Here it is –the end. I want to thank everyone who has read and reviewed this story; honestly, it's improved so much because of your feedback, letting me know what works/doesn't work, etc. I know not everyone was happy with the reveal last chapter, but it had been my plan for this story from the beginning. Thanks to all of you for being nice about your disappointment, though, and for pointing out some things that I missed (which will be addressed in this chapter). Again, thanks to everyone who's been along for a ride, and I hope you've enjoyed reading this story as much as I have writing it. Enjoy the final chapter!
Kinsath and peggysue8323: Thanks for pointing that out; it never occurred to me that only Harry's thoughts should be heard –I'd written the other scenes because they interested me and for advancing the themes, etc. etc. I've included a somewhat generic explanation for that in this chapter that hopefully lines up, but thanks again to both of you for calling it to my attention. I hope this chapter will save the story for you.
Edit: Thanks to HeyLookTheSnitch for beta-ing this chapter for grammar and the confusing wording some of the reviewers mentioned.
Harry woke up.
He was in his own room at Number 4, Privet Drive, surrounded by a preening Hedwig, Hermione's neatly rolled up sleeping bag and Ron's wrinkled one, sunlight streaming through the window and Muggle novels lining the bookcase. He reached for his glasses and found that they were on the other side, the opposite side of the bed at his home with the Potters, with Lily and James and Violet. With his family.
It didn't feel like his room anymore, not this cold, undecorated room that lay above the scent of bacon already sizzled and eaten, above the atmosphere of grumbling resentment. He missed his Quidditch poster, the familiarity and comfort of pillow fights and pranks.
Oh, wait, except all of that was in his head, wasn't it? Sodding spell.
Harry flexed his palm, noting the faint reprimand of "I must not tell lies" etched on his hand once again. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One once more –but hadn't he always been? In spirit, in the vivid world constructed in his mind. But he's had vivid dreams before –he hated the idea, but it made sense, didn't it? He'd never had a sister, never had a real blood family after the age of one. He had Hermione and Ron and the Weasleys and Remus. He'd had Sirius, and it made his chest ache to think he'd never see him laugh again, made his head hurt that he was mourning him all over again.
But what made him hurt the most was thinking how he'd never again taste his mother's pancakes or share a joke with his father. Hell, he'd take the lectures and the "are you on drugs" talk if only he'd see them again. It had never ached this much before. Never.
He used to sit in his cupboard under the stairs and summon nostalgia for parents tragically dead, tragically young. When he was little, he had idolized them and wished for their resuming embrace and a mother's kiss as they took him away from his prison. But as he lay there on the bed of Dudley's second bedroom, he instead longed for their passionate imperfections just as much as the crystal perfect moments. He wanted his father's slightly undercooked pasta, so unlike Aunt Petunia's perfectly shaped specimens, and even their fights. He wanted to slam the door in their faces and make up later, sulking as he did so. He wanted the normality that came with his family, the pleasantly quiet breakfasts and security.
But he no longer has that. And neither does his sister.
He leapt up in alarm as his door slammed open, scrambling to his feet as he pointed his wand at –a laughing Ron and Hermione.
"Harry!" Hermione's smile was wide and sincere. "You're up!"
"Finally," Ron added. "We tried to bloody wake you up five times! You mumbled something about flowers, and –"
Oh, Violet had said it'd only been a night and a morning, hadn't she?
"What time is it?"
"Time to put on some pants, mate." Ron threw a pair of jeans at him. "Seriously, Harry, you were completely out."
"Feels like I've slept for half a year."
That was a lie. He felt like crap. But even now, the feelings were fading away into memory, into something not quite real, not quite tangible.
Hermione was looking at him shrewdly. He'd forgotten how perceptive she was. "Harry, did something happen?"
He really wondered if it had, if it had just been a very, very realistic dream. But dreams don't hurt. Reality does.
Looking at them, at the two best friends who had been through hell and back with him, Harry realized that he couldn't protect them by hiding that aching hole he felt in his chest, because it would eventually be them who patched it up. It would be them who would search for him after this was all over, trusting and hoping that Harry Potter had once again gotten himself out of a tight scrape. But his knee still hurt from the spell that had not caught and burned a hole through his jeans, had not hurt him. In his past dreams he had always been invincible, and even when nightmares of failures, veils and tall towers invaded his mind, he could reason it away into intangible threats.
They were just dreams; they can't hurt him any more than reality could.
But this one had.
Ron just looked confused, throwing Hermione a side glance of concern. "Harry, did you go booty jumping while we were gone?"
"Bungee jumping, Ron, bungee jumping."
"What, like fellytones?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Now I know you're faking." She turned to Harry. "Tell us."
He did. He told them everything, receiving gasps and nods of approval at appropriate times from Hermione and laughter from Ron at inappropriate times. But Harry did see Ron's expression darken when he talked about Bill's death and Ron's Dementor being a dead, mangled Ginny.
"That's a very, very long dream."
"It's not a dream, Ron, it's a spell."
"No, Hermione, it's a very, very long dream induced by a spell."
Harry hesitated, allowing them to bicker a little longer. There was one question he wanted to ask, a reassurance he was afraid to get and not get.
"Hermione –do you think it was real? Any of it?"
She sobered, hearing the gravity in her friend's voice. "Well, what do you think, Harry?"
"I don't know, Hermione. I just don't know."
"It must have felt real to you then, to be so torn up about it."
Harry chuckled darkly. "Snape always said that I wore my heart on my sleeve."
"If I understand right, some of it was real. The Horcrux locations, even our personalities despite the changes. It wasn't just you, Harry. Information taken from you, Voldemort and the dead –all that was used to construct the most authentic world the spell could. And this old magic, the ones that use the dead's power –they're enormously complex, Harry, and enormously effective. Even if it wasin your head, things were happening outside yourself. It was an alternate world, in every way possible."
"But how could this old magic know? Because yeah, Malfoy hesitated in trying to kill Professor Dumbledore, but that doesn't mean he'd turn double agent. It doesn't mean that –you're the brilliant one, Hermione. How could this –this thing in my head have known all that information?"
"Your mother said that they watched over you, even after all this time. Who's to say that Malfoy's grandparents weren't too? Or –or, my uncle, or a relative of Ron's. It was us because all that watching, all that knowledge went towards the spell."
Harry shook his head. "You don't understand, Hermione –I cared about these people. Almost as much as their real versions, you lot. My Mum, Dad, sister…they were there. I could touch them. And now that it's not real, it –"
He looked at Ron, wearing a rueful smile. "Yeah, it hurts. I had my parents and Sirius back. For a little while."
