Sorry for the long wait! RL and my muse are all to blame! Hope you enjoy!
Chapter One Hundred Three
Harry watched as the hybrid werewolf walked up across the grounds and what the portrait of Dumbledore had said just over a month ago about Voldemort dabbling in something he did not completely understand yet again, rang clearly in his ears. Sure the werewolf and Hufflepuff combined had warned… and even threatened him but what was important to Harry at least was that even when the werewolf had seemed to be in control, it hadn't struck out at him. With a slight nod of his head Harry knew he could accept that Greg Hunter would not only protect his little sister from all threats… he wouldn't ever hurt her. Well as long as the Hufflepuff took his Wolfsbane Potion and that was something he could make sure always happened!
Harry knew he needed to have a talk with his sister but he was delayed in getting there first by Hermione and Ron who wanted to talk about what he had seen in the Pensive. Then he met up with Ginny and found it very easy to slip off with her for a half hour or so before supper and find an empty broom cupboard. He knew that after supper it would have been so easy to just put it off for even longer but he wanted to clear the air between them. He hated this tension he felt every time he thought of his sister and wanted to start putting things back the way they were before or as close as they were likely to ever get.
So when he walked into the Hospital Wing that evening he turned to his friends and asked them if he could have a few minutes alone with his sister. The Hufflepuff glared at him defiantly but Taylor was able to quietly convince him to go as well. Though the tall werewolf growled softly as he went by, that silencing spell or not that he would still be able to smell what was happening… A bit startled by the comment, it was a few seconds before he indeed did put up the silencing charm even as he wondered at what the werewolf had said.
Taylor wasn't sure what to expect from her brother and she took the moment that he stood at the end of her bed staring absently at the screen behind him to study him. She could see the lines of tension that pulled at his mouth and had it set in a firm line. His shoulders were tense and his hand was clenched around his wand. His messy black hair seemed just a bit wilder then normal and his green eyes when they finally found hers were serious. Knowing she had a lot to answer for, she started.
"I'm sorry Harry. I know that isn't enough, but I truly am. I never wanted to hurt you but I also couldn't live knowing that I was a Horcrux… and neither could you have lived knowing that you had something in you that could bring Voldemort back. I wish that there had been another way! Maybe I should have just gone into the sealed room… Or… Merlin I don't know! Jumped off the London Bridge!"
Harry felt his eyes roll in spite of himself. "The London Bridge? Really Taylor? You are a witch! You know that wouldn't work!" Then his chuckle died in his throat as he realized what he had said and the fact that his sister could no longer cast even a simple levitating charm crashed over him. "Oh Merlin, I'm sorry Taylor, I didn't…" He sat on the side of his sister's bed and reached for her hand, his own suddenly trembling slightly.
"It's alright Harry." She could see disbelief in his eyes and she squeezed his hand. "I was the one who tried the lame joke remember?" With a sigh she tried again. "I'm sorry. I really am. For everything. I guess my rash decisions finally caught up with me." With a self-depreciating snort she continued. "I am sorry that I used you… your hate… against you. At the time it seemed like the only way…"
"Hey…" Harry squeezed his sister's hand to get her to look up from the bed, where she had dropped her eyes as she spoke, to look at him. "I know why you did it. I understand… and if our situations were reversed I might have even done something similar…"
Taylor's eyes widened a little, though she had no doubt that what her brother said was true…
"I know now why Snape did what he did… Why you said that he was asked to do the worst and then gifted with the most important… In a way our situations are similar…" Harry paused as he thought about how both he and Snape had been coerced into killing… and was glad that things had turned out the way they had, because if he had killed Snape he would have lived to regret killing an innocent man. "I think I can even come to forgive him… in time."
Taylor smiled, it was more then she could have hoped for.
As the two talked, the tension slowly disappeared. While Harry would never forget what his sister had done he could start to accept it and if he didn't quite forgive her completely he was well on his way. The wounds that had seemed so insurmountable only a few days ago, now had begun to heal and while Taylor hadn't paid the ultimate price with her brash idea, the loss of her magic would always be a reminder of not only her impulsive decision but also the fact that against all odds, not only had she survived but Harry had as well.
The next morning at 9:00 am, only two hours before the Hogwarts Express would pull out of Hogsmeade, taking the students home for the final time that year, the court yard was full of chairs holding those graduating and their families. Taylor sat with the rest of the seventh years surrounded by her friends and the Hufflepuff who had refused to sit with the rest of his house. Head Mistress McGonagall called out each name from the scroll she was holding, very reminiscent of the way she had seven years ago when each student had been called forth in the Great Hall to sit on the stool and have the Sorting Hat placed over their heads. This time though each student had gone up onto the raised platform to receive their graduation scroll. When all their names had been called the Sorting Hat began to speak.
"This year has brought with it some of the most dangerous times that this school has seen in many years… we have lost some of our own, others have been irrevocably changed… and yet here you are ready to go out into the world as adults. A world that is finally free from the fear and terror that has held it in a stranglehold; free because some of you were brave enough to fight for our freedom. A feat that would make Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rewena Ravenclaw and even Salathar Slytherin proud. It was by working together that the world is once again free, by reaching out and trusting when it seemed impossible to do so, that we once again have our freedom. Alone we are vulnerable but together we are strong, powerful and courageous. Just something you all should remember as you go out into the world…"
With that the hat became silent and it was a few seconds before someone started to clap and then more joined in until nearly everyone was standing applauding. A cheer went up and suddenly the air was full of wizarding hats as the graduating students all threw their hats into the air.
