Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year
All Good Things . . .
All good things…
Judge Cooper finished the final memorandum in the stack, signing the action page with a flourish. She hated to leave work undone before going on holiday. Looking down at her calendar, she noted an inscription she’d made quite some time earlier. By fate, or by sheer coincidence, her ruminations were interrupted by a gentle tapping on the window, a sound she hadn’t heard for years, not since her brother passed away and she no longer had anyone she corresponded with who used Owls. She didn’t recognize the owl in question, which wasn’t that odd. In the time since she’d left the Wizarding world, she imagined that most of the owls she recognized by sight would have likewise passed away.
She opened the window carefully, allowing the tan and white barn owl entrance into her chambers. The owl appraised her carefully and then stood on one foot, extending the other foot in front of her. Judge Cooper held out her hand under the owl’s clenched talons. She felt the cool weight of the cylinder as it fell into the palm of her hand.
The owl exploded in a flurry of beating wings, as if only too happy to leave her chambers and return to her own world. Cooper brought the cylinder back to her desk, turning on the light and retrieving her glasses in order to inspect the cylinder carefully before activating the clasp. When she was convinced that it was genuine, she placed the sharp end against the palm of her left hand, wincing as she felt the pinch of the device. Only she could open the cylinder once it was sealed — blood sealed in this particular instance. The cylinder grew in size and weight, opening one end to expose the tightly rolled bit of parchment inside.
Still parchment — you’d think that no one had told them that the Dark Ages were over.
Dear Auntie Madison,
I regret to inform you that the last member of that very select band has passed away. Words cannot express my feeling of loss, a feeling that I hope that you, too, share in some way. As you had made your feelings quite clear, no one attempted to contact you for the memorial service, although I’ve enclosed a programme from the service, for your scrapbook.
You made a promise to me, long ago, when I was barely of age, that I’m calling upon today. If you wish to visit me in person, I wouldn’t mind, but I expect the package within a reasonable time.
I remain ever your devoted â€˜niece.’
Alba L. Longbottom
Judge Cooper brushed away the tears from her cheek. Receiving a note from Alba reminded her suddenly and savagely that not everything from the old world was unpleasant. She thought momentarily of Apparating to her, but reckoned that she didn’t know where Alba lived any more, given that she was a Longbottom and not a Lupin, and she’d not practiced that bit of magic for more than sixty years.
Perhaps it’s time to go back, if only for a visit.
She shook her head at the thought, and then gathered her things into her bag, which was uncharacteristically light without the usual clutch of briefs and memoranda that she took home every night. Come hell, high water, or messages from her past, she was going to go on holiday tomorrow, which meant that work would stay in her chambers — experience taught her that it would still be there when she came back.
My dearest Alba,
As I remember saying to you years ago, the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. I do not hate the Wizarding world, and indeed I still miss a few individuals, you included, but the ones I loved the most are either now gone, or have decided that I was not worthy of their love. This does not mean, however, that I have forgotten promises made long ago, however imprudently they might have been made.
Enclosed you will find the manuscript. I have checked it over for errors, but could find none. The source documents are sealed, of course, and will not be released until several years after my death. If you survive me, they will go to you; should you predecease me (there I go, sounding like a barrister again) they shall go to the Department of Mysteries.
While Harry and Ginny were alive, we seven would gather each year in June to dine together. After they passed, the remaining members of the seven did not have the heart to gather in that fashion. I propose that we revive that custom this year, if it is convenient to you, and I will visit you at your home or some other place of your choosing for a night of remembering.
I am ever your fond faux aunt,
Madison (Norbeck) Cooper, K.C.
Enclosed in the package was a thick bundle, wrapped in what appeared to be butcher paper, secured with string.
Alba hesitated, thinking for a moment that she should wait until Aunt Madison was here to answer the questions she would no doubt have, but she dismissed that thought in an instant, snipping the string with her ever-present penknife so she could rip open the butcher paper and expose the manuscript beneath. Inside was a cool, spiral bound book with a curious title page, assembled as if for a school assignment.
The Last Battle
An account of how the second war came to end, compiled from first-hand reports.
M. Norbeck Cooper
My second year at Hogwarts was tumultuous, not only for me, personally, but turbulent in the events that played out at school and in Wizarding Britain as well. As to my personal life, puberty decided to grace me that year; I grew six inches in nine months, nothing seemed to fit, and I almost lost my spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team because of my growth-spurt induced spell of the clumsies. I was a lumpy pollywog, no longer a sleek tadpole of a girl, and not yet the graceful woman I would become. I would have gone mad that year, apart from my friendship with one of the greatest Witches of my age, Ginevra Potter, known then as Ginny Weasley. In the larger picture, we were in the midst of the Second War; Magical Britain was still reeling from the assassination of the Justice Minister, Madam Bones, and the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore. The Wizengamot finally tossed Fudge, that most wretched excuse for a Minister out, replacing him with one who was only slightly better. Since returning to his new body, Tom Riddle had tried two flashy operations which resulted in losses for his side. As he lacked the raw numbers to overthrow the Magical government by force, his Death Eaters began to wage a hit-and-run campaign of assassination and kidnapping. After the war ended, we discovered that the kidnapping was the primary source of cash for necessary operations, as the Ministry’s tardy actions were somewhat successful at drying up Riddle’s usual sources of support. As luck would have it, I was present at the first (the creature invasion of Gringotts), involved in the second (the battle of Hogsmeade) and an eyewitness to the third.