"But isn't it better to have them for a little while than not at all?"
"They aren't real!" Harry fumed. "It was just a bloody illusion, a –"
"Your Mum said they were as true as they would have been if that had been the real world."
Harry looked away from his brown haired friend, glaring at his nightstand like it had been the one that had cast an ancient spell on him, had given him everything he ever wanted and snatched it away in a single swoop.
A tight grip on his arm made him look up at the determined expressions on his friends' faces. Hermione explained to him that this was no talk for a stuffy bedroom, so they led him out the door and down the stairs. They didn't pass the cupboard, but Harry felt its presence even more than ever, the misery and loneliness of being Harry the orphan, Harry the freak, the victim of Harry Hunting. Harry, being hunted by a far superior opponent than Dudley, a far greater evil and sadism than the fulfillment of an insecure and cruel fat boy. But he would turn that around; if there was one thing still lingering from the dream that seemed so real was that sense of responsibility.
He'd always thought that he'd had no choice. No choice because of a stupid prophecy spoken, logged and shelved before he could even speak coherently, let alone understand it. He'd always thought that he would be hunted by evil, or become it himself for the greater good.
It hadn't been Voldemort's intention when he'd cast that spell, that curse and blessing, but Harry knew now that he did have a choice, he always had. He could take that power that the Dark Lord knows not and use it to save a world from collapsing in on itself. James Potter had refused to use Unforgivables because to kill for hate, for a deeply buried pleasure of power and control, is unforgivable, no matter how good the intentions. A line would be crossed when they became the enemy, and all would be lost.
That wasn't what he was struggling with.
They stopped at the local park, deserted because the neighborhood kids would be tucked safely into their homes, into their families as they enjoyed their dinner.
The sun was falling, and it felt like the sky itself was too, but there was enough light for him to see clearly his two best, best friends as they led him to the swings. He hadn't realized until now just how much he'd missed them.
Immediately, he and Hermione claimed the two seats, smirking up at Ron.
"Well," he said, a bubble of laughter surprising him. "Why don't you sit down, ickle Won-Won?"
Ron scowled at the nickname and eyed the tiny baby swing warily. "Dunno, I think my arse is too big. You're bony, mate, why don't you try it?"
Harry laughed again. "Not bony enough."
They lapsed into silence, enjoying the cool breeze of the evening wind, the rustling grass and the sounds of being alive. He and Hermione swung lazily while Ron leaned against the metal bars of the swing set. It felt listless and easy, and he took the moment to close his eyes and collect his clashing emotions as he swung, his sneakers dragging back and forth against the bark and dirt. He was too tall and old for the swing set now, but its simplicity, its simple peace, still gave him pleasure.
No one had taught him how to swing; he'd learned himself. No one had ever pushed him; he'd done that himself too. Him and the wind. He remembered wondering if he swung high enough, reached high enough, he could touch the sky and heaven or whatever is supposed to be there after death. He remembered wondering if the wind could carry his voice high above him and towards the clouds so his parents could hear him. I miss you, he'd say, feeling nostalgia for these phantom people he hadn't even had a picture of, or Please come get me. I'll be a good boy –I won't do any of those freaky things at school again. I promise.
They had heard him, he realized, they'd heard him very clearly, every time he tried to communicate with them in his childlike way, and their hearts had hurt with him. He felt that continuing knot in his chest, that longing, and wondered if this is what they had felt every day for the eternity that came with watching, but not touching.
He remembered hugging his mother, the way she'd melted against him in a wave of emotion, and he realized that that had been the first time she'd held her son since he was one. All those years, longing with a knot in her chest to protect, to love, to comfort, and she'd finally been able to do so as a ghost.
In his heart, he knew that, but his mind, the logical part of him that couldn't believe that all that, all of this could happen in his mind in a fortnight. He needed to be convinced that this was possible, that love really could transcend the laws of reality, the laws of magic. Or perhaps magic was love, and that was what his thick brain had been missing this entire time.
"You know," Ron said suddenly, "if it had been an alternate universe or whatever that you'd been in, wouldn't you be doubting the same things?" It surprised him that his friends would believe his crazy story unconditionally –but stranger things have happened to them.
"I dunno –I guess."
Hermione nodded eagerly, shooting a proud smile at Ron. "He's right, Harry. Because it would have been just as real then as your dream world had been –and that's what it was, Harry, a world. It was an alternate world that just happened to be housed in your brain instead of –of, oh, I dunno, the time-space continuum or something."
Harry laughed while Ron shot Hermione an odd look. "Is that Muggle thing?"
"That's beside the point. Anyway, Harry, you experienced it in every way possible, and now you're not there anymore. Now it's just memory, so it wasn't a dream, really."
"But –it's not the same Hermione! I mean, if Ron had, say, a nightmare about being eaten alive by giant spiders, it doesn't mean that he's made a memory out of it."
Ron winced. "Thanks loads, Harry. Now if I scream in my sleep tonight –"
"It wasn't just a dream, Harry."
He felt annoying, like that pretentious nag who needed to be told, needed to be convinced. But for those people to have been real –it was too good to be true, or too terrible to be true. For him to have truly experienced having a family, to have gone through all that with people he'd known here, in reality, people who were really those he loved hiding behind the mask of a dream. Hermione, Ron, Neville –they had all been there, waiting to be woken up, waiting to be unveiled.
"Harry," Ron said quietly. "You have those pictures of your Mum and Dad, right?"
"Didn't you –" His redheaded friend hesitated. "Didn't you, I dunno, invent them in a way? Didn't you invent this hatred for Sirius before we found out that he wasn't the traitor? You had illusions of them and who they were –they weren't memories. Now you have some, real ones. It wasn't a waste."
Hermione nodded. "My dad always told me to trust my instincts. 'If your gut believes it, then it's true,' he'd say."
"Thanks, you guys," Harry said. "You know, it would have been just as ridiculous if I'd come back with soot all over me instead of just bed hair."
Ron laughed. "Mate, you always have bed hair."
He grinned, relieved that, despite how many core similarities his Ron and the other shared, this Ron was here. Still, the essence had always been there, the protectiveness he felt towards his friends and family, towards those he loved. He let people laugh at their darkest fears, something the other Ron had not been comfortable enough around Harry to do so.
The essence was there, and wasn't that what his mother had been saying?
