Chapter Twenty-seven


He sat in the high-backed chair by the fire, watching the flames and drinking brandy. He seemed only to leave the chair at meal times, when he could manage to eat, and to sleep, to toss restlessly in his bed at night. The paintings, the leering smiles and staring eyes, had been covered, but he swore that he could still feel them all looking at him through the cloth shrouds in the dimly lit room. He entertained no guests. He visited no one. His manor was his prison, though the imprisonment was self-imposed.

The door behind him opened with a soft sound. Tiny feet slapped against the floor as they approached.

"Master is having mail this morning." said a sad and squeaking voice next to his chair.

Gilderoy glanced down at faithful Bell, who was holding a newspaper in her hands. He took it from her and murmured his thanks, laying it upon his lap and returning his gaze to the fire. Bell padded from the room without another word.

It was some time before he looked at the paper. He was curious. He didn't regularly receive The Daily Prophet, so someone must have sent it to him. There was a momentary pain as he remembered the last message, the last anything, that had been delivered to Lockhart Manor.

"Dear Gilderoy, I wanted to write to you and tell you that I'm all right. You didn't hurt me. And I still love you. And I miss you. I miss you more than anything. Can we make amends? Yours, Harry."

That had been years and years ago, and he had been too ashamed to reply. His memories were intact and complete, but the man who had quested after celebrity and undeserved fame and recognition had perished, leaving only the broken man who had loved Harry with all his imperfect heart and wounded soul. And that man could not bear what he had done, or tried to do, to his young lover.

Gilderoy looked at the front page of the newspaper with only vague interest. Then he saw the picture of Harry, so much older and perhaps not quite as happy as he always remembered him, and title of the small article beneath the picture. The brandy glass, nearly empty, slipped from his fingers and shattered upon the floor.

"Legendary Harry Potter dying, Ministry sources reveal."

Harry, having finally managed after some years of effort to get the paper delivered to his remote cottage, sat reading the news article that morning too. He chuckled at the mention of his heroic defeat of Lord Voldemort and skimmed the few lines about his one year of Quidditch on the national team. He smiled at the mention of his memoirs, The Schooling of a Wizard, which Remus had informed him long ago was required reading in both introductory Defense Against the Dark Arts classes and advanced Magical History. The article mentioned in passing his ten successful years as the manager of the Chudley Cannons. Ron Weasley had been so ecstatic when he took the job. Harry had loved the team, and they attributed their five league championships to his skill and encouragement.

There was not a single word about his love life in the article, and for that he was grateful. Nothing about his turbulent lover affair with Gilderoy Lockhart, noted fraud and rumored recluse. But it had happened so long ago. Why should anyone else remember it? Harry looked at the picture of them on the mantel. He had never had the heart to remove it. Remus had begged him to. He had begged Harry to get on with his life, and Harry felt that he had done that, but Remus, he knew, meant that he should find another lover, a replacement for the love lost. But Harry couldn't do it, not that he hadn't had opportunity. Arnie Blackwood, for instance, was still keen on him then and remained so for years.

Now he was older and his rather colorful life was coming to a close. Everyone knew it, though Harry wasn't sure how they had found out. It didn't matter. He gave up the idea that his life could ever be private after he had published the memoirs. He sighed softly and sipped his morning tea, which had been supplemented with a potion to ease the pain. Nothing to chase away the exhaustion anymore. It was too pervasive. He had lost too much of himself in the famed and epic duel between good and evil.

Sirius and Remus had visited him the day before. They were gloriously happy and hardly showing their years. Remus was deputy headmaster at Hogwarts and the longest serving Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in two hundred years while his lover served as transfigurations' professor and the head of Gryffindor House. They had certainly come a long way. And Harry was immensely proud of them. The feeling was quite mutual. And they looked at Harry as nothing less than their own son.

But he could see the sadness in their eyes brought on by the knowledge that he would leave the world long before them. They were not unprepared, but it was hard on both of them, for when Harry was gone, they would be alone, save only for each other.

And Harry loved them both very dearly. That was why he had sent them back to the castle the night before, knowing that the end was very near. Though Sirius was strangely silent on the matter, Remus had wanted him to go to the hospital to die in greater comfort or failing that for them to stay with him until the end, the school, their classes, everything else be damned. Harry couldn't allow that. He had spent enough of his life alone to know that when the end came, he would have to face it alone as well. So he sent them back to their beloved school with one last embrace and very few tears.