Aside from my personal issues, Hogwarts was remarkably different my second year. Professor McGonagall was appointed as Headmistress, a number of students were withdrawn by their parents, who sent them to Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, Salem, or kept them at home for private tutoring. Slytherin house almost closed for lack of students, but Professor McGonagall went to extraordinary ends to insure that Professor Slughorn had every incentive to stay as Potions Professor and Head of House. The snakes had just enough students to field a Quidditch team, but that team was so pathetic that when we played them, we fielded the Gryffindor Reserve team, which was somewhat satisfying, as I beat them twice under the new game rotation as the Gryffindor Reserve Seeker.
Notwithstanding the war, the school year was, for all intents and purposes, fairly normal. Classes were held, students misbehaved, romances flourished and withered at the hot-house pace that was normal to co-ed residential schools, and we managed to learn something despite the distractions of the war that was going on outside our heavily warded and guarded walls.
Because I was small, and a girl, many people didn’t take me seriously. I played this to my advantage, learning to move silently in the castle, which afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot of things that weren’t on the curriculum by just keeping my ears open. When I wasn’t bawling on Ginny Weasley’s shoulder, I was reporting to Harry Potter what was happening throughout the castle, a service that he appreciated.
Harry and Ginny, as a couple, were as different from other couples as could be. They weren’t constantly groping each other or sucking on each others’ faces, nor were they constantly bickering. Instead, they had the steady familiarity of good friends who knew each others’ stories, and who could often finish each others’ sentences. I wanted what they had, but of course, at the ripe age of 12, I lacked an appropriate, interested consort.
I knew better than to barge in on them unannounced, of course, and I never caught them doing anything in the PDA department that would have raised the ire of any of the more punctilious prefects. This didn’t mean, however, that they were totally aboveboard. They led the D.A., and had a lot of contact with people I assumed were in Dumbledore’s old group.
After the war I learned about the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry’s own group of operatives, who worked alongside the Order, but had their own agenda. Harry and Ginny could make things happen, that’s for sure.
Breakfast in the Great Hall was always a time of some trepidation that year, between the fairly uniformly dreary news in the Daily Prophet, and the equally unreliable Owl Post that would be served with our meal. By lunchtime the student gossip mill would be running full tilt, trying to analyze what was really happening. Harry and Ginny had their sources, and from time to time would slip away from the school without the permission (as far as I could tell) or the knowledge of the Headmistress. On one of these occasions, they came back into the castle close to the curfew, smelling terribly of smoke, which was not that unusual, with a number of irregular burns in their clothing, burns that I recognized from D.A. sessions. The next morning there was a small article in the Prophet about a warehouse fire in Liverpool. I refrained from mentioning anything about it until I could find them together, alone.
"Are you two decent?" I called, knowing that I would find them around the corner in one of their favourite chatting spots.
Ginny made a suction breaking sound while crying out in a high falsetto "Oh, Harry, your hands are so cold."
"No, really, are you two carrying on, or can I come and talk to you?" I asked.
"We’re kissing," Harry replied. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew he was smiling.
"Yeah, tongues and everything," Ginny added before giggling.
"Yeah, right," I said, rounding the corner. Harry was sitting up on the couch and Ginny was lying down, her feet resting on his lap. Ginny was notorious for making her boyfriend rub her feet at the end of the day, much to the displeasure of many boys at Hogwarts who were asked why they didn’t do that. Well, in any event, on this particular instance their hands were in plain view and their clothing wasn’t dishevelled.
"What’s up, Maddy?" Ginny asked.
"Um, I just wanted to ask about the news," I said, suddenly regretting my notion to pump them for information.
"What news?" Harry asked, boring into me with his jewel green eyes.
"Uh, the fire in Liverpool," I replied.
"What makes you think that we know anything about the fire in Liverpool?" Ginny asked, transfixing me with a particularly carnivorous stare. If I’d been a mouse, I’d have been a goner.
"Well, uh, when you came in the night before, your clothes smelled of smoke and you had singe marks that looked like, well, battle damage," I muttered, taking a sudden fascination with the tops of my shoes.
"Sounds like we’re busted, Mr. Potter," Ginny said.
Harry said nothing, but invoked a privacy sphere around us; that always made my ears pop.
"There’s a war going on," Harry began.
"And you’re the Chosen One," I said, regretting my impulse after the words left my mouth.
"Yes," Harry admitted. "I’m not the only one doing things to make Riddle’s life miserable and short, but sometimes I’m away from the castle."
"So you were involved," I said.
Harry smiled. "You’re a very bright girl, Madison."
"When Hermione was my age, she was helping you with the Philosopher’s stone," I said impulsively.
"We were in over our heads then," Harry said, changing position as Ginny sat up. He slid his hand over hers.
"I want to help."
"You do help, Madison," Ginny said sympathetically. "You tell us things, information that we can’t get anywhere else."
"I want to do more," I said, trying not to sound like a whinging child.
"Work hard in the D.A., never be without your wand, work on your medical spells," Harry said plainly.
"I’m not afraid," I said with some bravado.