"It's getting dark." Harry pushed himself off the swings and placed a Disillusion Charm on himself.
"Harry, what are you doing?"
Knowing that they couldn't see him, he turned. "Just temporary until we can get back to the Dursleys' house and get the invisibility cloak." He began walking away, sneakers cushioning off the bark.
Ron hesitated before slowly following the sound of Harry's footsteps. "I don't get it."
But Harry merely smiled.
"I'm faking my death."
"Harry, that's –I don't know what to believe."
Harry sipped his tea before nodding at his former professor sympathetically. "I had a hard time believing if myself when I woke up, and I actually went through it."
Remus Lupin looked down at the careworn table of Grimmauld Place's kitchen, his eyes unfocused as he struggled with something inside of him. "You saw James? Lily? And Sirius, happy. No Azkaban, no –no young deaths. We'd been barely out of school when they died."
"I saw you too," Harry reminded him. "You were happy too, and all of you were my uncles –I mean, Dad almost choked me to death because he thought that by trying to accuse Wormtail, I was the Death Eater that –"
He looked down, unable to finish. It still felt too raw.
"Well, Sirius and James always said that as a monster, I was more Professor than werewolf." A sparkle of laughter brightened his eyes. "I suppose they were right. 'Moony won't eat the children, but he'll fill their heads with so much fluff that their brains explode.'"
"They would say something like that, wouldn't they?"
Remus smiled. "Yes. They never allowed me to go into one of 'those moods' for very long. Before I knew it my hair had turned bright purple and I was too busy chasing them around our dorm to feel sorry for myself anymore. And there was James's whining about Lily, our ultimately failed attempts at helping him get her attention."
Harry frowned, realizing he hadn't gotten many stories about his parents getting together when he'd had the chance. "How'd he deflate his ego then?"
"He showed her he could pull his weight in his Head duties. He got to know her and let her get to know him. But most importantly, he stopped listening to Sirius's suggestions."
"I think the bugger might have been a bit jealous –not that I think he was deliberately sabotaging James's chances, though. In between his personal problems with his family, with what the world was coming to…there hadn't been much time for girls. So his terrible ideas had been more out of inexperience if anything."
"He was really happy. I've never seen him looking the way he had here, like he was somehow still in Azkaban."
"Yes. It brings a strange comfort knowing that we could have had seventeen more years. Or, had seventeen more years if I understand what you're saying."
"One more year that I can remember."
"Funny how that works, doesn't it? I'm glad you got to meet them, Harry."
With that, they began talking business, Remus listening intently to everything he said, everything he had concluded from his adventure.
"The orphanage –that's just willpower, and we can clear out the building beforehand. I'll know to bypass the labyrinth this time; is there somewhere we can get a Minotaur horn?"
Remus paused to think. "There was a creature shop that I found in Romania on my travels. I believe they have one, and I've never known any of their items to be anything but genuine."
"Gringotts, everything else –I won't screw up this time. I won't."
Harry told him of how they must act quickly, destroying the Horcruxes in separate groups around the same time so Voldemort would not suspect what they were up to.
"Yes," Remus mused. "If he thinks you're dead, that his spell succeeded, he'll move all the quicker to capture the Wizarding World now that the only person blocking him is dead. But does he know?"
Harry frowned. "I dunno, I'd just assumed that he did –"
"Dumbledore has put wards in place so he cannot monitor you at the Dursleys. Those, of course, will not be in effect on your birthday, so –"
"So he doesn't know. Can we leak it to the Daily Prophet?"
"We could. We'd need to create a false body, a false memorial for you. But your connection to him is still present, is it not? How is your Occlumency?"
Harry straightened. He was more hesitant about this, the one thing he couldn't quite get right. "I think –I think I can manage."
"You need to be sure, Harry."
There wasn't a lot about his life right now that was sure. But he did know that, unlike fifth year, he now knew the difference between fantasy and reality.
"Yeah," he said as Remus stood up to leave the room. "I'm sure. But Professor?"
The last Marauder turned. "Yes, Harry?"
"Promise me that when we get to the end, and I can't –I can't get this Horcrux out of me, promise that you'll kill me."
Remus's eyes widened in distress. "Harry, don't –"
"It might happen. I'll try my hardest not to let that happen, but if it does –promise me."
Still, this man, this last connection to his parents, hesitated, shaking his head slowly at the absurdity that his best friend's son wanted him to commit. Harry must live. He had to.
"Promise me. If you ever escaped in your wolf form, without Wolfsbane, you would ask the same thing, wouldn't you?"
He merely looked at him with sad, sad eyes. "It doesn't look like I have much choice, do I? But I'll never be able to forgive myself."
"No, Remus. It would be necessary." Harry sucked in a large breath of air. "I'm –I'm ready."
But Remus knew better. He knew that no one could be ever prepared for death, not completely. Still, he saw the logic of Harry Potter's reasoning, the same spark of determination that shone in Lily's eyes, the same stubborn stance as James. Merlin, it had better not come to that.
"I promise, Harry."
He's been here before, but the battleground is different; instead of the Riddle house, it's Hogwarts, the one place where he's been proud to call his home. This time, the finality had come quicker, sped up with the relatively smooth destruction of Voldemort's Horcruxes –all but one. All but him, all but the shard of soul and corruption inside of him.
Everything was different, yet all the same; his friends were still throwing their lives on the line, still in danger of the permanence of death, the permanence of being suffocated and distorted by the bodies falling all around them. Harry could only hope that theirs did not join the fray.
It has come down to this, after all.
"Harry Potter." The Dark Lord's flat nostrils flared. "Faking your death? A cunning trick. Worthy of a Slytherin, I should say."
He stayed silent, concentrating on his Occlumency.
"Are you afraid, Harry Potter?"
You will lose everything.
Voldemort sniffed. "Honesty. I appreciate that, Harry. But do you really want such a –such a negative word to be your last?"
Harry almost snorted. His Mum was right; Voldemort really did like to talk. Surreptitiously, he waited for his window of opportunity, as he knew Voldemort was waiting for his. It had to be the right moment, the vulnerable moment from which Voldemort could not escape –and then it'd be the real challenge.
"Tell me, Harry Potter, how did you escape? Surely you must have seen…terrible things."
