A/N: This is the final, concluding chapter of Revenge of the Wizard.
Chapter Forty: Permission to Live
"So, just to be honest, I'm sleeping with your daughter."
"What? It worked, he's awake now."
Darth Vader opened eyes made gummy with tears and stared at the face of a man he hated almost as much as his master. However, a moment later he realized that he was not looking at Potter through the red lenses of his face mask. Astonished, he reached up and felt at his face. Glancing around, he found himself in a primitive room with white plaster walls, beams of timber overhead supporting the roof, and an open window. To his shock, he could feel a comfortably warm breeze on his cheeks.
"Where am I?" His voice sounded thin and weak, a far cry from the basso his vocorder used to produce. Amazingly, though, he could speak without shortness of breath. "What have you done to me?"
"A lot of things, really," Harry said. "A gallon or two of Bruler's Burn-B-Gone, Nebula Ilmatar's Better Breathing Mist, an asthma treatment that works surprisingly well on burned lungs according to our mediwitch, and a Hair Club for Men scalp rub."
The worst part of it was that Vader could not tell if the man was joking or not. The only thing he could think to do was to kill him, which is exactly when his son walked into the room accompanied by an old, scarred Jedi he never thought to see again.
"Rahm Kota," he snarled.
"'Least his eyes still work," Kota said dryly. His own were obviously mechanical. "Can't say I like the hair, though."
Vader stifled an urge to reach up and feel if he really did have hair again. "What is this?"
"For your crimes against the Republic and the Jedi Order, you've been sentenced to life," Harry said. "To be served out in the Jedi Praxeum here on Avalon, under cover of a newly established Fidelius. You are denied all holonet access. Good behaviour might result in getting to see your grandchildren; bad behaviour will result in you being sent to the mountain where Palpatine's spirit is stuck preaching about the power of the Dark Side. The sentence was passed by the Wizenmeet of Avalon in concurrence with the Chief of State and Executive Council of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and the Jedi Council."
"That's me, by the way," Kota said with a cheery wave.
Harry grinned. "Also, if you try to escape, your legs will disappear."
Vader blinked, trying to make sense of what he heard. "What are you talking about?"
Kota stepped forward and pulled back the blanket. Vader stared down at an impossible sight—his body, seemingly whole. It was pale and far too thin that he remembered, but his legs were…a slightly different shade than the rest of him under the simple grey shorts and T-shirt which covered him.
"Your prosthetics were removed." Vader looked up at the new voice and saw his son staring intently at him, face saddened by the sight of his father's withered body. "In its place, Harry conjured limbs for you. They'll act like real, living arms and legs unless you try to escape."
"And just to be clear," Harry added, "the magic is intent-base. Even deciding to escape will result in your legs disappearing."
"You are toying with me," Vader said, fighting to latch on to the rage which had sustained him for years.
Harry shrugged. "Maybe. But even I had to agree when Luke pointed out killing my father in law was a bad way to start my marriage. So there we go."
"Marriage?" Vader said, some of his old rage beginning to simmer again.
"Well, that's all I had to say," Harry said. "You ready to go, Leia?"
"I am." Without looking back at Vader, the seemingly young couple turned and left the room.
Vader turned to Luke. "Marriage?"
"Hmm," Kota said. "If he thinks the idea of Potter marrying his daughter is bad, wonder if we should tell him about the twins?"
"POTTER! POTTER, ATTEND ME NOW!"
Harry walked into the living room of his home and snorted when he found Darth Vader sprawled on the floor in a most undignified manner, with both legs missing at mid-thigh.
"Yeah, that didn't work out the first two times either, did it?"
"I was not intending to escape!" Vader declared defensively. "It was a passing thought only!"
"Right." Harry waved a hand, reactivating what in truth were enchanted stones embedded at the ends of Vader's stumps that produced the magical prosthetics. Vader didn't need to know that when Harry "conjured" the legs, he was in fact just turning the enchanted rocks back on.
With an angry grunt, Vader picked himself back up. Gone was the imposing figure in black. In his place stood an aged man of middle height wearing plain brown trousers and loose tan-coloured tunic. He cut his hair short, but even so the grey was obvious. Sharp, icy blue eyes glared at Harry before he turned and stalked from the house.
"Arsehole," Harry muttered before heading back to his office.
Vader sat staring off toward the distant mountains on the far side, trying his very hardest not to think about escaping.