"That’s funny," Harry said. "I’m afraid -- every time. I worry about Ginny, she worries about me."
"You’re a good dueller, Madison, better than I was at your age, but it’s not a sport, and you need to work better with your partner," Ginny said.
"But he’s a moron," I blurted out.
"Stephen Borwick is many things," Harry said.
"Including being an insensitive berk," Ginny interrupted.
"But moron is not one of them," Harry concluded. "I paired you with him because your strengths complement each other.
"But he just thinks I’m a little girl," I protested.
"Then show him that you’re a dangerous little girl," Ginny said with a particularly wicked smile. "Your objective in the D.A. is refining your skills, not getting a date for the dance this summer."
"What dance?" I asked, fairly certain that they were pulling my leg.
"All in due time," Harry said. "It’s supposed to be a surprise." He then shot Ginny a dirty look.
"Right," Ginny said, letting the dirty look roll off of her.
"So what happened at Liverpool?"
Harry and Ginny shared a look between them.
"Riddle lost some property that he wanted, badly," Ginny said with another wicked smile.
"And the fire?" I asked.
"Some things go â€˜boom’ when you break them," Harry replied drolly.
"Right," I said.
"But officially, we don’t know anything about that," Ginny said.
"We were working with Hagrid with some Manticores," Harry added.
"You aren’t taking Care of Magical Creatures," I objected.
"Independent Study," Harry said.
"Plus, we just like to help," Ginny added.
"Right," I said, trying to keep the disbelief from my face.
"I’m glad we cleared this up," Ginny said.
"So when do you kiss?" I asked, changing the subject.
"After you leave," Harry said, cancelling the privacy sphere, "when we’re alone."
I recognized my cue.
And so I kept my ears and eyes open, and worked hard, doubly hard during the D.A., but my opinion of Stephen Borwick didn’t change, even after dancing with him that following summer, but that’s a different story all together.
Towards the end of the year I started hearing rumblings among the Slytherins. Nothing I could put my finger on, but more than one conversation stopped when I became visible, all of which involved one or more Slytherin prefect, and in each instance there was a word in common: "Malfoy."
I thought it was probably nothing, but I dutifully reported it to Ginny during our regular meeting. Her eyes flared while she was listening, but otherwise her face betrayed nothing.
I put it out of my mind as exams approached, trying to beat the marks I’d earned the year before. I wasn’t in Granger’s league yet, but I was catching up to her. Although I was from an old Wizarding family, I was Muggleborn and adopted, so I had an itch to prove that I belonged in the Wizarding world, unlike my brother, Eoin, who mainly concerned himself with Quidditch and music, but that too is another story. Exams came and went, we had the first leaving feast without Professor Dumbledore, and as the leaving feast drew to a close, I came to the sudden realization that this was Harry’s seventh year — he wouldn’t be back next year. While we were on the train, this thought kept ringing through my brain like a tantalizing half-forgotten memory. I finally decided that I needed to prank a few of my classmates, including my insensitive berk of a duelling partner, Stephen Borwick, one last time before we scattered. Harry and his closest friends had commandeered the last car on the train, an odd one-off car that was half the length of the usual cars. The normal cars had a hallway running down the middle, with compartments on either side. This car had a doubly wide hallway running on the starboard side and one nicely appointed room resembling a parlour or common room on the other. As Hermione was Head Girl that year, no one questioned her commandeering the car for her last trip from school.
I slipped into this Gryffindor den, whispered a request into Harry’s ear to borrow his invisibility cloak (one of the better kept secrets of Gryffindor Tower) and then slipped out, a few moments later, with a small parcel under my arm.
My prank expedition took the better part of two hours, involving a number of subtle and not-so-subtle bits of magic, including my mum’s signature "Velcro fly charm" that stuck the fly of certain boys’ pants shut. A number of them were still talking about it the next year, but that too is another story.
As I was returning Harry’s cloak to him, there was a horrible clank that rang through the train as we turned a bend. I was just entering the last car in the train at the time and some instinct told me that I needed to have Harry’s cloak on, rather than having it safely tucked under my arm.
That instinct probably saved my life. After the clank, the car was unnaturally silent — we were slowing down. It didn’t take a Ravenclaw to figure out that the last car was no longer attached to the Hogwarts Express. A number of adult Wizards and one Witch became visible, Apparating quietly aboard. They were all wearing half-masks, so I figured they weren’t from ScotRail.
My first instinct was to attack, taking as many with me as I could, but Harry’s repeated admonitions in the D.A. to assess the situation before acting restrained me from ripping away with the deadliest curses I could imagine. My skin began to crawl as I felt magic erupting along the walls of the train car. Even if I knew how to Apparate, (which I didn’t) that option was now off the table, as the Death Eaters had just erected some powerful wards, keeping the intended victims in and the potential rescuers out, I surmised.
I never saw what happened inside the compartment where Harry and his friends were — I was too busy trying to make sure that I knew how many Death Eaters were here and where they were. Once I got inside the compartment, I thought things couldn’t be worse. Harry was bound and gagged and everyone else was bound with what looked like steel cables. I started calculating how I could cut the cables while simultaneously launching an attack, when I heard Harry speak in my mind.
Madison, things are not as they seem, his voice said serenely.
Harry? I thought back.
