Wow, guys! I can't believe it's come to the end! Thanks so, so much for all your continued support and enjoy this super long last chapter!
Chapter Forty-Three: The Prophecy and the Chosen One
Harry looked up as Dumbledore swept in the room. He was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting anxiously for Dumbledore to speak with him. He knew very little of what Dumbledore would tell him, only that it had to do with the orb that the Death Eaters so desperately wanted. Was only a glowing orb what they had been searching for, for so long? Was this the reason for the skirmish in the Department of Mysteries before Christmas? The reason that Mr. Weasley had been attacked? The reason that he had been dreaming of the Department of Mysteries for months? Harry knew it all connected, knew that it was important, but he didn't know why the Death Eaters were so occupied with such a fragile piece of glass, even if they called it a prophecy. It must have been important, or perhaps his parents would not have discouraged him from seeking answers. But why had it been so important that he had been left in the dark?
"I think you will be pleased to know that your friends are well," Dumbledore said as he seated himself in the chair at the head of the table. His wrinkled hands folded themselves in front of him. "Madam Pomfrey tells me they will make full recoveries. As will your father, I believe."
Harry was silent, still feeling guilty that the entire affair had been almost entirely his fault. If he had not rushed off to save Sirius so quickly, maybe they would not have fallen into the trap that the Death Eaters had laid out for them. It ashamed him to realize that Snape had been right all along, and that perhaps if he had had control of his mind, the whole fiasco would have prevented. Perhaps his father would not be lying bloodied on the floor.
"There is much I need to explain to you, Harry," Dumbledore told him. "First, perhaps we should straighten our accounts of the day."
Harry looked at him, feeling another surge of guilt. He didn't know how Dumbledore could look so amiable when Harry had been the cause of the day's disaster. Order members had nearly died. That was something that could not be reversed.
Dumbledore's eyes smiled at him. "Perhaps you can start after you received your vision of Sirius."
"You know what happened," Harry mumbled. "I went after him. Sirius said Voldemort planted the image in my mind."
"Do you understand why he did so?"
Harry looked at Dumbledore for a long while. "No," he admitted quietly. "I know the Department of Mysteries is important. I just don't know why. My parents didn't tell me."
"As I expected they mightn't," Dumbledore said. "They wanted to protect you, to protect your innocence. But I'm afraid some explanations are due."
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I tried contacting you," he blurted. "I tried contacting you, McGonagall, my parents and Sirius…"
"We were all rather unavailable," Dumbledore responded. "I was tied up in other duties outside the castle, and most of the other Order members were fighting against an attack in Hogsmeade."
"Hogsmeade?" echoed Harry. There had been an attack in Hogsmeade? So close to Hogwarts?
"A distraction, it appears," Dumbledore said. "To isolate you and trick you into going to the Ministry anyway."
"It worked," Harry said bitterly.
Dumbledore's eyes crinkled slightly at him, but his expression was tinged with sadness. Harry looked at his hands, suddenly too ashamed to meet the Headmaster's eye. "I'm afraid he outwitted us tonight, Harry," Dumbledore said. "He's been trying to manipulate your mind for many months before now."
Harry looked up suddenly.
"Yes, that's right," Dumbledore said. "I'm afraid Professor Snape discovered it during your Occlumency lessons. Voldemort has been planting dreams in your mind ever since Mr. Weasley's attack last Christmas. I believe he made the connection then… realized its potential. By now I think you've realized you have a mental connection to Voldemort. He's been becoming more aware of it this year. Knowledge of this connection is how he managed to possess you."
Harry's throat felt dry, and he suddenly felt nauseous. The feeling of Voldemort in his mind was not something he wanted to experience again. He could not help but feel he was losing all control over himself and his environment. Voldemort had steadily been invading his world, until he had no space left to hide.
"I do not believe he will try it again," Dumbledore said, interrupting Harry's worried thoughts. Harry looked at him, and finally he felt the slightest glimmer of hope that maybe things wouldn't always be this bad. "It was painful for him, Harry, even more than it was painful for you. It turns out that what Voldemort considers your greatest weakness is what saved you tonight."
"I don't understand."
"Your love, Harry. Voldemort considers it to be your greatest flaw, that you would sacrifice your safety to save another individual. It's how he lured you there this evening. It's why you went after Ginny to the Chamber of Secrets. But yet, your vast capacity of love made it unbearable for him to reside within you. That sort of pain is not something Voldemort wishes to experience again."
