I'm afraid I lied. I was going to write another chapter to wrap up GOF before this, but I just need to be finished with Hazel and her story.
I hope you all enjoy this chapter, and I hope the timeline is relatively clear. It covers OOTP and HBP and most of DH, so there was plenty to cover.
Thank you to all who have stuck with Hazel's story. It was a wonderful experience writing it for you all! (This in no way means I'm done writing and publishing on this site, I have a few new stories up my sleeve)
So. Here is The End Part I: Three Years Gone
May 2, 1998
Hazel strode along the balcony overlooking the Transfiguration courtyard after completing the task set to her by Professor McGonagall. She had said her farewells to Hogwarts long ago, never expecting to see the castle in all its splendor and mystery and comforting hominess again.
Yet, here she was. Awaiting a battle.
The halls were quiet, in great contrast to the last time she'd been in the castle. Then it had been alive with students bustling about, saying their temporary goodbyes to their friends. She had been one of them, thinking she'd only be gone from the castle for the summer. Fully expecting to return in the fall, she hadn't gotten the chance to really figure how much she would miss her old school. She traced her fingers along the cold stone walls as she reminisced.
If it hadn't been for the events of the summer of 1995, she would've come back to Hogwarts for her seventh year and completed her education. If Julia hadn't left her father at the altar, if her father hadn't then fallen to pieces, she would've returned and her life would be wholly different.
But those things did happen. Hazel had to take up the running of the shop as well as caring for her father, who, it seemed to Hazel, had been overtaken by a dementor. He would stare off into space blankly, or simply lie on the sofa watching crap tv all day. Hazel had to make sure he ate regularly, and bathed, and she would help him tidy up his new flat above the store extension (which luckily was all finalized before she got home for summer break). She occasionally placated him with some calming and sleeping draughts, but he'd insisted on getting help the Muggle way. In October of that year, he'd started seeing a therapist.
Her decision to cease her magical education was also motivated by her anger at her grandfather. Felix had moved into her grandparent's house the week after the term ended, and had begged her to reconsider giving her shares to Leonard. She remained rooted in her position. When her grandfather retired, her shares would go to Leonard. And when her grandfather had learned about her decision to remain with her father at the shop instead of going back to Hogwarts for her final year, he had officially ceased all communication with her. In the last three years, she'd only heard from her grandmother and even then, it was a short letter at Christmastime.
No one had been pleased with her decision, least of all the Twins. She and Fred had just gotten back to being friends (the boys were in attendance at Daniel's failed wedding), and everything had seemed to going well for the three of them. George was blissfully happy with Angelina, Hazel had gotten revenge on her grandfather for meddling in her affairs, and Fred was brainstorming more ideas for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes daily.
"Magic isn't just a gift, Hazel, it's a responsibility!" Fred had argued with her. He'd floo'd to her flat the second he'd received her letter explaining the situation.
"What about my responsibility to my father! He's not going to get better before term starts, Fred, and he's in no state to care for himself, let alone run his shop! Lisa and Steve are moving to Brighton, he'll be all alone! I can't just leave him! He's my father!" she'd yelled at him. "You think I made this decision lightly? I know what I'm giving up! My dreams of being a Curse Breaker are gone now because of that- that indecisive bitch! She left us, Fred, and now everything's a bloody mess!"
And a difficult decision it had been. In truth, Julia's departure had not only broken her father's heart, it had broken Hazel's as well. In order to take care of herself and her father, she had given up her dream of ever being a curse-breaker or really anything in the magical world, instead settling for the world in which she grew up. What she had always considered an advantage, having basically her pick of work post-Hogwarts, was now gone. She had made her choice. She would remain in her father's shop.
In the downtime she gained when her father's mental stability returned in the winter of 1995, Hazel would stroll around Diagon Alley. Partly out of boredom, partly because Dumbledore had asked her to keep an eye on the happenings outside Hogwarts, and partly so she could hop a bus and visit Sirius, who was (reluctantly) back at his parent's house in Grimmauld Place. It was on one of these reconnaissance walks that she noticed a building at the far corner of the street. The windows were dark, and a 'For Sale' sign hung on the door.
She had written the boys at Hogwarts, knowing that they had been looking for a storefront. She didn't hear anything back for weeks, so she put down a deposit on the building with the money from her mother's inheritance. Over Christmas, she'd pulled the boys aside at Grimmauld Place and given them the keys. Fred was so happy he had kissed her, apologizing almost immediately. However, the tension was instantly dissipated when George went in for a comically loud smack on the lips as well.
