Disclaimer: Now my charms are all o'erthrown, and what strength I have's JK Rowling's.

A/N: To those who are wondering how Sally-Anne has been a bad influence on Hermione, remember way back in Chapter 2 of The Arithmancer, it was an eleven-year-old Sally-Anne who fell asleep on her feet on Hermione's first night at Hogwarts after saying those same words. Hermione has sort of picked up the habit.

Thank you for all your words of support over the past week. My surgery went well, and I am recovering fine. I have a full draft of the final chapter ready, so you'll see it next week.


Chapter 81

Hermione woke in what felt like the softest bed she'd ever slept in, and she almost wanted to go back to sleep immediately. Reluctantly, she blinked her eyes open and saw white above her, and for a moment she wondered if she were dead. Then, she tried to move.

Nope, still alive.

"Hey," a voice said. She turned her head and saw George sitting beside her.

"Hey," she answered. She reached out to him, and he clasped her hand. As her eyes focused, she saw that she was in a tent, but she was lying on—she thought—a hospital bed. It suddenly hit her that she hadn't slept in a real bed in three months—only a small cot ever since Malfoy Manor. It was amazing how good a simple hospital bed felt now. "How…how long…?"

"About thirteen hours," George said. "Most folks who're still here are eating supper now. How are you feeling?"

She pushed herself into a sitting position, more slowly this time. She felt stiff and exhausted, and all the places she'd so crudely healed during the fight were aching, but she did feel more whole now. "Better than I did this morning," she answered, though her voice turned raspy at the end. George quickly handed her a glass of water. "Thank you." She drank it and tried to piece together what was going on. She wasn't at St. Mungo's—nor in the tents in the woods they had vacated over thirty-six hours ago. She had so many questions she wasn't sure where to start.

"We're set up in the clearing by the carriage stand, by the way," George started for her. "McGonagall declared the castle uninhabitable."

Hermione winced. She felt her face grow hot as she remembered the Astronomy Tower crashing down on the castle below. The house elves still told tales of the legendary duel in which Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin had destroyed the Astronomy Tower a thousand years later. And now, she'd repeated that feat.

"Yeah, that was pretty mental," he agreed with her silent musings.

"That's one way of putting it," she muttered.

George nodded. "Er…there's no easy way to say this, but…"

"Everyone saw?"

"Well, that too. But I was going to say everyone heard the screams when you killed Bellatrix."

Hermione paled. "Oh…oh, God." She could almost hear Bellatrix's screams, even now. What must they think? She didn't regret what she did, but she could have done it quickly and something approaching cleanly if she'd wanted. The way she'd done it…

"It was scary," George admitted. "I'm not sure I've ever heard anything else like that except when she had you…Some of us were worried she was using Cruciatus on you, and then when they found out you won, they were worried you used it on her. We didn't tell them what you did—Hell, I'm not sure what you did—but me and Dad and Neville set 'em straight there."

"Thanks," she said.

He sighed, slumping in his seat a little. "I was so worried for you, Hermione. You were out there for so long, and none of us could get to you."

"It was the ritual," she told him. "I was under a curse until sunrise that stopped me from getting help."

"Yeah, that's what Harry and Ginny said. Anyway, the castle's uninhabitable, and the Giant Squid's still attacking anyone who gets close—"

"That should calm down tomorrow," she cut in.

"Great. So, some of the shopkeepers from Hogsmeade came up once we got the word out—brought a bunch of food and supplies. The people who could left already. Most of the underage kids are home with their parents."

"That's good," she said. She hesitated before asking the question that she truly wanted and dreaded to know: "How many…?

George lowered his gaze. "Final count, on our side, including the five we found over by the woods, we're up to forty-three."

"The woods?"

"Yeah, they got swarmed when Voldemort's army ran for it. It was good they got out of the castle, though. But somebody got into the kitchens and trashed the place. We're just lucky they didn't touch the infirmary in Hufflepuff."

Forty-three, she thought. The number was almost laughably small to a student of muggle history, but in wizarding community of ten thousand, that was an earthquake. And she knew most of the defenders personally, at least in passing. There were probably more names of the fallen she would recognise that she hadn't heard yet.

"I know. It's rough," he said. "You should see the other guys, though. It's more than twice as many of them—probably three times if you count the acromantulas."

She did count the acromantulas, even if it was hard to sympathise with a creature that literally wanted to eat her. Either way, it was hard to believe how bloody the war had become, in the end. "George, your family—!" she suddenly.

"You mean our family," he corrected with a half-smile. Hermione blushed crimson and looked down at her hand. Miraculously her ring was still there after all that. "Yeah, all of us are still here," he told her. Except Bill and Muriel went unsaid. "Charlie even showed up this morning. He got the summons last night, but he couldn't get back from Romania before the fight was over, the slacker." She chuckled at that, and he smiled at her. "I love you," he said. "I'm glad you're alright."

"I love you too, George." She leaned over and kissed him.

"You want something to eat?"

"Please."

George left for some food, and when he came back, Madam Pomfrey was with him. "Well, Miss Granger, it's good to see you're finally up. You were quite the sorry sight when they brought you in this morning, but I suppose I expected much worse after you had a building fall on you. Here, drink this."

