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Old August 9th, 2008, 2:00 am
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Join Date: 21st January 2007
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Re: FAD: Last Author Standing -Entries!

Entry 8

Endings and Beginnings

As the spiral stone staircase, moved slowly down, Ron felt exhaustion weighing on him. It seemed a bit surreal that, just 24 hours ago, they had left Shell Cottage with the daunting goal of breaking into Gringotts. So much had happened since then. They had ridden on a dragon, destroyed the last of the Horcruxes, fought Death Eaters, lost friends and loved ones ...

With a now familiar pang, he thought of the bodies laid out in the Great Hall. Friends, family ... Fred. He blinked hard, to stop the burning in his eyes. Fred wouldn't want tears. Compliments to his bravery and laughter ... that's what Fred would want. And Harry ... Those moments when he thought Harry had died ... He blinked hard again.

And now, it was over. Voldemort was finished for good. They were free. No more hiding. No more scrounging for food in random forests. He felt as though a great weight had been lifted ... he could only imagine what it must be like for Harry. As they came to the lopsided gargoyle, he felt a soft hand take his and looked to find Hermione smiling at him, nodding her head towards the end of the corridor.

Ignoring the swoop in his stomach at Hermione's touch, he looked towards the direction she was indicating and saw a small figure walking determinedly toward them, her vivid red hair swinging forcefully behind her. Ginny. He hadn't even thought about that. Harry was free now. He didn't have to stay away from Ginny. Of course he was thrilled for Harry -- and his sister -- but he couldn't repress an inward groan at the idea of their reunion. Happy as he was, he really didn't want to see that. But he didn't miss the expectant smile on Harry's face as he turned back to Hermione, intending to leave the two lovebirds alone.


Ron turned back in shock at Harry's indignant, "What was that for?", as Ginny had punched Harry dead in the stomach.

"That was for pretending to be dead," Ginny retorted. "Do you have any idea what you put everyone through? What you put me through? We thought we had lost you forever!"

"Ginny," Harry began nervously, "I'm really so --"

But he was cut off as Ginny threw herself into his arms and kissed him. Ron quickly looked to Hermione, his confusion only increasing at the amused look on her face. Girls were so strange sometimes. At least Harry didn't seem to understand it either -- though he didn't seem to mind either. Ron shuffled his feet uncomfortably, and nodded his head at Hermione, hoping she would understand that he wanted to leave them alone.

"That's for being alive," Ginny said breathlessly, just as Ron tugged on Hermione's arm. She turned to her brother with a grin. "McGonagall sent me to find you three. Most everyone's staying at the castle tonight. Kingsley's called a special meeting in the Great Hall in the morning."

"What does McGonagall want?" Harry said, his voice giving away his exhaustion.

"I'm to give you the passwords to get into Gryffindor tower and the prefects bath," said Ginny. "She thought you would want to wash up and get some sleep."

"Brilliant!" Ron thought fondly of his four-poster in Gryffindor tower as they headed off. "Any chance of getting some food?"

The others laughed as they came up to the portrait of the Fat Lady. She and her friend, Violet, applauded loudly as they approached and Harry blushed as Ginny strode up to give her the password.

"Blood traitor. It's being changed tomorrow," she said matter-of-factly when she saw their horrified looks as the portrait swung open. "The Carrows thought it was funny."

The four of them sat in the common room eating sandwiches that Kreacher had brought them. Ron smiled broadly at the memory of Kreacher leading the house-elves into the battle as he thanked Kreacher for the food. Hermione beamed at him and Ron blushed, remembering what had happened in the Room of Requirement. Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than a few minutes alone with Hermione.

But it was not to be. It wasn't long before they were joined by the rest of the Gryffindors and their families and privacy became a distant dream. It was chaos finding places to sleep for everyone, but the house-elves managed. After a heated, but all to brief, goodnight kiss from Hermione, Ron found himself in his comfortable four-poster at last, well fed and properly clean. Harry had fallen asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow, but Ron drifted to sleep slowly, visions of an empty classroom and Hermione dancing in his mind.

It seemed that he had barely closed his eyes, when a loud bang woke him up. Hermione had burst into their dormitory, her wild hair flowing gloriously around her.

"Aren't you two up yet?" She opened the curtains in the dormitory, letting in the blinding sunlight. "We have to be in the Great Hall in fifteen minutes!"

"Er-my-knee," Ron groaned into his pillow as the light stabbed his eyes. He had been having the most wonderful dream about the Room of Requirement, Hermione of course, had been the star. He heard Harry mumbling incoherently from the bed next to his.

"Come on!" said Hermione. "We don't want to be late!"

Grumbling slightly as they put on clean robes that must have been put out by Kreacher, they dressed quickly and met Hermione in the common room a few minutes later. She was pacing back and forth while Ginny sat and merely looked amused. They barely had time to say "Good Morning" before Hermione was dragging them out the portrait hole.

