This story was originally published in September 2004 and published on the now-defunct pottersplace.org.uk
The day had finally arrived; the last day of school. All that was left between the students and life as qualified witches and wizards, was graduation. The exams had been taken, the grades awarded. All they needed now was the scroll of certification.
Harry, Ron and Hermione were sat in their designated row. Hermione was still a little nervous. She had passed with the highest grades in the year, some of the highest ever recorded in Hogwarts history in fact, but was still feeling uneasy. She couldn’t shake off the image of her falling up the steps of the stage, everyone in the audience laughing at her. There were a million ways today could go wrong, and she had entertained most of them during the days leading up to graduation, though not as vividly as today.
Glancing over at Harry and Ron, Hermione could see that, despite them both smiling back, they were as nervous as she was. Knowing that she wasn’t the only one eased the knot in her stomach, but only a little. Looking over the students she could see all the familiar faces; Neville Longbottom, Pavarti Patil, Lavender Brown, Seamus Finnigan, she could even see Draco Malfoy, still flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. They all looked slightly nervous.
Turning her head to look across the central isle that divided parents and pupils as well as any moat she could see all the proud families. She spotted Mr and Mrs Weasley sat with Ginny, Neville’s grandmother, dressed in green as always. Her eyes settled on her own parents, who seemed both awed and thrilled to be attending the ceremony. They looked back at Hermione, smiled and waved. Hermione forced a smile and waved back. She instantly felt better. As she looked back at the stage she became aware of the names that were being called.
‘Pavarti Patil’ called Professor McGonagall.
Hermione suddenly realised that Pavarti was in the row in front. The sense of unease returned. McGonagall continued steadily through the list of names. In what seemed like a heartbeat she called ‘Harry Potter.’ Harry looked at Ron and Hermione; he smiled and stood up, walking down the centre isle to the stage. McGonagall carried on calling names.
Ron stood with a quick glance at Hermione. He looked at his parents, who were beaming brightly back at him. And then McGonagall called ‘Hermione Granger.’
Hermione felt a cold wave of fear pass through her entire body. She got slowly to her feet. Her legs felt as if someone had hit her with a Jelly-Legs curse. She looked toward her parents who were smiling and applauding. She gave them a half-hearted smile and headed down the isle toward the stage.
The stage loomed closer with each stride. She wasn’t listening to the people around her now; she was concentrating hard on making it to the stage without slipping on her graduation gown. As she reached the steps she forced herself to take each one slowly and carefully, testing her footing before applying her full weight. Slowly she crossed the stage towards Dumbledore who was giving out the scrolls.
She didn’t dare take her eyes off him to look at the other students below, or the other professors sat behind a long table at the back of the stage. As Hermione reached Dumbledore, Ron left. Dumbledore extended his right hand, which Hermione took; he then passed the scroll into her left hand. ‘Congratulations, Miss Granger,’ Dumbledore said quietly.
Hermione blurted her thanks in reply, before heading off the stage and back to her seat.
All three of them sat in stunned silence, just glad to have made it back without tripping up somewhere. Hermione still hadn’t relaxed, mainly because she knew she had to do that all over again. Professor McGonagall stepped to the centre of the stage after all the students had collected their certification scrolls. Hermione knew what this signalled.
‘And now, for the presentation of the Hogwarts Pupil of Excellence Award, I present Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic.’
With that, Cornelius Fudge rose from his position at the table with the various professors and walked round to a lectern on the right side of the stage. When he arrived, he quickly looked over the assembly of students and parents and then he began to speak.
‘The Pupil of Excellence Award is awarded every year to a student who has proved, over the course of their study at Hogwarts, to be of a consistently high level, achieving not only excellent results in their exams, but also in their extra curricular activities. It is my pleasure to present the award this year to a pupil who has achieved some of the best exam results ever recorded. I’m talking of course, about Hermione Granger.’
Ron and Harry exploded with applause, Ron started whooping with delight, despite both of them knowing she was being given the award. Hermione felt herself turn pink as the whole audience applauded loudly, and many people turned to look at her.