Harry shifted uncomfortably. Though he found relief in Dumbledore's words, he could not help but worry about the fact that Voldemort had been exploring their connection. He didn't know what Voldemort would attempt next.
"So… so Voldemort's been the one putting the dreams in my head," Harry said.
Dumbledore nodded sadly. "Yes," he answered. "Though the first few glimpses you caught of the Department of Mysteries were undoubtedly merely results of mental leak of Voldemort's growing obsession, I do believe that he began to formulate a new plan after he realized your potential."
"My potential?" echoed Harry.
"Yes, Harry. I must now explain to you the reason why Voldemort came to your parents' home all those years ago on Hallowe'en." Dumbledore was watching Harry very closely, and Harry found himself frowning with worry. "Before you were born, a prophecy was made about a boy born at the end of July, born to parents who thrice defied the Dark Lord. It, of course, could refer to one of two boys: you, or Neville Longbottom, who also fit the criteria. It was stated in the prophecy that the boy who would be born would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord."
"Power to vanquish Voldemort?" Harry echoed. Never did his voice seem so quiet.
"I would not dwell on it, Harry," Dumbledore said. "Potions of the prophecy remain unclear. Dwelling on them would cause unnecessary worry, the last thing you need at the moment." His blue eyes pierced Harry, and Harry, realizing that Dumbledore was looking for a sign of assent, nodded his head. "When the prophecy was first delivered to me," Dumbledore continued, "It was eavesdropped upon by one of Voldemort's followers. The man, however, only heard half of the prophecy, the part that I have just conveyed to you. The rest of the story you know. Voldemort came to Godric's Hallow to kill you."
"He didn't go after Neville," Harry said.
"I'm certain you're wondering why," Dumbledore said, and Harry nodded. "The odd part of the prophecy is that it didn't have to be you, Harry. Voldemort chose you, the half-blood, the one most like him, and selected you as his equal."
"I'm not like Voldemort," Harry said firmly.
"No," Dumbledore said. His eyes smiled sadly. "You're not. You have much too great a heart for that. But Voldemort does not think in matters of heart. He is focused on matters of blood. You, the half-blood, posed the most threat." Dumbledore watched him for a moment, and then said, "That's what Voldemort has been after this year. He's been wanting to hear the full measure of the prophecy, to make sure that he doesn't make the same mistakes as last time."
"But you knew the prophecy," Harry said. "It was that orb-thing, right? Couldn't you have destroyed it?"
"Only those about whom the prophecy refers can touch it," Dumbledore said. "Voldemort was not keen to walk into the Ministry himself. He tried other means, none of which were successful to him. One of them led to the first skirmish in the Department of Mysteries, which I believe you are acquainted with."
"My parents didn't tell me why."
"Nor did I expect them to. They were keen to protect you. They thought, as I, that the less you knew about it, the safer you would be. They were afraid that Voldemort would try to make you go and get it, as he did. Their fear only grew when they realized you were already dreaming about it."
Harry looked into his lap.
"You do understand, don't you?" Dumbledore asked him softly. "They wanted to protect you. They wanted to shield your innocence for as long as possible. Knowledge can be a heavy burden to bear."
Harry's mind was swimming with thoughts, and he was having a difficult time sorting them all out. "You said that Voldemort only heard half of the prophecy," Harry said slowly. He was dreading Dumbledore's answer. What could have been so terrible that his parents would have kept it from him? "What… what was the other half?"
Dumbledore looked sadly at him for a long time. "Each cannot live while the other survives."
The words fell heavily upon Harry. "So… so one of us has to die? In the end, I mean?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes," he said softly.
Harry was silent for a long while. He didn't want to die, and now that he knew, he didn't know if he regretted asking. For a long while, he could not meet Dumbledore's eye. He could not bear to look at the sadness inside of them. "Voldemort… doesn't know this," he said eventually.
"You prevented that this evening," Dumbledore told him. "And as much as the evening was a disaster, with no casualties and numerous Death Eater captures, I would go as far to say it wasn't quite as bad as we expected."
"My dad almost died."
Dumbledore's gaze softened. "It must have been unsettling for you, Harry."
Harry looked at him abruptly. "I could have caused his death. It's my fault nearly every one of my friends is injured."
Dumbledore looked at him for a long time, sensing his anger. He remained quiet, looking sadly at Harry. Harry felt his guilt surge, and when his nausea grew, he just broke their gaze.
"Will those Death Eaters be sent to Azkaban?" he asked Dumbledore eventually, after cooling a bit.
