A/N: It's hard to believe this is the last part! Don't forget to leave a note, to let me know what you thought. It's been a long journey since I started this… thanks for hanging along for the ride.
Epilogue: The Cost of Living
It took only one glance at the ceiling - Harry knew immediately that he was in the infirmary. He'd never hear the end of it from Madame Pomfrey, not this time. Of course, he'd take her snide comments over being, well, dead. And for that matter, why wasn't he dead? He was fairly certain it had been his neck that snapped when he landed on the stairs. Was he paralysed, then? He wiggled his toes, and let out a sigh of relief when he could feel them moving.
"Ah, so you are awake," came a voice to his right. Harry opened his eyes and glanced over - it was Granpa, his blue eyes twinkling as he smiled down at him. Granpa was in a chair at Harry's bedside, a thick book open on his lap. "Your father and I have been quite worried, Mr. Snape - not to mention your uncle, aunt, and friends."
Harry rolled onto his side, away from Granpa. The name stung now that he knew it wasn't really his. "Don't you mean Mr. Potter?" he snapped. "Isn't that my name?"
"It was, a very long time ago," Granpa said. He reached over and set his hand on Harry's shoulder; Harry shook him off. "Herodos, please, do stop that. Your name is really your name. It was made legal long ago. You are still you. We are still your family, as we have always been. This doesn't change you. This is just… another layer."
"Why didn't Papa tell me?" Harry whispered. "Or you, or Uncle Re, or Aunt Min. Why didn't anybody say anything?" Harry sat up, ignoring the sudden feeling of nausea. His hands were wrapped in bandages, he finally noticed, and his forehead still ached. "I - I murdered somebody, didn't I."
It wasn't a question. Granpa shook his head and answered anyway. "Professor Quirrell died, Harry, yes. But you didn't murder him. He couldn't touch you - your very skin is filled with the love we all have for you, the love that your mother had for you; love so powerful that two people have given up their lives. He couldn't touch such purity of love, not one cursed as he."
Harry stared down at the bandages, poking at the sheets. "What happened after - after I fell?"
"Severus heard your scream, as did your friend Hermione. It seems she, Mr. Weasley, and Mr. Longbottom were searching the school for you."
"They won the duel?" Harry gasped. He thought for certain Malfoy and Parkinson would know Dark enough curses to win anything.
Granpa winked. "I'll just pretend I didn't hear that." He closed the book and set it aside. "Anyhow, your father found you on the stairs, and Miss Granger found Professor Quirrell, just a pile of ashes. You'd broken several bones, but it's nothing Poppy hadn't seen before. She treated Charlie Weasley's Quidditch injuries, after all - a more accident-prone youth I've never met. And now, you are awake."
"And Voldemort?" Harry asked. "When I - killed Quirrell, did he die, too? Is he gone?"
"Not gone, no," Granpa said, the barest hint of a frown crossing his face. "No, I'm afraid your part in all this is not done… He is weakened again, and it may be years before he can find another host. And… there are other ways for him to regain his strength; Darker ways. But for now, he is beyond all our powers."
Harry tried to vault out of bed, suddenly remembering his quest. "The Philosopher's Stone! Granpa, the Slytherins - they were trying to get it, to take it to their parents, and one of them might give it to Voldemort -"
Granpa grabbed Harry's shoulders and pushed him back into bed. "Calm, my boy. It's all been taken care of. The stone has been destroyed… which is what I should've done months ago. Nic agrees it is all for the best. But you were out trying to protect it, even when you knew a troll was loose?"
"Er - not protect it," Harry admitted, blushing. "Destroy it. We had to make sure Voldemort could never touch it."
"Dear boy," Granpa laughed, "sometimes I do believe you have more sense than I!" Granpa patted his head, and Harry realized he had a bandage wrapped around it.
Harry held up his hands. "What happened? Why did my head - my scar - hurt whenever Quirrell was around?"
"Your hands were burned when you burned Quirrell… and as for your scar? You do know when it was given to you, correct?" Harry nodded and pressed his hand to the bandages on his forehead. "I think that it's a very special curse scar, Harry. I think when Voldemort marked you, he left you a bit of a connection to him. Whenever Quirrell walked by, the host for Voldemort's essence, the scar reacted. A very useful too, I do believe… especially considering who you are."
Harry sighed. "He'll be after me, won't he."
"Yes, he will," Granpa said. "And things will not be easy. I don't know how it was that the glamour hiding your scar was broken - it was quite a powerful piece of magic - but, unless you wan't me to Obliviate the whole of the school, the story has already broken."
"It was the Slytherins," Harry said. "Malfoy, Parkinson, Crabbe and Goyle. Hermione, Neville, Ron, and I were hidden under a chameleon charm, going up to destroy the stone. Our footsteps were dampened, but they could hear our clothes rustling. They all cast finite incantatem at the same time. I was caught in the cross-fire."
"Mmm. I hadn't thought of the possibility of amplified spells… Ahh, but what's done is done. You know who you are, now."
Harry winced and grasped at the questions he wanted to ask - there were hundreds, so many he couldn't choose. "Why did Voldemort kill my mum?" he asked finally. "Why did he choose us?"
Granpa sighed. "That is something I can't tell you, not yet. When it is time, Herodos… Not even your father knows the answer to that one."