She slowly got to her feet, she was more determined that ever not to trip up, and headed toward the stage where she collected the award from the Minister for Magic. Still flushed, she returned to her seat. When she looked across at her parents they looked like they were about fit to burst with pride. Ron and Harry congratulated her, as had many people who she had passed to and from the stage.
After the nervous tension of the award ceremony, the graduation party had moved outside to the grounds where people relaxed and began milling about in the summer sun next to a large marquee containing a buffet and a band. Hermione and her parents, Ron and his (and Ginny), and Harry stood huddled together.
‘So what are you planning to do now, Harry?’ asked Mr Wesley.
‘I haven’t really thought about it, I was thinking of doing some travelling,’ replied Harry.
‘Well, Ron’s off to join the Ministry. They’re after all the help they can get at the moment, what with You-Know-Who on the rise. My department alone has more than quadrupled in size.’
Harry knew Ron was off to the Ministry. It was more at his father’s insistence than because Ron had wanted to join.
‘And what about you, Hermione?’ asked Mr Wesley.
‘I’m going to Croatia to continue my studies. I’d like to come back here as a teacher at some stage.’
‘Oh, goooood. It’s nice to know that Hogwart’s high standards will be maintained.’
Hermione went slightly pink, something she seemed to be making a habit of.
They carried on talking for some time, discussing the current events in the world; the parents discussing their children’s futures; the children discussing what they wanted to do with their futures, which usually differed.
The scar on Harry’s head began to hurt, slowly it became more painful until it was excruciating, he had learnt to live with the pain as time went on and the others didn’t notice his discomfort. He broke away from the group, muttering ‘excuse me.’ He started to put a bit of distance between himself and the crowd of people, finding a slightly quieter area nearer the Dark Forest. He turned around and looked back at the crowd some distance away.
That was when he heard it. That cold laugh that chilled his bones. There was a group of hooded figures off to the side of the main crowd. They all wore dark cloaks, keeping their faces hidden, in complete contrast to the huddled mass of parents and students. The lead figure slowly removed his hood. It was Voldermort. An audible gasp could be heard from the crowd who were suddenly silent. The group of Death Eaters with Voldermort spread out between the Dark Lord and the families, their wands raised.
‘I have come to finish the job, Potter. The job I started sixteen years ago,’ called Voldermort coolly.
Voldermort raised his wand. Harry shoved his hand into his cloak for his. It was too late.
Voldermort called, ‘Crucio.’
Harry could feel a burning sensation all over his skin, he felt as if he was on fire. He didn’t scream, it took all his will just to stay upright. One of his legs suddenly gave way and he found himself kneeling.
‘I see you have achieved your true position before me,’ called Voldermort.
People in the crowd were starting to get restless, wanting to do something, but at any sign of movement the Death Eaters threatened the crowd with death. Everybody knew they weren’t bluffing.
‘What do we do?’ asked Ron from the side of his mouth.
‘There’s nothing we can do, anybody moves and they’ll be killed,’ replied Mr Weasley.
Harry concentrated hard, he blocked out the pain. With all his effort, he managed to break the spell. He took a second to get his breath, and then stood up.
‘Look, he’s broken free,’ whispered Hermione, ‘that’s amazing, I’ve never seen anyone break the Cruciatus curse. Let alone against someone of Voldermort’s strength.’
Voldermort looked across as Harry, still breathing heavily, stared back at him.
‘You’ve grown strong my young friend. It will be a shame to kill you. I offer you – one last time – a place at my side.’
‘Never. You’re going to have to kill me.’
‘As you wish.’
Voldermort was grinning as he raised his wand.
The curse flew from the Dark Lord’s wand. As it reached Harry a blinding flash appeared. Everyone shielded their eyes. When it died down, instead of seeing Harry’s body, lying lifeless on the floor, there was nothing.
Hermione woke, sat upright, gasping for air. It took her several seconds to figure out where she was. The nightmare had been so real. It seemed like it had just happened; yet Harry had been killed seven years ago.