That was the start of their business relationship. Over the next months, Hazel split her time nearly evenly between the new Wheezes shop and Herrod's. Her father was ecstatic for her new opportunity. She opened the Wheezes' bank account at Gringotts, transported stock from the Burrow and Grimmauld Place, and helped set up the office. When the boys defected from Hogwarts, all three of them began setting items on shelves (which the boys loathed), and Hazel taught them how to log purchases and count out deposits (which they loathed even more).
"You know, Hazel, we've been thinking." George said to her the night before the opening. They were at Hazel's flat in York; Daniel had made them all a "best of luck tomorrow" dinner. Her father had retired to his own flat next door a while ago, and she knew they should all get some sleep for the big day, but they all seemed too wound up to do anything else but sip firewhiskey and chat.
"You have? That's new," she stated, her eyes watching the firewhiskey swirl in her glass.
"We think it would be best if you handle the...financial aspects of the shop." Fred said tentatively.
She looked up at them, noting the hope in both pairs of eyes. She couldn't help but flip her hair over her shoulder and say, "You couldn't afford me."
George, who had taken a sip of firewhiskey, nearly choked on his laughter. Fred smirked.
"You've been working with us for months for free, what's a few more? C'mon, Haze. We can't do it without you." He placed a hand on her knee and looked her straight in the eye with a pleading look and she knew she was done for.
So, for the last two years, Hazel had been the head accountant and office-keeper for one of the most successful shops in Diagon Alley. The boys paid her incredibly well, but she still kept her flat above her father's shop and floo'd into work.
During this time, dark magic was once again loosed upon the world. Hazel was the first member of the Order of the Phoenix under the age of twenty to join this time around, as she had joined when she dropped out of Hogwarts. She made fast friends with Tonks, and the two often patrolled together. She'd encouraged her new friend's relationship with Remus Lupin, having a particular insight into the man's psyche through her mother's old diaries.
With her work in the wizarding community and for the Order, she couldn't ignore the possibility that her Muggle father could become a target. Seeing how Voldemort had used Sirius against Harry was the cause for her concern, and her father would have no defense against a powerful dark wizard. Shortly after Sirius' death in July of 1996 she closed Herrod's Rare Books and Manuscripts ("Closed Until Further Notice" the sign in the window read) and put her father on a plane to Chicago after obliviating his memories. A friend of Kingsley's in MACUSA would get him off the plane and implant false memories before escorting him to his new home.
It was the most difficult thing she'd ever done. Luckily, Fred had been in her flat waiting for her return. He spent that evening with her, wiping away her tears and holding her close; reassuring her that she had done the right thing. Daniel was safer where he was. That night Fred had tucked her into bed, pausing to brush a stray lock of hair out of her face. As he turned to leave he felt her hand grip his wrist.
"Don't leave. Please." her voice, weak and hoarse from hours of sobbing, pleaded from under her blanket. He climbed into the small bed next to her, and she immediately cuddled as close to him as humanly possible, noting how right and how safe she felt. Even with the world falling to pieces around her, even now that she had next to no family left, she still had Fred. That night a small flame lit up the dark, empty chasm that had opened in her chest.
But if he had read anything romantic into that encounter, he didn't let on. His demeanor the next day at work, and everyday after that, was congenial. Friendly. Not indicative of anything more than their previous friendship.
That was how their relationship remained amid the war. Business was booming, so there were lots of things to occupy Hazel's mind. She would occasionally find tokens of affection on her desk, and she never doubted whom they were from. A bouquet of daisies after a particularly rough day, a hot cup of tea and biscuits waiting for her when she arrived in the morning. He never left a note, but she knew something had shifted.
One day, the wristwatch he'd received from his parents upon turning fifteen (a wizard tradition, apparently), had suddenly stopped working. He brushed it off; declaring he could just buy another one, but Hazel could see it bothered him. To return his favors, she was up half the night trying to fix it. The next morning she left it on his desk in a wooden box with an ostentatious red bow.
She stayed behind at The Burrow during the Battle of Seven Potters. Wrapped in a sweater, staring up at the night sky, she paced the property line. Her mind wouldn't slow down, imagining every possible scenario leading to Fred's death. It was during her third turn about the yard that she came slamming to a stop at a realization. That tiny flame that had reignited over a year prior had turned into a raging inferno.
She was in love with Frederick Fabian Weasley. Again. Or possibly still?
