Author's Note: Well, here it is. The end. The final chapter. The thing some of you have waited 5 long years for. What can I say, as I finish this story? It began as a therapeutic exercise to help me cope with my own problems, and became something so much more. I am not the same person I was when I began writing this story, and for a while I could not think how to combine who I was when I began and who I am now to complete a smoothly flowing story. Also, after the release of the 7th Harry Potter book, my original ending seemed too similar to some of the themes and plot devices in the actual book, even though this story began long before its release. After much debate, though, I decided the best solution to both of those problems was to stick with the original ending I had planned.
Please note, though this is the final chapter of the actual story, I intend to include an epilogue. Considering how quickly I managed to complete this much once the plot bunny seized me, I hope to complete the epilogue within the next few days. I am putting off listing this story as truly complete until it has its epilogue, and I am able to comb out the spelling mistakes and old formatting errors leftover from the site circa 2004.
Ok, at last, here it goes!
It is with great pleasure now that I present to you: The End.
It was warm, when he finally woke, and though he did not recognize where he was, Harry was not afraid. The grass beneath his face smelled sweet, and somewhere nearby birds were serenading their mates, and the sound soothed and grounded him. Harry attempted to rise to his feet slowly, anticipating the pain but completely unprepared for what he got- nothing. There was no pain, no blood or broken bones. Startled, Harry began to look around in earnest. He was in a small clearing, about a hundred meters in each direction from where he stood, and after that a dense wall of trees all around, the dappled sunlight making fluttering patterns on the ground beneath. A little ways from where he stood a small stream cut its way through the edge of the clearing, and Harry gingerly walked towards it, still suspecting the pain to return any moment.
The water splashed and gurgled its way along, glistening in the sunlight, and Harry drank deeply before splashing his face and wetting his hair. When he at last looked up, feeling calm and refreshed, it was only with mild surprise that he found he was no longer alone. Lying in the grass on the other side of the stream was a buck, his antlers huge and imposing, his eyes trained levelly on Harry. The buck rose at once, and Harry stood as well, each assessing the other for another long moment before the buck turned and headed into the forest. Uncertain, yet unable to do otherwise, Harry silently followed.
They walked for what felt like ages to Harry, but he found he did not grow tired, and his feet did not hurt. Around them the landscape changed little beyond the gradual thinning of trees and increased density of flowers, the forest floor seeming to blossom before Harry's eyes. The path, which at first was no more than a narrow strip of flattened grass, had widened and evened out over the course of their journey, until they reached a juncture that was bare and solid from the wear of many feet. For the first time, the buck looked over his shoulder to ensure Harry was still beside him, and Harry tentatively laid a hand on its back, offering a small smile.
"It's ok, dad. I'm still here."
They continued once more, this time walking side by side, Harry's hand still resting comfortably on the buck's back. As the trees dissipated, a small house began to materialize at the forest's edge, and a ways off there was another, Harry saw, and then another. A small village stood before them in the distance, not unlike the few other wizarding villages Harry had seen back-
Home. A painful twisting sensation in his chest drew Harry to an abrupt halt and he looked around wildly. Draco. Where was Draco? The sun and trees and flowers that had only moments before seemed so serene now seemed to be taunting him, laughing at him as his breathing took a frantic pace. The buck turned and looked at Harry, eyes wide with surprise. The buck gave a low sound from his throat and took a mouthful of Harry's sleeve, tugging gently.
"No, I can't go on without Draco, dad. He needs me."
The buck gave a low whine this time, pulling harder.
"It's alright, Harry. Please, come here, I've been wanting very much to meet you."
Harry looked up, and further down the path he saw a woman, her light blonde hair stirring gently in the breeze.
Harry walked forward numbly, the buck following at his side.
"What you did back there was very brave of you, Harry. You have fought so long, and so hard- and now it's time for you to rest."
The thought of rest, real rest, drew Harry forward as powerfully as did the familar scent of lavender, intoxicating his senses.
