orange sky with polite interest, her arms wiggling oddly. 

            And then Neville’s arms were free, the raggedly cut bond falling to the floor with as much inspiring grace as Neville’s outstretched hand commanded.  A wand leaped into it, and, with grim satisfaction, Neville aimed at Wormtail, fired, and – the one time it mattered most – hit his target.  The snake Nagini fell to the floor as a pile of ashes. 

            Voldemort’s roar echoed fiercely throughout the amphitheater, but Harry recognized the terror at the heart of it.  A sense of calm optimism filled his breast, even as Luna and Neville were taken down by a Death Eater’s spell from somewhere behind Harry, even as Voldemort sent Wormtail’s life from his tired body. 

            In the moment of Voldemort’s distraction, Harry found himself released from the Petrificus curse.  He bolted toward the demented creature without any idea of what he was going to do.  What could he do, except give his last breath to fighting the evil?  He might die, but he would die like his parents, and there couldn’t be anything more honorable than that.

            Loud cracks of Apparition sounded, and Harry heard familiar voices shouting to each other.  McGonagall, Kingsley, and others he had met at 12 Grimmauld Place had arrived.  The frozen statues came back to life and the Death Eaters were caught off-guard as they found they were surrounded by enemies.

            Harry couldn’t find his wand as he charge toward Voldemort, but in the midst of the confusion a snowy owl swooped overhead.  “Hedwig!”  Harry reached up and caught his wand as it fell from the bird’s grasp.

            But Voldemort saw Harry moving toward him, and reaching out he grasped Draco by the collar and pulled him close.  “Watch out, Potter.  Even without my horcruxes, I am much more powerful than you are.  You cannot hope to defeat me.”

            “Whether I can or not, I’m still going to try.”

            The Dark Lord gave a hollow laugh.  “Would you still, Potter, if I told you I would kill a friend if you tried to attack me?”  Out of the corner of his eye, Harry could see Snape was very close by, ignoring the fray around him.

            Harry laughed back.  “Malfoy is no friend of mine.”

            “True.”  The slit of a mouth opened in what Harry assumed was an attempt at a smile.  “But, Potter, don’t you subscribe to the out-dated philosophy of that fool, Dumbledore?  Do you, Potter, truly believe there is a love greater than any power I can wield?  That mercy and forgiveness outmatch my justified vengeance?” 

            His voice dropped into a surprisingly persuasive murmur.  “Don’t you have revenge in your heart, Harry?  Don’t you hate this boy, this arrogant, stupid boy who’s hounded your every step, who’s done all in his power to make you ridiculous?  Don’t you want to hurt this boy, the reason your beloved Dumbledore is dead?  Would you stop me from killing him?”

            Voldemort pulled Draco more tightly against him, his wand pressing painfully at his throat.  Harry watched Draco wince with detached fascination.  The number of times Harry’d longed to damage Draco came to surface in a bubble of resentment and anger. 

            But hate him to death?  Harry looked into Draco’s still idiotically loyal eyes and finally understood Dumbledore’s message.  Voldemort was not capable of mercy; his own mother had proven that. 

            But Harry was.  “Yes, I would stop you.  It doesn’t matter what he’s done to me.  It would be wrong for you to kill him, and I would try to stop you.” 

            Voldemort hissed and threw Draco away from him.  “If not him, what about my most loyal servant, hmm?  Snape, come to me.”

            Harry gripped his wand so tightly he thought it would break.  Snape slowly stepped out of the shadows until Harry could make out his features.  The sallow-faced man was sneering, and Harry did not bother to fight the waves of hatred he felt.  Snape had killed Dumbledore.  It would be justice for Snape to be killed by Voldemort.

            But Voldemort was smiling.  “Yes, remember what he did on my orders.  He killed Dumbledore and made it possible for me to make my move.  He has been loyal to me from the beginning.  And yet I will not hesitate to strike him down.  Would you stop me then, Potter?”

            The only flicker on Snape’s face was to glance down at Draco, who was still on the ground.  He looked back at Harry without a trace of emotion.  Dumbledore had been so wrong to trust this man.  Harry knew with every fiber of his being that Snape deserved to die, and he wanted to watch if he couldn’t do it himself.