The Great Hall was crowded when they arrived. Everyone was finishing up breakfast. They fixed plates and ate quickly, ignoring the murmuring around them. Ron wondered what Kingsley's big announcement was going to be as he looked around the Great Hall. He couldn't believe how many people had stayed over. Then he realized that many of these people had lost friends and loved ones, just as he had. They were probably waiting to find out what was to be done with the bodies. He pushed his plate away half finished. He wasn't hungry anymore. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Harry do the same, apparently having reached the same conclusion. They looked at each other sadly as Kingsley began to speak.

"If I could have everyone's attention," he began and Ron's suspicions were soon confirmed to be right. He explained that the bodies had been taken to St. Mungo's and the families could go there to identify and claim them so funeral arrangements could be made. They had set out parchment and quills for anyone who wanted to volunteer to help in the clean up and repairing of Hogwarts. Ron found it hard to concentrate as his mind kept wandering back to all those who had been lost. He dimly heard Kingsley talking about commendations, the Order of Merlin ... Hermione nudged him sharply in reprimand.

"And, finally," Kingsley smiled at them all. "I have a very important announcement to make. The battle has been won, but there is still much work to be done. Many of the Death Eaters escaped and they will need to be rounded up. We lost a lot of good people yesterday, good Aurors. We're going to need more good Aurors to round up the escaped Death Eaters."

Ron exchanged another sad look with Harry. He knew that Harry -- like him -- would want to be part of rounding up the Death Eaters that escaped, but they hadn't finished Hogwarts or gotten the required NEWTs. The thought of waiting another full year before they could even try to join the Aurors was a bit depressing.

"Under the current circumstances," Kingsley continued, "I have decided to make a few changes. These will, of course, be temporary changes due to the severe conditions we face at this time. Once things begin to return to normal, these changes will be reversed."

Ron looked at Hermione in confusion, but she didn't seem to know what Kingsley was talking about either. What changes? Harry was still looking at Kingsley, his expression blank.

"I can see that you're confused," Kingsley said, smiling slightly. "Understandable. As I said, we need good Aurors and we don't have time to wait for those of you who are eligible to finish another year of school or take the NEWTs. As such, the NEWT requirements to become an Auror will be temporarily waived. I feel that all of you proved yourselves to be more than capable of joining the Aurors yesterday. Those of you who are of age may apply immediately."

Ron looked incredulously at Harry as cheers erupted around them. Harry's shocked face mirrored his own.

"What d'you say, mate?" said Harry, a broad grin spreading over his face.

"You have to ask?" Ron felt his own grin might split his face. "What about you, Hermione?"

But Hermione didn't seem quite as excited about the news as they did. She was smiling, but it was more subdued. Ron took her hand and smiled at her. Surely she wasn't upset about Kingsley changing the rules?

"Of course not," she said, when he mentioned it. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity for you both."

Ron noticed that she hadn't included herself. "You're not going to apply?"

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I never really wanted to be an Auror. You know that. That was your and Harry's dream."

Ron nodded. He knew she was right no matter how strange it seemed to be making plans that wouldn't include the three of them.

"So, what'll you do then?"

"I'm going to finish school, of course," said Hermione as though it was obvious. Though, Ron realized, it was obvious. Hermione had been willing to put it off for something as important as defeating Voldemort, but she would finish.

"Of course," he agreed, smiling. "It'll be strange though, the three of us not doing something together."

"I know," said Hermione, "but it's not like we won't see each other at all. It's only nine months and I'll have Hogsmeade visits. With Voldemort gone, there won't be so much security. And we can send loads of owls."

"Maybe Ron and I could get a place in Hogsmeade," Harry chipped in. "Ginny has another year to go too," he said, shrugging when Ron looked at him.

Ron laughed. It felt weird, being able to laugh after everything that had happened, but it felt right. Everything was going to work out. They cheerfully signed up to help repair the castle and then went looking for Kingsley so Ron and Harry could ask about putting their application in to be Aurors.

"As if you need to apply," Kingsley had said, chuckling. "The wizarding community would probably demand my resignation if I didn't offer the job to 'The Chosen One'. Still, it's best to follow procedure. The public can be fickle and we don't want any criticism later."

"I don't want any special treatment," Harry said immediately.

"Of course not," said Kingsley. "I didn't mean ... You won't get any special treatment, Harry. I'll do my best to make sure of that. But you're famous and there's a price to pay for that."

Harry nodded and joined Ron as they walked back to Gryffindor tower where Hermione and Ginny were waiting for them. Hermione was beaming as she told them how thrilled McGonagall was that she would be returning to get her NEWTs next year. Harry looked at Ron hesitantly for a moment and then looked at Ginny with longing. Ron shoved him toward Ginny with a laugh and took Hermione's hand.

"Go on you two," he said, grinning. "We want some privacy."

Ginny looked a bit startled, but Harry just grinned and shrugged. She surprised Ron by hugging him and whispering that she was happy for them in his ear before leaving with Harry. Ron turned to Hermione and felt his face heating up again at the look she was giving him. Yeah, we definitely need some privacy. He nodded his head toward the portrait hole and she followed him out. He could think of several secluded areas around the lake where they wouldn't be disturbed for a while.

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