Yes. He'd seen his sister almost become consumed by darkness. He'd seen his friends, changed and embittered by separate experiences. He'd seen his mother die and his grieving father accuse him of her murder. He'd seen the anguish in Sirius's eyes, the same haunting quality that had held and trapped them in reality. He'd seen Remus's sad smile, tired and worn. He'd seen that Muggle nun, who had been touched and damaged by Tom Riddle's work as a teenager. As a kid like Harry, as a child who was not a child.
But he'd also seen them conquer.
So would he.
Voldemort sneered as he circled slowly around Hagrid's pumpkin patch, surprisingly untouched by the destruction currently raging around them, in the distance. It was odd to be so separated, so detached from the mayhem and screams and lights taking place all around Hogwarts, in the Great Hall, at the Quidditch Pitch, in the Great Hall –there were no witnesses here.
But Hermione had never been captured, Neville had never changed into a Minotaur, Bill and Padma were still alive, Parvati had never been the victim of Sectumsempra and Draco had been offered a chance for escape. Even now, Draco, Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy were fighting what had used to be their side. Even now, the Death Eaters were surrounded by the Order and those the Malfoys had recruited, the former troops of the Dark Lord's cause that were brought to Harry's side by their disillusionment of Voldemort's cruelty, their pride and loyalty broken by the deaths of their family and friends. Voldemort had dug his own grave.
"Are you afraid to lose?" Harry said quietly.
"It's always been between me and you, Harry. I thought this was appropriate."
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was scared, Harry knew that. That's why he had cast that spell on Harry, why he had hit him with a curse strong enough to propel him to such an isolated spot, away from the main battle. Still, Harry's chest hurt from the impact, and he could feel himself wheezing slightly.Strength, he needed to keep his strength.
"How did you escape?"
In that moment, Harry wanted him to know. He wanted Voldemort to know that the one thing he could never understand, the one thing he couldn't fight or destroy had propelled Harry out of the nightmare, out of the fate Voldemort had in store for him. He wanted him to know that the very thing his cold, cold heart couldn't feel or comprehend is what was going to defeat him once and for all –for good this time.
Harry smiled. "Love."
Something unreadable flashed across Voldemort's flat, pallid face, and Harry seized his opportunity.
This is for you, Mum, Dad, Violet. All of you.
He felt no hatred as the spell eased from his heart, from the core of his magic to the tip of his wand. He felt nothing but peace and a sudden connection to those he'd lost as green light expelled from a stick of wood and struck a horrified Voldemort in the chest. He felt nothing but calm as his worst enemy's body lay sprawled on the ground at an awkward angle, reminding him uncomfortably of Cedric Diggory.
He'd done it. The deed he had been expected to do, the murder that the Wizarding World had egged him to commit. The kill the public had expected of him despite not believing him about Voldemort's return at first. He didn't feel evil, but he had to wonder if –
His scar was on fire, splitting down the middle of his head, splitting his face into two –he recalled with horror Quirrell's two headed monstrosity and clutched his face with his hands. Even through the pain, he was able to feel relief that there had been no physical change, but inside him, in his chest, he could feel it –that thing, rising.
Fight it, Harry, fight it.
He heard someone screaming, but it could very well have been him. He felt that unexplainable presence gaining consciousness, gaining confidence as it began to fight him for control.
There was a terrifying moment when he had no say over what his body was doing, nor was the knowledge of its actions known to him. For a terrifying moment, all he knew was pain and darkness; it felt like someone was grabbing onto his heart, preparing to rip it messily from his chest. He felt Voldemort and his sadistic intentions pumping through his bloodstream, through his arteries and veins, violating his very being.
He fought this presence, waiting for the protection to kick in, waiting for what had helped expel Voldemort when he'd possessed him before.
But it wasn't coming, and Voldemort continued crawling his way up, a squirming, greedy presence within him consuming all the darker parts of him, the arrogance, the anger –but most of all, the self-hatred.
All your fault, it whispered to him. It's all your fault.
Are you afraid to lose?
Your parents, dead. Unborn sister, dead. Sirius, dead. Dumbledore, dead. And how many others, dying for you now? Dying for you to LOSE.
"No," Harry mumbled, taking control of his voice. "No, no, no, no, no…"
This wasn't the same, he realized. This was different. It wasn't just a simple possession; it was an army of his darkest fears and inhibitions taking him over. The Horcrux had resided inside of him for sixteen years, lived inside of him greedily, quietly awaiting its activation. It was Harry's own wolf, waiting to be unleashed in the moonlight.
And in that time, it had developed immunity to that blood protection. It wasn't going to be of any help to him now.
A voice, breaking through the haze, through the flashing images of falling, flying bodies and veiled threats. A gentle, familiar tone tinted with an edge of panic.
Okay, Harry admitted deliriously. Maybe a lot of panic.
Ahhh, the werewolf. A sentimental fool, just like your precious Dumbledore.
"Shut up, shut up!" Harry shouted, groaning as he violently covered his ears with his palms.
"Harry, you've got to fight it. Remember who you are –you can beat him! He's just a man."
Just a man? Who continues to live while others have died?
It wasn't just Remus now. He felt Voldemort growing stronger, Harry growing weaker even as familiar faces surrounded him, watching in fearful fascination as the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One, fought demons none of them could help him with. He caught a glimpse of Hermione, biting her lip as her eyes bore into him, tears threatening to spill. He saw Ron, grasping her hand as he yelled unheard encouragements to his best friend. Neville and Luna, solemn and hoping. Ginny, no tears in sight, but angry as she tried to help Harry fight the very being that had possessed her six years ago –a being that, in a different world, would have taken his sister.
Strange, that. Where were the Death Eaters? Why were his friends so close? They shouldn't worry about him, they needed to save themselves!
Fools, all of them. Why should they put themselves in danger just to watch little, insignificant, weak Harry Potter die a slow death?
He was losing –Merlin, he'd been so sure that he could win, but he was just the little scrawny runt living in the cupboard under the stairs after all, hated by his blood relatives and ignored by everyone else…
He was losing himself, his slippery hold already in danger of this invasive parasite within him, moving at a rapid pace.
"Remus," he gasped, fighting Voldemort's attempts to grind his teeth together. "You…have to…now."
His fingers were no longer his own. They twitched desperately as the two fought for control, his arm jerking roughly, gradually, towards the pocket where his wand had taken refuge. It hummed in recognition, in anticipation, and the magic drew his ambivalent fingers to grasp it.
Shameful relief swept through him as he felt Remus's spell hit him in the chest, but it had only propelled him backwards, stunning Voldemort for a brief respite.
He believes in me, Harry realized. He still thinks I can win.