The past six months were among the most frustrating and confusing he'd ever experienced. Almost from his first days of being recruited into the Jedi Order, he had been special. He was the Chosen One, the most powerful of the Jedi. He'd grown into a fearsome warrior, celebrated or feared across the galaxy.
When he fell, the fear of him became universal. But still, no one ever, ever ignored him.
Until he came to this wretched world.
He knew that the galactic civil war continued—despite its obscene losses the Empire was just too big to simply disappear even after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of its two largest fleets. But he never knew any details because his wretched minders would never let him come even close to a holocom. Worse yet, even the blasted witches and wizards who watched him knew how to shield their minds against his power.
However, truly the most vexing thing was that he didn't matter anymore. The war spun on without him. People fought and died on both sides, and there was nothing he could do to change anything. No one consulted him about Imperial military tactics or procedures, not that he would have cooperated. No one cared what he thought, or even thought of him at all.
He was no longer Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. He was the crippled, used up, useless old man who constantly hung around the Praxeum with nothing to do except watch from a distance as the witches and wizards bred like nerfs. He'd never seen such a small community produce so many blasted babies.
He was so bored!
His bout of wallowing was interrupted by the faintest fluttering in the Force, followed by a snuffling sound. Frowning, he sat up and looked around but saw nothing but the seemingly endless fields of wild grass that separated the magical community from the mountains he often stared at.
With a grunt at the amount of effort required, Vader stood and followed the sound. The Praxeum, such as it was, faced the small city of Avalon. Behind it was nothing of note, and rarely occupied. However, as he came around a bend of the main building, he spotted a girl sitting cross legged against the wall. The dark skin of her face glistened with tears. She was not sobbing aloud, but occasionally she rubbed her nose on the back of her hand and sniffed. She looked to be on the verge of her teenage years, and projected the perfect portrait of misery.
She also wore a lightsaber at her belt. This was the Ross girl, Vader realized, one of the trio of Padawans Rahm Kota was training. Occasionally, when they were on the planet, Luke or Leia would assist, but they were often out on the front lines of the war fighting.
"Since when do Jedi Padawans wallow in self-pity?" he asked. He tried to hide his own grimace when he realized that was exactly what he had been doing mere seconds before.
She looked up with wide eyes and scrambled to her feet. "You leave me alone!" she shouted, her sadness instantly transforming to anger. "You're a bad man, I know all about you! You leave me alone or I'll cut you!" With that, she actually removed her lightsaber and lit it, something that would have resulted in extreme discipline if done by a Padawan of Vader's day.
She yelped when the blade ripped its way free of her hands and flew into his. He calmly deactivated it and held it up to inspect it. "You did not make this."
She frowned. "Course not, I'm only thirteen!"
"I was thirteen when I built mine," he said.
The Ross girl blinked, obviously confused by the answer. "But you're like…evil or something. So it was different for you."
He snorted and tossed the blade back to her. "No, it wasn't. You began your training just a few years ago, did you not? I was your age when I started as well, and despite what you think, children are not born evil."
"Then why are you? Evil, I mean."
"Because I kept reaching for my blade in anger, just like you did." It was a gross oversimplification, but there was a grain of truth in it that Vader wished he could deny. More importantly, it was a short, concise answer that momentarily broke through Ross's anger and made her look down at her sabre in worry.
"Now tell me why you were back here, crying? Such behaviour is unbecoming of a Padawan."
"It's none of your business."
"You disturbed my meditation, so that made it my business."
Still looking down, she muttered something incomprehensible.
"Speak clearly, youngling!"
"I said I can't do it."
"Any of it!" She made a broad gesture with her hands. "The lightsaber forms, the meditation, any of it. I just can't do it!"
"Did Master Yoda not say that you could?"
"He was wrong about me."
Vader pursed his lips. "While I despised Yoda, and he was wrong about a great many things, judging potential Padawans was not one of them. If he said you could be a Jedi, then you can be. The failure was not his part in identifying your potential, but on your part for failing to achieve it, and on the part of your instructors in aiding you sufficiently."
He walked to her other side. "Show me what Kota has taught you so far."
"Your lightsaber forms. Show me. Now, youngling!"
He stood, magically enchanted arms crossed over his chest, and watched the girl stumble through a pale, wholly inadequate kata. "That," he said, "was inexcusable."
"I know that!" Carrie snapped, on the verge of tears again. "What do you think I was so mad about?"
"And what did your anger do for you?" he asked pointedly.
She frowned and looked down at her feet. "Nothing! Anger does nothing," Vader continued. "Of all the people you will ever meet, I know this more than any. Assume your stance, position one."
