Disclaimer: Nope, don't own it.
A/N: This was a lot more difficult than most chapters. I had to figure out just how I wanted this to end, and then I realized that I'd decided long ago. You'll see. Whether you like it or not, it is up to you. You can stop with chapter fifteen, or this one. Gives two different endings to the same initial story. I just think it wasn't finished where I had left it for the summer. Tell me what you think, please! - Miss Laine
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Epilogue: Wishes Lost
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We find her in a clearing. She is near a stream that is burbling its obscenely cheery way through the silent glade.
It is hard to see her at first, because she is lying on her side in the cool green grass, hands clasped under her head.
Her lips are curved up into a soft smile, a knowing expression that chills me. Her amber eyes gaze at something only she can see, and she does not notice our sudden intrusion in this scared clearing.
No one says a word. There is nothing really to be said. Nothing to be done, but wait. Wait for her to come back to us, to give up on her dream and go on living. It is what he would have wanted.
Of course, try explaining that to her. She is a Weasley, after all, and they certainly stubborn if anything. They hold fast to their loyalties and their loves.
She still does not move. She is resolute, stubborn, strong. She does not want to give up her dream, and I don't want to take it from her. I will not be the one to bring her back to reality, to force her to admit that he is gone, that she will never see him again.
And so we wait…
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I am in his arms. Held in his warm embrace…but I cannot feel it, I cannot feel it, I cannot feel it…
It isn't a dream. It can't be. I won't let it be. He's alive, he's here, and he loves me. He's always loved me, I know it. The unicorns…
I know they are there, watching, waiting for me to say something.
But I won't. If I do, they'll tell me he isn't there, that I'm fooling myself. That Harry, my Harry, is dead.
If I do, it means they're right and it was all a dream.
If I do, I lose him for good.
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Hermione clings to my arm, barely holding herself upright even with my support.
But we are watching my little sister, lying on her side on the grass. She still has not moved.
"Here he is," Professor Snape announces, voice flat, voice emotionless. Hermione lets out a sob and I gather her up, holding her arms firmly in order to keep her on her feet.
She thinks I am holding her up, when really it's closer to the opposite.
We watch as Remus Lupin staggers forward and kneels down. The epitome of broken. The very vision of desolate despair.
A moment later he stands again, the limp, pale body wrapped in muddy, ragged, bloody robes in his arms.
Bare feet, covered in dirt and blood, dangle limply from one side, and I can just see the mop of dark hair, matted with its own mix of dirt and blood, resting on Remus's thin shoulder.
A hand dangles. A thin, pale hand.
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She sits up only after Remus has left the clearing, the corpse of my best friend in his arms. Her eyes are red from weeping, but her face is set, her expression firm. She is no longer lost in her daze, no longer living in her dream. She knows now that he is dead, knows now that she will never have him, not the way that she wanted to have him.
Her expression is firm, but her eyes are dead. She has had to face life again, when she would rather not. Her nightmare has come true…
I have seen the envy in her eyes, when she looks at me, when she sees how much in love I am with Ron.Because she wanted that so badly, wanted that love and contentment that I sometimes—not often—take for granted. Of course, she may someday find it again, but it will not be soon, nor will it be easy…
She is only a teenager, after all, and teens often think they are in love when they are not. Teens will fall in love a the drop of hat, will proclaim their undying passion after just days. But somehow I know that it wasn't like that…
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It is too final, to have the body as proof. To have the broken, battered, emaciated…
I had held out hope, had reserved just a little bit of my mind for the small chance that Harry had lived, had escaped.
He did escape, but he did not escape alive. The spell that killed our enemy killed him as well, but somehow, somehow, he was drawn to the clearing, the haven that the Unicorns of the Forbidden Forest call home.
How Ms. Weasley found him, I do not know.
Despite what others might think, I do not know everything. I cannot always tell how a thing will end, nor even how it will begin. Sometimes, I too am just a man, trying to figure out mysteries far greater than my reach.
Perhaps she was led there. Perhaps she did the leading. Perhaps I will never know.
Perhaps in the end all that matters is what happened to one boy, to one teenager.
There will be another funeral now, I suppose. Or perhaps we will bring the body back to the one still in session, place Harry in the empty coffin and lay him permanently to rest. I don't know if I can stand to see it, the coffin filled…the hope lost…
It pains me badly to know that I could do little to stop this, to keep Harry from sacrificing himself for all of us.
I feel undeserving of his sacrifice. When I look around at everyone around me, it is hard to believe that he could so willingly give it up for all of them. There are few so deserving of his love, and they are the few that are the least likely to wish for his sacrifice.
I hope I can count myself amongst them…
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It is terrible to know that I am the last.
To know that I have been…left behind…left to live…
I do not know whether I should be happy or sad.
I miss Sirius so much, I miss James…but more than anything I miss one boy, the one boy that made the loss of my friends bearable.
Harry…thin, scraggly, struggling, brooding, tired, child…
In his third year, the first year that I taught DADA, he struck something deep inside me. Of course, he looked so much like James, with Lily's eyes staring at me…
He was his parent's child, for certain. He was everything good about them that I had ever known. And I was privileged enough to be his confidant many times. To be the one that he told his dark secrets to.
And his worst secret, the one deep, dark shame that he held…the only secret that he had told no other…
He was afraid that he would squander it all, would trade the world for his life in the end.
He was afraid that he would want to live.
And I wept when he left that night, when he walked away embarrassed that he had admitted it to me. Admitted the dark fear that he held so tightly in his heart.
I wept for the twisted, skewed sense of honor that Harry believed so clearly. I wanted him to be selfish. I wanted him to think of himself, put his own wants first.