Hermione drank a truly revolting potion that did God-knew-what, and Madam Pomfrey fussed over her for a few minutes. "You're in remarkably good shape considering what you've been through. I take it you did some healing on yourself before you got to me?" She nodded. "Well, it was crude, but it did help. The gouge mark in your leg will leave a nasty scar, but the rest of them should be barely noticeable. Your liver and right kidney will need a couple more days to heal, so you can just rest here tonight, and then—"

"Madam Pomfrey," she cut her off, her voice serious, "if you're intending on keeping me here in this tent, I'm afraid I have rather more important things to do, and quite frankly, I believe you don't have the legal authority at this point." Hermione met her eyes, she thought with a flicker of apprehension on Pomfrey's part. Left unsaid was that she had just killed Bellatrix Lestrange in what would probably be considered a duel for the ages, and it was unlikely that Pomfrey could overpower her even in her current state.

"Hmph," Pomfrey said, quickly recovering. "You're as bad as Potter. He wouldn't tell me anything about what happened with him and Miss Weasley even after their brains were scrambled. I ought to drop you and refer you straight to St. Mungo's if you keel over before you're healed properly."

"I'll take it easy, ma'am," Hermione insisted. "The work is mostly intellectual. But there's one person who still needs my help tonight."

Pomfrey reluctantly acquiesced, though Hermione did eat supper before exiting the tent. The food was exquisite. She hadn't had any proper English food for three months either except for a sandwich last night that she hadn't really tasted. Once she finished, she climbed out of the bed. She was unsteady on her feet and felt like she'd…well, had a building fall on her, but she could walk.

Outside, it was quite dark. Though it was still evening, the heavy clouds still shadowed the land, as the did the whole of the British Isles and would until sunrise tomorrow. She could only image what the weather forecasters thought seeing such a heavy cloud cover come out of nowhere like that.

There was an encampment of a couple dozen tents around the carriage stand, lit by lamps, torches, magical lights, and campfires, with people sitting around them, eating and talking. Looking up the path, she could see the ruined silhouette of Hogwarts—the Astronomy Tower gone, the rest of it badly damaged. People stopped and stared when they saw her. Some applauded; a few others recoiled slightly; Professor Sinistra looked particularly afraid of her.

"Hermione!" Ginny leapt from her seat and ran over to hug her, and Harry followed after her. "It's good to see you up. We were so worried about you after this morning."

"I'm glad to see you're alright too, Ginny, Harry," she said. "And coherent. I could only guess at what happened with the ritual. I was worried it wouldn't clear up after."

"Hey, Hermione!" Charlie Weasley called from the campfire. She'd only met him a couple times, but she recognised him from his short, stocky figure, and the muscular arms covered in burns and tattoos (neither of which Molly approved). "Great to see you're awake…So, if you don't mind, why don't you explain to me exactly what you did to my baby sister?"

Fred elbowed him. "Oi, don't mess with Hermione, Charlie. She just turned Bellatrix Lestrange into a pile of ash this morning!"

She rolled her eyes and sat down by the fire. She really didn't need that reminder. "It's fine, Charlie," she said. "It was mostly my fault." They had agreed the true story of the horcruxes should not be spread too widely, and the horcrux in Harry even less so, so they had prepared an edited story for this. "The short version is, Harry had a dark magic connection with V—Riddle," she grumbled. She have to fix that soon. "There was a danger Riddle could read his mind or that it could otherwise cause trouble when we came to kill him, so we had to remove it. I created a ritual to sever the connection, but it went wrong. Riddle tried to possess Harry; I had to act fast; the only thing I could do was cut off the connection to Riddle on Harry's end by attaching it to someone else. Simple as that."

"I volunteered," Ginny said with steel in her voice, daring Charlie to challenge her decision. "It made more sense for me to do it than anyone else. I love Harry. It hurt for a while, but it's not that big a deal now that we've got it under control…It just means we'll have to move up the wedding, is all," she finished with a smirk.

"WHAT?!" Charlie squawked.

"Well, we're still not comfortable sleeping in separate beds, so—" Charlie and Percy both jumped to their feet in indignation. "Just holding hands, of course!" she added.

"They don't have to get married," Hermione assured them. "I'm sure they can overcome that problem with more practice. I mean, it's not like it's some ancient, legendary bond of soulmates or something—"

"No, but it would still be a lot more convenient, wouldn't it?" Ginny said brightly. "How does the eleventh of August sound?"

"That's only your seventeenth birthday," Molly protested.

Ginny grinned: "Funny how that works out."

Molly let it go for the time being: "Well. Speaking of which, congratulations, Hermione. I'm so happy for you and George."

"Oh, and we don't get anything?" Ginny said.

Molly waved her off. "I'm happy for you too, Ginny, but I'd be happier if you were of age before you started talking about setting a date," she said half-seriously. Ginny grumbled and crossed her arms.

Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Molly," she said. They sat and talked for a little while around the fire. Sirius came over to join Harry, and It emerged that Remus and Tonks were alright, but they had gone home to see to their son. Fleur had reported in that she and Nadia had also got home safe. Hermione soon excused herself, though, since she still had other people to see.