She quickly did so. Vader stepped forward and corrected the positioning of her arms and feet. "You stand with your feet too close together! Form I is the form of power and control and the foundation of all other forms. To have power, your feet must be adequately planted. Raise your arms; your blade does nothing when it is at the level of your waist!"
She did as instructed, her expressions of anger and self-pity lost in concentration. He walked her through the entire form again and again, correcting each mistake, until she was finally able to flow through the entire sequence without error.
It came as a shock to both of them that, as she finished, the sun set.
"Better," he said. "Go eat something, youngling. I find your growling stomach disturbing."
She deactivated her lightsaber and hung it from her belt. "Er, right. Um, thank you, Master." She managed a short, awkward bow before turning and running around the building.
Frowning at how quickly the day had gone by, Vader spun to return to his prison at Potter's home when he found his way blocked by Rahm Kota. "What were you doing with my Padawan?" the old Jedi barked. In truth, Vader knew Kota had no other way of speaking. He had little volume control for his voice.
"Fixing your mistakes," Vader snapped back, not impressed in the slightest. "Her forms were miserable. I found her crying, and she pulled her sabre on me in anger. You've done poorly with her."
Rather than be upset, Kota snorted. "What the hell do you expect? I was a child soldier. I didn't get recruited until Mace Windu found me at eighteen. I never learned the Jedi arts as a child, and I've never taught a child. I let old Cin Drallig handle that part of it. Then you killed him, remember? I'm doing this because there's no one else. Your children are busy with the war and I wouldn't trust Potter with a Padawan in a million years. He treats the dark side like a joke."
"You've done fairly well with the boys." It grated Vader's nerves to admit it.
"They're older, and bigger," Kota said with a shrug. "I never had a girl as a Padawan. She's smaller, weaker. The Force flows but she keeps trying to use it like a witch. So I do my best. What are you going to do about it? You're not even a Jedi any more. Just go home and let the Jedi deal with their own problems."
With that, Kota turned and walked back around the curve of the main building, leaving Vader alone to his turbulent thoughts.
When he returned back to the house, he was surprised to find the Princess there with Potter. Vader's daughter was hugely pregnant and shone in the Force the same her mother did at that stage. She and her husband sat at their dining table eating together and speaking softly. They rarely ate alone—both were so busy with their many duties that often work followed them home. Tonight, however, they shared a rare, intimate moment.
Despite his own hunger, Vader found himself reluctant to interrupt them and simply passed through the living area to the stairs.
"You remind me of your mother."
Leia blinked and turned to him, genuinely surprised. "What?"
Vader felt like kicking himself. He hadn't meant to say anything as he broke his fast the next morning. As he ate, Leia had come ponderously down the stairs as only a woman in late-term pregnancy could, and made herself a simple breakfast of caf and pastries. The moment was so familiar and serene, he'd suddenly blurted it out without thinking.
"I…I misspoke. Forgive me." He stood to leave.
The request was softly spoken, but it might as well have been made of chains for how well it stopped his retreat. "I did misspeak," he finally said. "I have no right."
"No, you don't," she agreed without missing a beat. "But you have something I don't. You have memories of my mother. Memories you took from me."
The blow was well delivered and struck true. Vader closed his eyes tightly, trying desperately to clutch at the rage and anger that had driven him for so many years, and given him so much power. He found nothing but emptiness and guilt. Powerless and utterly defeated, he bowed his head. "What do you wish to know?"
"Knowing isn't enough," she said. "I want to see them. Luke and I both."
Vader stood in a corner, watching with a grief and sadness so palpable his heart felt as if it might burst. Nearby, Leia and Luke stood watching as well. Luke had his arm around her shoulder, supporting her as they watched Vader's few precious moments of happiness.
They stood on the patio at Varykino, on Naboo, as a young, freshly wounded Anakin Skywalker leaned over and kissed a young Padme Amidala with a deep, burning passion. It was the single happiest day of Anakin Skywalker's life, and Darth Vader ensured it would not be repeated.
The memory shifted as memories often did. They stood in their apartment—Padma wore a simply sleeping gown that did nothing to hide her bulging belly. Anakin was kneeling down in front of her, between her spread legs, but there was nothing sexual about the position. It was intimate, yes, but not sexual. He had his hands on her bare stomach and his lips on her protruding belly button, and was whispering.
"What did you say?" Padmé asked with a brilliant, happy smile.
"I told her she would be the greatest Jedi ever," he said.
"It's a boy, Ani. Women know these things."