She looked around the room, she barely recognised it. Her eyes fell on Ron, lying beside her, still asleep. The family who owned this house had either been killed or driven out by Voldermort or his Death Eaters. Now their small band were using it to rest out of the cold and the rain that seemed to perpetuate these days.
It had become a dark time. The Dark Lord’s powers were greater than ever before and it looked like nothing could stop him this time. Slowly she lay back down, staring into the darkness, before sleep enveloped her again.
The morning came and the group sat round the hearth, where a small purple fire was burning brightly. Hermione and Ron, Fred and George, Angelina Johnson and a woman named Harriet Drinkwater. Ron suddenly noticed that Hermione was staring into the fire.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing. I just remember what day it was.’
‘31st July, Harry’s birthday. He would have been twenty-four’ she looked at Ron.
Ron looked at the floor.
‘We all miss him, even now.’
They sat in silence for several second.
‘Time to go,’ said Fred, quietly.
They set out in a sombre mood. They’d been hunting Death Eaters for three years now, operating pretty much on their own. The Ministry was so full of spies that it was impossible to know who to trust. This had been brought home with devastating effect when Ron’s father had been killed by one of his own staff nearly two years ago.
They’d been living on the move for nearly all that time, shifting from place to place in search of information. They were also being hunted. It turned out that their activities had caught the attention of Voldermort. Mainly due to the large number of Death Eaters they’d either captured or killed over the years.
They could no longer afford to drop their guard for a second, and the strain was beginning to tell. They all looked gaunt, and tired, with large purple blotches under their eyes. As they slowly trudged down the deserted path they started to wake from the daze they were in. Four figures Apparated on the path ahead of them. Ron spotted them, ‘Death Eaters.’ They turned to see four more behind.
‘Scatter,’ called George.
The group immediately split into pairs and disappeared in different directions. Ron and Hermione shot into the forest on their left. They ran as fast as they could, ducking branches, rounding trees. They didn’t look back. Suddenly four more Death Eaters appeared on their left and started after them.
The two of them ran, and ran, for what seemed an eternity. They could hear spells hitting the floor and the trees around them, hear the voices behind them chanting curses. They took out their wands and began casting spells wildly over their shoulders. They broke into a clearing and were almost across it when Hermione stood in a rabbit hole. She lost balance and tumbled to the floor in a heap. Ron immediately stopped, dropping to the floor beside her, but with his eye scanning the tree line behind them.
‘Are you all right?’
‘I’ve hurt my ankle, it might be broken.’
‘Hold on,’ Ron waved his wand, ‘how’s that?’
‘Stiff, but better.’
Looking up they saw four Death Eaters closing in on them.
‘Nowhere to go this time, Wesley,’ said one of the Death Eaters.
He removed his hood to reveal his face. It was Draco Malfoy.
‘I’ve been waiting a long time to catch up with you. You’ve both been very naughty, causing quite a stir. Lord Voldermort ordered your deaths personally, you should be honoured.’
‘Shut up, Malfoy. You’ll never succeed, even if you kill us, they’re plenty more ready to take up the fight.’
‘Yes, but killing you will still be fun.’
He raised his wand. Suddenly there was a small pop and a figure Apparated between Ron and Hermione, and the Death Eaters. Ron and Hermione couldn’t see who it was, all they could see was their back, but the Death Eaters could see, and Malfoy’s mouth dropped open.
‘N–N–No. It can’t be,’ stuttered Malfoy.
One of the Death Eaters raised his wand, but before he could cast anything, the newly appeared figure muttered a curse and waved his wand. The Death Eater fell to the ground – dead. Malfoy turned and ran. Without any hesitation, the figure in front of Hermione and Ron let out two more spells, binding the last two Death Eaters in thick, strong looking ropes and gagging their mouths.
Sure that Malfoy had gone, the figure turned to Ron and Hermione. Despite the changes time had made, the robes that hide most of his body, and the new glasses, they knew instantly who it was. Harry Potter stood before them. They sat gob smacked as Harry walked over to them and knelt down.
‘Are you all right?’