She continued picking her way through the encampment. She asked around where the bodies had been laid out and was pointed a short distance up the path. Professor Babbling's body had been brought up from the anchor stones. Riddle's too, though he was laid separate from the others. She could see a larger group of bodies farther away across the grounds that were presumably the Death Eaters who had been recovered, but at the edge of the nearer area, she heard quiet sobs and noticed two small figures sitting beside the motionless form of a third. Drawing closer, she gasped when she saw Sonya sitting there, with Dobby beside her, crying over her grandmother's body.

"Oh, no! Tilly!" Hermione cried. She hurried to the pair. "Sonya, I'm so sorry!"

Sonya grabbed her in a hug and clung to her like a small child. "G-g-grandmum w-was…she was p-protecting the children," she sobbed. "The b-bad wizards came after us when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named fell. We c-couldn't save them all."

Hermione looked back at the rows of bodies. She saw two more that were elf-sized and one that was the right size to be a first-year student, and she felt a little sick. After all that, these were lost in the stampede when Riddle died? "I…I had no idea," she said. "I'd hoped we could get everyone out safe."

Sonya shook her head. "Sonya is just relieved it is being over, Miss."

"Yeah, me too."

She spent some time comforting Sonya, but honestly, Dobby was probably doing a better job. Hermione eventually went through all the names of the fallen and recognised a few that she hadn't known about before. Augusta Longbottom. Xenophilius Lovegood. Tracey Davis. It hurt to hear about them, but her work wasn't done. She paid her respects and headed back to the medical tent, looking for one more person she hadn't seen yet.

Some of the worse-injured were still in the tent. Blaise Zabini was sitting there with his girlfriend, Megan Jones. He waved to Hermione as she passed. He was missing his left arm—the arm where the Dark Mark would have been. She stared for a moment. She wasn't sure she wanted to know the story there.

"—I'm sorry, Mr. Finch-Fletchley," she heard Madam Pomfrey say from behind another curtain. "I can get your hands to the point where they're stable, but I'm afraid you'll never be able to hold a wand properly again."

"Justin?" Hermione gasped.

The curtain parted a moment later, revealing Justin Finch-Fletchley, looking disturbingly cheerful as Madam Pomfrey changed his bandages. Pain potions? she wondered. "Hey, Hermione," he said, waving feebly with his bandaged hand. His other hand was exposed, and it was an awful red and black mass of third-degree burns.

"Justin…" she breathed. "I'm so sorry! If I'd had any idea what would happen with the sniper rifle—"

"Hermione, calm down. It's okay," Justin said. "I took the chance. It would have been worth it if he died, and besides, how many people can say they shot You-Know-Who?" He grinned loopily. Definitely pain potions. "Anyway, I was just telling Madam Pomfrey that a muggle hospital can probably get my hands working again with skin grafts."

Madam Pomfrey sigh patronisingly, apparently thinking it was a side-effect of the potions. "Of course, dear. And what are skin grafts?"

He told her. She stared at him in horror. Then, Hermione confirmed it was true.

"WHAT? Do you take me for some kind of butcher?"

"They do work, Madam Pomfrey," Hermione insisted. "Without access to healing potions, muggles have learnt to work miracles with a scalpel and a needle and thread."

Madam Pomfrey muttered "What is this, the Dark Ages?" under her breath, which made Justin laugh entirely too loud, and even Hermione couldn't help giggling a little. "Where would you even get the extra skin?"

"I think they have ways to stretch it, ma'am. It's more important to get some healthy skin down to start it growing back."

Pomfrey looked a bit ill at the conversation. When Hermione asked, she was all to happy to point her where she wanted to go. In the last section of the tent, she finally found the final person she was looking for.

"Septima," she said. To her relief, she looked more or less unhurt. In fact, the reason she was in the medical tent was probably the baby who was lying in her arms, nursing on a bottle.

Septima smiled broadly when she saw her: "Hermione. It's so going to see you up and about."

"You too, Septima. I'm glad you made it out…Who's this?"

She sighed sadly. "He's Bertha Jorkins' baby," she said. "She…didn't survive the battle, I'm afraid."

"Oh no," said Hermione. "All that time enslaved to Barty Crouch, she was finally freed, and then…"

She shook her head. "I don't think she was ever really aware of what was happening, you know, when she was freed. Not with the aftereffects of so much time under the Imperius Curse. I don't think she had much of a chance surviving in a firefight like that, even with other people to protect her. It's sad, but I can't really say I'm surprised, in the end."

Hermione was starting to notice Septima's rambling speech patterns again. "So what's going to happen to him?" she asked.

"I'm going to take him in."

"Oh? You?"

"Yes. With the war on, I'd mostly given up having any children of my own. I told you about that before…I still could if I wanted to, but at my age and with no husband, it didn't look like my chances were good. But this boy—They told me his name was Marvolo Crouch. I'll have to change it, of course. He can't go around with a name like that. But he needs someone, and I'm happy to take him. With his mother dead and his father…well, unsuitable, I don't think there will be any objection."

"Mm hm, I can see that," she said. "Good luck."

"I hope you'll be godmother Hermione," Septima continued.

"What! Me?"

"Of course. You've been such a good student and friend to me over the years, Hermione. I felt like you've been with me the whole way, even when you couldn't be here. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather ask to be his godmother—if you're willing?"