"It'll be perfect, whatever it is," he assured her.
Again the memory flitted, and they were in Padmé's childhood room on Naboo again, before they married. It was a quiet moment, one of the few they actually had to get to know each other. Even then Vader could see how open his younger self was in his desire and admiration. How naïve and stupid he was.
It surprised him, how many good memories he had. Over the past twenty four years, he'd concentrated only on those terrible memories at the end. The anguish helped fuel his rage and the Dark Side. But when Leia ordered him to share his memories through Potter's blasted Pensieve, he shocked himself to find how very many happy memories he had. He and his wife had so very little time together that what time they did share, they spent in a haze of joy.
It hurt. Oh stars, how it hurt to stand there, feet away from Padmé's children, who he'd tortured, and watch everything he'd thrown away when he fell for Palpatine's lies. Finally, he could not stand it anymore and left the Pensieve.
He emerged in the Potter's living room—Leia and Luke remained bent over with their faces in the mists of his memories. Potter himself sat at the bar in the kitchen drinking their vile, homemade beer and popping local nuts into his mouth. The Wookiees evidently discovered the nuts and now traded them to the magicals in return for farm-raised meats and other useful items.
He popped one in his mouth even as he stared at Vader, but for once he thankfully kept his mouth shut. Vader turned and strode from the room, wishing not to escape from the planet, but rather from the horrid agony he felt in his chest. Not for the first time, he wished he'd died in Thrawn's blasted trap!
He didn't even know where his legs had taken him until they stopped of their own accord and he found himself on the edge of the city's wards. His punishment did not allow him to go beyond those wards, not without losing both arms and legs. So he stood, his face ravaged by tears and a storm of emotion so powerful he did not know how to survive it, or even if he wanted to, and stared at the distant mountains.
Without turning around, Vader could feel young Carrie Ross standing nearby. He sensed her worry and confusion in the force. "I am no master, child," he said. His voice sounded thick and weak. "I am not even Jedi. I'm just a foolish old man."
The touch shocked him—it always did to realize that these magical limbs could feel as real as his real limbs. He looked down, amazed, to see Carrie's hand in his. "Master Kota says we should let go of what we lost," she said. She wasn't looking at him, but rather at the distant mountains as well. "No emotion, he says. But I can't just let go of my mummy, or my brother. The monsters came in their armour and their giant walkers, and they killed them, and I was all alone, just me and Peter. Master Kota says I'm supposed to forget about them and just let it go to the Force, but I can't. If I forget about them, then it's like they never existed. And that's not right. It's not right that I ever forget them!"
He felt her own loss, fear and anger as if it were his own, just as he felt her small hand gripping his. He saw the tears running down her cheeks as a mirror to her own, and without even thinking about it he found himself kneeling down and hugging her, just like he often did with Ahsoka, when she first joined him as a Padawan.
"Don't ever forget them," he told her as he hugged her close. "You keep them with you, in your heart. I don't care what Kota says, he and the Jedi are wrong. You hold on to those memories, no matter how much they hurt. Because they make you who you are. You hold on your mother and your brother, and I'll hold on to the memory of my wife. Promise me, Carrie."
Hugging the child did something no amount of meditation could have accomplished. Somehow, in some way, the pain eased from a sharp, stabbing agony to a dull throbbing. He pulled her back and saw her wiping her eyes. "It will be hard," he said to her. "It will hurt, but I know you're strong, Carrie Ross. I can feel the Force in you, and I know you will be strong, won't you."
She sniffed, but nodded firmly. "Then show me. Form One."
Rather than whine or complain, Carrie nodded and took a few steps back to perform Form One. While not perfect, she did it vastly better than the first time he showed her. "Much better," he said. "Much, much better. This is how to move your feet on the third kata…"
The day passed in a blur of teaching—they did not pause for lunch. Soon, the sun set and he sent her off for food. As he did so, he noticed Potter leaning against the main building, still eating those blasted nuts. Without a word, he tossed a bottle to Anakin.
"Your beer tastes vile," he said.
"That's Correllian, shipment just came in," Potter said. "We have a transport company now, owned by the Wizenmeet. We're getting in fresh supplies and making obscene amounts of money."
With a suspicious look, Vader opened it and took a sniff—then a swig. That was real beer.
"So, you're teaching…"
"Shut up, Potter."
"Shut up, Potter."
"Sure thing, Dad."
Vader stomped past him, muttering. He kept the beer, though.