Harry folded up on the newspaper and laid it aside, closing his eyes as he sat upon his worn couch and listened to the crackling blaze in the fireplace.

"Soon." he thought.

There was a soft popping sound in the kitchen. Harry raised his eyelids slowly. He was very sleepy, but the pain had receded. The swish of fabric and heavy footsteps caused him to turn his head. Had Sirius or Remus come to stay with him? His eyes widened when he saw who had come to join him.

Standing in his kitchen was someone that Harry had not seen once in almost fifteen years. His blond hair was streaked with white, turning from wheat-of-the-fields gold to a paler color. His blue eyes were watery, but in their expression was uneasiness and hesitance, and an odd sort of tainted innocence. He smiled softly and wiped one eye with the back of his hand. Gilderoy Lockhart had returned.

"You ... You can send me away, Harry. I know I've no right to be here, especially now. No right at all. But I just had to see you one last time." said Gilderoy, cautiously drawing nearer.

"Gilderoy, you could have come back anytime you wanted. I seem to remember sending you a letter to that effect." said Harry, motioning for him to come closer.

"I was ... am ashamed. I betrayed you." said Gilderoy, kneeling.

Harry ran his fingers through Gilderoy's hair and chuckled sadly, "I forgave you. I still forgive you, Gilderoy."

"I know, though I don't understand how ..." he said. "And now it's too late."

"Just ... stay with me then. Until this is over." said Harry.

"And then?"

"Go out dancing for me?"

"I don't think ..."

"You know what I mean, Gilderoy. You don't have to give up your life ... You never did."

"But without you, Harry ..."

"Hush. I don't want to die knowing that you'll always be unhappy. Give me that at least, won't you?"

"I will try." said Gilderoy, wiping the tears from his eyes.

Harry closed his eyes and smiled softly as he touched Gilderoy's cheek.

"Good." he murmured. "I was worried."

"You don't have to worry about me, Harry." he said, taking his hand and kissing it.

But Harry didn't answer him.

~ A Year Later ~

Three figures stood beneath a pair of umbrellas in a cemetery, staring down at bunches of flowers piled before a rather ordinary grave stone whereupon the name Harry Potter was written. The rain was icy cold, but rather light, and the drab sky made the flowers appear all the more brilliant. One of the men, a blond in his late fifties, whose face was marked by much care and perhaps mild idiocy, leaned down a placed a single rose with the other flowers. The other two, arms around one another beneath their umbrella, exchanged tearful glances, even after a year.

"I sent you that newspaper, you know. The closer the end got, the more Harry talked about you and how he wished you were still with him." said a dark-hared, older gentleman with a growl in his voice.

"I had wondered, Sirius." said Gilderoy, wiping a few raindrops from his face.

"I never even knew about the letter he wrote us until it arrived three days after the funeral." said Sirius, glancing at his gray-hared lover.

"He asked us to forgive you and to still consider you a part of his family. Harry had wanted someone to see that you were taken care of after he was gone. Even after fifteen years. I had never imagined ..." said Remus, huddling closer to Sirius.

"I did ... okay on my own." sniffed Gilderoy untruthfully.

"That was just Harry's way. He didn't want to leave anything to chance when he was gone." said Sirius, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"And you both know that Harry would never have wanted us to mope around his grave all day. Let's go." said Remus.

Gilderoy kissed his gloved finger tips and touched the stone, a tear rolling down his cheek as he nodded in agreement.

"Good-bye, love." he whispered.

The End


A/N: So that's the alternate ending. It was technically written first (if anyone wants to know).

shadowycat: I never thought of something actually happening to Gilderoy (sort of a 'may fortune favor the foolish' thing). Interesting. I considered extending the story, but I just don't have any more ideas that follow this plot line (or rather, the happy-ending plot line). I usually don't write things that are longer than 25,000 words. Short attention span I guess. This is the first time in a while that I have had indecision about an ending (well, serious indecision anyway). Thank you for always taking the time to review!

catspook: I don't think there will be a sequel, but thanks for asking.