The Sugar Quill
Author: AllyBear (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: More than One Road Home  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.

It all hinged on sugar quills.

That fact made Harry smile – just a little bit.  The whole resistance against Voldemort, the final battle, the end of pain and fear, all rested on three pieces of spun sugar.  If the situation weren’t so serious, Harry thought he might laugh at it.

But laughter would have to wait, because the situation could be no more grave.  Dumbledore was gone, the Ministry was in shambles, scores of wizards and witches were dead, and Hogwarts was besieged by Death Eaters.

Harry looked at the delicate quill in his palm.

It was now or never.

“It’s a good plan!” Ron yelled hotly, brandishing a roll of parchment.

“I will not let you walk into Voldemort’s hands!  You’ll be killed for sure.  I’m not even sure I can hold him off!” Harry retorted through gritted teeth. He knew this argument was going to be difficult.

“It’s the best plan we’ve got!  Look, Harry,” Ron’s voice calmed and became serious.  “You can’t do this alone.  I – we won’t let you.  And don’t even think about sneaking out.”  Harry started in surprise, as that thought had just been passing through his mind.  Ron smiled slightly.  “We’ve been working on this plan for weeks.  You’ve got the best mind in Hogwarts on your side.”

Hermione did not smile as she looked up at Harry.  “Ron is right, Harry.  It’s a good plan.  And it’s all we can do.  Voldemort’s Legion will be at the wards in the Forbidden Forest at any day.  It won’t take them long to break through.  After that, I don’t know how long we can fight them before he gets into the castle.”

“He doesn’t need to get into the castle to get the Founder’s Cup.  We can’t let him!”  Harry paced the empty Common Room.

“And we won’t,” Hermione said soothingly.  “Our plan is good.”

Harry didn’t sleep that night, but lay awake, staring at the ceiling of his four-poster.  In the next bed, he could hear Ron tossing fitfully and knew his best friend wasn’t sleeping either.  Neville, the only other Gryffindor in the room, snuffled quietly on the other side of the chamber,

The Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s most trusted group, was failing.  Not two days ago one of its core members, Deadalus Diggle, had fallen.  Lupin was missing in action.  Sirius was resting in the hospital wing recovering from the Cruciatus Curse.  When Harry had visited him earlier that day, he thought Sirius looked just like he did when he remembered Azkaban: flat, dull, distant and hopeless.  No one could deny it; the Legion was coming.  They were coming for Hogwarts.  And they were coming for Harry.

“You must find the Founder’s Cup, Harry,” Dumbledore’s final words echoed loudly in Harry’s head.  “The Heart of Hogwarts will defeat them.”

Harry shook his head violently to escape the memory of the headmaster’s twinkling blue eyes.

It had taken Hermione several days to track down the Founder’s Cup in the Library, but Harry knew she would find it eventually.

“Listen to this!” she had said, twisting her hair up and skewering it with a pencil.  She didn’t bother to keep her voice down anymore, as there were so few students left and none of them were studying.  “After the Founders successfully completed Hogwarts, they each poured some of their powerful magic into a chalice, the fabled Founder’s Cup. The legend goes on to say that only a direct descendent of the original founders can use the cup, unlocking the great power within and harnessing all the magic of Hogwarts School.”

Ron let out a low whistle.  “Wow!  All the magic of Hogwarts – there’s like more than a thousand years of wizardry in these walls!  No wonder Voldemort wants it.”

“He wants it so he can destroy Hogwarts, and everything else good,” Harry said, turning to Hermione, who was still rummaging through books and parchment.  “Does it say where the cup is hidden?”

“No.  It’s treated as a myth in most books.  Even Hogwarts: A History says it’s a legend.  Maybe Professor Binns knows something about it?”

“He’s almost old enough to have known the Founders personally,” Ron quipped.

“Hey, wait a minute!”  Harry said, an idea clicking in his brain.  “That’s it!  We need someone who knew them personally.”

“What?” Ron looked confusedly at Hermione.  “Has he gone nutters?”