Vader opened his eyes, his whole body stiffening. In the dim light of Avalon's moon, he saw his wife standing at the foot of the bed, staring down at him with a sad smile.
"What is this?" he whispered, though it came out more of a croak than anything.
"Oh my love," she whispered. "How he hurt you."
Vader spun out of the bed, only to stumble into a wall as Padmé stepped around the bed. "Potter, why are you doing this to me?"
"Because you need to say goodbye, my love," Padmé said softly.
Vader came downstairs an hour later. Despite it being in the middle of the night he was not surprised to find Harry Potter sitting in the living room. Potter did not have a beer, this time, but rather tea. Without a word he motioned to the chair opposite the table he sat at and even began pouring.
"It's chamomile—or the local equivalent. Good at night," Potter said.
Vader sat carefully, as if his body were as brittle as his soul felt at that moment. "Did Leia ask you to do that?" he demanded.
Potter snorted. "She was horrified at even the suggestion," he admitted. "No, as smart as that woman is, there are some things she just doesn't get."
Despite Potter's youthful features, the look in his shadowed eyes reflected more of Vader than he liked to admit. "I had to say goodbye to my wife, my first wife, before I could live again," he said softly. "I hated you so damn much, you and your whole buggering empire. You took everything away from me. Not just my world, but my wife and my kids. I'd lived my whole life without family, and the moment I had it all, you took it away, and I hated you for it. I couldn't live for anything but revenge. And then, bugger me, if I didn't meet Leia."
Potter sipped his tea, but never stopped staring at Anakin. "I summoned Ginny, and I asked her to let me live again. I said goodbye, because your Empire never gave me the chance, and I asked her to let me live again. And she did, because those who truly love us want us to be happy. And while I personally think you're a complete, utter, buggering arsehole, for some reason your wife loved you. And you needed to say goodbye to her before you could live again."
"I don't deserve to live."
"That's just it. You don't deserve the easy way out either. Death is easy, any coward can die. You deserve to be punished by facing what you did and what you became. And you're going to spend the rest of your life in penance for your crimes. You're going to train Carrie Ross to be the best Jedi ever, and you're going to train all the other children as well, because bugger me if Rahm Kota isn't the worst teacher of young children I've ever seen. Worse yet, he knows it. You're going to be a grandfather, and you're going to love your kids and grandkids whether you want to or not. And when the time comes, if you're very, very lucky, you will see your wife again."
"I don't think I can." It hurt to admit it, especially to Potter, but the words emerged before Vader could stop them.
"Because you're afraid. You're always afraid. Guess what? So am I. I'm afraid I'll never die, or that I'll become so old I'll become just like Palpatine. Leia's terrified she'll be a bad mother because of all her other duties. Luke's afraid he's not a good enough Jedi because he has feelings for Bill Weasley's daughter, which is stupid because she's a red-headed Veela. Luke would have to be dead not to have some attraction to the girl. Carrie Ross is afraid of being alone again now that Peter is advanced enough in his training not to be there to protect her all the time. You told her that the memories of our loved ones make us who we are? You're only part right. Fear shapes us too. You let your fear shape you into a monster. Now you have a chance to make it shape you back into a man."
He finished his tea. "It's time to decide. Are you Darth Vader? Or are you Anakin Skywalker? One will be a miserable outcast for the rest of his short, useless life. The other will be welcoming grandchildren within the next few weeks and be remembered as a mentor and teacher. Decide, but decide quickly."
Vader sipped his tea. "You're not worthy of Leia," he finally said.
"Who would be? Were you worthy of your wife?"
"No, I wasn't."
"I guess we're just lucky then, aren't we?"
"Yes," Anakin said softly. It felt odd to weep freely in front of someone he hated. "Yes, we are."
Final A/N: For this and my last few stories, I worked with three Beta readers. Teufel1987, JR Richardson and Miles. The three of them all made a huge difference, and I thank them for their work. This is the last story they will have beta read for me, and as with the others, they helped a great deal.
Interestingly enough, JR did not like this last chapter. He pointed out Vader didn't really deserve redemption because of his slaughter of children. He's right too. That said, my emotional perspective of Vader was shaped by the original trilogy. The prequel movies were so bad that I could accept the information, but they had no emotional impact at all. So, as a result my Vader's story arc follows the original trilogy with the concept of redemption, while I acknowledge this doesn't adequately deal with the events of the prequels.
Thank you all for reading. I genuinely liked this story and was happy to share it. While as always I had some haters, I believe the majority of you enjoyed it as well. So, thank you all for reading.