Harry slowly opened his eyes. All he saw was whiteness, as blank and pure as a field of snow. But he could feel cloth under his hands, and the smell that entered his nostrils was familiar. I must be in the hospital wing, he thought, and tried to sit up, but found that the effort excruciating enough to make him fall back unceremoniously onto his pillow.
He heard the sound of curtains being drawn, and—
"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed. "You're awake!"
Harry opened and closed his mouth like a fish on land before his face broke into a disbelieving smile. "Hermione? You're—are you—"
"I'm me again," Hermione finished cheerfully. "Finally. It's awful being controlled by someone else. It's like I'm stuck in my body, with someone else forcing words into my mouth and making me do things." She paused. "I—well, Cinna forced me to testify against you, but… I didn't mean a single word of it, and I wish I had fought harder—"
"It's all right," Harry interrupted, smiling. "I… as long as you're okay now."
"I've Professor Snape to thank," Hermione said. "He brewed me a potion earlier today, and I feel…" She sighed blissfully. Then she added thoughtfully, "I'll need to buy your dad a present."
"Dad?" Harry blurted. "I—well, I never thought of calling him dad." Hermione laughed, her voice more carefree than Harry could remember. He smiled, listening to her laughter, but he became somber again as memory returned. He tried to force the words to form. "I don't remember all that happened," he said slowly, "but is Voldemort…"
"Voldemort is dead," Hermione said gently. "You did it. You—ended him."
Ended. Voldemort. Dead. It took Harry a full moment to digest the words, to truly embrace the notion. I managed it after all, he thought with an almost giddy feeling bubbling through him. I did it. The Prophecy is fulfilled. Voldemort is gone. He blinked stupidly and couldn't suppress a smile.
"It's mind-boggling, isn't it?" said Hermione, sounding cheerful once more. "And you did it in the Great Hall, right in front of everyone. I didn't know how to feel at first, partly because I was still stuck in Cinna's magic, but then I became so happy that I became myself for a moment or two before your dad fed me that potion."
Harry wondered if Hermione was going to make a habit of calling Snape his 'dad.' He didn't think he'd ever get used to it. "But how did I do it?" Harry asked a moment later. "He was a Dementor the last I remember. How did I—end him?" And the Horcruxes, he thought. What about them?
"It was your Patronus," Hermione said. She paused a moment before continuing. "There aren't any more Dementors in the world, Harry. Your Patronus made them disappear."
Harry turned his face and gazed dumbly, blindly in Hermione's direction. "What?"
"After you performed Expecto Patronum, the Dementors all vanished," Hermione explained. "Nobody's seen them since. Some people think they may be hiding, but ever since what you did, nobody's caught sight of even one."
It was, perhaps, even more mind-boggling than the fact that Voldemort was gone. He, Harry, had somehow managed to get rid of all the Dementors in the world by using his Patronus, which he was sure wasn't supposed to accomplish such a feat. It was… how was it even possible?
"But I don't understand," Harry said. "How could my Patronus have destroyed them?"
"I don't know, and, well"—Hermione shifted—"we can't ask Dumbledore anymore, can we?"
"No," Harry said. "We can't. But it's—it's—"
"Incredible, I know," said Hermione. "They'll be revising all the Dark Arts books after this. Well, besides putting in everything about you having defeated the most terrible Dark Lord ever and then eradicated the most terrible Dark creatures to roam the Earth…"
Harry groaned, and Hermione laughed. But underneath, Harry felt himself buoyed on a wave of disbelieving wonderment and relief. The Dementors are gone, he thought. They're gone. "What happened after the Dementors disappeared?"
"Then you fainted," Hermione said matter-of-factly, "and everyone was staring blankly at where the Dementors—and Voldemort—had been. But just as everyone dared to move again, Caius Cinna ran up to you and snarled something about you being Dumbledore's boy. Then he—tried to throttle you. It was horrible, Harry. He looked absolutely bloodthirsty."
"Oh…" said Harry, feeling at his neck. "That can't have been good." Harry tried to imagine what Cinna in a murderous rage must have looked and sounded like. The look of smugness had been creepy enough. "I'm not dead, obviously," said Harry. "So… what happened?"
"Neville saved your life," Hermione said. "He jumped forward and tried to Stupefy Cinna."
Neville, thought Harry, remembering the Gryffindor's stuttering voice in the courtroom, remembering the dream (or vision?) he had had in the cell, of Neville's pale face and the splash of blood on white sheets. I hope his grandmother isn't giving him a difficult time, thought Harry. She had better not, a voice in his mind hissed fiercely. "Did it work?"