“No!  Harry, that’s brilliant!  You two go see Professor McGonagall and see if it works.  I’ll meet you back in the Common Room.  There are a few things I want to finish here.”

Harry had practically run to the headmaster’s quarters.  When he got to the stone gargoyle, Ron behind him panting, “What is it? Tell me!”, Harry said, “Pax et Lux!”  As the gargoyle leapt aside, Harry was grateful that McGonagall gave him permission to come to her at any time.

“Mr. Potter?  Is everything all right?”  she asked sharply, looking up from Dumbledore’s desk as they entered.

“Yes, headmistress.  I was wondering if I might borrow the Sorting Hat for a moment?” Harry felt almost foolish under her stern and unwavering gaze.

“For what purpose?”

“I want to ask it if it knows where the Founder’s Cup is.”

A curious, shocked expression came over her severe features.  She quickly regained her composure.  “It has been tried, Potter, and nothing came of it.”

“Please,” Harry pleaded.  “Let me try?”

“The Sorting Hat is older than most of the nations of the world, Potter!  It is not to be handled carelessly.”  But despite her words, she rose from her chair and retrieved the battered hat from its shelf.  McGonagall motioned to a chair and handed the hat to Harry.

Harry remembered seven years before, when the Sorting Hat slid over his entire head.  Now, it fit just ever so loosely and as comfortable as his own cap.

“Hello?” he thought tentatively.

“Why!  Harry Potter!  It is very rare for me to meet a student twice – but four times!  Positively unheard of!” the squeaking voice of the hat sounded in his head.

“May I ask you a question?” he thought.

“I cannot promise to answer, but proceed,” the voice squeaked.

“Do you know where the Founder’s Cup is hidden?”

“In the Heart of Hogwarts, of course!”

Harry furrowed his brow.  “The Heart of Hogwarts?  Where is that?”

There was silence for a moment, and Harry had all but given up hope.  The Sorting Hat, however, had only been deep in thought, or composing, because it sang:

“To find the cherished Founder’s Cup:

At the first you did look up;

Then from there you must look down

And cross you evenly, white to brown;

Through the darkness into light,

Down the gullet (his teeth won’t bite!)

To find your way, to do your part

You must follow this guide to the Founder’s Heart.”

Harry almost whooped with joy.  He asked to hear the poem again, until he memorized it, and then thanked the Hat.  Before he left, though he had some questions.

“Has anyone every asked you before how to find it?”

“Many have asked.”

“But did you tell them?

“Once, in 1744, a descendent of Rowena Ravenclaw thought to ask me.  Many people forget about me, you know.”

“And you told her?”

“Of course.”

He thanked the hat again and said goodbye, plucking the hat off his head.  Harry found Ron and McGonagall staring at him intently.

“WELL???” they asked simultaneously.  He quickly told them what the Sorting Hat had said.  “It told you?” Professor McGonagall asked, dumbfounded.

“Has the Heart of Hogwarts ever been found?” Harry asked.

“Not that I can recall.  Using the cup would give a person tremendous power to wield.  If I remember my Hogwarts: A History,” Ron shot Harry a laughing look. “There was a period in the late 1700s when Hogwarts had to be closed because of the wars in neighboring regions.  The ley lines the school rests upon were strangely altered.  Mysteriously, in 1796, everything went back to normal, and the school reopened.”

“But, you would know if the Founder’s Cup wasn’t there, wouldn’t you, Professor?” asked Ron.

“Even if I didn’t, Dumbledore would have.  And he told you to find it and use it.”  She flicked her eyes at Harry, and he was surprised at the sadness within them. “Therefore, it must be hidden still.”

“Then, we’ll find it!”  Ron chortled.  McGonagall still looked sad.

“What is it, Professor?” Harry asked.

“I’m afraid, Harry, the Chamber of Secrets was not the only hidden place Tom Riddle searched for during his career at Hogwarts.” Her tone sounded defeated as she said, “He may know how to find it already.”