"They will not stay there long," Dumbledore said. "Now that Voldemort has officially returned, he will waste no time in staging another break from Azkaban."
Harry looked down again. It all just seemed a bit worthless to him if the Death Eaters that they had captured would only be back in the open.
"I will shortly go to speak with the Minister," Dumbledore said. "I believe he will be more willing to listen to what has to be said. If all goes well, Sirius' case will be investigated, as will your parents' return."
Harry looked up. "You think so?"
"I do," Dumbledore said. "Cornelius is too unsettled at the moment to question much else. He will be forced to admit his errors, and by tomorrow, papers bearing the news will be calling for his resignation."
Harry didn't know what he thought of that. He found he was worrying again about whether Sirius would be safe if he began meeting with the Ministry. What if they didn't believe him and arrested him on the spot? He would be given the dementor's kiss, not taken to Azkaban. "You think Sirius will be cleared?"
"I do," said Dumbledore. "I believe Cornelius hasty to rectify his mistakes. I also believe now is the best time for your parents to come forward. Voldemort has made himself known, and it is now time we do the same."
After Dumbledore had left the room to speak with Fudge, it was like all of Harry's energy drained at once, and suddenly all he wanted was to be with his family. He found himself wandering back into the living room, where his mother, Sirius, and Remus were besides James, who was now on one of the couches. Snape appeared to have left, because only his potion vials remained on the table in the far corner. Across from James, Tonks was propped up on the other couch. Her eyes were open now, but she looked really tired. She smiled weakly at Harry when he came in.
"Wotcher, Harry," she said.
Lily turned around to look at him, and her eyes softened when she saw just how weary he was. Slowly, she stood and moved stepped forward to embrace him. Harry felt himself sag in her arms, and he finally realized just how on edge he had been. It felt good to just let all his worries go for the moment. "How's Dad?" he asked her softly.
Lily pressed a kiss to his head, and, with her arm about his shoulders, she led silently him to the couch where James was lying. Sirius and Remus both gave Harry small smiles as he bent down beside him.
It was not until he had knelt by his father's side that he realized that James' eyes were actually open. Harry had not even realized James was conscious; he was lying so still.
"Hi, Dad," he said softly, and the corners of James' lips lifted. His hazel eyes seemed to smile at Harry, even if he was too weak to open his mouth. It looked like Lily had cleared away most of the blood, because only James' clothes remained stained. But James didn't seem bothered. His eyes were fixed only on Harry, gazing on him as if he was his whole world.
Harry suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up to see Remus.
"He's got a bit of a fever, but he's going to be okay," Remus told him softly as he joined Harry.
"He'll be taking potions for the next few days," Lily said. "Blood Replenisher."
Harry nodded, and looked towards Sirius. The man looked just as relieved as Harry felt, and smiled at Harry. "Dumbledore tell you the good news?" he asked him.
Harry had to think for a moment. When he remembered what Dumbledore had said about Sirius, he managed a smile. "Yeah."
Sirius' lips turned upwards. "It's great, isn't it?"
"We don't know if you'll get off or not yet," Lily reminded him gently.
Her words didn't dampen Sirius' smile. "I will."
A week later, dressed in his finest suit and wearing a large smile, Harry exited the Minister of Magic's office with his parents, Sirius, and Dumbledore. They were all beaming, but Sirius had the widest grin of all.
"Congrats, Padfoot," James said, leaning on Lily as they began down the hallway towards where the press was waiting. He was walking now, but still moving slowly. "It's official."
Sirius laughed and swung an arm over James' shoulder, "I don't think I've ever seen Fudge so flustered."
"That's because he's about to admit yet another slip," James said. "The press will go wild. How many mistakes can one man make in a few years?"
"A few large mistakes, no less," Sirius said. "He'll be sacked for sure."
"I'm just worried the press won't buy all of this," James said, grinning. "You're innocent, we're back from the dead, and Voldemort has returned. All three events in one week."
Sirius laughed. "I guess we're going to have to answer a whole lot of questions."
"You'll soon be the richest man in the country, you know that?" James said. "Fourteen years' worth of compensation."
"Do I have enough to pay rent at your place?" Sirius said, and Lily snorted. "Nah. I think I'll buy myself another motorbike." He looked at Harry. "Want to come for a ride?"
"No," said Lily firmly.
"Oh, come on, Lily," Sirius said. "I won't fly with him on this one. Just on the ground."
Lily whirled on him. "The last one flew?!"
"Er," said Sirius.
"No?" said James.
"Wha…? Why is this my fault?"
"I can't believe you!"
