You're never, ever going to believe it.
It finished it. I finally finished it. And I am ridiculously pleased.
This is how it's going to work- once I can get to the file, I will be deleting the breakfast scene from chapter 35, making that chapter a short one. Just after the bit where Arthur is announced as minister, this next chapter will pick up.
Instead of making everyone sit through loads and loads of names and thank-yous, I'm going to save that bit for the last, and present you with the end of the story.
It has been a pleasure.
It was pitch black; the dark sky contained no stars with which to light the courtyard. At a time when most of the wizarding world was sleeping, a few hundred wizards and witches stood side-by-side, all silent at the sight they held before them and the ceremony that was to come. Three hundred rain-soaked black hats and robes were still as they faced the forbidden forest, all waiting for the small presentation and incantation to begin.
It had been raining for hours, and the gray clouds were a perfect match to the somewhat somber atmosphere that had been hanging around the castle. Nobody had been looking forward to this night. Yes, it would bring an end to a chapter in everyone's lives, Harry's most certainly included, but it also brought a small amount of sadness and fear into the hearts of many. This was a night of celebration, but it was also a night of mourning and remembrance.
This was the night that they were finally going to put Voldemort to rest.
A funeral pyre had been placed just before the border between the forbidden forest and the Hogwarts courtyard. Made of wood, with the snakelike body lying on top, the pyre was a frightful sight.
Harry pushed back long, wet strands of hair away from his face, where the wind had knocked them out of place. He turned and squinted toward the castle, where Dumbledore should have been emerging from at any moment. So far, though, there was no sign of the old headmaster, and Harry settled in to wait.
The air was thick and the grass was sopping beneath his feet, soaking through his shoes and making his feet wet. He could tell that nearly everyone there was in the same boat, except for the few who had managed extremely advanced waterproof charms. His potions professor, of course, was among these few.
Harry scowled at said professor, who smirked slightly before bowing his head once again in a subtle request for privacy.
This 'funeral' meant much more for Snape than it did for Harry, despite its importance to the younger boy. Severus's pain was much stronger, and much less bearable. Not only had he lost Lily, but he had experienced life as a Death Eater and had watched as old friends had succumbed to the dark and died for it. He would have been one of them, if not for the wisdom of an old man who had freed him and given him another chance.
If anyone had changed through this war, it had been Snape. The presence of the young man at his side attested to that fact. Severus was no longer a spy, no longer a Death Eater. Free from at least one of the manipulative old men who controlled his life. About the other..
The other, clad in flowing black robes (an odd color on Dumbledore, Severus noted absently), was now making his way around the crowd to the front, by the pyre. He and Harry would be performing the final incantation to set the body on fire together, as it was Harry who had finally conquered the Dark Lord. But it was Dumbledore who would address the crowd and perform the small ceremony in honor of those who had died for their cause, and in remembrance of those whom Voldemort had managed to kill, in this war and the last.
Dumbledore had reached the front, and he nodded to Harry, who stepped forward to stand just behind him, looking older and too wise for his meager fifteen years.
With two of the most powerful wizards in the world standing before them, the crowd straightened up and looked forward, the respect obvious in the gloomy night air. Even the redheads were silent and respectful on this night, their pranks and jokes put away for once. Hair that had once been bushy was now straight as the rain poured down upon them, and the head on which it lay was turned to the front, eyes only on Harry.
Dumbledore scanned the crowd once and opened his mouth to speak, his gravelly voice filling the silence.
"Welcome friends, family, loved ones. We're here tonight to put an end to many years of war, terror, and despair. We're here to say goodbye to the old, and to put the past away so we can begin anew. All of us have born the hurts and sacrifices that these last two decades have forced upon us, and now we can start over. We can rebuild our lives, secure in the knowledge that what is gone is gone, and will never be back again."
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Severus shivered as the wind swept across his back. Rain was starting to get past his defenses now, slowly dampening his long hair.
"Tonight, we remember those who died."
Snape snapped his eyes closed. This would be the hardest part of the ceremony, if not for everybody, then at least for him.