“Well, now, so do we.”  Harry stood up defiantly, and he and Ron left.

They found Hermione entrenched in her books in a quiet corner of the Gryffindor Common Room.  She looked up excitedly when they came in the portrait hole.

“We got it!” Ron said in a rush, cutting off her first words.  “Well, Harry did.  To think, the answer to this big mystery has been on the heads of First Years all along.”

“That’s great, Harry!” she cried.  “But –“

“Hang on.  We’re going to need your help, Hermione.  It’s a riddle, and you’re the best one of us at that,” Harry told her.  He launched into his tale, wanting to tell it all as quickly as possible so they could get to work.  When he got to his final questions to the Sorting Hat, Hermione let out a frustrated wail.

“What?” Ron asked.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you two, but you wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise!” she yelled.  Ginny and some of the few Gryffindors left at school looked over curiously.

“What?” Harry asked more quietly, confused.

“Harry.  I know why the Sorting Hat would tell you and not someone else.”

“Why?  Out with it,” Ron demanded.

She ignored him, locking eyes with Harry.  “You’re the last living relative of Godric Gryffindor, Harry.  Look.”  She pushed an old and dusty tome across the table at him.  At the top of the page it said “Godric Gryffidor” in fancy script and scarlet ink.  Beneath his name was a genealogy that branched over sixteen pages, the limbs thinning out until there was only one name left: Harry Potter.

Harry jolted back to the present as Ron rolled over in his bed and sat up.  That moment, Harry thought, when he learned who he was, seemed so long ago, but it had only been two weeks.  From that moment, he knew he had to do whatever he could to keep the Heart of Hogwarts away from Voldemort and his Legion.  That was when they started the plan.

“Harry?” Ron called softly.  “You awake?”

“Yeah.”  He shifted to light a lamp.

“No. Leave it off,” Ron said, his voice strange.  “Don’t want to wake Neville.”

“What is it?”  Harry asked, lying back against his pillows.

“We go at sunrise, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Ummm…” Ron paused awkwardly.  “I think we should leave earlier.”

“OK.  Do you want me to tell Hermione?”

“No!”  Ron sounded adamant.

“OK.”  Harry was lost.

“Harry, I know you don’t want us to walk into this with you.  But I’m not leaving you along.  No way.  And I know Hermione’s brave and gone with us and gotten us out of all sorts of scrapes, and she’s completely willing to go with us, it’s just, I don’t want her to go this time.”  Ron said all this in a rush.

Inadvertently, Harry smiled.  He understood what was behind Ron’s outburst, even if Ron couldn’t see it himself.  Although they had remained best of friends, neither Ron nor Hermione had taken a step toward anything more between each other.  Harry knew, though, that someday they would.  “All right,” Harry said.

“Good,” Ron agreed.

“Get some sleep.  I’ll wake you an hour early.”

“Right.”  He climbed back under his quilt, and a short while later was breathing evenly in sleep.

Harry hated the thought of betraying Hermione, after all she had done and been through with him.  She had been instrumental in the Plan, performing some very tricky transfiguration before they went to bed.  Without her help, Harry knew he would have never found the entrance to the Heart of Hogwarts.  Harry remembered the curious expression on her face as she worked out the first clue.

“That’s odd,” Hermione had said.

“We’ve read this thing over a hundred times, Mione.  What could you possibly find odd now?”  Ron asked irritably.  It was past three o’clock in the morning, and they had been working on the puzzle for hours.

“The second line changes tense.  Instead of a command – you must, cross – it’s the past tense.  At the first, you did look up.  It must be something every Hogwarts student looks up to see.”

“Bed curtains?  That’s what I see first thing every morning,” Ron said.

“The Great Hall ceiling?  At breakfast?” Harry guessed.

“At first.  Hmmm… First.”  Hermione was thinking very hard.

“First year?” Harry mused.  Hermione’s eye lit up.

“Where were we when we first saw Hogwarts?”