"Septima, I—I'm flattered…Of course I will," Hermione said. And why not? Harry already had a godchild after all, and he was a year younger than she was. She could handle it. "So what are you going to name him?"

"I think…" Septima stopped and stared off into space for a minute. "I think something like…Marcus. It's a family name, you know…Marcus Aurelius Vector."


Hermione left the tent a short time later and surveyed the camp again. It was kind of strange having people just camping out here. Most of the D.A. still had homes and families to go to, but the Order, Hogwarts Professors, various muggle-borns, and many of the wounded had stayed. About forty people, though she couldn't get an exact count, just sitting around campfires in the shadow of what was left of the castle.

What did you do when you won a revolution? A triumphal march down Diagon Alley? She doubted many of them felt like doing that right now. And this was hardly a revolution—more like the ragged survivors of a civil war.

She approached the centre of the camp where McGonagall, Hestia Jones, and several of the Weasleys were sitting. She sat by the fire, and the conversation suddenly died down as they all stared at her. That was a weird feeling. Was this how Harry felt when he first learnt he was famous?

"You don't have to stop on my account," Hermione said. "I'm probably wondering the same thing you are: what happens now?"

Hestia sighed. "We don't know, Miss Granger," she said. "The Ministry is pretty close to leaderless right now. Most of the legitimate leadership was killed or compromised in the fall of the old Ministry."

"Thicknesse is dead," Arthur confirmed. "We're pretty sure he was Imperiused, but he was coming at us with lethal spells."

Hermione nodded. Regrettable, but understandable.

"Kingsley was in the best position to take command," Hestia continued. "We saw what happened to him. Doge was the only one of us who was on the Wizengamot, but he's dead, too. Augusta Longbottom probably could have managed, but…"

"Well…who's the highest-ranking person who's still alive?" Hermione asked.

"Probably me," Hestia said with a grimace. "I never even wanted a leadership position in the Order. And no one's going to follow a crippled Auror."

"You're not crippled, Hestia," Sirius protested from behind her.

She half-turned to look at him. "I lost my wand arm, Sirius. A lot of other injuries, it would be fine, but the people aren't going to respect that. Right now, they need confidence, and I can't do that."

"Who is in charge right now?" asked Harry. "There's gotta be someone left in the Ministry. People have been saying all day a bunch of people came out of the Imperius Curse when Riddle died."

Arthur shook his head: "People who are addled by Imperius exposure, Harry. Or are closet sympathisers. Or people who are still under Imperius from some of the prisoners. There aren't many we can trust, which is why we wanted an Order member to do it."

"And more to the point, Potter," McGonagall spoke up for the first time, "We are the ones who overthrew Voldemort. It is our responsibility to ensure that the Ministry is functioning properly again so that the people of Britain are not harmed further by a broken government."

That was true, Hermione reflected. The aftermath of a war could sometimes be worse than the war itself. And she supposed it was traditionally the leaders of a revolution who formed the new government (not that it always went well). The trouble was, they really were pretty well decapitated. All the original leaders of the Order except McGonagall, who was no politician. All the recent Ministers and heads of Magical Law Enforcement. Who could fill the vacuum? Fudge? Ha!

"You know," Sirius grinned at his godson, "a lot of people would follow Harry Potter if you stepped up."

A look of horror crossed Harry's face. "You're kidding right."

"Not at all. Slayer of Voldemort? You couldn't get much more authority than that at a time like this. Hermione might be even better if we spread the word of how she killed Bellatrix. Hell, there might not be anyone left alive in Britain who could beat you in a fight, Hermione."

"What?" she squeaked. That couldn't be true!

George leaned over and patted her on the shoulder to calm her. "He's…not wrong, love," he said. "Seeing you fight Bellatrix like that, and with most of the strongest Death Eaters being dead…I could see it."

Hermione blushed intensely. How did a compliment like that turn into such a terrifying proposition? "Well, I can't do it regardless," she insisted. "I'm still a wanted terrorist in the muggle world, and I can't very well go to the Prime Minister like that, which we'll surely have to to clear up this mess. Same for Harry."

Harry's face fell when he remembered. That was going to be a pain to deal with.

"So we're back where we started," Hestia said. "We need someone the people will follow reliably while we rebuild."

"There should still be a few about," Sirius said. "Hey, Aberforth!" he called across the camp. "You were Albus Dumbledore's brother. Do you think you could—?"

"No!" Aberforth growled, cutting him off. "I'm also a bloody barman, Black. If I wanted glory, I would've gone gallivanting about fighting dark wizards like Albus. Besides, who would follow me after the whole 'goat' incident?"

Goat incident? "What about other family members?" Hermione asked, grasping. "What about Cedric's dad? Where is Cedric?" She looked around and saw him chatting at the far side of the camp. "Or Neville's Great Uncle Algie? He's an Unspeakable, isn't he?"

Arthur shook his head. "Amos Diggory wasn't a Death Eater, but isn't exactly the least prejudiced person around. He'd be better than no one, but not a great pick, I'm afraid. And I doubt you could get Croaker to changes jobs unless the sky were literally falling."

Hermione groaned, pressing her forehead down against her fists. "There's got to be someone! Who is actually competent to run the Ministry right now who's still alive and we actually trust?"