It was a few minutes before the five Gryffindors and lone Hufflepuff found themselves alone. Ginny had just made her way over to them as well.
"Well that was a different speech! Imagine all four houses working together! I think that Hat has finally lost it!" Ron said with a snort.
"No Ron, the Sorting Hat was correct… It did take someone from each house to help bring Voldemort down…" Hermione started to explain but Harry cut her off.
"Yeah well right now I really don't care! You can explain it to us all later, right now I want to get over to that table and get a glass of pumpkin juice! You'd think someone would invent a spell to cool a wizard off under these hot robes!"
The friends all laughed and made their way through the throngs of parents and students towards the refreshment table set up on the far side of the court yard where they had their graduation ceremony. Before they made it to the table Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Mr. and Mrs. Granger reached them. Mrs. Weasley hugged Ron, kissing him on each cheek as he turned bright red, sputtering protests.
"Oh Ronald! You have made me so proud! Four Exceeds Expectations and one Outstanding! What with everything that has gone on this year!"
Then when Mrs. Weasley let go of Ron she hugged Harry gushing about his three E's and three O's. Taylor grinned as she saw her brother turn as bright red as Ron had been, as the matronly witch kissed him too. Then she was more then a little shocked to find herself pulled into a hug as well, getting the same treatment as her brother and friend. She had managed to do just a little better than her brother earning one more Outstanding then him.
Hermione's parents were no less pleased at their daughter's accomplishment of straight O's but they were just a little more reserved in their congratulations.
The Hufflepuff remained beside his witch, the werewolf demanding that he stay near. He had been more than pleased when he had finally been allowed back around the curtain after his witch talked with her brother. To see the happiness shining in her eyes as the two siblings held hands had made telling his wolf side to cool it much easier. He had been equally pleased with the arrangement that McGonagall had suggested about his witch going to live with the Tonks… even if it was only for a couple of months. He knew she would be safe there and the fact that they already had a son-in-law who was a werewolf only made the situation easier. He… or his werewolf… had a problem with his witch coming to the graduation ceremony. The need to protect his defenseless magicless witch was nearly overwhelming but with reassurance from her brother and the two other Gryffindors and the knowledge that his witch's secret wasn't known yet had finally convinced him. That and the very fact that his witch had said in no uncertain terms that she was going, with or without his permission. In that moment the hybrid werewolf knew that while his witch might have lost her magical powers, she hadn't lost her tenacity for life. A fact that he was sure would drive him crazy for the rest of his life… and that he knew he wouldn't trade for anything, for it was what made his witch who she was. The call of his name made the werewolf look away from congratulations of his friends' families.
"Greg! Oh son I am so proud of you!" Mr. Hunter said as he reached his son and gave him a hug.
"Oh dear! I am so happy!" Mrs. Hunter cried as she hugged her son tight.
Taylor was released from Mrs. Weasley in time to see her Hufflepuff get greeted by his family. A smile pulled at her lips. She had as many O's and E's as he did, just in different subjects.
"Oh Taylor dear! It's so good to see you again!" Mrs. Hunter said when she let go of her son and pulled the young witch into a hug as well. "I was so happy when Dan told me that you are going to join our family!" The Hufflepuff's mother talked excitedly, asking if the witch had any place to go and inviting her over to their place as long as she wanted. Even asking if she could help plan the wedding.
Moving out away from the Weasleys and Grangers, Harry watched from a little ways away as his sister was warmly congratulated by her future in-laws. He was proud of her. His little sister. A grin pulled at his lips. He had no doubt that his mother and father would be proud too. Against seemingly insurmountable odds they had both managed to not only destroy the most evil wizard in the world, they had both lived to graduate.
"Hey, so what is a sexy wizard like you doing here all alone?" Ginny asked quietly as she slipped her hand into his.
The creature in his chest purred as he grasped his witch's hand… all in all, things had turned out better then he had ever dared hope they would. Life would never be the same but he knew that they would all be alright. Their future was now bright and waiting outside the castle walls for all of them.
A/N Well there you go... just the epilogue to go. I hope you liked it. I am sorry this took sooooooooooooooo long but between RL and my muse refusing to co-operate well... lets just say that trying to get this chapter done was like pulling hens teeth! I was really worried about finishing this story correctly... making it not only believable but tying up all the loose ends as well. When I finaly wrestled this chapter out(and combining about 3 different versions of this chapter together!) I was pleased with it. I just hope you are.
I want to say THANK YOU to all of you for sticking around to this, the last chapter(there is an epilogue that will be posted tomorrow!) for you to have read this far... well you deserve many many cyber cookies! I am sorry if I didn't respond to your reviews... RL was crazy! But please be assured that I read EVERY SINGLE ONE! and cherished every one as well! Thank you to my wonderful, patient, gently encouraging beta barbc... without her help this story wouldn't be what it is nor likely complete!
I would love to know what you think. I have finished this story to the best of my ability, after six long years after I started to write it. It has had highs and frustrating lows but I think I have grown as a writer and I can honestly say I am proud to have been able to share it with all of you. Until next time, cytpotter.