“In the little boats on the lake,” Ron supplied.

“That has to be it!  At the first time we saw Hogwarts, we looked up from the lake!”

They could hardly wait for the sun to rise, but Hermione stopped Ron and Harry from running down the lake by reminding them that they could hardly see what they next clue would be in the dark of pre-dawn.  The instant the sun was fully above the horizon, the three of them ran out to the dock.

“Now what?” Ron asked impatiently.

“Look down,” Hermione shot back.  “And look for something white and brown.”

The three of them wandered the far edge of the lake, looking at their shoes for a good hour.  Harry even rolled up his jeans and waded into the lake a few feet.  There was plenty of brown sand and rocks, but no white.  Ron walked all the way to the end of the docks where the little boats were moored and stared into the water.

“Hey!  I think I see something!” he called.  “Get in!”

Ron clambered into a boat, sitting all the way at the pointed prow.  Harry sat in the middle, scanning either side, and Hermione steered the tiny vessel out toward the center of the water.

“There’s something down there – big white rocks in the water,” Harry said.

“How many?” Hermione asked.

“There’s one, a group of four, and another group of two,” he answered.

“I’ve got three on my side,” Ron supplied.

“Cross you evenly – we follow the even number of stones,” Hermione stated.  “Point the way!”

It didn’t take too long to zigzag across the lake and into a narrow cave in the cliff beneath the castle, where only their wand light could guide them.  Suddenly, the cave opened wide and a shaft of light spilled down onto a shallow beach.

“Through the darkness and into light,” Harry intoned.  “Now, we have to find a gullet.”

The narrow beach ran around the circular chamber, a number of small passageways dotting the sides of the cliff – some constructed with brick and mortar, others carved by nature and time.  One cave, only a few feet high and wide and half filled with water, was dripping with stalactites.

“Does that kind of look like a mouth to you?” Harry asked.  It did.

“We found it!  We found the entrance!” Hermione did a little dance in her excitement.

“Let’s go!” Ron yelled, jumping into the water.  Harry felt better than he had in months.

Just then, the rocks around them trembled and a palpable force cut through them.  Harry’s scar erupted in pain, and he cried out.  Rocks pelted down on them,

“Harry!” Hermione shrieked.  “Harry, what is it?”

“He’s coming!”  Harry caught his breath.  “We have to go back.”

“What?  We should get the cup now!”  Ron yelled.

“Ron, he can feel me.  I will lead him straight to the Cup.  We have to get out of here before they get too close.”  Harry started pushing the boat back into the water.  Another shudder went through the rock.

Harry did not want his friends around when he had to face Voldemort. Trelawney had predicted that Harry would die, and Voldemort would ascend.  The Dark Lord would easily kill them – as easy as he did Cedric – and Harry couldn’t bear the thought.  Ever since their Plan had been sketched out, Harry had tried to sneak away, each time being caught by one or the other of his friends, or by Neville, Ginny, or the twins.  Harry suspected they had been recruited to watch him when Ron and Hermione couldn’t be around.

Ron’s request to leave Hermione behind was a simple one. Harry did not wish to betray his friend, but to save her life, he would have to.  For Harry, it was an easy choice.

When the time came, however, it wasn’t quite as easy.  As Ron and Harry crept off the bottom stair of the boy’s dormitory, Hermione looked up from her book.

“Sneaking out, without me, are you?” she asked lightly, standing.

“Hermione,” Harry started.  “Someone has to protect Gryffindor Tower if we fail.”

She smiled serenely at him.  “But you won’t fail.”

“Got your wand and your quill, Harry?” Ron asked, sticking both his items inside his robes.  Harry picked up his want from the table and checked for his sugar quill.  Hermione made to do the same.  “No.  You’re not coming,” Ron stated firmly.

“And why not?” Hermione asked dangerously.  “You think you are protecting me?  That I should be safer here?” She advanced on Ron, who stood his ground.  “Or do you think that I would fail you?”