            But he also knew, deep down where Dumbledore’s voice still resonated, that it was still wrong.  If Snape were to die at Voldemort’s hand, it wouldn’t fix anything.  Snape had been the advocate of revenge, and it had never repaired him.  At the end, at the very least, Harry wasn’t going to be like Snape, not ever.

            “No,” Harry said, not looking away from Snape.  “I won’t let you kill him either.  Not because I forgive him, because I won’t ever do that.  But because I’m not going to let hating him ruin my life like hating my father ruined his.”  He turned back to Voldemort.  “If you try to kill him, I’m going to stop you, if it’s the last thing I do.”

            Voldemort tilted his head to the side.  “You are as big a fool as that idiot headmaster.  But it doesn’t matter.  In the end, you’ll both come to the same fate.  Do you want to go down fighting, or would you rather I strike you dead where you stand?”

            Harry never had to answer the question.  A burst of green light blinded him, and in that instant, Voldemort was dead.

            Harry stared at the form crumpled on the ground, not believing his own eyes.  He looked up and stared dumbly at Snape, whose wand was drawn and pointed at the figure.  “Why?” he asked haltingly.

            Snape didn’t look up from his former master’s body, and if Harry hadn’t known better he would have said Snape looked as surprised as he felt.  “Well, it certainly wasn’t for you.”

            “Traitor!”  Draco was on his feet now, his wand pointed at Snape’s heart.  Before either Harry or Snape could move, Draco gave his own killing blow.

            Snape fell to the ground, his dark eyes open and as emotionless as they had been moments before.

            Harry blinked, oddly unsatisfied.  Next second, he found himself on the ground, having been knocked over by Fleur Delacour and her three-foot wide dress.  “You are inconsiderate!  You are a buffoon!”  She pummeled a shocked Draco Malfoy about the head with her rapidly disintegrating bouquet.  Once more, her Veela heritage was obvious, if for a different reason than usual.  “You are ruining my be-you-tiful wedding!” 

            And with a final round kick (which Bill would fondly recall until the end of his days), the Beauxbaton’s TriWizard Champion knocked Draco Malfoy quite unconscious. 

            “Harry!  Are you all right?”  A pretty vision in gold kneeled next to him.

            “Yeah,” he assured Ginny Weasley.  “Though ... I’m a bit confused.”

            “Did you hit your head?  Neville and Luna are still a bit scrambled, but Tonks says they’re going to be fine.  No one else is injured – on our side, that is – except for Aunt Winifred, but she’s just faking to make Uncle Everett let her take a rest holiday in Spain …”  She stopped because Harry was grinning at her.      Her face as red as her hair, she silently helped him up. 

            “Oy, Harry, you didn’t have to do it!”  Ron bounded up and clapped him on the back.  “Never thought Snape’d have it in him.  But handy of him to break the prophecy.”

            Drowning out Ginny’s curious, “What prophecy?” Hermione excitedly contradicted Ron. “He didn’t!  Because I had all that time to think while we were petrified, I’ve figured it all out!  You see, it’s all a matter of unclear antecedents!  When the prophecy said, ‘Either shall die at the hand of the other’ it really meant either Harry or Voldemort will die at the hand of another – the other person in the prophecy so inadequately introduced – Snape!”

            Harry and Ron took this in rather slowly and painfully, ignoring Ginny’s indignant cries of  “What prophecy?  What dying!” 

            At that moment Lupin came running up with McGonagall and Hagrid close behind him.  “Harry!  Are you alright?”  McGonagall clapped her hand over her mouth at the scene.

            “Yeah,” Harry said tiredly.  “I’m fine.  It was Snape that killed him.”

            Lupin looked down at Snape.  “But why did he do it?”

            “I don’t know.  He didn’t have a chance to say.  I’m just glad he did.  Saved my life.”  Harry felt Ginny slide an arm around his waist, and he suddenly felt a little less tired.  McGonagall just surveyed the bodies with a look of sadness.

            “Pardon me!  Everyone!”  They looked to their right, where Fleur, her wedding dress dirty and a little ripped at the hem, was waving what was left of her bouquet in the air.  “Everyone!  Ve are going to ‘ave this wedding today ef it kills us!  Take your seats, unless you are tying up ze bad people.  Bill!  Bill!  Get over here!”

