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The End of an Era
In the aftermath of Dumbledore's funeral, the Order members who were still in school suddenly realised that the exams were almost upon them. For the seventh years it was the NEWTs that were approaching much too quickly, especially for Harry, who was not only recuperating from the magic draining spell, but also trying to catch up on the work he had missed while in Azkaban. The few days he had had before the battle had been taken up with strategic planning rather than a backlog of essays. The students only had a month to prepare before the exams started, and for many of them it was simply not enough time.
The time travellers weren't as stressed out about the whole thing as many of the others, as they had already completed their NEWTs in the time of the founders, but they still wanted to do well, especially Hermione. To Glen, for whom these were important exams, the time seemed even more hectic. Although he had spent a lot of time in the modern age, there were still a lot of things he had to learn about twentieth century wizardry. If he was to perform well on his exams, he would have to make sure not to accidentally use ancient magics long lost to the wizarding world.
Aside from the chaos for the sixth and seventh years, life had returned almost to normal. The street parties had ended, the Ministry was undergoing a purge of the corrupt politicians, and the Aurors were rounding up the last of the Death Eaters. The Order of the Phoenix was now surplus to requirements, and had been as good as disbanded. Harry was planning on calling one more meeting before it officially broke up, which was planned for the day the school term ended.
Hogwarts life was almost back to normal, except for a few changes. While Minerva had been acting as Headmistress since Dumbledore was committed to St Mungo's, she had now officially taken up the post on a more permanent basis. Sirius was remaining as the Transfiguration teacher and Head of Gryffindor House. Heather, after several hours of discussion, had been persuaded by Minerva to stay on for several more years as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Since Minerva was now Headmistress, she had appointed Severus the new Deputy Headmaster, a position he was thrilled to receive. Most of the students weren't happy with his change of status, but the man himself was just grateful that the former Gryffindor witch had trusted him enough to give him the job. After all, he had been a Death Eater, no matter how unwilling, for twenty years, and many people would not have readily trusted him as much as Dumbledore had done.
Since the downfall of Voldemort, Severus, Sirius, Remus and Harry had all shown a remarkable change in their outlooks on life. The Potions Master no longer openly favoured the Slytherins to the same degree, and he made an effort not to belittle the Gryffindors too much. It was as if all of his burdens had been lifted, and the cold hearted spy persona he had shown for so long had been shed. He was openly acting a lot more like the man Harry knew him to be. Sirius and Remus had also changed their attitudes to the outside world. Now that the threat of the Dark Lord was no longer shadowing their lives, they were a lot more carefree, and closer to the mischievous boys they had been as school. They were helping the Weasley twins more with their pranks, much to the disappointment of Minerva McGonagall, who was one of their main targets.
Harry had also lightened up now that the funeral was out of the way and he knew he wasn't going to die. The elation he had felt when he first woke up after the battle was back to some degree. He was free of the monster that had plagued him all of his life, and for the first time he no longer had a destiny. He didn't have a grand purpose to fulfill. He was free to get on with the rest of his life, but that thought frightened him more than anything else he had ever faced. Now that he had been given the choice of doing what he wished with the rest of his life, he didn't know what to do with the time he had been given. In all honesty, he had never expected to survive the final battle, despite his determination to live.
His immediate plans were simply to regain his strength and magic. While his natural magic had begun to return, allowing him to cast simple spells, he was still a long way from being at his best. While no longer needed, the spirit of the headmaster still remained inside of him; something the deceased wizard had said was just until all of Harry's magic returned. Albus, after all, didn't want the Boy-Who-Lived to suffer a relapse, especially this close to the exams. After a mental discussion, the pair had decided to leave things as they were until Harry finished school, something Dumbledore had always wanted to see happen. After all, he had been a friend and mentor to the younger man for many years, and was proud he had made it as far as he had.