“NO!” Ron shouted, grasping her upper arms tightly.  He leaned closer to her, his voice almost fierce.  “But I couldn’t live if anything happened to you.”  With that, Ron pulled Hermione to him and kissed her for a long minute.  When they finally broke apart, Ron turned abruptly and motioned Harry to leave.

They swung the portrait closed on a still dazed Hermione, running her fingers over her lips absently, eyes unseeing.  Harry was the only one who ever caught the similar expression on Ron’s face.

Since Ron and Harry knew where they were going, it was not difficult to return through the cave.  Several boulders had fallen during the attacks on Hogwarts, and one nearly blocked the stream, but they were able to squeeze through.  When they came to the opening with the early pre-dawn light filtering weakly from above, however, they were met with voices that chilled them to the bone.

“The one at the end, small with stalactites.”

“Yes, Master!  It’s here.  Your source is correct.”

Before Harry could stop, before he could tell Ron to run, his scar burst into a torrent of pain.  Harry tried to hold back his cry of pain, but it did not matter.  Lord Voldemort knew they were there.

“Hello, Mr. Potter.  I wondered when I would see you.  Welcome to my victory party,” Voldemort’s cold voice greeted them in the chilly, grey room.  Harry fumbled through the haze of pain to reach for the wand in his pocket.  Ron had gotten his first.

“Stupefy!” he bellowed, and a flash of light leapt from the wand in his hand, knocking the cowering Wormtail onto his back on the beach.

“Reducto,” Voldemort said, almost casually.  The rocks above them came crashing down, blocking most of the passageway.  Harry and Ron ducked, running from the chunks of bedrock falling around them.

“Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled, but suddenly, Voldemort wasn’t where he had been an instant before, and his disarming spell missed.  The Dark Lord laughed evilly, the sound echoing loudly in the stone chamber.  He repeated Harry’s spell, and the wands Harry and Ron were holding flew out of their hands and into the long, pale fingers of Lord Voldemort.  He closed his fist around the wands, and they broke apart like dry sticks.

Harry tried to control his emotions, and fought for control over the pain radiating through his skull.  “So, you found this place, did you?”

Voldemort regarded him through his slitted red eyes.  He seemed to smile.  “I have known about this place for a long, long time, Potter.  After I opened the Chamber of Secrets, and learned that I was the Heir of Slytherin, I searched the castle for this place.  But I couldn’t find it.  And I got no help from Head Girls or Headmasters, either.  I had nearly given up on the idea – I decided to raze Hogwarts to find it – when one of my subjects in Russia came across a very interesting diary entry.  It seems one Sophia Katarina of Anhalt-Zerbst attended Hogwarts until she was married in 1742, soon after which she became one of the most powerful women in history.  She detailed it all in her diary – the verse from the Sorting Hat, the trek in the boat, finding the little cave, then using the Founder’s Cup to become Catherine the Great, Czarina of All the Russias.  Clever little Ravenclaw witch, wasn’t she?”  Harry thought he heard a scrape on the rocks behind him.  “Her squib of a son couldn’t handle the power, so she ordered it returned upon her death, for some other worthy soul to use.”

“You’ll never be worthy!” Ron yelled, then cried out in pain as the Dark Lord pinned him against the rocks with a curse.

“Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers will grovel at my feet!” Ron was hurled down to the rocky floor, where he lay, unmoving.  Voldemort turned his flashing eyes on Harry.  “I’ve had enough.”

Harry didn’t have time to react.  For all his lightening fast reflexes, for all their carefully planning, for all the best intentions in the world, Harry found himself, for a second time in his life, bathed in a sickly green light.

He felt peaceful and weightless.  Bright colors flashed before his eyes, but they were oddly pleasant.  Harry felt like he was in a cocoon; but then, he didn’t really feel at all.

Shapes materialized out of the varicolored ether.

“Harry.”

He knew that voice, but from where?

“Harry.”  The voice, a woman’s, was more insistent.