Ron and Hermione were still lost for words. Harry smiled at the sight of their faces. The dirt and the shabby robes couldn’t hide the beauty of the woman that Hermione had become. She was lean, almost delicate, but a fire burnt behind he eyes. Ron, still tall, with his shock of red hair, had filled out to a powerful figure of a man. He looked haggard and weary, but he was still full of fight.
‘Yes, it’s me. I’m still alive, I didn’t die like you all think I did.’
‘Harry, it’s really you, you’re alive.’
‘Yes Ron, it’s really me. Now, are you both all right.’
Tears cascaded down Hermione’s face, she had to fight to see and to hold off the sobs that had taken over her whole body. She dove forward and flung her arms around Harry, holding on with all her might, as it Harry would disappear if she let go. Harry put his arms around her. Ron shuffled over and embraced both of them. After a few minutes the three of them slowly let go.
‘But how?’ heaved Hermione, finally managing to stem the flow of tears.
‘We’ve little time, I’ll explain on the way.’
‘Where are we going?’ asked Ron.
‘To get the others,’ replied Harry.
Harry got to his feet, helping Hermione up as she tested her ankle. She carefully put her full weight on it.
Looking at the other two, ‘It’s fine. Good job, Ron.’
Harry and Ron looked slightly bemused at the compliment, considering the situation.
‘This way,’ Harry pointed to the area of the woods where Malfoy had disappeared.
‘What about these two? Shouldn’t we kill them?’ asked Ron, pointing at the two bound Death Eaters wriggling about on the floor.
‘Leave them, they may be able to give us some information later on.’
They set off toward the forest. It wasn’t long before curiosity got the better of Hermione.
‘So… what happened? Where have you been for seven years?’
‘Well, to start at the beginning, I wasn’t killed by Voldermort.’
‘We can see that,’ interjected Ron impatiently.
Harry looked at Ron and he started to grin.
‘I have missed you both,’ he paused briefly.
‘Anyway… back to the story. Well, I wasn’t killed by Voldermort, I was transfigured an instant before, by Dumbledore.’
‘What?’ came the stunned reply from both Ron and Hermione.
‘Well, we knew Voldermort was going to turn up. Snape had managed to get information that suggested he was going to turn up and try and kill me. Dumbledore and I both knew that he would never leave me alone, not until I was dead. So we hatched a plan to persuade him he had killed me.’
Ron and Hermione were transfixed. They’d all but forgotten about the immediate danger.
‘We decided that as soon as my scar started to hurt, I was to separate myself from the crowd, to try and find an open area. Dumbledore would know Voldermort was coming, and wouldn’t stop him, but rather get in a position to see me. Then, when the inevitable killing curse was thrown, he’d transfigure me into something small – a beetle in this case – and I’d create a bright flash of light, and a puff of smoke, to cover the change. It looked as if I’d been blasted out of existence, when I was actually sat right there, only much, much smaller.’
‘Then what happened?’ asked Hermione.
‘Well, Dumbledore waited until the coast was clear, came over and collected me and my wand up, and took us to his office. There he transformed me back into me, and he wished me good luck.’
‘What for?’ asked Ron, still incredulous at the story he was being told.
‘Because I was off into hiding… and training.’
‘Training?’ repeated Hermione.
‘Yes, we had decided that I wasn’t strong enough to beat Voldermort at that stage, that was half the reason for making him believe I was dead. So that I could train in peace, without his knowledge.’
‘So then what?’ asked Ron.
‘Well,’ he gave out a large sigh, ‘I’ve spent the last seven years in various mountain hideaways while Dumbledore brought experts in different fields of magic to train me to be as good as I could be.’
‘And what, now you’re finally ready?’ asked Hermione, searching his face for an answer.
Harry stopped and lowered his head. The others stopped beside him.
‘Not completely, but I foresaw what Voldermort had in store for you. It came in a dream, and I wasn’t about to stand by and let it come to pass. I’ve seen many innocent, good, kind people killed at his hand without being able to stop it. I couldn’t stand by and watch it happen to you.’
He looked at their faces. A small understanding passed between them that was acknowledged by a very slight nod of their heads. Ron and Hermione were grateful for their friend’s intervention, Harry was grateful to see them again.