Everyone was silent at that, some of them thinking seriously, others completely lost. But then, little by little, heads began to turn…towards Percy.

Percy's eyes widened in horror when he saw people start staring at him. "Me? No! You can't be—No!"

"Actually, that could work," Hestia said, "You were the Junior Assistant to the Minister, weren't you? You were closer to the top than anyone in the Order besides Dumbledore himself."

"You would certainly know how to run things," Hermione agreed.

"But that was only because Fudge wanted me to inform on the Order. I disowned my own family to get that job! I don't deserve it!"

Hermione got up and walked to him. "Maybe you don't," she said. "But as far as I'm concerned, you made up for it when to sneaked out the Ministry's plans for muggle-borns at risk of your own life. And a lot of other muggle-borns will feel the same way. I know I'm not blood to you, and only they can truly decide that. But the fact is, you may well be the best we've got right now."

Arthur laid his hand on Percy's shoulder. "Son," he said, "that day a year ago—all you had to do that day was come back home for us to accept you back. But what you did for the Order and for the muggle-borns, that was one of the bravest things I've ever seen. Your mother and I am so proud to call you our son, and I know you'd make a brilliant Minister."

Percy had tears in his eyes. Then Fred chimed in, "Yeah, you may be a pompous git—"

"—but you're our pompous git," George finished. "Besides, haven't you always wanted to be Minister for Magic?"

"I seem to remember a certain brother of ours reading Prefects Who Gained Power, in his sixth year," said Fred.

"Erm…yes, when I was sixteen," he admitted, "but after everything that's happened since then, I just can't imagine…And really, would people follow me either?"

"Well, Sirius is right about one thing," Hermione said. "We killed Riddle." She motioned to herself, Harry, and Ginny. "If we back someone, it'll carry a lot of weight…Harry, how do you feel about this?"

Harry shrugged: "It could work. I can live with it."

"Ginny?"

"Eh, what the hell? Why not?"

Hermione hauled Percy to his feet, threw an arm around his shoulder, and grinned like she'd seen George and Fred do so many times, and she said, "Percy, Shakespeare once wrote, 'Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them'…And we're thrusting it upon you. Percy Ignatius Weasley, as the slayers of the Dark Lord, we hereby appoint you as the Transitional Minister for Magic. Congratulations."

Percy swayed on his feet, then fainted.

"Ah…Well…" she said. "Oh! One other order of business: someone should go and retrieve Hufflepuff's Chalice from the stone circle in Wellow. We can finally put the Founders' artifacts back together."

"I can go in the morning," Sirius said lazily. "It should be fine until then."

"Good. Speaking of, there's one more thing I need to do. Where's Ravenclaw's Diadem?"

"Professor Flitwick has it, Miss Granger," McGonagall said. "Although you may have difficulty getting it back."

"From Professor Flitwick?"

"No, Miss Granger. Not from him."


The ghost of Helena Ravenclaw stared down at the diamond-studded tiara with sadness in her eyes. She reached out to it, longing to touch it again, but knowing she never could.

Professor Flitwick was the most professional-looking of the surviving teachers. He hadn't quite got to an actual desk, but he had magicked up a table and chairs fitting his stature that could serve, and right now, he was using that table to study Ravenclaw's diadem with reverent hands.

"It is not right for you to wear my mother's diadem," Helena told Hermione shakily. "It's power should be for her alone."

Hermione, Harry, and Bill had met Helena Ravenclaw when they first retrieved the diadem a year ago. At the time, she had been tormented by the fact that Riddle had turned it into a horcrux, but even beyond that, she had discouraged them from using it, suggesting that it would only hurt them to try. Which it did, although Hermione had managed to harness it. "My wearing your mother's diadem is the only thing that won the war and saved anything of Hogwarts as it was meant to be," she replied.

"You are not even of my mother's house!" Helena shouted, and the temperature in the tent dropped a couple degrees. "You are not worthy to bear her crown!"

"Miss Helena, please calm yourself," Flitwick interrupted. "I have seen Hermione Granger in action, and I daresay she is more of a Ravenclaw than I am, regardless of where the Sorting Hat put her."

"The Sorting Hat did say I'm a natural Ravenclaw," Hermione confirmed. "It had other reasons for placing me in Gryffindor."

Helena's jaw quivered slightly, and it was hard to say if it was from sadness or anger. "That diadem brings only madness!" she spat.

Hermione's mouth hung open for a moment. She was starting to understand. "It does," she said, standing straighter, "but I think not in the way you believe."

At that, Helena's face grew hard. "I know what I felt, girl. Jealously drove me to steal the diadem, to disown my mother, to turn my back on her in her dying hour. And when I wore it, where wisdom came to her, only madness came to me. Do you see? I tried for years to make it obey me, and it would not. It judged me, the daughter of its maker, unworthy. How can you, a mere child, wield it when only my mother could before?" Ghostly tears began leaking from her eyes.

Hermione just sighed sadly. "I think I know what what happened," she said. "When you put on the diadem, every…every insect buzzing through the air, every glint of sunlight, the shifting of every blade of grass came through so that you couldn't shut it out. Your clothes felt like…like tree bark scraping your skin. Every smell made you choke. Every sight made you dizzy. The sound of your own breathing grated in your ears. And your memory was flooded with the words of every book you'd ever read until you felt like you were drowning in it."