Right in one — now look, I don’t have a lot of time — you need to stay hidden, and no matter what happens, you must stay hidden and stay put. Help is on the way and things are going to look terrible, but we’re going to end it today.
I nodded to Harry, who winked in reply.
If I thought that things couldn’t get any worse, I was wrong.
Voldemort appeared with a puff of foul-smelling smoke. He was dressed in a very regal scarlet robe, but physically he really looked like hell, chalky white, leathery skin, no nose to speak of, little misshapen lumps where his ears should be and inhuman, red-rimmed eyes.
Voldemort yakked for a while, but I wasn’t really paying attention, as I was still trying to cobble together an attack plan, generating and rejecting any number of ideas, but nothing miraculous came to me. When Voldemort stopped talking, the witch released the coils holding Neville and then lashed him with Cruciatus. Neville screamed terribly until he collapsed. One of the male Death Eaters checked him, saying that he had no pulse, but I wasn’t sure. Then they started in on Luna, then Ron, then Hermione, and finally Ginny. Each time the screaming continued until the target went limp. I never knew Cruciatus to be fatal, but then again, this was Bellatrix Lestrange we were talking about, so perhaps the normal rules didn’t apply.
"Thank you, Bellatrix" Voldemort said, as if he were complementing a particularly helpful store clerk.
"I live to serve, Master," she said, bowing deeply.
"I hope you enjoyed the entertainment, Harry, but we cannot put things off any more — there’s no Mudblood mother to die for you this time, no Headmaster to rescue you today; it’s time to die, Harry," he said matter-of-factly.
"I don’t think so," Harry replied, shucking off his bonds and gag like so many threads.
There were curses of surprise from the Death Eaters. Voldemort assumed an attack stance, his wand pointed at Harry’s heart.
Harry’s eyes never left Voldemort. He raised one hand, palm up, until it was between them.
A pearl appeared in Harry’s hand, a pearl of blindingly beautiful light. One of the taller male Death Eaters shot a blast of green light at Harry only to see the curse consumed by the ball of light in his hand.
"Maybe you’re right, Tom, it is time to die, but you’re the one to do the dying; you’ve had more practice," Harry said with a hint of a smile.
Moving quick as a striking cobra, Harry grabbed the wrist of Voldemort’s wand hand with his free hand and then plunged the fiery ball of light into Voldemort’s chest. There was a sizzle, several screams and then the two of them disappeared in a blinding flash of light accompanied by a deafening clap of thunder.
We were all dazed by the blast.
The Death Eaters began shouting and darting about the room. The tall man, pointing to an angry red blotch on his arm, said something to the effect that the Dark Lord was gone, and it was time for them to make themselves scarce. He then called to the Death Eater serving as sentry at the back of the car, asking him to remove any trace of their being there.
That Death Eater replied, "Yes, Father."
While there were many Father-Son pairs in the service of Voldemort, Draco Malfoy’s oily voice was quite memorable, even though I’d only heard it a few times in the prior school year. The Death Eaters left the parlour, heading towards the front of the car, where they’d Apparated in. Draco began straightening up, shooting a red, scattering light on surfaces the other Death Eaters might have touched. Then he approached my friends, my dead friends, kicking Neville in the head before picking up Ginny Weasley’s limp body and draping it face down over one of the cushioned chairs. Any doubt I had as to his intentions vanished when he flipped her skirt up and then ripped her knickers off.
Promise or no promise to Harry, I wasn’t going to let Draco Malfoy violate Ginny’s lifeless body.
As he was unzipping his fly I landed a running leap onto his crotch. I learned later that the impact broke his thumb in two places and cracked his pelvis. I then stunned him, twice, and wrapped him in conjured ropes. My only regret about that transaction was that I didn’t think of cutting him and leaving him to bleed to death until after the Aurors arrived, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Ginny’s knickers were pretty well shot, and I was no great shakes then at transfiguring clothing (the Velcro fly charm, notwithstanding), so there wasn’t much I could do for her apart from laying her down on the floor and arranging her skirt so that she was covered up. Her body was limp, and beginning to get cold.
Out of habit, more than anything else, I checked her airway, which wasn’t blocked, looked for signs of breathing, which weren’t there, and then checked for a pulse, which was non-existent. The last step in that procedure was casting the Viatica charm, which I dutifully did, remembering Harry’s admonition to practice my medical charms. I was absolutely gob smacked when the charm lit up a cheery yellow glow about her body. I repeated the charm, producing the same cheery yellow glow. For reasons unknown, a body that wasn’t breathing and had no pulse was sufficiently alive to test positive with Viatica, not just alive, but with fairly strong life strength.
I repeated the test on Hermione, Luna, Ron and then Neville, all with the same result. Five seemingly dead bodies were being kept alive by something. I kicked Draco a good one in the head and then sat down in a different overstuffed chair to think, still wrapped in the Invisibility Cloak, just in case.
I should have been relieved then, even happy, but all I could do was cry, having watched my friends, some of my best friends in the whole world, tortured and murdered before my eyes, watch the Chosen One dispatch the worst excuse for a human being from existence, and then find out that, as Harry promised, â€˜things are not as they seem.’ There were only so many traumas a twelve-year-old witch could absorb in one day, and I’d reached my limit about an hour ago. As things turned out, I had another two hours to wait, which is when Draco started stirring. I stunned him again and then sat down. I’d found a wooden doorstop in the hallway, and I’d been carving it with my penknife. I wasn’t as good as Eoin, but I had a good shape going over the next hour; it was a duck.