He turned and started to move off again. As they neared a clearing ahead, they could see a semi-circle of Death Eaters surrounding Voldermort on the far side of the clearing, Before him, bound, were Fred, George, Angelina and Harriet. It was then that they heard the screams. The noise was blood curdling, the pain in it self-evident. He was torturing them. Harry just kept striding forward.
‘When we get into the clearing, stay back and to either side of me. Watch the Death Eaters closely, they may try something.’
As they broke into the clearing Harry looked even taller and more powerful than Ron or Hermione had imagined. He strode with determination across the clearing, straight toward Voldermort. Nobody dared to take on Voldermort, let alone rushed to meet him, but that was what Harry was doing, it was the most amazing thing Ron and Hermione had ever seen.
Voldermort and the Death Eaters were too busy watching Fred writhe about on the floor in agony to see him approach. Harry came to a halt, lifted his wand, and used it to break the curse holding Fred. The deafening screaming stopped.
There was a moment of confusion around the clearing until everyone’s eyes came to rest on Harry. He looked awesome, standing resolute, radiating so much magical energy it made Ron and Hermione’s bodies tingle and pulse. His face remained impassive, but they could sense his determination.
‘I’ve come for my friends,’ Harry calmly called to the crowd no more than fifteen feet away.
‘So, Malfoy hadn’t been charmed after all. When he returned muttering about seeing you, I thought one of your friends had confused him with a spell. I was obviously mistaken.’
‘So you want your friends? What if I don’t want to give them to you? What if I like torturing them?’
Harry stared unflinchingly back at Voldermort’s gleaming red eyes, ‘I’m prepared to take them.’
‘Oooh, big words from a boy who ran away rather than face me. That is what you did I take it, rather than come back from the dead?’
‘I left because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to defeat you. It took Dumbledore many hours of persuasion to make me see sense, to make me understand that my death benefited nobody but you.’
‘You’re right about one thing: you weren’t strong enough to beat me, you still aren’t, but your death benefited thousands of fools who all thought you would be their saviour. With you gone, they lost hope, and became much easier to turn, or kill.’
Hermione and Ron could see no change in Harry’s expression, but he scrunched his free hand into a tight fist.
‘Now, as entertaining as this reunion has been, I’m getting bored of it.’
He looked at the Death Eater closest to Harry on either side, then said, ‘kill him.’
The two Death Eaters started to advance on Harry but before they had gone barely a yard Harry responded. In what seemed the blink of an eye, two blurs had shot from Harry’s wand, one at each Death Eater. Both of them fell to the floor, bound head to toe, and started writhing around. Harry had returned to his original position before either of them had hit the ground.
‘I’m no longer the little boy you liked to scare, safe in the knowledge that I couldn’t overpower you. I’m here to finish this Voldermort, today this ends, today you die.’
With that Harry waved his wand and muttered a spell.
‘Attack him,’ he commanded.
Suddenly all the Death Eaters turned from their positions, looked at Voldermort, drew their wands, and started to advance on him. Voldermort didn’t know what was going on, the first spells were being launched at him before he regained his composure. He managed to break the spell controlling them.
Once sure they were free of it, he yelled: ‘Not me you fools, kill him.’
His hand shot straight at Harry. The Death Eaters turned and started toward Harry, their wands raised once more.
‘Get down you two, and cover your eyes,’ he yelled over his shoulder.
Ron and Hermione dropped to the floor, their eyes welded shut. Harry raised his wand, covered his eyes with his hand, and softly spoke a curse. There was a blinding flash that started as a small point on the end of Harry’s wand but grew and grew, slowly the ball of blinding white light spread and engulfed everything within a fifty-metre radius. Suddenly, it was gone.
‘You can open them now,’ said Harry.
Ron and Hermione slowly opened their eyes and got to their feet. As they looked around the Death Eaters were stationary, still upright, but frozen. They looked closer, and saw that they were stone. Harry had turned them to stone. It took several seconds to realise that Voldermort wasn’t grey like the rest of them. Harry seemed unperturbed. Harry focused his attentions on Voldermort, and called over his shoulder to the others.