In the back of his mind, he could feel the dark presence stabilizing itself, and for the first time he realized just how much magical energy they had vibrating and pulsing around them, almost as if this clash of light and dark, this mingling of good and evil and all the grey in between had a life of its own.
The werewolf is mistaken if he relies on a faulty savior.
It happened too quickly for Harry to react. He watched helplessly as his own, traitorous hand swiped his wand and his own betraying voice call out the killing curse, ending Remus Lupin's life with a flash of green. Ginny was next, and Ron and Luna before Harry managed to grasp his right hand with his left, forcing the other to the ground. He felt his eyes trailing back to the destruction, to the failing, to his failure.
That's right, Harry, your strength is gone now. They will hate you, they will –
This isn't right. He registered the scene before him, registered that he should be feeling grief, that he should be devastated and hating himself for being so weak. But he wasn't.
There was no sorrow in his gut, in his heart.
You are weak, Harry Potter, you will never equal me in power, in the Dark Magic that ultimately defeated you –
This wasn't real. This was no memory, no ghost of a reality. Merely a vision, a false vision created by Voldemort to unhinge him, to destroy him. That knowledge was a fragment of sanity, of anchor and stability, and he eagerly grasped it as Sirius Black had once clung to the knowledge of his innocence. He'd already lived through a dream-reality once before, and he knew in his gut that this wasn't one of them.
Yes. Harry seized control of his mind, his body, his heart –but in reality, it had always been his, had been waiting for him to wake up and take it back. His experience in a world where his parents were alive, the scar and muscle memory, the love he had for the people dead and alive –those were his, and couldn't be taken from him.
Harry woke up. He opened his eyes and saw the others still watching him, still hoping and longing and loving. Still alive.
But so was Voldemort, still.
He felt rather than saw it, felt the chill and ice in the air and ground as one of the last remaining Dementors swooped down, drawn to the feast of Dark Magic and misery. He knew Remus wasn't going to kill him, wasn't going to go through on the promise he'd made to him –he wasn't going to put him down as a monster because he knew Harry was better than that. He knew Harry could win.
"Don't do it!" Harry yelled, hoping against hope that they understood him. Because it would take all of his strength to do this, to confront fear itself.
He'd fought his fair share of Dementors, even more so in the dream-reality, where their power had seemed to touch everything terrible and cruel. Ironic, he thought. Maybe they'll finally give rather than take away. Salvation through destruction.
He would protect his friends, no matter what. He would not make his parents' sacrifice, Violet's pain, Sirius's fall and Dumbledore's memory worth nothing. He would pay back all those who had watched him so closely in death, watched and cared and loved him by saving all those who were left.
With Voldemort still bragging in the back of his mind, still arrogantly trying to tear down his defenses and usurp his mind as he had a few months ago with the dream-reality, Harry seized all the self-control he had in store and threw himself at the Dementor.
It caught him with its dead, spindly fingers, staring down at him with hungry, soulless eyes that longed for what it did not have, what it could not have. Its great, gaping mouth gripped Harry in its horrible stench, paralyzing him with fear. It was easy to let go, to give control of his body to this final piece of Voldemort, to make him the dominant soul for the seconds it'd take to offer him as a sacrifice to the greedy, demented Dementor.
Voldemort's screams echoed in his mind as his lips made contact with the mouth of the dry, corpse-like creature, sucking him up into oblivion, into endless hunger, into misery and pain and sorrow and a loveless existence Tom Riddle was already living.
His mother was screaming as she died a double death, his father gripped his son's neck in unrestrained, feral grief, his sister tasted the rain on her tongue as she acknowledged her non-existence. Neville squirmed painfully as he transformed back from a Minotaur, Ron writhed as he was captured by the living brains of the Department of Mysteries, Ginny laid pale and lifeless as water lapped around her body in the Chamber of Secrets. Luna, asking if Harry had seen her shoes. Sirius, alone and haunted as he was trapped in the childhood home he despised. Remus, hunched alone by the Weasleys' fireplace at Christmas. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Failed.
But he hadn't. He saw through the misery to see what had been gained, what had been saved. The last thought he had before he faded away was that, despite everything, they had won.
He felt free.
Harry Potter floated. He floated between worlds, between consciousness and unconsciousness, between dream and reality, not bothering to make sense of the two. It was white –rather too white, like the world had been blanketed in brilliant snow.
He had no sense of up or down, right or left. It was merely existence and non-existence, and he was aware of nothing but the lightness in his toes and fingers, the lack of burden on his shoulders. He slowly blinked open his green eyes occasionally, catching bits and pieces as he floated, floated…
Do you think Remus was too late?
Voldemort's gone, that's all I –
Scrimgeour, you have no right to be here!
I don't know, Nymphadora, maybe I shouldn't have waited so long…
Think he'll ever wake up?
"I'd say that's up to you, Harry."
He wanted to turn around, but he felt so peaceful, so light, so –
"Lazy? Well, that can be remedied."
His body awoke with a jolt as something grabbed his leg and pulled, hard. Harry fell messily, seeming to be supported by nothing but white clouds.
"See? That wasn't so hard, was it?"
He really should be surprised, he really should. But turning around and seeing his father seemed natural. Almost normal.
"Hey yourself." James Potter crossed his arms and scanned his surroundings with a smile. "Interesting. I prefer being on a broom when I'm surrounded by clouds, but that's just me."
"Your mother's already spent time with you, so we thought it'd only be fair for my turn."
James grimaced sympathetically. "Yeah, you've had quite an odd time lately, even by wizarding standards."
"Do you know where you are?"
"In a coma, I expect."
"Good, good, you've got some awareness…"
Harry met his father's eye. "Did I –is he –?"
"Yes. The Horcrux is gone."
"You mean Voldemort."
"No. It was a very dangerous piece of Dark Magic that had the potential of becoming Voldemort. Thanks to you, that soul fragment never completely manifested."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief before laying back. "Then it wasn't a waste, then."
"No, it wasn't. It doesn't have to be if you don't want it to."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you have a choice whether to fight or, well, die."
Harry groaned. "Great, more choices, more worldly duties for Harry bloody Potter."
"This isn't a worldly choice, Harry. It's a personal one. The Wizarding World couldn't give a shit about whether you live or die. Well, most, at least. If you choose death, history will mark you a martyr. Choose life, and you're an international hero and celebrity. I'm sure Remus and your friends would prefer that you make it, but like always, it's what you want that counts."
"So you chose to choke me?"