But that was it. He wanted to save the world by then. He wanted to show that he wasn't selfish, nevermind that he never was. Harry wanted to save his friends and everything that he loved…everyone that had ever given him a moment's kindness…
He even did it for me, I know, though I could have killed him during his third year.
It was so close that night…a few moments, a few feet, just a small hesitation…and he would have been bitten, could have been torn to pieces by my very jaws…
His determination brought Sirius back, his determination brought him back to me, to us, that night at the end of the Triwizard Tournament…he fought back and gave as good as he got…until the end…until the end…
I am lost…there is no one left to turn to…no one left to protect…
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Ginny no longer insists that Harry is still alive. She no longer demands that we do not give up.
She has accepted it, has accepted that the pale and tattered body in the casket is indeed Harry's…closure has let her accept and move…forward, but not on…
She eats and drinks, smiles wanly and laughs rarely. Like the rest of us.
But sometimes, when she thinks I do not see it, a faraway expression flits across her face and I can almost hear her soft sigh, as she thinks of what might have been.
It is my job to catch these moments. And with each sigh, each look of longing sent Ron and Hermione's way, my heart cracks, just a little. She should have had such happiness. She should have not had to face heartbreak at so young an age…
But perhaps she will eventually move on. Not in a year, nor two, nor any time while she is still at Hogwarts, still immersed in memories.
A decade from now, perhaps, she will have let the memories melt away into the shadows, to calm themselves into deep dark pockets in her mind. And she will find love, and she will have children and be content.
And the sighs will be infrequent and shallow and short…
What might have been will be come distant memories, and she will find that perhaps what might have been has become what has happened with someone else…
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Weasley—Ronald—sits alone at the desk, though there are two chairs. Weasley—Hermione—is in front of him, seated next to Neville Longbottom. That damn chair is left open, that damn spot is left a glaring eyesore in my classroom.
I am sick of it. Sick of that space, sick of the silence and the sorrow sitting in the chair, watching me with emerald eyes in every class.
The first day of class this year, someone tried to sit in the chair. A foolish seventh year Slytherin, with about as much sense as a Flobberworm.
It took all my willpower to hide the smirk as one of my Slytherins was practically thrown from the seat, and I daresay that Mr. Weasley might have growled.
"Get out of Harry's seat."
No one, no one, sits in Potter…Harry's…seat. Perhaps I should snidely suggest that Weasley have Potter…Harry's name carved into it, just to keep the confusion to a minimum.
I teach the class and try not to think about the empty seat. I think about the upcoming NEWTS, the crucial exams that one Gryffindor will not be taking.
It feels so ridiculous, to lecture about exams that I really could care less about. It does not matter to me who passes and who does not pass the exam. They can have their exams and they can have their evaluations and their scores. It matters less than nothing to me anymore.
The war has left me empty.
It is better than nothing, certainly, but sometimes I wish I had never made those terrible mistakes, that I had never been tempted by darkness and power.
Perhaps I could have left the war as pure and innocent as Potter…Harry.
Impossible, I suppose. I would have done something to warrant my sufferings in the war. I cannot think of one thing that Po…Harry did to purposely provoke his own sufferings.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and now, now after it is too late, I understand clearly that P…Harry never wanted the glory, the attention, the adoration, any of it. But I pretended that he did, let myself believe that he really did seek out the fans and play to them.
I pretended that he was his father, as silly as that sounds…
Potions will not be the same, I can tell it even now.
Of course, trying to teach one handed is incredibly inconvenient as well…more than once I have reached for a paper or an ingredient, only to find it out of reach.
The Weasley twins never tease me about it, surprisingly. It would almost be better than their slowly-softening solemnness.
At least they have proven rather capable assistants. Who would have imagined that?
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"You're not allowed to be gone."
I hear the words, I recognize the voice, but I do not know what the sentence means.
Ginny Weasley is talking to that portrait again. The one we worked so hard on…the one that she did for him, not for me…never for me…
"You said to hold on to him."
Her voice echoes around to me, words that sound accusatory and weak all at once.
"You said hold on tight."
Ginny talks to that portrait, the only one that can make it respond. Otherwise, Harry sits in his frame smiling that benign, knowing smile. The one that tells us that he is content, that he is no longer suffering…
"How can I hold on? I tried so hard…"
Her words are painful to hear, and I want to go to her, to comfort her…but I'm afraid she would turn away…she holds so tightly to Harry's memory that there's no room for anyone else.
"You left me, dammit!"
She shouts, the last curse echoing down the stone hallway. She's broken, broken in two…
"I'm afraid, Harry."
The anger has faded to whimpers of fear and sadness. Ginny is not angry at Harry. She's afraid to go on without him. She's afraid that she might love again, that she might find someone with whom she can share a future…children…love?
"How am I supposed to move on, when it hurts so much?"
I'll follow her…I'll find her again someday, when she's healed and when she's ready. Because as much as she loves Harry, I am alive.
And I love her…
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A/N: Well, that's it. Weak ending, sure, you bet, but it's all I got. This was hard to write, stirring together all the views like this, but I think it came out at least okay. You get the picture, right? Harry's dead. Very dead. And everyone's going to move on and live and love and have kids and grow old, because that's what Harry was fighting for, and that's what he would have wanted to see happen.
Ginny'll move on someday, I'm assuming. She's got someone waiting for her patiently, and he really does love her.
Maybe I'm just coldhearted and like to see that Harry's wrapped up, so to speak. There's no loose ends now, I'm pretty sure, so if there is a question, feel free to ask it. It's been fun.