He opened his eyes.  There, in front of him, were two people.  A woman, dark red hair spilling over her shoulders, green eyes smiling at him; a man with messy black hair and glasses.

His parents.

 “Mom?  Dad?”  His voice sounded strange, far away.

“Yes, Harry.  We’ve been watching you,” James Potter said with a smile.

“You can come with us, Harry,” Lily said, a little sadly.

“Do you want to come with us?” his father asked.

Before Harry could find his voice, another figure appeared beside him.  “There’s more than one road home, Harry,” Dumbledore told him, the same twinkle as ever in his eyes.

Thoughts flew through Harry’s mind.  Dumbledore.  The cup.  How?

As if he heard Harry’s thoughts, Dumbledore’s shade repeated, “There’s more than one road home. You have to go back, Harry.”

“Go back?”

“Yes.  Can you hear them?  They’re calling you.”

“No.  I want to stay with my parents.”

“Harry,” his mother interrupted.  “We’ve been watching you since we left.  We’ll still be here.”

“We’ll always be here, son.”

“You’ve fulfilled the prophecy, Harry.  It’s time for you to go back.  Listen.  Can you hear them?”  Dumbledore said seriously.

Harry, so confused, paused.  From far away, barely within his hearing, he could hear Hermione’s voice sobbing his name, and Ron calling him.

“You have to go, Harry.  Don’t worry.  We’ll all be right here when you return.”  But Dumbledore’s voice was going away from him, as if carried by the wind.  Harry’s sight was going black again.

“We love you, Harry,” his mother called.

And then, nothing.

Pain.  Harry coughed violently and thought he might be sick.  His head was throbbing and his ribs felt as though someone had been jumping up and down on them. Harry coughed again and lied back on the hard rocks, trying to regain himself.  His vision was coming back, but slowly.  He could hear someone crying not too far away, and soft murmurs.  Finally his eyes focused on Ron holding Hermione, rubbing her back as she cried into his shoulder.  Harry sat up.

“What happened?” he asked.

Hermione flung herself away from Ron and threw her arms around Harry, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks.  She kept repeating, “You’re so stupid!” under her breath.  Harry found Ron’s eyes, and Ron grinned hugely.

“I guess my method of keeping her still didn’t work.  She followed us, and after Voldemort –“ Ron’s voice caught in his throat, but he cleared it. “hit you with the curse, she came out and woke me up and did – whatjacallit? Sleepy-R?”

“C.P.R.” Hermione corrected from Harry’s shoulder. She sat back and wiped away her tears. “I didn’t think it would work.  But I’m so glad it did.  That will teach you to leave me behind!”

“I’m sorry, Hermione.”  Harry smiled at her.  Ron offered his apology as well.  “We have to go stop Voldemort now.”

Each of them pulled the sugar quills from their robes, and with the word “Rescinda!”, the delicate quills turned back into their original form – their wands.  Fred and George had made special fake wands with enough power in them to use one or two spells, just enough to fool Voldemort into disarming them.  And the Plan had worked.

When Ron went to stand, however, he nearly toppled over.  Hermione put out a hand to hold him up.  A knot the size of a galleon stood out on the back of his head.  Ron swayed on his feet.  Just then, peals of evil laughter floated up from the small cave where Voldemort disappeared.

Harry turned and ran, yelling at Hermione as he went. “Stay with Ron.  There’s no more time.  If I don’t make it, then you have a shot at him as he comes out of the tunnel.  I’m sorry, Hermione.  But you’ve helped so much!  Take care of Ron!”

Harry slid into a vast cavern beneath Hogwarts.  Stalagmites and Stalactites glittered with crystals, and a huge pool of water gleamed in the center.  A plinth of limestone, built up over ages, held a simple silver cup.  Voldemort closed his hand upon it, laughing wildly, just as Harry entered the room.  The Dark Lord submerged it into the pool, and raised the cup to his thin mouth.

A tall, thin, black-haired ghost appeared in front of him, stopping him before he could drink.  “Are you an heir of Slytherin?” he asked, his scratchy voice reverberating against the wet walls.