"Harry. Harry, can you hear me?"
Harry froze. The buck at is side nudged him forward, and Narcissa reached for him, but it quickly became apparent that as she was she could not come any further. Panic welled in Harry, and he stumbled back a step. Frantically, the buck leapt forward towards Narcissa, changing instantly mid air as he traveled through the unseen barrier to land unsteadily on human feet.
"Harry, please, come home to us. It's over now, you've won! You beat Voldemort, Harry- it's time to come home."
"Oh Harry… please, I'm so sorry."
James' eyes were wide with love and excitement on the other side of the invisible wall separating them, but Harry stumbled back a step.
"Draco?! Where are you? I can hear you!"
Harry cried unsteadily, stumbling in a confused circle. James shouldered his way through the barrier once more and the buck leapt forward, grabbing Harry's shirt in his mouth and tugging harder, dragging Harry forward.
"Please don't go, Harry. Don't leave me here alone."
The urgency in Draco's voice was becoming stronger, and the sheer force of it seemed tangible in the air, the trees darkening and blurring.
"No! Let go! I'm not done, Dad, let go!"
"Draco, let go. Let go, we have to get him to the hospital."
Pansy's hands were patient, untangling each of Draco's blood-wet fingers from Harry's robes. The pain and terror in those silver eyes was unspeakable, and she had to fight her own tears as she folded him in her arms. Draco watched over her shoulder as mediwizards seemed to pour in from nowhere, surrounding Harry, pulling him away.
He tried to lunge forward but Pansy held him fast.
"Let go Pansy, he needs me!"
Deep inside Draco's chest he could feel Harry slipping away, could feel him moving farther and farther into a place Draco could no longer reach. Suddenly, one of the monitoring spells they had just placed on Harry gave a shrill cry.
"Quick! We're losing him!"
All attempts to move Harry came to a halt as they tried to stabilize him, but still the horrible sound continued, shaking Draco to his core. That was when he noticed it, just barely out of arm's reach- the dagger. His eyes narrowed coldly, purposely, and with a sudden burst of strength he threw Pansy from him, sending her flying across the floor.
"If you can't bring him back, I will!"
Grabbing the dagger, Draco plunged it into his own chest. Harry's monitor alarm was still going off, but all movement had stopped. All they could do was stare wide eyed and bewildered as Draco crawled across the floor towards Harry, a slow, constant trickle of blood falling from his panting, gasping mouth, the dagger still protruding from his chest. Draco's path was slow and unsteady, but the mediwizards parted before him, and Draco sank to the floor at Harry's side.
"You're coming home, Potter- now."
And with that, Draco sank to the floor limply, curling around the other boy's quickly cooling body.
Harry's struggle had begun to draw a crowd, some faces familiar, some not, as they pushed as close to the invisible barrier as they could. Suddenly a second form leapt through the wall, a huge black dog, growling and snarling, teeth bared. He lunged at the buck, knocking the larger animal down. Barking and pawing the ground angrily, the black dog drove the buck slowly back until they both crossed the line, transforming as they passed through.
"Sirius! What are you doing?? It's Harry! Harry's home!"
The light in James' eyes was wild, and he tried to lunge forward again.
"It is not that boy's time yet, James, and you can see it as well as I."
This time James made it through before Sirius could catch him and the two animals broke into a vicious fight, rolling and scrambling as teeth and claws and antlers met. Unable to speak in his animagus form, Sirius turned to Harry and gave a single long, low howl whose meaning was quite clear- "run."
Harry turned and ran back into the forest as fast as he could, the sounds of the fight and the crying souls of those he left behind fading slowly into the distance. Without his guide, though, Harry quickly became hopelessly lost. At last he sank dejectedly onto a rock, so deep within the forest the light could barely penetrate the dense canopy above.
"Oh Draco, I've let you down. You fought so hard, and we finally made it, just for… this… to happen. You must be so scared, so alone..."