She didn't have time to delve deeper into the sudden onslaught of emotions, as Remus Lupin appeared, hoisting an injured Weasley Twin. Ginny helped them into the house, Hazel following close behind. She helped Molly clean up George's wound before going back outside to wait for more of the Order to return. When Fred arrived with his father, he immediately wrapped Hazel in a hug.
He pulled back and it only took one glance into her eyes for him to know something was wrong. She looked toward the house and Fred and Arthur took off at a run.
Hazel had stayed at The Burrow to help with the wedding festivities and attended Bill and Fleur's wedding, fleeing back to the relative safety of her flat when Kingsley's patronus arrived. She made herself some tea and tried to forget about the last week's stress and anxieties and had just began to calm down when she heard a 'pop' in her living room.
"HAZEL BLOODY HERROD!" Fred's voice boomed, his footsteps thudding down the hall to her bedroom. She heard the door of her room clang open as he cried her name again.
She stepped out of the kitchen and they made eye contact. He was disheveled, panting slightly, and leaning against the doorframe to her room. In four long steps he crashed into her, enfolding her in his arms, clutching her to him as he had never done before.
"I thought you'd go to the shop. You weren't there. When you didn't turn up I...I thought..." he muttered into her hair and her heart broke upon hearing the panic in his voice. She returned his embrace.
She pulled away slightly and looked him in the eyes, "I'm sorry."
The look in Fred's eyes at that moment was one she had seen before, but she couldn't quite place it. However, as quickly as she had noticed it, it disappeared and he backed away from her. It was as if a switch flipped in his brain, because he bid her farewell like he did at the shop. Congenial, friendly, and in full recognition of their employee/employer relationship.
Things returned to relative normalcy after that; attending Order meetings, always checking over her shoulder, replacing the protective spells over her flat and the empty shop below. Living under the threat of Lord Voldemort wasn't easy, but Hazel had felt she made the best of it. She even appeared on Lee Jordan's radio show a few times under the name "Rowan." Things were foreboding, but one learned to set the existential worry aside and go about the day.
She was in the middle of the week's payroll that evening when they'd received the call from the Order. George had bounded up the stairs, told her to grab her wand, and meet them downstairs.
It was here.
The Battle of Hogwarts.
Everyone was at their appointed places. Waiting. The night sky was illuminated with protective spells and everything was eerily calm as Hazel approached the Twins.
"What are you boys talking about?" she asked, wedging her way in the small space between them.
"Where to build our summer home. Fred insists on Greece, but I'm set on the Caribbean." George joked, his signature smirk cracking the nervous facade.
"Seems a sensible enough conversation." she said, resting her forearms on the banister and looking up at the sky.
They were silent for a second as they watched the dark magic destroy the protective barrier above them. A few explosions and shouts were heard coming from the direction of the front gate and Hazel rose to her full height.
"Here goes nothing." She said, hoping her voice didn't waver as much as she thought it did.
Fred put a hand on her shoulder and turned her to face him, "If this is my last chance to say it, Hazel, I - "
His confession was interrupted with the sound of an explosion much nearer than they expected, and they all started running toward it. Two Death Eaters were waiting for them at the end of the hall. Hazel let fly curses almost faster than she could think of them, a twin on either side of her doing the same.
She could hear her blood pumping through her brain; her limbs made concise movements despite the fact that she felt her bones had turned to jelly. She had been working on a few new jinxes and curses for this exact occasion, and now she knew exactly which one to use.
"Shield your eyes!" she shouted at the boys.
"What?" George yelled back.
"Cover your eyes!" she repeated. The boys each shot a spell to incapacitate their opponents long enough for them to duck their eyes behind their elbows.
"Flashbang!" she shouted, looking away from the Death Eaters as a bright flash of light and a loud 'BANG' emanated from the tip of her wand. When the dust settled they all looked up and the Death Eaters were on the ground, one of them was groping around for his dropped wand, another was on her back yeowling in pain as she ripped off her mask.
Hazel didn't have time to discover the Death Eater's identity, as Fred had grabbed her hand and started running toward another part of the castle.
"Hazel!" she heard a familiar voice shout, and from the corner of her eye she caught sight of a short brown crop of hair and cat-eye glasses. She stopped in her tracks, the momentum jerking Fred to a stop.
"Bloody hell, woman!" Fred exclaimed, "You nearly ripped my arm out of the socket! I'd like to earn my injuries, thank you very much!"