Helena paled, if that were possible for a ghost. She was trembling as she floated. "How…?" she whispered. "How could know that?"

"Because that's what I feel when I wear it," she said firmly, and Helena gasped softly, her eyes wide. Flitwick was watching her with rapt attention. "You can't control the diadem," she continued. "You can only learn to interpret it. The diadem doesn't owe its loyalty to blood. And it doesn't grant wisdom either. That's what the stories say because…I don't think the words existed at the to adequately describe what your mother create. It opens your mind to all of the information provided by your senses, and all of your memories, that we normally shut out. Our senses show us far, far more than we realise, and we can only focus our minds on a tiny portion of it. The diadem removes that limitation. It's incredibly valuable, being able to see everything, but you can only understand what it shows you with the right kind of mental discipline."

"Incredible, Miss Granger," Flitwick cut in. "For a thousand years, all we've had are vague speculations, but this…What kind of mental discipline is it?"

"Occlumency, for a start, but it's more than that. I think…I think I've been training to wear the Diadem of Ravenclaw my whole life, even though I didn't know it. Ever since I was six years old and taught myself to do large sums in my head. My teachers, er, helped me teach myself to use that subconscious potential and focus of the mind that is needed to wield it…Helena, I don't think you were judged at all. I think you could have worn the diadem if you'd had the right training, but…"

Helena lowered her gaze, speaking tearfully, her voice breaking: "But only my mother could have given me that training…It was a riddle the whole time…Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure. The diadem serves those with the wisdom to learn."

"I'm sorry," Hermione muttered. She didn't expect the conversation with Helena to go this way. She wondered if she were witnessing one of those rare events so powerful that they left a permanent imprint on a ghost's mind.

Something had certainly changed, for the ghost looked back up, looking her in the eye. "I will grant you my blessing to wear my mother's diadem, Hermione Granger. Though the diadem itself has shown you don't need it, you will have it so long as you wear it in a manner worthy of her."

She nodded. "Thank you, Lady Helena. I will endeavour to do so." She picked the diadem up from the table and held it up to her face. There was one more person who needed her help. Now, she would see if see could truly help her.


They circled around to the west side of the Lake at sunrise. The sky was clear now, the heavy clouds vanishing as quickly as they had come when the ritual ran its course. The Giant Squid as calmed as well. Hermione had worked through the night, and the manual work she had handed off to the remaining Ancient Runes students, as she had for the Ritual of Job, but this time, they were not down by the Anchor Stones, for this ritual had to be cast in the direct morning sunlight.

"Voldemort," she muttered under her breath with a note of glee. "Lord bloody Voldemort…Emma Granger. Finally."

With the diadem, it had been almost an afterthought to perform the inverse ritual to remove the bindings of both names on her tongue, and it felt so good to have that weight lifted from her. But this, now, was a far more important ritual.

She never could have designed it so fast without the experience from the two exorcism rituals she'd used on Harry. It worked on the same principles, which meant most of the groundwork was already laid, even though there were major substitutions. She couldn't believe herself how fast it came together. Seized with a feverish energy, she had completed the design in only twelve hours to design it, with a few more man-hours to carve the rune stones. If this worked, she thought she would consider it her finest work—the true crowning achievement of her career regardless of everything else she'd done.

The dementor had been guarded in shifts throughout the night, and it was currently bound by a pair of glowing silver mice, courtesy of Professor Flitwick. Neville was carrying Luna's limp body in his arms, and a few of the others had come to the western shore to see the spectacle.

Aberforth Dumbledore was there to see what he had spent all that effort guarding a dementor for, but he wasn't exactly helpful. "You really think you can get the girl's soul back out of that dementor, Granger?" he demanded.

"Of course not! That would be stupid…" she said. "I'm going to kill the dementor."

"Kill it?" he said. "Granger, I heard Albus singing your praises for years, but you're barmy. You can't kill dementors. You can starve them if you really work at it, but they just fade away. You can't get anything back from them."

She gave Aberforth a sharp look: "Mr. Dumbledore, I've taught myself more soul magic than your brother and Voldemort put together. I've invented arithmantic techniques that no one's ever dreamed of before. I have good reason to think it's possible."

Aberforth took it in stride. "Conventional wisdom is that the Dementor's Kiss destroys the soul. What makes you thing you can get her back at all?"

Hermione gazed out across the Lake, basking in the morning light. Atma Prakata had revealed only a black void when she cast it on the dementor—not even a black cloud, like a horcrux, but a blackness so complete that it was like a black hole, absorbing all light. There was no sign of life in there, but she felt—she insisted to herself that whatever was within was merely obscured.

"But you are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed."

"Faith," she said as she recalled. "Harry, Ginny, George, are you ready?"

"Yep."

"We're ready."

"Good to go."

"Miss Granger, are you sure you should be the ones to do this?" Professor McGonagall asked.

"With all due respect, ma'am, we have the most experience with terrifying experimental rituals," Hermione replied. They took their places in the circle.