The windows to the railcar were spelled shut and opaque. I didn’t particularly want to fool with them for fear of tripping some nasty curses left behind by the Death Eaters, who, it seemed, were remarkably unconcerned about the whereabouts of Draco Malfoy. About an hour after I’d stunned Draco I heard a low hum that rattled my insides. It sounded like a far-off freight train, but when I put my ear to the front and back doors to the railcar, I figured that whatever was making the noise, it wasn’t coming from outside. The hum got louder and higher in pitch until a flash of light burst into the parlour and Harry Potter stepped in — without his wand, without his glasses, without his trademark scar, completely hairless and naked as the day he was born.
"Hello, Madison, it’s good to see you again," he said, nodding at me.
I ripped off his Invisibility Cloak and ran to hug him, not thinking for the moment that he was naked.
That was rather irrelevant at the time; he was back!
After holding me and cooing comfort into my ears for a few minutes, Harry let go of me and surveyed the damage in the room. There was a nice circular scorch mark where he’d left with Riddle a few hours ago, and the still forms of our friends. Then he spied Malfoy.
"So what happened to Draco?" he asked.
"Uh, he tried to do something to Ginny’s body, so I blasted him," I stammered.
"Good on you," Harry said.
"Uh, Harry, could you do something about clothes? I grew up with a brother, but this is starting to freak me out," I said.
Harry looked down at his naked limbs and laughed.
"Sure Madison," he replied, conjuring a scarlet knee-length pair of shorts with a matching tee-shirt, and then frowning while he conjured some slippers. Sitting down to put on the slippers, he asked, "Is that better?"
"Much," I replied.
Harry ran his hand over his now-shining scalp, seemingly surprised by the lack of hair. He bent down, placing his head between his knees before he shook like a dog. When he finished, he had hair again, as dishevelled as ever.
"C’mon over here, I’m going to need your help," he said, kneeling down to examine Ginny’s body.
"They’re still alive," I said.
"Yup," he replied.
"But they’re not breathing, and they don’t have a pulse," I added.
"Yup," he said, continuing with his examination.
"Do you know how to revive them?" I asked.
"Yup," he said, giving me a large grin.
"So, what can I do to help?" I asked, clueing into the notion that he was having me on.
"You’re going to kiss Neville and Ron for me," he said drolly.
"I beg your pardon," I replied.
"You need to breathe into their mouths," Harry countered, "it’s how the spell works."
"It’s based on fa’czhng, with a twist," Harry replied. "Look, I’d love to chat with you about this, but right now, I really want to get them back into the land of the living."
"Right, what do I need to do?" I asked earnestly.
"Open their lips a bit and then breathe into their mouth," he said, leaning down to kiss Ginny. The first kiss was rather short. Ginny’s colour began to return and Harry kissed her again. It was a long kiss, quite a long kiss. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or jealous.
"Do I have to do it like that, or is the tongue bit optional?" I asked when he came up for air.
"That would depend upon how you want them to remember you, Madison," he replied.
That did it for my indecision; I could feel my cheeks burning when I bent down to kiss Neville.
By the time I kissed Ron, I’m sure I was Weasley red down past my shirt collar. After that, Ron kissed Hermione (something I’d seen a time or two before) and Neville kissed Luna, who reached up, grabbing the back of his neck, and wrestled him back to the ground for a second, longer kiss.
After a tumultuous round of hugging, kissing and crying, Hermione brought down the wards that had been left on the railcar and Ron shot off a most impressive magical beacon. Within a few minutes, the car was swarming with Aurors, who, to a man, looked at Harry, examining the forehead that now had no scar, and then looked at the scorch mark before breaking into wide grins. They carried Draco out of the car like so much trash, accidentally-on-purpose banging his head against the doorframe on their way out.
Ron broke the silence first. "You guys hungry? I’d kill for a pizza about now."
Alba Longbottom smiled as she turned the last page. The report was incomplete, of course, but she figured that she’d worm the rest out of Aunt Madison when she came by next week for dinner. Speaking of which, she needed to lay in some supplies, things she hadn’t thought of in nearly fifty years. After drafting the list, she wandered over to the fireplace, tossing a pinch of Floo powder into the flames.
"Grimmauld Place," she called out. "Mum? Are you there?"
She heard a plate drop, followed by a muffled curse. It was Mum all right.
"Wotcher, sweetie, whadja need?" she called out, sticking her head into the flames.
"Madison Cooper — you knew her, didn’t you?" Alba asked.
"Of course I knew her, she baby-sat for you a time or two," Dora replied.
"I didn’t know that," Alba said, taken aback. "Why did she leave our world?"
"You don’t know? I thought you two were thick as thieves at one time?"
"We were, but we never talked about that — we knew each other through Ginny," Alba explained.
"Let me come on over, we’ll talk about it over tea," Dora said, drawing her head out of the fire while she clanked in the kitchen before stepping through the flames.
"Do you want the short version or the long version?" Dora asked, once her tea cup was filled.
"The short version will do," Alba said, hoping that her mum could keep it together long enough to finish the tale once she started.