"It was Sirius'-"
"All those times? You told me you were out getting a drink and you were on Sirius' motorbike?"
"You can't get mad at me now!"
Lily glared at him.
James winced. "Um, plead of injury?"
Lily just shook her head. "We're not going to argue right now. Imagine if the first impression the press had of us was that of an arguing couple?"
"They'd take Harry away to social services."
Lily whacked James on the chest.
Lily just shook her head in disbelief, though a faint smile tickled her lips. Chuckling, James leaned in to kiss her, but she turned her head. James gave her a pitiful look.
"I'm sleeping on the couch, aren't I?"
Harry and Sirius exchanged wide grins, and though neither James nor Lily was actually upset, the group faded into silence as Dumbledore led them along the final stretch. Waiting just around the corner was the press, and Harry knew they needed time to straighten out their thoughts before they were bombarded with questions and photographs. Though Harry knew the exposure was ultimately good, it was going to be a stressful and strenuous process. It wasn't every day that wizards came back from the dead and mass murderers were declared innocent.
They could hear the crowd before they rounded the final corner, and when they made their appearance, the noise rose to a roar. Cameras flashed every which way and they could only catch snippets of questions because the crowd began pushing on one another. Reporters shoved cameras towards them.
"-How is it that you've returned?"
"-Get a picture of the Chosen One-!"
"-Returned from Azkaban?"
"Harry! Harry! What are your thoughts on the inferi theory-?"
Though Harry had known there would be a crowd, this was not what he had been expecting. People stretched all into the back corners of the room, shifting against each other and fighting to get a glimpse of any of the five. Fudge had promised a small conference, and this was nothing of the sort. Harry shifted uncomfortably. It was a bit overwhelming staring into the face of the wizarding world and knowing that the reporters were capturing every moment, every movement. Reading about himself in the paper was one thing, but standing in front of bustling crowds calling him the Chosen One was another matter entirely. He almost preferred the slander. At least then he didn't have to feel like he had to measure up to their expectations. He was still trying to wrap his head around the prophecy.
Suddenly, Harry felt his mother's arm wrap around his shoulder, giving him a small squeeze of comfort. It was way too loud for them to exchange words, but Harry knew what she was trying to say anyway. He flashed her a grateful look. Even if he was still uncomfortable in the sight of the crowds, the knowledge that she was there with him was comforting. She knew how he felt, she knew what he was being subjected to, the pressure that was placed on him. Though it seemed to be growing every day, he felt it a little less keenly when they were beside him.
He looked past his mother, where his dad and Sirius were standing together, and saw James watching him closely. When they made eye contact, James shot Harry a large smile of encouragement. They would be out of here soon, once the press had had their fill. It wasn't so bad. Harry knew that tomorrow, when they opened the newspapers, there would be dozens upon dozens of conspiracy theories. But a part of him didn't mind. He knew that his dad would laugh them off, Sirius would make jokes about them, his mum would toss aside the newspapers with a roll of her eyes. The papers didn't matter that much, after all.
So the next morning, the newspapers heralded the news, and wizards all over the country opened their morning copies. They scoured the article inside and the headline above proclaimed: The Potters Who Lived.
Oh wow. When I first started posting this I had no idea that it would get this generous a reception. I just wanted to say thank you so, so much for all of your continued support. You all have no idea how much it means to me. You all are brilliant. If I could, I would give each of you hugs and free Harry Potter t-shirts. But alas, I'm not skilled in Transfiguration and don't have any money to purchase them. So accept this thank you instead. A big shout-out to all of my regular reviewers! You guys are…amazing. I love reading your thoughts day after day. You've been here the whole journey and I don't know how to thank you. I appreciate you all so much.
I'm pretty proud of how this story turned out. It's the longest one I've done, the first in this fandom. I'll be the first to admit that it's certainly not perfect. If I could go back a redo it, I would probably change a number of things, including the plot and a few details, just to make it more of my own. But at this point, I'm just proud that I've finished it and that so many of you took so much enjoyment from it. I consider this a learning process. Now that I've finished this, I'm moving on to other stories. So review this last chapter to let me know what you think, and follow me for future fics. Up next is a humorous story featuring James, Sirius, and a disastrous situation they worm themselves into. I'm loving writing it so far. And since I know this will be a question, I'll answer it now: no, I'm not planning a sequel, but if my muse leads me there sometime in the future, then I won't refuse. Check my profile for all story progress updates.
But anyway, I love you all so much! Thanks a trillion! Best wishes, SphinxScribe.