Harry watched his father squirm, the guilt settling onto the features of a man sixteen years dead.
"Sorry, Dad, that –"
"No, no, you're right. Not my proudest moment."
"But it wasn't you."
He shook his head. "Oh, it was, Harry…it was. It's hard to admit, but that was a painfully accurate representation of what my reaction would have been. You –you are a different person than the dream-Harry you supposedly replaced. The changes were small and subtle, yes, but they were there and if I had been in that position I would have spotted them. The world's full of liars and cheats and I would have suspected that one of those lot had kidnapped my son and masqueraded as him."
"If I'd told you –the other you– the truth, would –" Harry paused, looking down at his bare feet, supported by nothing.
"Yes," James said confidently. "I would have believed you. Too many strange things had happened to…and you can't fake everything, not completely. Your eyes are too much like your mother's, too revealing –she always hated that. Besides," he added, grinning, "you're just too cute to reject. Lily would always pinch your chubby cheeks and make those funny baby noises while Sirius and Remus made fun of her for it…"
Harry could only nod, straining his ears to listen intently to the whispers that buzzed the back of his head, like an itch.
Wish he would say something…scream in his sleep, even, to let us know that he's still there…
"Is it easier, dying?"
"No. Not at all. Not when you're leaving something behind."
He didn't particularly want to die; after all, he had his friends, his adopted families –he would never taste Mrs. Weasley's cooking again, which would be a right shame. And he didn't think he could stand seeing Hermione and Ginny cry –or Ron, for that matter. He noticed James watching him intently, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to care.
"That's apathy you're feeling," his father explained. "The indifference that could prove to be a very real reality when you're dead."
"But I'm not dead."
Harry's foot was asleep. Impatiently, he stomped on it, realizing that James was right –he did feel sluggish. But as the tingly feeling in his leg slowly went away, so did his listless movements. Strangely enough, the more focus he had, the harder it was to hear the voices on the outside, on the other side of his brain, mind, whatever unreal and existing place he was currently in.
But it had made him more alert. And with that comes questions he needed answered, unfinished business that needed to be attended to before returning to life.
"Is Violet okay?"
"Yes, she's fine. I can't say more than that. Rules, you know."
"What about Wormtail? I hope they caught him at Hogwarts…"
"No, he's dead."
"What?" Somehow, death seemed too easy an out for the sniveling rat, even if he had saved Hermione at the cost of his own life in that dream-reality.
"You didn't see? It was before Voldemort whisked you away to Hagrid's pumpkin patch, during the heat of battle. You couldn't possibly –well, you were dueling a Death Eater when another tried to kill you, against his master's orders; I think he could see that they were losing, and wanted to finish you quickly. Peter jumped in the way."
"No he didn't. I didn't see –"
"I think you were a little preoccupied."
"Well, if he did, it was just because he owes me a life debt."
James inclined his head. "That was a good thing for you to do, to spare Remus and Sirius from becoming killers."
"He got away."
"And saved your life, in the end. It might have been because of the life debt but –but I'd like to think better of little Peter. Could just be vanity though; I don't want to think that I'd been so wrong about a person, especially a Gryffindor."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "How do I know I can trust you?"
James shrugged. "You don't. But if you really believed I was a figment of your imagination or a hallucination within the coma, you'd have stopped listening to me long ago."
This was frustrating and annoying, especially since Harry had to make a deliberate effort to sort through his own thoughts. He didn't realize until he saw the sad, sad expression on his father's face that his lips were pursed, pouting that the puzzle was not yet completely solved.
"You should be allowed to do that more often. Be a brat, I mean." He laughed, but it sounded hollow. "If I were –well, I can't change that now, but you shouldn't have been expected to be an adult when you clearly weren't."
"You remind me of Remus. Far older than he should be, especially at your age."
"So I should be a right idiot like you were?" Harry joked.
James snorted. "Oh, maybe not then. But I think there might have been some denial of what was happening in the world mixed in with the immaturity."
"Don't try and make excuses now!"
"Hey, you're focusing better. Feel easier now? That means you're getting close to getting out of here."
Harry looked down at the hands that had murdered Lord Voldemort. It was murder, no matter what anyone said, murder done for the greater good. And though he felt an immense relief, a lightness in the way he now carried himself, his hands are now stained.
"I think you were right to never use the Unforgivables. It takes something away from you."
James nodded. "It does. When I used the Cruciatus once, just once, for a few seconds…it couldn't have lasted more than five seconds, but it was enough. I cried like a baby once I got back home, to safety. It was to save your mother, but also not to –I saw them torturing her, and wanted to repay the favor. A simple Stun would have done the trick but –but I, for a moment, became one of them."
"You?" Harry asked, surprised. "You used one too?"
"Why do you think I'm so against it?"
Harry looked down, suddenly filled with shame. "There's always been something in me…that darkness that Violet had. The Horcrux, or the way I grew up, I don't know where it came from exactly, but it's there. And I feel like, after I killed someone, it's just going to get worse. That I'll become the next Lord Voldemort."
"Is that why you're hesitating about going back?"
"Maybe –maybe it'll be better if I died, here. We're so similar, and I could easily become him, now that I've taken the first step."
James shook his head, approaching his son and placing comforting hands on his shoulder. "You're not Tom Riddle. You have something he doesn't."
"Love. I know."
"Then you know how that makes all the difference. He killed for pleasure and power. You killed to prevent those you love from having to do it themselves. Because it would have come to that, you know, if you hadn't killed him. It would have been the beginning of the descent, where life is no longer sacred."
Harry frowned, not quite believing him. "A lot of people have died."
"Yes. And with one more, permanent death, the killing ends. Most of it, anyway. All the Death Eaters had been taken care of before you killed Voldemort, you know. Scrimgeour's Aurors arrived after all, though I don't know if it was his order, Moody's encouragement and threats, or of their own accord. Wasn't paying attention to that at the time…too busy watching you. Sirius wanted to sell tickets; not that money's any good up there."
Harry raised an eyebrow.
"He wanted to keep our minds off the danger, the reality that your confrontation would determine everything –but most importantly, the life of our son and godson."
"So you were there, with me?"
"In a matter of speaking."
"Just like in the graveyard, fourth year."
"We're always with you, even if you can't see us." James smiled at him sadly, but not for the first time. "That was one of the few times we could physically be of use. Otherwise we're just whispers –"
"In my dreams."