"It seemed to work halfway, which was much more than what the Death Eaters managed."
"Yes—I forgot, that was before you somehow tumbled out of a portrait. You'll have to tell me, later, how on Earth you managed to do that."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, though he himself wasn't too sure. "But what happened afterwards?"
"Cinna swept Neville aside, but it wasn't nearly as powerful a move as before, when Cinna had been fighting the Death Eaters. Cinna staggered up and wrapped his hands around your neck again, but then your dad—Professor Snape—had got up, and he literally threw himself at Cinna, and they ended up in a heap on the floor."
"Then?" Harry prompted, wondering why Hermione had paused.
"Then Professor Snape got out his own wand and pointed it at Cinna. But Cinna stopped moving, and after your dad backed off, Cinna began to—change. His face got all sunken in, and he looked so old, like an ancient man. And then the clothes he had been wearing crumbled into dust, and when the dust fell away, he turned into a shriveled corpse." Harry could almost feel Hermione shudder. "It was… disgusting. He looked as though he'd been dead for absolute years."
A shriveled corpse… Immediately Harry had the image of a Dementor's hand, shriveled and clammy and skeletal. Was that what Cinna had become?
"And then your father commanded everyone to get out of the way, and he scooped you up in his arms, and he carried you here to the hospital wing—or I'm assuming he took you here, I was still paralyzed, and nobody noticed for the longest time I was just sitting there—"
"He carried me here?" Harry blurted out, feeling his face flush.
"He—" Hermione stopped. "Good evening, Professor Snape."
Harry felt even more blood flooding into his face. He tried to maintain a calm expression as he said, "Good evening…" He stopped. Father? Professor?
"I'll see you later, Harry," Hermione said, excused herself, and left, her footsteps fading away down the hospital wing.
Snape cleared his throat and lowered himself in the seat Hermione had been in. "Good evening." A pause. "Harry."
Harry smiled involuntarily. It was like an unspoken permission. "Father," he said and shifted in his bed. "So… Is Voldemort… dead?"
"As far as we can tell, yes."
"But what about the Horcruxes? Unless you—or someone—managed to destroy them all beforehand, Voldemort should still be alive and floating somewhere."
Snape moved, as though to take something out of his robes. "The Horcruxes have lost their power," he said softly. "Here, take this," he said, pressing something round and metallic into Harry's palm. "It is yours by right."
Harry fingered the object, his mind still reeling from the contact of his father's hand with his own. "What is this?" he said at last.
"An object that used to be a Horcrux, and one of the heirlooms of the Slytherin line," said Snape. "It was found, of all places, in the old Gringotts vault of the Black family."
"Black—you mean…" He wanted to say Sirius, but he bit his tongue.
"Yes, Sirius Black," Snape finished, and his voice was only a little tight. "His, and now your, vault."
Harry ran his thumb over the surface. There was a raised 'S' on one side, and, feeling one end of it, he realized that the 'S' was formed from a snake. A pang stabbed through his heart and tied a knot in his throat as he remembered the snake, which, had it been wound around his neck, would surely be lecturing him on the worth of this invaluable heirloom. Harry cleared his throat. "How did it get there? Did Voldemort mean to hide it there?"
"No," said Snape. "It was, in Dumbledore's opinion, highly unlikely that Voldemort should hide so valuable a thing in so mundane a place. And, even if he had planned to originally, he would have known by then that Sirius Black was a threat, and might easily take the Horcrux if he happened to wander into his family vault."
"Then how did it get there?" Harry asked, pressing at the edges of the object. Suddenly it opened, and Harry nearly dropped it in surprise. "It's—it's a locket."
"Yes, indeed it is," said Snape in a dryly amused tone.
"But how did it end up in the Black vault? And how did you know to look for it there?"
"We didn't—not specifically. Mundungus Fletcher and I went down to make sure the vault was secure, for it was bound to contain certain objects that the Dark Lord would have been most eager to obtain." He stopped. "That—Voldemort would have been most eager to obtain."
Harry smiled involuntarily. "Let me guess—Mundungus left with heavier pockets than when he entered, and you fished out this locket despite his earnest protests."
"Ah. I see that there is something in that skull of yours."
Harry laughed aloud. It felt wonderful to laugh; he couldn't remember the last time before Voldemort's death that he had let joy come out so openly. "But how did it end up in the vault in the first place?"
"It probably was not your godfather," Snape replied. "The locket was hidden rather haphazardly under a set of silver goblets. If Black—your godfather, I mean—had thought it important enough to hide, he would undoubtedly have showed it to Dumbledore. He was always very loyal, just like the—" He broke off and shifted slightly.