The furthest Harry had considered was the coming year. He knew his son needed to go home, and to do that he would have to use the amulet of time, as it was the only device anyone could think of that would send the boy that far into the past. Of course, Harry wouldn't let him go alone, and neither would the other three time travellers. They felt as if it was their duty to see the first of the Potters back to his own time. Thinking of the amulet brought Harry's mind back to his son's animagus form. It hadn't registered in his mind at the time, but during the battle he recalled seeing Glen turn into a lion. With a smile, Harry pictured the amulet in his mind's eye. An oval with four symbols at the compass points. A lightning bolt, a thestral, a phoenix and a unicorn. Each representing one on the original time travellers. In the centre, a roaring lion, a bold image of the son Harry had been blessed with meeting through the bizarre machinations of time and fate.
The second week of June finally arrived, and with it the start of the Hogwarts exams. The students from the Order had tried their best to catch up on any work they could, but for some it was simply an impossibility. The only ones who actually felt as if they were prepared were Harry and Hermione. As usual, they had been studying hard in their spare time for years, so knew most of the material ahead of the rest of their year. Harry, although he had missed a significant portion of the school year through running off to the Teutoburg forest, fighting Voldemort, and rotting in Azkaban, was feeling confident about the NEWTs. He knew he would never need the grades to get a job, as he had enough money in his vault from the quidditch royalties to live comfortably for several lifetimes, but nevertheless he wanted to do well for his pride if nothing else. He knew he had the ability to ace the exams, and wasn't prepared to do anything less. His magic had returned to full strength over the past four weeks, and he felt as if he wouldn't have any trouble casting the spells for the practical aspects of the tests.
As had happened the previous two years, Ron and Ginny were the least prepared for the NEWTs. They had, like the others, been revising madly for the last month, but it was simply too little too late. They knew they would get at least decent grades, as they still had the knowledge of the founders in their minds, however, their grasp of modern magical theory and History of Magic was spotty at best. Hermione, as usual, had prepared months in advance, and even during the preparations for the battles she had never failed to complete her homework. Glen, also, was well prepared, despite his disadvantages when it came to current magical ideas.
When the first exam rolled around, which just happened to be Potions, Ron let out a loud groan of protest.
I can't believe they're doing this to us! Potions, first exam on a Monday morning! They're honestly sadistic!
Ron, stop whining, Hermione told him crossly.
I'm not whining! he said, hotly, I just don't see why they couldn't have given us something nice, like Care of Magical Creatures, to ease us into the exams gently. This is just bloody cruel.
Just think of it this way, Harry pointed out, At least you will be able to say in two hour's time that you never have to do potions again.
Good point, mate, Ron conceded, That'll be a relief, I can tell you.
I was thinking of studying for a Potions mastery, actually, Harry told them. Hermione let out a loud squeal and wrapped her arms tightly around him.
Really? I've heard it's really hard, but I know you can do it, Harry. You know more about potions than anyone, even Snape, and that's saying something!
Yeah, well, it'll give me something to do, and if I'm going to study potions for years, I may as well have the title to go with it.
You're mad, mate, Ron said with a chuckle, But it's your life. I'll support you all the way, you know I will.
Me too, Ginny said, wrapping her arms around his waist and giving him a kiss on the nose. Their conversation was broken up when Severus opened the door to his dungeon classroom and ushered them all inside.
Two weeks later it was all over. The exams had finished, and everyone in the school let out a huge sigh of relief. It had been a trying year for everyone, and the students were all glad it was over and done with. All they had left to do was relax until the end of term. For the seventh years it was an especially joyous time, as the Weasley twins managed to aptly point out.
Just think, Fred said in the common room the night after the last exam, We're free to go out into the world now and cause as much mayhem as we like. We're adults in the truest sense of the word.
Too true, brother mine, George agreed, Just imagine the havoc we can cause outside of these walls.
A collective groan came from most of the Gryffindor common room as the rest of the students realised that while Hogwarts might be quieter in the future, the rest of wizarding Britain wouldn't be safe from the prankster twins.