            Ginny snorted.  “All this mess, and she’s still going through with it?”

            Harry looked into her eyes and smiled.  “Of course she is.  They’ve waited long enough, don’t you think?”  Ginny looked back at him with surprise.  Slowly she smiled.

            She took Harry’s hand and led him to the seat next to hers.  In a few moments, bodies moved to the side where several harried-looking Ministry officials were trying to sort things out, Fleur and Bill were married.  But Harry missed most of the ceremony because he was too pre-occupied with the most beautiful woman there.

 

Epilogue:

            Harry ran a finger along the edge of the mahogany desk, feeling for the nicks he’d made seventeen years ago when he smashed Albus Dumbledore’s mysterious instruments.  Now it was McGonagall’s office, and Harry had lingered behind after meeting with the Headmistress.

            Harry wandered over to the plaque fastened to the wall, awarding both Sirius and Regulus Black posthumous clemency and an Order of Merlin, First Class.  Harry didn’t particularly care about Regulus’s, but since he’d burned down number 12 Grimmauld Place, there was nowhere else to hang it.  Besides, he owed the man that much respect for apparently deciding at the last to work against Voldemort.  They still weren’t entirely sure, but the initials RAB and the presence of the locket in the Black household were strong links. 

Next to it was a smaller plaque marking the years Severus Snape had taught at Hogwarts.  Most agreed that this was not enough recognition for his acts at what was now called the Deathly Hallows.  He had, after all, been the one to alert Lupin and to kill Voldemort.  But the Ministry had apparently only so much forgiveness per year and had refused to honor the murderer of Albus Dumbledore.  So Minerva McGonagall, as Headmistress of Hogwarts, had bestowed the highest honor she had in her disposal: an award for Special Services to the school. 

            It was Percy Weasley who’d made sure the pardons and honors were (or weren’t) issued.  This act was less of an apology and more of an overture.  Now that his father was Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley’s views on the world seemed so much more sensible. 

            In a rather sinister coincidence, the same day Mr. Weasley finally achieved his wife’s fondest wish, Dolores Umbridge suffered a terrible accident involving a hair curling wand and a poorly hung gamboling kitten platter.  Hermione was the first Healer to arrive at the gruesome scene.  She later admitted to Harry that she’d been tempted to tell Rita Skeeter, the dispatched reporter, a few more “tidbits” than were strictly necessary.  Instead, she’d gone home to her husband and their five curly, red-haired children.  

            Before the children, Ron and Harry had spent several years, after completing their last year at Hogwarts, as Aurors.  They had helped round up the last of the known Death Eaters.  Harry had taken special pride in presenting evidence against Lucius and Draco Malfoy, and stopped by Azkaban on occasion to make sure they were securely still residing there.  He and Ron remainedl the best of friends, even after Ron decided to stay home with the children and Harry had accepted the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at McGonagall’s request.  The curse on the position had apparently broken with Voldemort’s death.

            He hoped he would enjoy teaching more than he had liked being a student.  Neville apparently did, as he was currently the most loved teacher in recent memory and had turned the greenhouses into the most popular classrooms.  Hagrid was still the grounds keeper, but had been joined by his brother, Grawp, and together they had brought many more magical creatures into the Hogwarts boundaries.  Harry had been pleasantly surprised to learn of the skrewts’ heretofore untapped ability to plow a Quidditch field.

            Harry checked his robes in the mirror by the door and tried as futilely as ever to flatten his hair into a more respectable pattern, although even Ginny had given up on it after their children were born and she learned it was genetic.

            “Feeling nervous?”

            Harry cast a smile at Albus Dumbledore’s portrait.  The man with the sparkling eyes was slumped comfortably in a wingback chair.  “Just a little,” he admitted.

            Dumbledore nodded wisely.  “Give it some time.  Took me about twenty years.”

            That warm chuckle followed Harry down the winding stairs, carried him through the mostly empty halls and into the crowded classroom.  Like so many years ago, hushed whispers erupted from the first-year students: “It’s him!” and “Can you see the scar?”

            But this time Harry didn’t try to hide.  He strode smoothly to the front of the room, cleared his throat and said, “Good morning.  My name is Professor Potter.  Let me tell you the story behind this scar.”

//
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