Harry was the first to speak. "Cedric Diggory."
There was silence for a time. "Frank Longbottom," came the next anguished murmur.
"Lily Potter," Severus whispered.
"Benjy Fenwick," came a ghastly voice from behind.
Severus put a hand on his godson's shoulder.
All of their voices joined in a softly spoken chorus of words, names, and soft cries, each a testament to the strength of the survivors and an honor unto those whose names were spoken. From everywhere, the names of the dead came forth, to his left and to his right, front and behind, until all that Severus could hear was the blending of mournful voices unlike anything he had ever heard before.
A colorful mist spun in circles directly in front of Harry, and it got brighter with every name spoken. Finally, with a last, desperate sigh, the mist abated, leaving its witnesses breathless with tears and an odd, deep sense of satisfaction. It was done, then. The dead had been taken home.
Albus looked solemnly out into the crowd, silently asking for attention once again.
"There is only one more thing I must ask of you tonight," he said softly, while beckoning to Harry to step up beside him. "I ask you to be our witnesses not only to what has already transpired here, but to this last, meaningful act, which will finally put all of this behind us."
"What you see before you is the corpse of the man who brought us here. It was he who put us in this position of grief," Harry added. "And as his soul has already been shattered, it is only fitting that his body be dealt with, as well."
Harry looked at Dumbledore, who nodded back at him. With everyone watching, as the thunder continued in the background, Harry and Albus said the words that lit the flame, and destroyed Voldemort forever.
And as Severus and Harry's eyes connected, with the orange flames reflecting off of Harry's wet skin, each of them knew that it was really, truly over.
And they both would be okay.
And that's the end. I am having difficulty believing that it's actually over!
Goodness, there are so many people to thank!! First of all, a blanket statement- thank you to everyone who reviewed, either in the beginning or later, as the story progressed. I was absolutely floored by the amount of feedback I got concerning this story, and I love all of you who helped me get off the ground.
For chapter 35… thanks to:
Madame Moony, Isa, anne, ckat44, Anarane Anwamane, furies, cass, romm, alex, moon-spirit, kochan mikono, serpent of light, piggie, poetbrit, Adenara Yatman, Calani, futagoakuma-tenshi02, gossipgirl, oO-Innocent Dreamer-Oo, iniysa, c.r, avadapad, pj, angeldust125, axaniachic, EriEka127, ckat44, ears91, toria, anon, Jay, dyingangel1, shadow adams, adge9631, Eizoku, mikee, lady macbeth, R.I. Red, Winston Jeremiah Ashcroft III, NotQuiteFamous, Nilboriel, Kemenran, MarsMoonStar, Jordan, and stayblue.
candledot and Shadow Adams- thank you for your patience!
fnxmoon- thank you for sticking with me, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have!
Coconut Watcher- I'm glad I could get you interested in the Severitus stories!
Lady Lightning- thank you so much for keeping up with me and always reviewing. You've been a constant- thanks!
Charma1219- another constant! I hope you liked it!
Corgi1- well, I know it's been a while, but if you still have rampant plot bunnies that you need to get rid of, I'm all ears!
Athenakitty- thank you for inspiring and challenging my muse!
Xirleb70- what can I say? From battles with a door to overabounding cheerfulness, your reviews always make me smile. Thanks!
MedNar- I love talking with you on lj. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!
DhRaArCrOy fan- I love your screen name. It took me a while to get it (ha!) but I love it!
Artful dodger- ack, I didn't like that last chapter either, although some people seemed to. Thank you for your detailed reviews; they are always magnificent and are an excellent spirit-booster.
Herald-Mage Brianna- thank you! I'm honored!
R.I. Red- thanks for being my guinea pig.. hehe…
Xikum- I love you and you were my hero for those couple of chapters that I remembered to send for you to beta. * sheepish grin * I hope you liked the story!
Enahma: thanks for the inspiration! You got me writing again!
EriEka127- a sequel? Well, we'll have to wait and see. I'll be starting to work on sleep of the dead for a while, but.. it could happen. No promises, though.
AHHH!!! I love you all and THANK YOU!!!!