"Thank you. For there and then. Tell Violet that –"
James nodded, but Harry found that he couldn't say anymore, that he was slowly becoming aware of every ache and pain, the cotton brushing against naked fingertips. He watched as his father grew further away and as the harsh lights overhead became more prominent.
He wanted to open his eyes, but the lights, so different from the effervescent snowy clouds of before, refused to oblige him.
"Is he –Ron. Ron, wake up!"
"Wha –OW, that hurts, Hermione!"
"Look!" Something warm touched his hands, startling Harry with the contact. "Harry? Harry, it's Hermione…"
Harry blinked, just barely making out the blur of Hermione glaring at Ron if he squinted.
Someone gently placed his glasses into his awaiting palm, but he didn't put them on. Instead, he allowed himself to be strangely comforted at the touch of familiar plastic and glass, the mended edges that, before magic, had been haphazardly kept together with tape. And even then that had come to him second handed.
There was nothing second handed about this. Harry Potter, the Chosen One, had been the first and only to defeat Voldemort, to lift the Wizarding World from its perilous descent.
He didn't know if it felt all that great, finally coming up first.
His friends were starting to get past their joy and relief, stumbling into uncertainty and concern. How could they be so concerned for him? he thought mournfully. They'd lost so many; too many had not lived to see this day, including people Harry didn't even know about, Order members and Aurors and Death Eaters who had fallen, unwatched, unnoticed. Because even the dead had not been paying attention to or given importance to their deaths –no, they'd been watching Harry Potter.
"Harry, mate, c'mon –er, look, a seven foot tall spider!"
"That only works on you, Ron."
"Shut up, Hermione. Harry, please, you're still in there, aren't you?"
His mind felt strangely clouded, groggy; he'd had that wondrous moment of clarity as he'd first become aware of waking up out of the coma, but that seemed to be leaving him now, failing, abandoning. Now he no longer felt light and protected, but weighed down by the world's wearies.
Perhaps he'd made the wrong choice.
"Who'd we lose?"
His voice was still hoarse, still cracked and broken. He hated it.
"Harry," Hermione said gently. "You've been out for almost three weeks. We were afraid the Dementor had gotten some of you, or –or brain damage or something."
Harry registered her sniffles and the beginning of glistening tears, Ron's silent hand on her shoulder. What? He felt, slowly, pulled out of his apathy; he didn't like seeing his friends, and especially girls, cry. That just made him uncomfortable, and he'd never had a particularly good experience with crying girls and –
"Stop, Hermione," he said rather desperately. "Don't cry. Just, er, hold it in or –"
But before he could even push his glasses on the bridge of his nose, Hermione had launched herself at him, mumbling incoherently in delight. Ron caught the glasses that had tumbled out of Harry's hands and looked at his two best friends quizzically.
"Oh, bloody hell!"
Harry wanted to laugh, feeling a bit of joy and life flow back into him as Ron joined the group hug, sure that he would suffocate if there were a fourth. He did laugh, thinking about what would happen if Hagrid had come in at that moment, giant tears spilling messily down into his beard.
When the friends broke apart, grinning stupidly at each other, they couldn't help but indulge in their happiness, their miracle, no matter what had befallen people they knew and didn't know, loved and never loved.
They rejoiced because they had lived, they had Harry back; they were complete, they no longer had an aching hole in their sides. Because no matter how badly they felt for those who didn't make it, they couldn't help but celebrate that it hadn't been them.
Or perhaps it was that they chose to do the dead the honor of not wasting their sacrifice, of wasting away the chance they had –perhaps that was their prerogative, and what had made them get past the nagging guilt to something like recovery.
They knew that people had died, knew that their world, their lives, were in shambles. And for an indulgent, precious moment, they allowed themselves to be scared. They let their hands intertwine and lock, overlapping their past, present and future as they sought strength from those who understood. Hermione and Ron had been with Harry from the start of his rebirth into his magical heritage, and they'd grown old too, far older than seventeen, than seventh years gathered around the Common Room fire or sprinting down an empty corridor laughing because –well, why wouldn't they?
So they sat there in comfortable silence. No heavy questions, no inquiries about the final battle or death or what the hell they're going to do now. Just the innocently pure, white walls, the soft privacy of the curtains and the over bleached sheets. They could carry their burdens later, together.
They had time.
It's been years, decades, since Harry Potter lay on the brink of death and had the conversation with his father about life, death and purpose. Now that he's back to the crossing, after living a fulfilled life, he can't help but feel mixed emotions.
All he could have asked of his life, and death, was that he fulfill it to the best of his abilities, and to have no regrets, in the end.
So here he was, many, many years after the defeat of Lord Voldemort, finally entering the place he had chosen not to go, where the family he'd lost at the age of one had resided until a dream-reality had brought them briefly back to him.
Upon his arrival, he was met with familiar faces of Hogwarts classmates, Order members, distant relations, people he'd encountered over the years. They all seemed to pass by him quickly, smiling, knowing that he had somewhere to be; there was time for re-introductions later.
He passed by Professor McGonagall, who clasped his hand in hers and gave him a little push in the right direction. He saw Severus Snape, who merely scowled at him, though Harry thought it seemed less menacing than usual. Neville, who gave him a mighty smack on the back as the two smiled at each other; each had bore the burden of being the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One at a point, and Harry could never forget his friend's bravery in either realm. He saw so many others, those who had fallen during the wars, who had died in the aftermath and the decades of relative peace after that.
He saw Professor Dumbledore, still wearing half-moon glasses and bearing a prominently crooked nose, beaming at him.
"They're waiting, Harry."
He felt his heart swell with joy as he spotted the familiar figures he had been too young to know, too stubborn to believe a dream could possibly give him the family he wanted so much. James, Lily. And Remus and Sirius! No matter how unreal it seemed, no matter how long ago he'd lost his parents and godfather, how recently Remus had passed, they were here, they were familiar, like whispers in his dreams.
With that, they rushed at each other like they hadn't seen each other in years, hadn't touched since that reality defying hug, the hands on his shoulders. They mumbled incoherent things to each other, things that could be clarified later on. They had time.
As he was lovingly embraced by his mother and father, another flash of red caught Harry's eye. Stunned, he slowly pulled away from his long dead parents and squinted, needing to see her clearly without his glasses, without the impediments of reality and dreams.
The sixteen-year-old smiled and approached him silently. She looked the same –he didn't.
"You –you're not –"
"I know," she said. "Thanks to you and –well, Voldemort I suppose, to an extent, but let's not count him, yeah?"