You know, it's kind of sad, Harry mused.
In what way? Fred asked.
Well, just think, we'll never again be in a position to torment Filch. Or Mrs. Norris. Or Professor McGonagall. Or even Professor Snape. Inside Hogwarts, we are legends. People to be revered for our pranks, and for future jokesters to look up to. As you said, outside these four walls we are free to wreak havoc, but we will never again be in a community where we are legends. We will be relegated to amusing pests.
The identical looks of shock and horror on the twins' faces were classic, and the time travellers cracked up. Fred and George had obviously never considered what people would think of them outside of Hogwarts, and now that Harry had kindly pointed it out to them, they knew that once they left they would never again gain the same amount of infamy as in the school itself.
Well, Fred, we'll just have to make our last two weeks special.
Indeed we will, George, the other twin replied once they had regained the power of speech, You guys have to help.
In what way? Ron asked.
Well, you have the connections to pull it off, Fred told him, referring to the erratic poltergeist.
What do you have in mind? Harry asked, curious.
the end of an era
for Hogwarts. The last of the original Marauders will
be leaving forever, and we humble copycats along with you.
They've got a point, Glen interjected.
We propose we have one last blast, Fred said with a maniacal grin.
An exit worthy of Hogwarts: A History, George agreed.
We'll go out with a bang
and show the younger years that the spirit of the prankster must be continued.
The time travellers all grinned at the pair. What they had said was true; it was the end of an era. They would finally all be leaving Hogwarts, for some of them after eight very trying years. They were finally being thrust into the real world, far away from the safety of the school. From hereon out, they were on their own. They couldn't hide behind the wards and Dumbledore anymore, as they had since they were eleven. Dumbledore was gone, as was their childhood. An end of an era indeed, for now they would have to face the wider world.
Over the next two weeks in the run up to the end of term, Hogwarts was filled with frustrated students and staff members. True to their word, the twins were making their remaining time count, and with the time travellers, Sirius, Remus, Minh, Eustace and the ghosts on their side, they were a formidable force. Minerva had threatened to expel them, nullifying the exam results they would have received, but in the end she decided that they all deserved to let of some steam after the year they had had. After all, most of the pranks were completely harmless. The bog in the second floor corridor was slightly annoying, and the suits of armour all over the castle that sang Christmas carols whenever anyone walked past were a little disconcerting, considering it was July. Apart from that, the students and staff saw the funny side most of the time. However, after two weeks solid, they were all ready to go home for the holidays. There was only so much they could take, and after several staff members had been hit with Harry's self created Julio-Claudian jinx, Minerva decided it was time for her to draw the line.
Having been banned from playing any pranks two days before the end of term, the Marauders and company decided to focus their energy on creating something truly spectacular. After several hours in Harry's room in Gryffindor Tower, they finally came up with the best solution. Something so spectacular, it would go down in the history books. They already knew that several Ministry officials and parents had been invited to the Leaving Feast, as a plaque to Dumbledore was to be unveiled, so it would be unwise to prank the whole school. After Sirius suggested the time travellers think back to the previous year, it was decided that instead of going out with a prank, they would go out with a song. The Marauders, past and present were writing a play, and its title was - Spectacular, Spectacular.
The Leaving Feast started the same as every other, with the exception of the invited guests there for the dedication and unveiling of the new plaque. The new Minister for Magic, Aberforth Dumbledore, stood up once everyone was there and made a lengthy speech, similar to the one he have at his brother's funeral, and unveiled the new memorial wall behind the teachers' table. Upon it was the name of every casualty of the wars with Voldemort, and not just the ones who had died, but people such as the Longbottoms who, while still breathing, had lost their lives so that others might be free. In the centre was a round plaque dedicated to Albus Dumbledore.
An interesting choice, the voice inside Harry's mind commented, though I would have preferred it in canary yellow.