Before Voldemort could answer, a lovely blonde woman’s ghost walked out of a wall and asked, “Are you a Hufflepuff?”

Immediately following her, another female ghost floated from the ceiling, dark haired, severe looking, and carrying a book.  “Do you belong to the Ravenclaw line?”

Finally, a man Harry knew rose up from the floor.  He was the old man waving from behind his parents from the Mirror of Erised!  “Or are you a Gryffindor?”  A bright light emanated from them, encasing the Dark Lord in a cell of yellow light that pulsed.

Voldemort stepped back into the circle of Founders as though he were frightened.  “I am Slytherin’s Heir,” he said quickly.  Salazaar Slytherin’s ghost looked him critically up and down.

“Ambition I see plenty.  But you have the stench of death on you.”

“Yes, sirs and ladies,” Harry called to them.  “He has killed many students from your houses.  Many that I knew from Gryffindor, one worthy one from Hufflepuff.”  Voldemort sneered in Harry’s direction, fingering his wand, but not breaking the circle.

“Ah!” Godric Gryffindor’s ghost smiled at Harry.  “This is surely one of my own!  Tell us what he would do, if we let him drink from the cup.”

“He will destroy everything you have created,” Harry told them.  “He seeks to destroy Hogwarts.”

“Is this true?” asked Rowena Ravenclaw’s ghost, looking down at Voldemort.

The Dark Lord tipped the glass into his mouth and swallowed hastily.  Then he laughed.  “Now, it matters not what you think.”  He shot a burst of power from his wand through the Ravenclaw and aimed a second shot at Harry.  The white-hot bolt missed Harry’s arm by mere inches, singeing his sleeve.

“No.  It doesn’t matter what I think,” Helga Hufflepuff’s ghost said, helping the other woman up.  “Salazaar?”

“I see naught of my line in this one.”  Slytherin’s ghost turned his back to Voldemort and strode away into the waterfall.  The yellow light faded.

“Bah! I have made myself!  Your line never helped me. But it is too late. I have drunk. I can feel the power coming into my body.  Soon, I will command all the magic of Hogwarts.” Voldemort threw the cup to the ground and turned to face Harry.  “Harry Potter.  Of all my enemies, how is it you, the weakest, who refuses to die?” he asked.

“Because I won’t let you destroy what they created!  Expelliarmus!” Harry shouted.  Voldemort’s wand sped from his hand and went to the bottom of the pool.  The Dark Lord looked at his empty palm in surprise.  He shrieked in fury.  He stepped forward, to come out of the circle of remaining Founders, but ran into an invisible barrier.  He swatted at the ghosts and cursed them uselessly.

Salazaar Slytherin came up from the bottom of the water, Voldemort’s wand in his ghostly pale hand. “As the ultimate head of your house and your blood line, I cast you out.”  A bright white glow enveloped the wand, and it snapped cleanly in half.  Voldemort let out a howl of pain as the four Founders closed in on him. The Dark Lord screamed to Harry for help, but Harry did not move.  The yellow light grew in intensity, as did Voldemort’s cries, until there was nothing but the broken shards of his wand floating in the pool and a ringing silence.  Harry was alone in the Heart of Hogwarts.

Harry walked over and picked up the Founder’s Cup, and placed it back on its plinth.

“You will not drink, great-great-great-great- and many more greats- grandson?”

He turned to look at Godric Gryffindor’s wizened face.  “No,” he said simply.  “What I want, more than anything else, can’t be undone.”

“But what if you could wish for something lesser?”

Harry thought for a second before saying, “I’d like it to be happy again.  For the fear and pain brought on by the Dark Lord to be undone.”

“Hmmm.  We cannot undo all that was done, but we should be able to undo some of the destruction. Can we do that Helga?” Godric asked.  The Hufflepuff smiled at him, as did Rowena Ravenclaw (although not as prettily).  Slytherin simply gave a curt nod.  “Then, it is done.  Goodbye, my descendent.  Fare well.”