A sudden surge of emotion rushed through him, the same emotion that had told him all those years ago that what he went through had been real, had been as real as his heart could tell.
"I never forgot you, you know."
Violet smiled. "I know that too."
It was true. No matter how much he had known it was a spell, no matter how long it had been since that half a year and single night, he had never forgotten the phantom sister he should have had, the parents who should have survived. It would hit him at random times, stunning him when he looked at a family photo and realize that he would never have nieces and nephews on his side of the family –only on his wife's.
He didn't mind, of course –there had always been plenty of little ones to spoil, but sometimes he couldn't help but think of what could have been. What would have been, had destiny been reversed.
He'd always known that, despite the ill intentions of the dream reality, he had taken something good out of it. He'd gotten to know his family, but he'd always felt a nagging pull of selfishness. Sure, he had gotten to see them, but what had it cost them? Would Violet go back into non-existence, knowing that she could have had life, or some form of it? Would his parents continue to watch, his mother having held him that one time, his father having spoken to him, guided him, in his coma? Would they continue to be observers to Harry's life, the life that the dead could not have?
But now, seeing Violet here –sixteen still, but here– and his parents' happy faces and the wet tear tracks on his mother's cheeks, a smiling Remus and an overjoyed Sirius, he knew that it had been worth it to them too. It had not been a waste.
"Hey, come here." Harry suddenly felt himself in a bear hug with Sirius Black, who was smiling at him broadly, looking more like the version of him in the dream-reality –no longer haunted. He looked positively youthful. "I see you were still using your old Firebolt, to the end."
"Yeah," Harry said, grinning. "It's the best model, no matter what they're coming up with these days. Better for backyard pick up games, I think." He turned to Remus. "Hello, again."
Remus smiled, the age around his eyes lifting. "You've done a good job, Harry."
"Well of course," James said proudly. "What else do you expect from my son?"
Lily punched him in the shoulder. "He practically rebuilt the Ministry, James. I don't think you can take credit for that piece of genetic brilliance."
"And you can?"
Harry shook his head. "I had a lot of help."
But Lily wasn't paying attention to the conversation any longer. Instead, her eyes trailed to something to the right of him.
Harry shifted his gaze and spotted Peter Pettigrew standing off to the side, away from the smiles and sad regret of their reunion. He saw Lily Potter notice him, her eyes indecisive, until she surprised him and approached the traitor who had tried so badly to be a hero.
Harry knew better than anyone how emotional, how confusing it was to see people who had been dead for seventeen years suddenly in front of him, suddenly real and solid and made the things he'd done in the past suddenly part of the present. He wondered how they could not have crossed paths during such a long period of time –Wormtail certainly looked shaken up. He hoped he had been in purgatory, or somewhere painful.
Lily stood in front of the man called Wormtail, the one who she had told the day of her own funeral in a world inside Harry's mind that she could never forgive him.
He looked shocked, devastated, scared –but most of all, guilty.
"I'm sorry," he cried, tears spilling messily down his cheeks, his teeth irreversibly chattering from his twelve years as a rat. "I'm so sorry. I –I wasn't going to come, but something, something made me and –oh Merlin. I just –I'll stay away, forever, if that's what you want. I don't even know why I'm here all of a sudden, with all of you, instead of hell or–"
"You're here because you did the right thing, in the end," she said. "You hurt us but –but you protected my son and his friend, in another time."
"It doesn't make what I did go away," he said miserably.
"No, it doesn't. But it makes redemption possible."
It was true. Peter Pettigrew had a lifetime, one in which he had been accepted into a group of pranksters, whose bond had been so strong that it had shattered at the very idea that one of the four was a betrayer. Because of him, James and Sirius had suspected Remus Lupin, and inadvertently treated the werewolf like the monster they'd always sworn to never see him as. After their betrayal of his friendship, Remus had been seen as the dark creature whose deliberate isolation after a decapitating loss could only indicate his guilt, his ill intentions. Because of him, Lily and James had died too young, their lifetime cut short and a daughter left unborn. Because of him, Harry Potter had grown up in a cupboard under the stairs, knowing his parents as ideas rather then people. Because of him, Peter became Wormtail, cowering as a rat for twelve years as he slowly lost his humanity.
They only have one lifetime, but death is but the next great adventure, and they have all the time they need. Eternity is a long time to spend alone, locked away in the clouds, separated from the world they'd once loved until they completely forgot the events of their lifetime.
It had taken Dumbledore a long time to find and coax Ignacius Fatum into caring enough to divulge the information they hoped would save Harry, to look up with his old, empty eyes, part the clouds and see for the first time in a very long time, how important the ancient information stored away in his memories were.
Lily had found Fatum again, after Harry had won; she'd wanted to thank him for giving them that vital information. But his eyes had been vacant, and though he had inclined his head at her in acknowledgement, her gratitude meant nothing to him anymore.
Peter's betrayal was still very, very fresh, even after so many years, and she still remembers the guilt, the terrible gnawing feeling in her gut when James had softly told her his suspicions about Remus, her Prefect partner, her friend. She was glad that, at least, Remus Lupin had gotten his happy ending, something that had been held out of his reach for so long.
But she also remembers the Peter from school, the one so eager to please and make her laugh at his antics. She knew that she wouldn't be able to forgive herself if Peter became like Fatum, if he lost whatever else was left of who he used to be.
In happier times, she would have grabbed his arm and yanked the smaller man towards the group, towards her husband, son and friends, but the thought of touching him disgusted her now. So she merely inclined her head and began walking, feeling his hesitant steps following her a few seconds after.
Lily saw the confusion in Harry's eyes, the flash of hatred as he watched Wormtail approach. She held her son's gaze, slowly reminding him of forgiveness, of what the traitor had done in dream and reality.
Harry turned away, not quite ready to forgive. Everything was still fresh for him, he had been active, not observing and reflecting, but there would be time for that later. Instead, he averted his gaze to his father, whose eyes held ambivalence and indecision. He turned to Violet, his partner in crime, and the only one who had felt as acutely as he had the death of their mother in the dream reality.
But she shrugged, inclining her head at Remus, who had extended a hand towards their wayward friend. But he was the most inclined to forgiveness, and it would be a long road there, if it ever happened. They had time.
Harry turned to Violet.
"I missed you," he said.
Violet grabbed hold of her brother's hand, laughing as she pulled him towards the ever expanding landscape.
"Come on, Harry, let's go on an adventure."