But Hazel didn't hear him. She was too busy running toward Veronica, her best friend whom she hadn't seen in nearly two years. Once she'd graduated Hogwarts and her parents' divorce was finalized, Veronica had dumped Robert and moved to China to live with her brother (much to Hazel's shock and dismay). They'd kept up correspondence over the years, but it hadn't been the same. Hazel was ecstatic to see Veronica again, and immediately enveloped her best friend in her arms.
"What are you doing here? You live in China, you daft woman!" she teased as she let her friend go. Veronica had been standing in a small group of young Aurors (whom she'd befriended while they'd been undercover in China), and fished in her pocket for a moment and extracted a galleon coin, one that Hazel knew had been used by Dumbledore's Army.
"I got the message and floo'd here as soon as I could." Veronica twirled the coin in between her fingers like a street magician and Hazel giggled.
"You never cease to amaze me, Veronica."
"Hazel, come on!" George yelled.
"When this is over, we need to catch up!" Hazel tossed over her shoulder as she jogged back to the boys, "I've bloody missed you!"
"I've missed you too! Good luck!" Veronica shot back, blowing Hazel a kiss as she turned back to her Auror friends.
Her encounter with Veronica was a cheery break amidst the chaos. It seemed there would be no end to the shouting, or the flashing lights of curses and hexes being thrown every which way, or the acrid smell of something burning. Fred had taken her hand again and was leading her toward what she knew to be one of the outer walls of the castle.
Out of nowhere Angelina come bounding up to them, her dark braids bouncing all about her face.
"George, you've got to come quick!" she said once she got to them. She was out of breath and looked exhausted, "Some of the Ravenclaw first years tried to stay back…some Death Eaters…have them in a corner…"
Without a second's hesitation, George nodded at his brother and Hazel and disapparated with Angelina.
The castle gave a great shake and Hazel lost her balance, falling into Fred's arms. She tried to right herself, but he held her there and tilted her chin up, staring her straight in the eye.
"Hazel, I love you. If we both survive this, I'm gonna marry you." He said with such conviction that Hazel knew it to be true. To say that this confession surprised her was an understatement; she was appalled, stunned, astonished.
All she could stammer out in response was, "Uh…okay…"
"Now that's the Hazel Herrod eloquence I've come to know and love." He joked as he placed a kiss on her forehead before releasing her.
Out of nowhere, another crop of red hair appeared. Percy, whose horn-rimmed glasses sat askew on his nose, looked a bit paler than usual.
"Percy? What's happened?"
"Do you not feel the tremors? They've got giants! GIANTS! Can you believe it? After all that the Ministry has done to - " the elder Weasley shouted, but was cut off by a jinx attacking the statue behind him.
Hazel and Fred turned just in time to see three Death Eaters approaching them, all three men judging by the bulk of their robes, all three shouting curses. And so, once more, Hazel found herself dodging curse after curse in a seemingly endless stream, when she noticed twice as many stunning spells coming from their side.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had joined them, each one looking a little singed. Hermione shouted something about Fiendfyre as Percy knocked one of the Death Eater's masks off, revealing none other than the puppet Minister Pius Thicknesse.
"Hello Minister!" Percy shouted as his transfiguration jinx started to take effect, "Did I mention I'm resigning?"
Hazel barked out a laugh as she and Ron subdued the Death Eater intent on attacking her. Within moments, three jets of light felled the remaining assailant.
"You're joking, Perce!" Fred shouted from her right and she looked over at him. The smile on his face radiated joy, even though they were in the heat of battle. "You actually are joking, Perce! I don't think I've heard you joke since you were – "
Suddenly, Hazel felt a blast that knocked her to the side, away from the outer wall. She landed on her hands and knees, the palms of her hand torn by the bits of rock and plaster that littered the floor. Her ears were ringing and her vision was blurred, but she looked up just in time to see the wall behind a somehow still standing Fred start to collapse in on him.
"No! Umbrellum!" she screamed, nearly launching her wand toward him. The spell was only designed to keep water and snow at bay, and she could only hope it was strong enough to withstand the weight of the falling bricks. Because she couldn't bear the thought that it couldn't.
She started to rise to her feet, to assess the success of her small protective spell, only to be knocked down again as pain tore across her back and a bright white light flashed in her peripheral vision.
All the sounds faded and her body grew colder. Off in the distance she heard her name…she became aware of a body crouching next to hers and the pain subsided a bit, but she was still cold…breathing was difficult…her vision tunneled…
And Hazel's world went black.
AAHHHH Cliffhanger! There will be a Part II, don't worry! Let me know what you thought in a review and I'll get it out faster!
Much love, Meghan