"Well, the short version is that she got torqued off about the whole blood-purity nonsense, and then she got her heart broken, over pretty much the same thing. She concluded that we could rot in our own sewage and she’d make her way in the Muggle world; I’d say she did fairly well. University, law school, admission to the bar, a brilliant career as a barrister, and then appointment to the bench, getting bumped up to the Circuit Court last year. She didn’t fare too well in the affairs of the heart though; she married another barrister and then became a widow," Dora said, looking vacantly into space.
"Who broke her heart?" Alba asked after a decent interval of silence.
"Eli McIllwain," Dora replied quickly, looking over her teacup at her daughter.
"The Eli McIllwain? Highest scoring chaser in the league for five years running, starting with his rookie year?" Alba asked incredulously.
"Yes, that McIllwain — they went to school together — she was Gryffindor Quidditch Captain for her last two years, he was Captain for Ravenclaw," Dora said with a sly smile.
"They fell in love, and then their fathers negotiated a betrothal contract that fell through," Dora said, looking out the window again.
"What? Why?" Alba asked, getting incensed at the notion.
"Madison was from a pureblood family, but she was adopted. When Mr. McIllwain asked for her genealogy, Mr. Norbeck produced a family tree of her biological kin, who were all Muggles," Dora said.
"She was Muggleborn?" Alba asked.
"Muggleborn, but Magic-raised," Dora said. "When the Norbecks adopted her, they went through the Muggle system. Had they bothered to re-adopt her through the Wizarding courts, her claim to pureblood status would have been as good as your husband’s claim."
"And derailed the engagement?" Alba squeaked.
"Madison had been encountering the usual pureblood bullshite on the job, being denied assignments, not getting interviews, the usual song and dance; this was just the last straw. She had a rather high-volume discussion with her beau to the effect that he had to choose between her and this pureblood bullshite," Dora paused to take a long draw from her teacup. "If Eli had chosen her under those terms, he’d have been disinherited. Instead, he honoured his father’s wishes and drowned his sorrows on the pitch. I thought he was heartbroken, but a year later he’s married off to a sweet but stupid pureblood broodmare who popped off a half-dozen or so empty-headed pureblood offspring before dying in childbirth on bambino number seven. He never remarried."
"Sounds like a bad wireless drama," Alba said.
"Doesn’t it? Madison didn’t want to live in a world where she’d see her lover’s face emblazoned on the sports page nearly every day, so she up and left," Dora said. "I’ve missed her something awful, but I understand her motivation."
"I’m having dinner with her next week," Alba volunteered.
"How lovely! Make sure she feels welcome," Dora advised.
"But of course."
Some friendships whither and die with prolonged separation, others remain vital, picking up where they last left off, notwithstanding a separation of years or decades. Dinner with Alba and Franklin Longbottom was like that. Once they got past the obligatory inquiries into occupations (Franklin wrote children’s books while Alba owned an apothecary, specializing in certain hard to brew, very fussy potions) and the health of parents and siblings (Dora and Remus were doing quite well, thank you for asking) the friendship between Madison and Alba reignited, to their mutual delight and surprise.
Franklin cleared the table and returned from the kitchen with a plate of speckled fudge and a bowl of peanuts. Madison looked at the offering and burst out laughing.
"I don’t believe that you’ve remembered that after all these years!" Madison exclaimed, taking a square of fudge and mashing it into the bowl of peanuts. She popped the conglomerate into her mouth. She was silent for a moment, the only sound being the crunching of the nuts as she chewed. "Still good," she pronounced, pushing the plate away from her.
"Surely you’re not going to just have one?" Alba asked.
"Just one to begin, and don’t call me Shirley," Madison replied.
The two witches broke out in another burst of laughter.
Franklin cleared his throat, reminding them that they were not alone in the room. "Ladies, while it’s been a night to remember, I have an editor Owling me daily, asking where the next chapter is, so I must immure myself in my study to get my beloved editor off of my back," he said, bowing as he shut the doors leading into the dining room.
Alba reached for a square of fudge, giggling as she smashed it into the peanuts. "Do you remember when you corrupted me with this confection?" she asked.
"Of course, you were, what, a fifth year at Hogwarts, home for the Christmas hols, and you came over to Ginny’s house to drown your romantic sorrows, only to find me there doing much the same thing," Madison replied.
"You were living with the Muggles then," Alba replied.
"Yes, I’d finished school and was recently admitted to chambers, Lincoln’s Inn. Harry and Ginny saw us and snuck out, leaving the two of us in their parlour for the evening. That’s when you read me Ginny’s letter about kisses," Madison said, reaching for another square of fudge before stopping herself.
"Did you really kiss my father-in-law on the lips?" Alba asked.
"Oh yes, but I’m sure that he enjoyed the kiss with your future mother-in-law more," Madison replied with a grin.
"Your narrative is maddeningly incomplete," Alba declared.
"So I’ve been told," Madison said. "The Ministry considered Obliviating me, declaring that all of this was some sort of State Secret."
"I’m sure that went over well," Alba retorted.
"That was the one and only time I ever heard Harry raise his voice to the Chief Auror," Madison said, again with a smile.
"So what really happened?" Alba asked conspiratorially.
"Well, you know about the Horcruces, don’t you?" Madison countered.