"So it wasn't Sirius," Harry said firmly, "then who was it?"
"Regulus Acamar Black."
"Sirius's brother? The one who tried to be a Death Eater but got killed when he tried to back out?"
"Yes," said Snape gravely, and something in his voice caught Harry's attention. Perhaps he's remembering the past, thought Harry. "It's certainly possible that Regulus should have stolen one of the Horcruxes before he died, a last, foolish attempt. In any case, the sliver of Voldemort's soul that had once been in that locket is there no more."
Harry ran his fingers over the inside of the locket. I wish I could see, Harry thought wistfully. "How?"
"We can only conjecture," Snape replied, "but it was, perhaps, the nature of the ieiunita. A Dementor is really just a vacuum, a lack of the soul, and in becoming the ieiunita, halfway between mortal and Dementor, Voldemort had connected his the parts of his soul in a way that undid all he had planned in the creation of his Horcruxes."
"And then," Harry continued, "by becoming a Dementor, his—he Kissed his own soul, is that it? All the pieces of his soul went down the drain that was his Dementor nature."
"Yes," Snape said, and there was something new in his voice, something that sounded almost like pride. Harry had to work hard not to grin like an idiot. So really, he thought, Voldemort undid himself. I just helped him on his way.
He remembered the taunts Voldemort had hissed just moments before his death. You spoke more truly than you knew, thought Harry. Slytherin did leave those spells for you. He did plan for you to be an ieiunita, so that the pieces of your soul could once more be inextricably linked.
But did Slytherin see that Caius Cinna would give me the Dementor's cloak? Harry wondered. And the Patronus I made: was it due to my ancestor's gift that it could destroy the Dementors? Did Slytherin foresee that, too?
I wonder what shape my Patronus took.
"There will be another hearing for Dumbledore's death," Snape said, "and after that, I'm afraid, you'll have your long awaited hearing with the Dursleys."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "Are they still stuck in Grimmauld Place? Petunia and Dudley?"
"Yes," said Snape, "and they were… most reluctant at the prospect of being present in a wizard-run court." Harry could hear a tone of vindictive satisfaction in his father's voice. "I, of course, enlightened them on the luxurious conditions of the Ministry holding cells and the new prison on the Isle of Drear."
"Yeah," Harry said, smiling weakly. He wondered if the memory of Petunia standing there and letting him die would ever fade. "I'm sure they're looking forward to it."
"Most definitely," Snape said, standing up. "I have too many matters to attend to, Harry, though I wish I could stay longer…" He cleared his throat. "Minerva's finally awake, after whatever spell Cinna put on her in the first attack faded. But now, I have the questionable pleasure of assuming the position of deputy headmaster."
Harry smiled. No matter how much he tried hiding it under his layers of sarcasm, Snape sounded pleased. "Should I say congratulations or should I wish you luck before you get mobbed by reporters?"
"I think you should reserve all the luck for yourself. There's an army of reporters camped outside the hospital wing."
Harry groaned, and Snape chuckled.
"Father," Harry called as Snape began to leave.
Harry took a deep breath before speaking. "I… you asked me before, and I said no, but—would it be feasible that I live in the dungeons?"
"I'm sure that can be arranged," Snape said in his normal, cool tone; and this time, Harry let the grin of joy spread over his entire face.
It was the first snowfall of winter. Harry lifted his face to the sky and smiled blindly at the drifting snowflakes. They fell softly on his skin and melted away as gently as they came. Before him he could hear the lapping of the lake against the shore, and farther off, there was a splash. The giant squid, Harry thought, trying to piece together enough memories to recall what it had looked like. There were so many things he was beginning to forget.
He heard Hermione's footsteps long before she spoke. "Hey."
"Hey," he said, shifting aside so she could sit next to him.
"It's the first snow," she murmured, bumping her shoulder against his as she settled on the grass. "Funny, I thought the giant squid would go in hibernation already."
"It goes in hibernation?"
"Yes, didn't you know? It said so in Hogwarts, a History."
Hermione moved her legs into a more comfortable position. "Congratulations on the rulings. You got through both of them in one day. I don't think I'd have managed that."
He shrugged. "I wanted to get them over with," he said. The Ministry had obviously been very eager to glance over evidence of their mistakes, for, at his and Snape's suggestion, the two trials had been held on the same day, one in the morning and one at night.
"I'm glad I managed to testify as myself, and that Neville got to testify without his grandmother," said Hermione. "And Luna, without Cinna making her—without him making everyone not believe her."