This was a larger circle than her previous rituals. Unlike the others, this one was laid out in a square with the four of them at the compass points—Hermione with her back to the Sun, Harry and Ginny at right angles, and George facing into it, with the mirror.

Dementors embodied fear, despair, and depression, but their actual magical origin was of decay, and the opposing ritual element to decay, going back to the ancient stories, was sunlight. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," they said today. It usually referred to institutional transparency (something the Ministry could very much learn from), but it derived from a literal maxim that had been known for thousands of years. Apollo and Python. The Sun and the rotting serpent. That was the key.

Wizards had tried fire and heat to kill dementors before. They had tried dragon fire. They had even tried Fiendfyre, but the dark magic would not destroy the still darker magic of the dementors. The purity of sunlight, or of natural fire, was crucial to counter their dark presence. Of course, sunlight couldn't harm dementors either, although they disliked it and would dim it if left unchecked. Seeing that, most wizards simply gave up and decided dementors were immune to heat and fire.

Hermione, however, took the muggle view, or at least what had been since the Second World War: if fire didn't destroy it, you haven't used a fire hot enough. And she new how to produce a heat more intense than any fire known to wizard-kind: her solar furnace. Or rather, a new solar furnace—a bigger and even more powerful one than before.

George stood beside an off-axis parabolic mirror ten feet in diameter, big enough to serve as a telescope mirror at a major observatory—aluminium foil, leached from the soil, charmed to the correct shape and a molecular polish, and fixed to an easily-adjustable frame. It would produce temperatures of over four thousand kelvins, the hottest she could find any record of for solar furnaces in her research—hotter than any solid material could withstand—she hoped, even a dementor.

"Professor Flitwick?" She gestured for him to back away. Flitwick looked pained at leaving them, but he cancelled his Patronuses. The dark aura of the dementor hit Hermione full force, but before it had time to move, she called out, "Afise ti logos na energisei."

The rune stones flared to life, and curtains of energy rose along the three runic circles surrounding the dementor, trapping it for the time being. The four of them and the mirror stood between the outer two circles, while the dementor moved and began pounding on the inner barrier. They had to do this quickly.

The ritual she'd used on Harry had applied three "healing" effects to him, for lack of a better word, before striking the final blow with True Love's kiss. This was essentially a modification of that ritual. The surface level was quite different, but in dealing with a dark spirit, the deeper structure was quite similar. It would apply three "cleansing" effects to the dementor before striking the final blow. She motioned to Harry and Ginny.

"Expecto Patronum," they said in unison. Harry's stag and Ginny's mare burst forth and entered the inner circle, holding the dementor in place once again. They spoke again, saying, "With the power of Spirit Guardians, we bind the darkness."

Chains of white light seemed to bridle the Patronuses and reached out to bind the dementor's wrists, pulling tight and holding it fixed in the centre of the circle. Its wrists smoked at the contact, and then…the dementor spoke.

"What have you done?"

The voice was a hiss, heard more by the mind than by the ear, and even then, it hurt her ears. The dementor's voice sounded like a dry, sore throat felt, and it rattled Hermione to the core. She'd barely even remembered that dementors could speak, but they did communicate with the Aurors in Azkaban.

"Release me, or I will devour your soul!"

Hermione face hardened. She didn't answer the demon, but merely motioned for George to continue the ritual. He tilted the mirror up from the ground, directing a beam of light at the dementor's back. She could see the cone of the Sun's rays shimmering in the air as it concentrated down to a spot an inch wide. "With the light of the Sun Ascendant, we burn away the darkness," George said, and the impossible happened: the dementor caught fire.

A gasp sounded from the onlookers, a moment before a shriek rang out across the lake—a more terrible shriek than even a horcrux made on its destruction. It seemed to fill all the notes from a woman's scream up beyond the range of human hearing all at once, and it felt like knives piercing her ears. It was the most terrible sound she'd ever heard.

Even with the pain, she didn't let it slow her. "With the life of the Earth, we drain away the darkness," she said.

The dementor lurched, becoming rooted to the Earth. Its tattered, cloak-like outer skin was pulled into the dirt little by little, and tendrils of darkness snaked out from it. The grass within the circle began to wilt, turning brown and dead.

Figuring out the sacrifice of the ritual was the hardest part. She'd had to go back to her conservation laws. The dementor was an absolute corruption. To destroy it, it had to be offset by an absolute corruption of a different form. Everything in the circle died—everything except the casters. She'd gone over that three times. The ritual stood on the knife edge between light and dark in that respect, but they couldn't destroy the darkness without cost. She'd made the choice.

The grass turned brown and dead to the edge of the outer circle. It would stand forever like that. It wouldn't even decay, for the organisms that caused decay were dead too, and it would lose its nutritional value for any new ones that entered, though they would otherwise be unaffected. Only fire would cleanse it, and even then, nothing would ever grow there again—an eternal warning to all who saw it.

She had told Professor McGonagall that the ritual would leave a permanent scar and offered to take it off the grounds, but she'd refused, saying that it would be a fitting memorial to the fallen there, and Hogwarts would always step up to help one of its own.

"Heeeelllp meee!" the dementor shrieked.

"Hermione! We've got a problem!" Neville called from outside. She turned and looked. Dozens of dementors were gliding out of the woods, turning the morning dew to frost in their wake. She'd thought they'd all fled!