‘One of you go left, the other right, we can’t let him escape.’
Then he started to advance. Ron and Hermione knew what they had to do and moved to it. Ron went left, Hermione went right. Voldermort had just finished looking at all his servants, cast in stone, when he saw them approach. He raised his own wand, and pointed it straight at Harry.
Harry responded almost before it was cast with a shielding charm. The curse simply glanced off the invisible wall before him. He kept on coming.
‘Impossible,’ muttered Voldermort.
‘My shield charm is strong enough to block anything… including those supposedly impossible to block,’ said Harry, a small smile appearing on his face.
A sudden look of fear appeared on Voldermort’s face. He started casting and recasting a spell with his wand.
Harry recognised what he was trying to do.
‘You won’t be able to Apparate, I took the liberty of placing a few inhibition spells around the area.’
Real fear took hold of Voldermort now, something he hadn’t felt since he had been blown from his body 24 years earlier as he faced the infant Potter. He turned to try and run, but he was faced with Ron, wand raised, looking mad as hell. He turned the other way to see Hermione looking equally as displeased.
‘Petrificus Totalus,’ called Harry.
Voldermort went as stiff as a board, and fell backwards onto the floor.
The three of them were on him in a flash.
‘Now what do we do?’ asked Ron.
‘We kill him,’ replied Harry.
‘How?’ blurted Hermione.
Harry stuck his left hand inside his robes, pulling out a small vial.
‘With this,’ Harry showed them the vial.
‘What is it?’ asked Hermione.
‘It’s a potion that has taken me, and many others, years to perfect. All it needs now is one last ingredient.’
He put his wand into his robes and removed a small knife instead. He slowly drew it across his wrist. Beads of blood erupted in its wake. He put the knife down and took the vial from his left hand. Twisting his arm and moving the vial he caught several drops of blood. He slowly swirled the vial to mix in the blood. He talked to Voldermort as he did so.
‘Ironic really, that the thing which brought you back to life, is the very thing to kill you. And I’d never have known about it except you told me what was in the stew that brought you back. “My fathers bone” you said, and while we were searching for the right ingredients, it occurred to me.’
He finished stirring the vial. He leaned close to Voldermort’s face.
‘Now Voldermort, it is time for you to realise that you are not invincible, as no man is, and that you will pay for the crimes you have committed. The day you killed my parents was the biggest mistake you ever made.’
Harry poured the potion into Voldermort’s open mouth.
‘This isn’t just for my parents, it’s for all the innocent people you’ve slaughtered in your quest for power.’
Harry stood up.
‘Bone of the father, to break the chain; Flesh of an innocent, willingly given; Blood of the enemy, taken by his own hand.’
Voldermort began to shake; smoke began to rise from his body; he began to writhe about. Suddenly he let out an ear-piercing scream; then he seemed to just melt into the ground, leaving a large damp patch with a whisp of steam rising from it. All this time, Harry had kept his eyes firmly on Voldermort, transfixed, his face showing no sign of emotion.
‘It is done,’ he muttered.
‘That’s it, he’s dead?’ asked Hermione.
Harry nodded slowly.
Ron exploded: ‘Yes!’
He threw his hands in the air.
‘He’s dead at last. Harry killed Voldermort.’
A huge smile appeared on Hermione’s face and she started to cry as Ron flew over to her and threw his arms about her. They kissed. Harry didn’t move, still staring at the ground. Ron and Hermione looked over at Harry.
‘What the matter?’ asked Ron.
‘Nothing,’ replied Harry.
A look of realisation sprung upon Hermione’s face.
‘What about the others? They’ve been turned to stone.’
‘It’s a simple spell to turn them back.’
‘Well then lets get on with it, we’ve got to tell everyone he’s dead. Oh they’ll be celebrations tonight,’ cried Ron.
He dragged Hermione over to Harry with him and threw an arm around Harry’s shoulders. They started to walk back toward the others.
‘Maybe,’ Harry thought, ‘but there’ll be someone else, willing to do anything to hold ultimate power in their hands, ready to replace Voldermort.’
He wondered how long it would be before they showed themselves.