"They called them Horcruxes at Hogwarts in History of Magic," Alba said. "Harry and his friends were destroying them during his seventh year."
"Well, that’s another thing they got wrong," Madison replied, "the plural form, I mean. The Horcrux team was a limited, need-to-know operation — even Ron and Hermione were in the dark on bits of that, until afterwards, of course. Once the Horcruces were gone, Riddle could be killed without coming back like a bad cheque. I’d told Ginny about what I was hearing about Malfoy pressuring the Slytherin prefects — it turned out that he was trying to find out information on the security codes for the Hogwarts Express."
"Which would let the Death Eaters onto the train," Alba observed.
"Exactly, so Harry pulled some strings and arranged to have the VIP car added onto the Express, limiting the risk to the rest of the students," Madison said, finally reaching for another square of fudge. "It was a set up."
"Harry knew that the Death Eaters were coming?" Alba queried.
"Yeah, he knew, or at least he thought it was pretty likely — he considered it an ambush-in-reverse," Madison said. "It was a gamble, a lucky gamble, like many things during the war. This one paid off nicely."
"So, what happened to the others?" Alba asked.
"Harry had little threads of magic attached to them for most of the last year at Hogwarts — kind of a keep-your-friends-close move, because he figured that they’d be special targets. You’ve got to remember that the biggest risks during that year were kidnapping and assassination. He still had those threads attached when they were in the parlour car. The Dragons had a technique for eating pain, which Harry invoked when they were receiving the Cruciatus curse," Madison said.
"But you said that they were screaming," Alba said.
"And they were — it was still painful, but most of what they were doing was just for show" Madison said with a wan smile.
"And the coma?" Alba asked.
"Another Dragon trick — the fa’czhng ended up transferring energy from the five to Harry — life energy. When they reached a certain low energy level, they went into a protective stasis. For all intents and purposes, they appeared to be dead, but they could be revived later," Madison said.
"And if Harry hadn’t come back?"
"They could still be revived. If I’d been a better little mediwitch-in-training, I would have started CPR on them, which would have revived them. Thankfully, though, I just sat there because they had such a strong life signal in them after I did the Viatica charm. I would not have enjoyed being there if Ginny discovered that Harry was gone for several hours," Madison said emphatically.
"So, where did Harry go?" Alba asked.
"You can’t tell anyone," Madison said hesitatingly.
"Not even Franklin?" Alba pleaded.
"Harry said I could tell you, after they were dead. Use your own judgement," Madison said cryptically.
"So, where did he go?" Alba asked again.
"The proper question would be when did he go," Madison explained. "The ball of light in Harry’s hand was the Lesser Wrath — it was an odd bit of magic that was drawing on Harry’s life force."
"Sounds expensive," Alba quipped.
"Oh, it was," Madison said. "Harry was drawing against not only his own life force, but that of the other five as well — he was all charged up like a capacitor."
"A what?" Alba asked quizzically.
"Sorry, that’s a Muggle term — let’s just say that Harry was full-to-the-brim with life force when he grabbed hold of Riddle. He used a sticking charm with one hand and shoved the Lesser Wrath into him with the other. It should have just destroyed Riddle — consuming his body, his magic, and what was left of his soul," Madison said. "But nothing is ever simple, or without cost. Riddle had a little bit of foreign magic stuck to him that would only come into play if he was in mortal peril, the magic was supposed to throw him back in time — it also served to hold his soul together, so in effect he was truly the seventh horcrux. The Lesser Wrath began to destroy Riddle’s body, along with his soul and his magic, which triggered the time magic. Harry was stuck to Riddle, so the two of them went back in time."
"How far back?"
"All the way back. Riddle had one potent bit of magic on him — it took Hermione almost a year to reverse engineer how it was done. Well, anyway, you know how in Genesis it says that God says â€˜Let there be light?’ Well, Harry was there when it happened. He said it was â€˜very impressive.’ The time magic should have killed Harry, and if that hadn’t killed Harry, the explosion at the beginning of space-time should have done the trick," Madison said, pausing to rub her temples. "That’s where the luck comes in — although Harry always said that luck was the will of God — the same magic that was supposed to hold Riddle’s soul together is now holding Harry’s soul together. The explosion knocked Harry back to Earth — Harry said it was sometime after the fifth day of creation — there were plants and animals, but no people yet."
"So, was it all done in twenty-four-hour days?" Alba asked.
"Harry never said one way or another," Madison replied with a smile. "He was found by an Angel, who asked him to help out with a problem they had on hand, you know how Harry was always a sucker for saving people, and then he was sent back to his own time, recreating a new body for him."
"Which is why he came back naked, without any hair, without the scar," Alba said.
"You catch on quickly," Madison replied.
"So, what was the problem?" Alba asked.
"That one I’m not at liberty to share," Madison replied. "Some secrets still remain. If you ever have the occasion to meet a Snow Dragon, however, you might ask them about the Servant of the Light."
Alba pondered all of this, looking as if she wanted to contest this last secret, but then appeared to think better of it.
"And the cost?" Alba asked.
"You don’t miss much, do you?" Madison countered.
"I learned from the best, Auntie," Alba said, striking a pure-as-the-driven-snow-little-girl pose.