"They're coming back for their friend." Aberforth growled. "They know something's up."

"We have to hold them off!" Neville said. "Expecto Patronum!" Half a dozen Patronuses appeared around them, holding back the horde. "Hermione, hurry!"

Moving quickly, Hermione motioned for Harry and Ginny to cut off their own Patronuses. The final step had to be done without them. She stepped forward into the inner circle, coming face to face with the dementor that had Kissed Luna, looming tall over her. It was still rooted to the Earth, the sunlight burning through it, but it still called all the darkness in her to the forefront of her mind.

"I defy you!" she shouted. Defiance of the Second Death—of the pretended Second Death. That was the final blow to the darkness. The dementor jerked back as if struck.

"Pou sou thanate to nikos? Pou sou thanate to kentron?" she recited, and the demon was struck again, its skin tearing where it rooted to the ground..

"Den echete kyriarchia edo!"

It screamed as a red glow formed on its chest, and a hole opened as the sunlight burned through. It clutched at its chest, trying to hold itself together. At that moment, Hermione saw the depth of the corruption within, and a wave of utter hatred came over her that banished the darkness completely from her mind as she'd never expected.

"Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him—a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred." Perelandra—another C. S. Lewis, and not one she'd thought would be at all relevant to her, but she suddenly understood the words with perfect clarity."The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt like they were pillars of burning blood…It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding out at last what hatred was made for."

The wasn't like it was with Bellatrix—the cruelty, the viciousness, the desire to make her suffer far beyond her usual restraint. This was so different that it was almost the opposite—the desire to destroy the dementor utterly, and the utter conviction that it was righteous to destroy it—it was better somehow. So that when she raised her wand to the dementor and poured her hatred into, it was with such a feeling of lightness that she almost laughed.

"S'ekballo eis to skotos to exoteron, esy pneuma akatharon!"

All at once, the dementor exploded into a shower of light that shattered the walls produced by the runes and made her avert her eyes. A pulse of light magic raced out that filled her with what seemed like mania. Blinking into the light, she turned to the horde of other dementors that had tried to interfere. The stood frozen as if in shock. There was a tense moment, and then, Hermione took a step toward them and said, "Boo!"

The dementors remained still a moment longer, then turned and fled.

Everyone turned to stare at Hermione, but she was immediately focused on where the dementor had stood. Where a moment ago had been the corruption of darkness, dozens of motes of light swirled in the air, glinting in the sunlight. As she watched, they swirled up like sparks from a fire and vanished from sight—all but one. That last one flew across the field until it entered Luna's mouth.

Luna's body shuddered and took a deep breath, and her eyes fluttered open.

"Luna?" Neville whispered, staring down at her. "Luna, please say something."

Luna slowly tilted her head to one side, as if in thought. "Neville?" she said. "I had the strangest dream."

"Luna!" he cried, and he kissed her.

Hermione came over to them, exhausted, but happier than she'd felt in a long time. She stroked Luna's forehead. "It's good to have you back Luna," she said wearily.

"Thank you, Hermione," she said as Neville set her on her feet again. "Did we win?"

Hermione, Neville, and the others looked at each other incredulously. Then, Hermione burst out laughing.


A/N: Afise ti logos na energisei: Greek for "Let the word act."

Pou sou thanate to nikos? Pou sou thanate to kentron?: 1 Corinthians 15:55 in the original Greek: "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

Den echete kyriarchia edo: Greek for "You have no dominion here."

S'ekballo eis to skotos to exoteron, esy pneuma akatharon: Greek for "I cast you into the Outer Darkness, you unclean spirit!"

Yes, I know I've been using Biblical Greek and modern Greek interchangeably. It's hard enough to translate to just one version of the language, so I didn't want to bother sorting them out.

Okay, now that it's over, I can write the final list of named character deaths in the battle:

Light side: Hannah Abbott, Bathsheda Babbling, Terry Boot, Tracey Davis, Elphias Doge, Kevin Entwhistle, Seamus Finnigan, Bertha Jorkins, Augusta Longbottom, Xenophilius Lovegood, Parvati Patil, Oliver Rivers, Sophie Roper, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Severus Snape, Pomona Sprout, Tilly, Luke Westenburg

Dark side: Amycus Carrow, Crabbe Sr., Vincent Crabbe, Antonin Dolohov, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rabastan Lestrange, Rodolphus Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, Mulciber, Pansy Parkinson, Pius Thicknesse, and Voldemort of course.

I know this seems like a lot of carnage, but the truth is that JK Rowling really pulled her punches in canon. For all the losses of characters we really cared about, she said there were 54 people who died in the Battle of Hogwarts—which had to have been a third to half of the defenders—but we only know 4 of their names (5 if you count Lavender). We probably knew the names of a solid majority of those who were there, so there ought be a lot more names we recognise on that list, and I had no qualms about fixing that error here.

Indeed, I was more concerned about the improbability of almost everyone who died in the book surviving here. I kept a lot of them alive because of my plans for the aftermath and beyond, but I considering killing many of the survivors at some point or other, especially Remus and McGonagall, and I actually did kill off Ted Tonks at first, but I changed my mind. So I hope I've written a balance battle sequence on the whole.