This is for Larna Mandrea. Throughout five fics, she has repeatedly begged me for a fic where our hero actually dies. Reality bites, my friend. I don't believe it will ever happen in canon, but here, for you, it will. For being there from the beginning, for giving me the most creatively written reviews an author could ask for... for amusing me endlessly, and guessing my plotlines repeatedly and shamelessly... for ice mice, and minty house-elf flesh... for Peace and French Fries.... this one's for you.

CQ

Death of a Hero

"Seven years," he said, not to anyone in particular, just to himself. "Seven years I've been waiting for this day, and it's bloody raining."

Harry glared up at the sky, the offending clouds rolling. Watching carefully, he could see the dim shapes fluttering, up high.

Dementors.

Dumbledore had said it would happen here. Whether he knew for certain or not, the old headmaster's speculation had certainly been accurate.

And why not? He thought. Why shouldn't it end here, here where it all began?

He looked back at the school, rising majestically out of the highland mist of the cool spring day. Winter was only just properly over, it was only early March. Harry took a deep, sharp breath of the damp air. The chill seemed to permeate his robes.

It wouldn't be long. He knew that now.

Why today? Harry thought. Why today, when I'd just realized that I really had something to live for?

The image of Ginny Weasley's soft brown eyes danced in his mind's eye. Six years of her laughter, six years of watching her grow, from a child who he'd observed constantly, not knowing why he was compelled to, into the beauty she'd become.

And only last week, just then, knowing without a doubt, that she was the one. The one who could make living with himself bearable. Afterward. After he was forced, by fate, to become something he didn't want to be. A murderer.

He thought of Ron, and Hermione. Well, he would be with them soon enough, he knew. Ron had always been loyal. To the very end, he had been loyal. Watching him take the Killing Curse at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange... a curse that had been meant for Harry, had been by far the most difficult thing he'd ever endured. Seeing Hermione throw herself down, screaming, onto the red-haired Gryffindor's body, watching as Bellatrix laughed maniacally as she levelled her wand a second time, had been the catalyst for Harry's own fury.

None of the Dark Wizards had stood a chance then. None of them. Harry had unleashed his rage and not stopped until every last one of them was reduced to ash... small piles here and there, laying testament to the epic battle fought on the shores of the lake at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a battle the details of which would be recorded in books for years to come, and filed in the library there. The library that Hermione had loved.

And Voldemort. He, too, was gone. In the end, Harry need not have worried about feeling enough pain and anger to make the Killing Curse effective. Nor had he had to worry about his wand's effectiveness against it's brother. The pure magic had flown from his hands, no instrument necessary to focus the energy.

In the end, he'd had more than enough rage left over, and he'd put it to good use. Tom Riddle had felt an eternity of pain for every moment he had put Ginny through during her first year, with a little left over for every other innocent he'd victimized. In the end, he'd begged for mercy before Harry, with a final stab of energy, finished him. The little pile of black dust that had once been the Lord of the Dark Wizards still smoked a few feet away.

Harry had discovered he had a talent for the Cruciatus he hadn't known he possessed. It wasn't fun, but using it on Tom had been... satisfying.

And now he waited here, on the shore next to the bodies of his two closest friends. He reached over and gently closed Hermione's eyes, tears welling and falling unnoticed over his dirt-streaked cheeks.

Ron lay, his back to Harry, and with what strength he had left, he rolled him over, looking into the blank blue stare of the eighteen year old wizard who had only ever wanted something of his own, something that was his, first.

"It's your's, Ron," he whispered. "Your death is your own. No one will take it away, and it was no one's before it was yours. You're the first of your family... I pray your mum will forgive me that."

Dimly, in the distance, he heard a scream, and wearily turned to see the bright red banner of Ginny Weasley's unbound hair flowing unchecked behind her as she raced across the field toward him.

"Harry!" she cried, running up to him and dropping to her knees on the ground next to him. "Dear Merlin, Harry... we thought..."

"Gin, it's okay..." he whispered. "Tom's gone... you don't have to be frightened any more."

"Harry...?" her brown eyes widened as she looked at him, filling with tears as she noticed Ron and Hermione laying there, Hermione's arms wrapped loosely around her brother. "Oh, Harry..."

"I'm sorry, Gin..." he said weakly, falling back against the ground. "I tried... but I couldn't save them and get to Tom, as well... I had to get to Tom... I had to stop him..."

Ginny's eyes, freely letting go of the tears, turned back to him, registering horror as she realized that she would soon lose him, too.

"No!" she screamed. "You will not give up, Harry Potter! Are you listening to me? You will not die on me!"

"I'm sorry, Gin," he blinked, his vision fading. He struggled to open his eyes. He wanted to see her one more time.

"Harry! I love you, do not leave me now! Harry, please..."

"I never wanted to hurt you, Gin," he said softly. "I never wanted to be with you and then leave you... but I couldn't help myself... I am so sorry..."

"Harry, don't... please... dear Merlin! Dumbledore! Remus!" she screamed for help.

"Gin..."

"Harry, please, just hold on, my love... please, just hold on, for me... please! Dumbledore is coming... please... I love you, Harry! Please, hold on... Dumbledore!"

"I love you, Ginny Weasley," Harry said, for the first and last time.

In the distance, he could hear Ron. He desperately wanted to stay here, in Ginny's arms, but Ron was calling...

Harry... come ON, mate... bloody hell, this is BRILLIANT! Harry... come on... Hermione... would you wait?

And with a sigh, he followed.

FINIS