"I should thank Luna for standing up for me twice," said Harry, "she's just as brave as any Gryffindor." Snape had told him a few days ago everything he had missed, including all that had happened during the first trial after he had taken the Veritaserum. Harry, in turn, had told him about the Chamber of Secrets, of his time in the portraits, of the frigid cell and the Dementor's cloak.
"How did you manage to escape those reporters?" Hermione asked. "You got back here even before I did."
Harry smiled slightly. "Back paths. And bodyguards." The Weasley siblings—Bill, Fred, and George—had gathered around him like a phalanx while Tonks led them out through one of the side doors. They had also given him a box of Mrs. Weasley's biscuits, and a snake fang from Egypt for his father. I suppose they're trying to make up for Ron, Harry thought. I wish I could tell them that they didn't have to do any of that.
"Ron's at Delphi," Hermione said, as though catching to Harry's line of thought. "Ginny told me that it's going well, supposedly."
Harry nodded, though he didn't know whether he should hope, or whether or not he did hope. Ron had been furious after Voldemort's death, and in the middle of the Minister's speech in the Great Hall about all their sacrifices and triumphs, he had stood and shouted something about Harry being the next Dark Lord. By the next day, he was in Greece with Charlie.
"I wonder what they did to Cinna's body," Harry said.
"Huh," said Hermione. "I never thought about that." She picked up and pebble and threw it with a plunk into the lake. "I did some research on the ieiunita."
"I found pretty much nothing. The only mention of them was in a book on mediaeval myths. Ieiunita aren't supposed to exist."
"But they do. Or at least, they did."
Hermione was quiet for a moment. "Cinna was one, wasn't he? He became mortal and died when his cloak was destroyed, just like Voldemort turned into a Dementor without his soul."
"That's what Father and I think," said Harry, and he picked up a pebble and threw it into the lake as well.
"You remind me," Hermione said hesitantly, "of Draco. You know. When you say things like, 'my father,' 'Father and I,' phrases like that."
Harry nodded wordlessly.
"They… never found his body, did they?"
He shook his head and cleared his throat. "No. They didn't."
Harry felt Hermione's head lean tentatively against his shoulder. "I miss him," she whispered after a pause.
"Me too," said Harry. "And Dumbledore." And the snake, and Dobby, and Ron—the old Ron, his best friend. He wondered how long it would be before the grief, which pounced on him at unexpected times, when he was sitting in Snape's quarters or eating his breakfast or walking through the halls, would fade; and he wondered, too, how long it would be before he began to forget what the snake's comforting touch felt like, what Ron's brave smile looked like, what Draco's familiar drawl sounded like. Already things were dimming.
"How's your dad?"
"He's…" He paused for a moment, considering. "I think he's happy," Harry said sincerely.
Hermione moved closer. "Good. I'm glad."
"So am I," said Harry, moving an arm tentatively around Hermione's shoulder. The snow fell softly around them. I've still got Snape, Harry thought. I've still got him, and Hermione, and all the others. He lifted his face to the sky. I'm not alone.
A/N: First and foremost, many thanks to Procyon Black for helping me so much and so promptly. Without her, this story would definitely be less than what it is. Next, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read this fic, who has let me reach out across cyberspace and (hopefully) move the reader. That is, after all, the ultimate goal of the author: to make the reader think, to move his or her emotions. And, of course, I'd have died somewhere on chapter seven without all the wonderful reviewers and their reviews…
of may have noticed the references I wrote into this story, such as
those relating to Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series and the poetry
of William Butler Yeats. I lay no claim to those works, and only wish
to honor them by including them in my stories.
A few notes about the title: Prometheus, the Greek god who created humanity, rebelled against Zeus through many means, one of which was gifting humanity with fire. As punishment, he was shackled and nailed to Mount Caucasus, where an eagle came everyday to tear at his liver. His liver would grow back, and the bird would return to renew the torment. However, Zeus was unable to kill Prometheus, for Prometheus, alone of all the gods, knew the future, and could see how Zeus could be overthrown. Part of the punishment, therefore, was to force Prometheus to reveal that knowledge. But Prometheus withheld that knowledge until Zeus submitted in this test of wills and allowed Hercules to kill the eagle and set Prometheus free.
The obvious parallel is that Harry is Prometheus, with all his troubles stemming from the tyrannical Zeuses: his relatives, his father, Voldemort. And though he at times nearly succumbs to the pressure, as he did with the scraping tree, he persists, and in the end is freed. Indeed, parallels to the myth of Prometheus can be seen whenever we meet obstacles and, after much toil, finally conquer them. However, just as Aeschylus's 'Prometheus Unbound' is now lost, we ourselves must find a way out of the darkness.