The Founders disappeared into the darkness.

Harry crawled out of the cavern to find a relieved Hermione and Ron.  The shaft of light was brilliant now, fully illuminating the small circular cave.  Harry slung one of Ron’s arms over his shoulder and half carried him out, aware that Ron’s other hand was tightly holding Hermione’s.  After they squeezed by the great boulder blocking the cave, Harry paused.

“Hang on.” He aimed his wand carefully at the roof of the entrance and said, “Reducto!”  A large amount of rock fell over the narrow gap, filling it in with tons of stone.  “Hopefully, that will thwart anyone else’s grand schemes for taking over the world.”

Bells were ringing over Hogsmeade and from the Hogwarts bell tower when they emerged from the passage into the bright sunlight over the lake.  All the townspeople we milling about the lake, cheering for the three of them.  The students and teachers ran down from the school, waving and yelling.  Harry could see Sirius throwing his arms about madly, a smile on his gaunt features large enough to see halfway across the lake.  Lupin was standing next to him, no worse for the wear, also waving.

“You’re a hero again, Harry,” Ron told him out of the corner of his mouth, waving back best he could without falling into the lake.

“So are you two,” Harry replied.

“Yeah, for getting slammed around like a right prat.”

“No.  For insisting we change our wands into sugar quills.  The Legion never even had a chance!”  Harry felt an easy smile come to his face for the first time in perhaps years.

“And Fred and George, too, for making up those fake wands!  Wow!  They packed a lot of power!” Ron laughed.  He waved at his brothers, who yelled crazily back at him.  He looked mischievously at Hermione.  “So, what do you think of sugar quills now?”

“They’re terribly disruptive in class,” she said, laughing at the faces Harry and Ron pulled at her.  “But I think they might be my favorite candy from now on. Just don’t tell my parents.”

The throng at the docks was so thick, Harry, Ron and Hermione could barely get through.  People were cheering and patting their backs and hugging them.  Harry couldn’t remember ever seeing people so happy.  Perhaps at the Quidditch World Cup, but not even then.  Professor McGonagall came up to Harry and hugged him, then told him off for going off without letting them know.  She relented and hugged him again, pulling them up to the castle.

Much later, when it had calmed down, and the party had left the Gryffindor Common Room, Harry, Ron and Hermione sat together in the relative quiet.  Harry was stretched out in a chair by the fire, feet propped on an ottoman, Ginny on the floor by his feet poking the fire.  She had hugged Harry so hard when he came back, he thought she had broken some ribs.  Then she had refused to leave his side, and strangely, he found he didn’t really want her to.  Ron and Hermione were curled together on the couch, comfortable together without being too intimate for their friends.

“What are you going to do now, Harry?” Ron asked.

“Hmm?” Harry responded lazily.

“Well, you don’t have to go back to the Dursley’s, ever, so what are you going to do this summer?  I’m sure Mum wouldn’t mind having you stay with us.”

“None of us would mind,” Ginny stated, smiling shyly at him.

The prospect sounded wonderful.  He often felt as though the Burrow was as much home to him as Hogwarts.  However, he had another offer – one he had been waiting for years to fulfill.  “Sirius asked me to come stay with him this summer.  I thought I might.  But I’ll be free to visit any time now.”

“And you’ll have to come visit me in Hogsmeade, all of you,” Hermione said.

“Oh?” Ron prompted curiously.

Hermione blushed as they all looked at her.  “The headmistress offered me her old job as Transfiguration teacher here at Hogwarts.  I start in the Fall.  I can continue my studies here while I teach.”

They offered her congratulations and continued to talk until one by one, their yawns drove them upstairs.  Harry was the last one in the Common Room.  He stared up at the large portrait of his “many greats” grandfather, smiling down upon the empty chairs and sofas.

“Thank you,” he said quietly, then turned around and climbed up the stairs, leaving a faintly whispering room behind.

//
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