Harry gained several strange looks from his fellow Gryffindors when he chuckled quietly during Aberforth's speech. Most of the people around him thought he was mad, as the death of their headmaster was no laughing matter. Harry, though, simply thought to himself that none of those behind the disapproving looks had the elderly wizard in their heads.
Once the formalities were taken care of, the food arrived and everyone began to stuff themselves with as much as they could. After all, for the seventh years it would be their last meal at Hogwarts. Towards the end of dinner, just as dessert was arriving, the conspirators slipped out of the Great Hall, mostly unnoticed. They gathered in the Entrance Hall and summoned their costumes, taking a few minutes to go over their lines and props. The ghosts had the most important job of all, as they were arranging the special effects. Eventually, once they were all sorted out, Harry lifted his hand and made a pushing motion towards the entrance to the Great Hall. The doors slammed open, gathering everyone's attention. When the students and staff saw them standing there, they let out loud groans, believing they were preparing for a final prank. With a grin, the Weasley twins moved to the front and cast sonorus charms on each other.
Hello, Hogwarts! We know what you're thinking, and you'd, surprisingly, be wrong.
Surely you are expecting us to do something terrible
and cruel. But you would be wrong. After being banned from pranking the lot of you, George said, sending Minerva a pointed look, We came to the conclusion that you all deserved a treat for putting up with us all for so long. Tomorrow, we have to leave Hogwarts forever, and we wanted to go out with a bang
so in honour of this momentous occasion, we are bringing you an evening of wonder
music and dance
to celebrate our leaving. So without further ado
the Marauders, past and present, proudly present
As soon as the twins finished their speech, the time travellers waved their hands and conjured a large stage in front of the doors. Music started from somewhere in the rafters, and the group on stage began their show. Having a limited amount of time, they had chosen to take old Muggle and Wizarding songs and form a play around them, saving them the effort of writing their own songs. There was something for everyone, with humour, drama, and a rather compelling love story.
Everyone laughed when Minh came on stage dressed as a Viking and sang an aria. People cried when Hermione's character was killed by a deranged house elf. Chuckles could be heard when Fred and George had a duel with rubber chickens, and the girls swooned when Harry paraded around in a skimpy costume.
The climax of the play reached everyone, though. Harry's character was asked to prove his love for Ginny's, and the ensuing `battle' reminded everyone what the Order had been fighting for. It was the small things. The love between one person and another. Those were the things worth saving.
When Harry came to his final song, he was suddenly struck by how appropriate it was. Looking over at Ginny, he realised that everything in his life was falling into place. He was happy, truly happy, for the first time he could remember. There was only one thing that would make him happier. In that moment, he decided to change the script. Quietly, he began to sing the final song. As he reached the last few lines, he moved to stand in front of Ginny, who gave him a startled look. He looked deeply into her eyes as he sang the last part of the song.
And you can tell everybody,
This is your song.
It may be quite simple, but
Now that it's done.
I hope you don't mind.
I hope you don't mind.
That I put down in words.
How wonderful life is,
Now you're in the world.
Harry looked at Ginny intently and bent down on one knee, summoning a small velvet box from his room into his hand. He had been planning this for the last few weeks, and could think of no better time. Ginny stared at him in shock, and the people watching gasped loudly as Harry sang the last lines of the song.
Hope you don't mind.
I hope you don't mind.
That I put down in words.
How wonderful life is,
Now you're in the world.
There was a collective gasp and Harry opened the box, revealing a beautiful diamond ring. Ron, Fred and George were gaping at their friend as he knelt in front of their slightly weeping sister. Harry smiled at the love of his life and began to speak.
Ginny, I love you. I have loved you for a long time now, though I've not always shown it. You are the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?
Silence reigned in the Hall as the onlookers waited with baited breath for her answer. After what seemed like an eternity, a brilliant smile broke out on Ginny's face as she knelt next to the man she loved and embraced him tightly, telling him her answer.