Harry sobbed, the sound catching in his throat as tears welled behind his glasses and streamed down his cheeks unchecked, his narrow shoulders hunched and shaking under the force of his anguish and desperation.
"I suppose that might be an accurate assessment. Though admittedly you look a little scared and alone yourself."
The voice broke through the haze in Harry's mind and he looked up to find none other than Draco Malfoy before him, the tenderness of his expression belying the terror in his eyes.
Harry rushed forward, pulling the other boy into a tight, joyful hug, which Draco shakily returned.
"Oh Draco, you're here… I'm so glad you're here. I thought… I thought I'd never see you again. You won't believe everyone I've seen, Draco. My dad, and Sirius… even your mum. Now you're here we can go back and find them. We can stay-"
"We can't stay, Harry. I came to get you. We have to go home now."
Harry looked up at Draco, crest fallen.
"But… why? Now that you're here, why do we have to? There's nothing back there for us, Draco. You were the only thing drawing me home, and now you're here too!"
Those words made Draco pale with shock, and fear and sadness, and he could only draw Harry closer.
"Harry, there's so many reasons to go back-"
"Like what? Why? Why do we have to go back?" Harry's voice was beginning to sound slightly hysterical, his breaths coming in quick, panicky gasps. "All that's back there is hurt and pain and betrayal and death!"
Harry tried to break away, but Draco only held him tighter, letting the soft black hair tickle his nose as he rubbed calming circles into Harry's back.
"What about Hedwig? What about Pansy and Blaise? What about all your friends?" Harry went to interrupt, but Draco shushed him. "They were under Voldemort's control, Harry, but now he's dead. What happens when they wake up and find out you're gone and it's their fault?" Harry's heart both rose and sank at that thought. "What about Quidditch? What about Hogwarts? What about our future?"
Harry's eyes widened.
Draco couldn't help but smile.
"Of course our future, you ninny. Harry, we'll both be back here someday, and then we can go see your dad and Sirius and my mum. But until then, we have a lot left to do at home. Our home."
Harry could only nod, burying his head deeper in Draco's chest.
"You're right. I guess it's time to go home."
Pansy had not spoken a word since they'd left the Room of Requirement to follow Harry and Draco to St. Mungo's, Blaise close at her side. Her wrist was sprained from trying to break her fall earlier, but she would not leave the two unconscious boys alone. A mediwitch finally came in to bandage it, but Pansy did not even acknowledge the woman's presence. Something big was happening, she could feel it, but it was out of her reach, in a reality she found herself hopelessly incapable of comprehending. And then, as quickly as Draco's breaths had stopped not so long before, they returned in a fit of violent coughs. At once Pansy and Blaise were at his side, the mediwitch calling in the small cluster of medical personnel lingering just down the hall.
Draco's awareness of his surroundings was weak at best, and as he took in the white ceiling and concerned faces hovering above him he couldn't help resenting the fact that from this point of view every hospital looked identical. Where was he? What had happened? And then he remembered- Harry. Draco struggled to sit up but found he was restrained, both by an imobulus and the tangle of arms that came down to stop him.
"I'm fine, let go! Where's Harry? Harry!"
One mediwizard in particular pushed through the crowd, motioning the others away.
"Mr. Malfoy, please, lay down. While we may have permitted your outbursts earlier you only abused that-"
"Shut up. Where is Harry? "
Frustrated, the man stepped aside and Draco was at last able to see the bed beside his own, Harry's dark, messy hair stark against the pillow, the livid bruises peppering his skin an equally stunning contrast against the countless white bandages.
"Harry…" Draco whispered, half in his head. "Harry." Louder this time. "Harry!" But Harry did not move, did not even look to be breathing. "Has he woken? Is he ok?" Draco struggled once more to sit up.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake…" the exasperated mediwizard gave a long-suffering sigh, but pushed the beds closer together all the same so Draco could at last take Harry's limp, bandaged hand in his own.