"Destroying Riddle took years off of their lives, all of them. My only regret is that I didn’t give some of my life," Madison said wistfully, "they’d have been with us longer if I had."
"But you weren’t given that option, were you?" Alba asked.
"No, but I can still regret it, can’t I?" Madison asked in reply. "I miss them all, but most of all, I miss Ginny."
"Me too," Alba replied, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. "It’s been what, forty-five years now?"
"Forty-six in August," Madison replied. "Were they happy together after Ron and Ginny died? It always seemed like a marriage of convenience, looking at it from the outside."
"You’d been long gone from the Wizarding world by that time, if memory serves me correctly?" Alba asked.
"Yeah, I only came back for the banquets in June, and after Ginny died, we stopped having those," Madison replied.
"I thought we were going to lose them both," Alba said. "After losing their spouses, each of them seemed so — lost. Their children were worried most of all." Alba poured coffee for both of them from the carafe that Franklin had left on the table. "I was living in Hogsmeade then, so I saw Hermione often enough that year, she lost about a stone or more in weight and looked like she wasn’t getting much sleep. Then she turned a corner and started looking better. That’s when I started hearing that she was attending services with Harry on Sunday mornings. A lot of us made the decision that we would mind our own business and let them work things out — or not. After they’d been together for a couple of years I relaxed — both of them were back to — well, being themselves, so yes, they were happy — it wasn’t like the first time around, but I don’t think anyone expected that."
"It’s been lovely, Alba, but I really need to be going," Madison declared.
"Can I talk you into staying the night? There’s no husband to go back to, no dog waiting to be let out, is there?" Alba countered.
Madison shook her head. "No, none of those, but I’m old enough that I find that I sleep better in my own bed, and tomorrow, alas, is a working day, and Motions day at that."
"Well, far be it from me to keep the King’s Counsel from performing her duties on the Circuit Court," Alba said, waving her hand dramatically. "Can I talk you into coming back, or lacking that, visiting more often?"
"I don’t think His Majesty is ready for a witch on the Circuit Bench, Alba," Madison replied.
"But none-the-less, he appointed one, didn’t he?" Alba countered.
"I’ll be back — to visit," Madison said.
"That’s a start," Alba said. "Goodnight, Madison, I’ve missed you."
"And I you, give my love to your husband," Madison said, concentrating on something before she disappeared with a crack. A scrap of yellow paper appeared in the middle of the table, bearing Madison’s unmistakable handwriting. "See, I still remember how," it proclaimed, before disappearing in a flash of cold fire, leaving what appeared to be rose petals on the table.
Copyright © 2007 — J Cornell — all rights reserved.
Authors Note: Thus ends the saga that began in 2003 when I began writing The Letters of Summer. That story, as originally planned, was supposed to end with the turning point in Harry and Ginny’s relationship:
Ginny stopped as they entered the herb garden. Harry stood still. She was still holding his hand, but she was facing him now, until she dipped her head, resting it again on his chest. She shivered slightly, then looked up, staring into his eyes. "You said you’d like to get to know me better," she said softly.
"Yeah, I did."
"I’d like that," she said, "I’d like that a lot." She gave him a brief hug before she peeled away to dart into The Burrow’s kitchen door.
But by the time I reached that point in the story, I knew that there was a lot more to tell, so the story grew, and grew, and grew. I knew then how everything would end, but simply finishing TLOS was a large effort, the largest piece of fiction I’d ever written. When I finished TLOS, I realized that there were a lot of loose ends to tie up, which is why I wrote "Kisses" and "Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year."
Then I started writing other stories, and took up the mantle of Beta, etc. Stories from Sixth Year had a lot of things I wanted to write about, but I didn’t want to write another 200,000 word story, so I tried the tack of making each chapter a stand-alone short story — or nearly so.
With the date for HPDH announced, it became clear to me that it was time to close out the books on the TLOS universe, or at least the H-G portion of that saga.
The details of what happens after All Good Things: Harry and Ginny get married, as do Ron and Hermione. Things go swimmingly for about twenty-five years, with the usual milestones of kids, careers, etc. Then Ron and Ginny die (violently) on the same day. Yes, I kill off Ron and Ginny and then push Harry and Hermione together — something that infuriates my H-G purist readers, and doesn’t sufficiently atone for my sins with the H-Hr crowd. Harry and Hermione sort things out between themselves and get married (to each other) and live as man and wife for about forty some years. The story of how they come together is called Ever After.
News of this story (that I was even thinking about it), of course, caused gnashing of teeth in certain quarters. Too bad — it’s my story — I never claimed to be either a shipper or a purist. I also have a big thing about second chances.
I have other stories that I want to write, so it will be a long, long time before I start to write Ever After (if I ever do get there). If you happen to have enough money to let me retire to a life of full-time writing, I could be persuaded to change that order of priorities, but until then, expect shorter stuff from my keyboard.
Questions as to the details left unanswered by this story (like whatever happens to Draco, anyway?) may be posed on my LiveJournal: http://kokopelli20878.livejournal.com/
I’m not done with the TLOS universe, not by a long shot — there are shorter standalone stories and drabbles that may come bubbling out, but all good things must come to an end someday, and today is that day for Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year.
The usual thanks to the usual people: Runsamok, Mr.Intel, AMulder, etc. You mean more to me than you know.