"Are there any other secrets, then?" Harry said. "I feel like everything has been kept from me, like what I'm living is just a lie."
"There are so many secrets…" Granpa said. He looked old, then, the oldest Harry could remember. "They will be revealed in their own time, Herodos. For now… for now, your papa will want to see you."
Harry wondered how he did it - before he could so much as open his mouth with demands for more answer, the infirmary door was flung open, and Papa came dashing through. There were deep circles under his wild eyes, and the lines his face seemed to have deepened over the past hours. "Harry," he said, almost reverently. He paused in the doorway, drinking in the sight of his son, before he ran across the room and pulled the boy into his arms. "Oh, Merlin - when I heard you scream, when I saw you on the stairs, I thought you were dead -"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry demanded. "Why did you make me find it all out for myself?"
Papa kissed the top of Harry's head, and Harry could see the guilt he felt reflected on his face. "I'm so sorry - ever so sorry. If people had known, we'd have been in danger anywhere we went. Death Eaters would be after us, the old followers of the Dark Lord. And reporters - we would be hounded every day of our lives. It's already begun. The Daily Prophet is downstairs; some student owled his parents. I didn't want this for you. I wanted you to be safe and happy. After the way your aunt treated you… I didn't want you to have to grow up like me."
"I am happy," Harry said. "And I was safe."
"Someday you'll understand, then," Papa said. "Maybe not now - but someday, when you have a son of your own."
Harry didn't have an answer for that. Instead, he buried his face in his father's robe, and let Papa hold him.
After another night in the infirmary, Harry was finally allowed to return to Gryffindor Tower. The bandages were still wrapped around his hands, but the one on his forehead was gone. He felt naked as he followed Papa down the hall, with Uncle Re helping him to stand.
The students stopped as he passed by. Some pointed, others simply stared. "It's him," he heard someone whisper, "it's Harry Potter!"
He kept himself from covering the scar with his hand, but only barely. Malfoy and his goons were clustered by the bottom of the staircase, and they all levelled glares as he passed by - glares, not at Harry, but at Papa. He hadn't seen any Gryffindors, yet, only Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and the Slytherins by the stairs.
Where were his friends? Where were Hermione, Neville, and Ron? Would they still be friends, when they knew he was dangerous? Uncle Re helped him up the stairs, and Harry heard Papa tell the Fat Lady the password. The portrait swung open, and Papa stood aside. Harry looked up.
They were all there - all the Gryffindors he knew by name, and some he didn't. A banner was stretched across the Common Room proclaiming "Get Well Soon, Harry!" in large, blinking letters.
Harry gasped and looked over at Uncle Re. "But I thought - I thought they didn't know about the stone -"
"It was a secret, yes," Uncle Re said, grinning, "which means that the whole school knows…"
Hermione and Ron rushed forward to help Harry across the threshhold, and Uncle Re backed off. "Welcome home, mate!" Ron said. "It's been boring up here!"
"We have so much to catch you up on!" Hermione exclaimed. "You've missed three whole days of class, and everyone was so worried. We thought you'd broken your neck in the fall!"
Neville came over, holding a card in his hand. "Here, mate. We thought you'd like to see this, too," he said. His hands were stained with chocolate, and Harry had a terrible feeling about just what it was.
He was right. Neville set a Chocolate Frog card into his hand, very carefully. On the front, his own face stared back at him. His photographed self was trying to hide at the edge of the picture but, on his tiny forehead, Harry could make out the lightning bolt scar. The name on the card was changed, too - rather than simply saying "Harry Potter," another bit had been added: "Harry Potter (Herodos Iamus Snape)."
Harry winced. "I'd like to go upstairs, please."
Hermione and Ron helped him, and Neville cleared the way. The other Gryffindors watched him go, looking to be just as in awe as the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Seamus and Dean gave strained smiles as he passed by.
And then, finally, he was in his room. Neville shut out the sounds of the Common Room, and Hermione helped him to sit down on his bed. Ron sat next to him and pulled out his Transfiguration book. "Alright. Yesterday in class, we covered larger inanimate transfigurations, like making furnature from a -"
"You don't want to ask me about it?" Harry blurted. "You don't want to know why I lied? You're - you're still my friends?"
"Of course we are!" Hermione sounded scandalized.
Neville sat too, at the end of Harry's bed, and reached over to pull the Chocolate Frog card from his hand. He tossed it over onto Seamus' bed. "We don't care what your name really is. Doesn't matter. We're your friends, and you're going to have to put up with us."
"But you're in danger, because of me," Harry argued. "Voldemort might come back at any moment, as powerful as ever. I'll be his first target."
"He'll have to get through us first," Ron said threateningly. "Just ignore those louts downstairs. They'll get over it soon enough."
Hermione shrugged. "You'll tell us when you're ready. Right now, we're talking about Transfiguration, because you have days to catch up on… now, we Transfigured chairs to tables, then tables to trunks…"
Harry didn't hear what she said next. He slowly looked from face to face. They were his friends, and they'd stay that way. He reached up and touched his scar.
"Harry," Hermione scolded, "don't touch it, you'll only inflame it more. Are you even listening to me?"
"Yes," he said quietly. "Yes, I am now."