"Why hasn't he woken? I don't understand, we agreed."
Realizing he was at last able to move again, Draco gingerly shifted onto Harry's bed. The pain in his chest, both literal and metaphorical, was overwhelming, and his right calf gave an answering, agonizing throb, but those seemed dreadfully unimportant at the moment. Draco also knew they had an audience, but here, now, it did not matter in the slightest.
"Harry, can you hear me?" He began again, but this time the question was met with a response by way of a single twitch of Harry's good hand within his own clammy fingers, and a slow, answering warmth in his chest. Too weak and exhausted for the exclamation of joy this event truly warranted, Draco merely collapsed with relieved exhaustion, his head resting on Harry's sharp, bony shoulder.
"You really had me worried there, you terrible git." Draco whispered into his hair, pressing a wet shaky kiss to Harry's temple.
"Didn't know you cared so much, Malfoy." A teasing voice answered in his head, their link slowly glowing back into life. Something was wrong, though. Draco could feel the dark undercurrent through his utter joy, hear the waver in Harry's thoughts, and he realized with a jolt that Harry hadn't yet opened his eyes, hadn't moved beyond that tiny twitch.
"Harry, what's wrong? Please, wake up. Why won't you wake up?"
Draco's eyes searched Harry's face for an answer, but the only response he got was a heady wave of guilt pouring from the Gryffindor's prone form.
"How can you just act like nothing happened?" The voice was serious now, weak, scared.
"What do you mean?"
"I let you down, again! It's my fault you're hurt, you were captured- Draco, you died! All because of me! You had to rescue me, again, and as a result I almost lost you forever!"
"Harry." Draco spoke aloud, using the link instead to try to show Harry how true the words really were. "You saved me. It was my fault they captured you at all, I never should have said those things, never meant to push you away. I had to come help, I had to fix what I had done. Getting captured was all my own fault too, but you… you saved me. When Voldemort took over my body, you could have just killed me and saved yourself, but you didn't. You sacrificed your own life to save mine."
It was the truth, yes, but not the entire truth, and Draco tucked away forever the knowledge of what he had ultimately done to get Harry back, the thick, constrictive bandage around his chest and the pain within a glaring reminder of that. That thought was pushed aside, though, as Harry's eyes at last opened blearily, staring blankly at his surroundings. When his unfocused gaze landed on Draco, a huge, shy grin lit Harry's face.
"Do you mean it?" Harry asked in Draco's mind, and with a horrible twinge Draco recalled that Harry could not speak aloud, may never speak aloud again, and though the thought of never again hearing Harry's sweet, vibrant voice made Draco feel horribly sad, he nodded. "Yes, Harry. I meant it. This time, you're my hero."
Harry rolled his eyes, but the unpleasant feelings were rapidly dissolving, replaced instead by an overwhelming sense of relief from them both. Slowly, the two boys had begun to melt into each other, and as the last of their tension finally ebbed, exhaustion claimed them. While they slept the mediwizards came and went, and as the light slowly faded dusk took hold. More faces came to watch them as the long hours of the night ticked by: sad and shocked and self-loathing Gryffindors, a handful of curious Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and an endless throng of Slytherin's, who sat faithfully on watch through the night. As they slept, both boys knew the morning would bring a new wave of challenges: endless questions and painful answers, confrontations, and a long, painful healing process for them both. But there, in that shining, perfect moment, Harry and Draco had at last found absolute peace together, and tomorrow no longer mattered.
I would like to take a moment to offer a deep, final "thank you" to all of my readers, and especially my reviewers. There have been a lot of you over the years, and your support helped me not only learn and grow as an author, but to heal as a person. If you have read this story and it has touched you in some way, for the better or worse, please leave a review and let me know. The purely fluffy, romantic and yes, smutty, epilogue will be posted soon, and I hope you will accept it as my ultimate show of gratitude to you, my readers ;)