Chapter Twenty

Harry stood alone, watching the sun fall behind the horizon. The wind whipped around him as he stared over the cliff above Hogwarts lake and the school itself. He hadlearned from his Godfather that this was Lily's favorite spot. His mother loved coming out here to think, to just feel the serene calmness to her pain and anger. And he understood. It was as if the world about them knew and tried to comfort their child. It was as if the Gods had chosen Lily to be their child as well since Harry could feel their magic in the winds.

It had only been two months since the war ended. And Harry had watched as everyone around him fell back into natural habits. I miss you, Mum and Dad. But the world is safe from harm now. They're all happy and free. No more loss of innocents. No more broken homes and families. We've still a long way to go but the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place.

Harry looked upwards, staring into the rapidly growing night sky. He recounted some of the events that happened. The public was still sending him gifts and sincere apologies. They were truly sorry for turning on their hero and asked for nothing in return, only hope that they would one day be able to do what he did, sacrifice a part of themselves for the good of others. Darkness never remains down. It simply regroups behind its closed doors, eating away at the ones wanting to be free. It will return. And there will be a day when the Light goes out. But as the saying goes, there is no Dark without Light as there is no Light without Dark. And when the Light goes out, someone somewhere will inspire it to return to full flame. An innocent with eyes wide, pleading and shining with love and hope.

With a soft sigh, he held out a clenched hand, opening it slowly in to the gentle breeze. Emerald eyes watched as ashes floated away. He wasn't the only one the public was trying to appease. Tom Riddle had gone public about his relationship with Dark Arts, becoming Voldemort, his rescue by Harry Potter, and vanished from the world's eye. Good luck, Tom. We of the Shadows truly need the escape. Tom had left a note, sending it with Malfoy's eagle to him. Tom wasn't just leaving, he was traveling. Something Harry would like to do, travel the world to find his home, his life. Now, here Harry stood, allowing the ashes of Tom's letter in the wind, hoping it'll set Tom's soul free from the taint left by his brush with madness. You have a life to live, lost because of anger and pain. Maybe one day you might return to the one home we truly belong, Hogwarts.

Tom's sudden disappearance began to open floodgates for every one else. He had faced his charges for Voldemort's reign, leaving upon his own need for self-exile. The world had been shocked, staring at the face of the infamous Voldemort now turned Riddle. The new Minister agreed with Riddle's need for self-exile, knowing the man would only return for one reason, hopeful death within the one home he only knew, Hogwarts. That was that and Harry had been satisfied, using his fame to appease the magical world that Tom Riddle was harmless. Then he sat back, watching the floodgates pour freely with more shocks to the public. Something that needs to happen more often.

Ron had fully come out to everyone about his relationship with Draco. Lucius had simply raised a brow, knowing about their feud. The Weasley/Malfoy feud was one of the most spectacular feuds, only fitting to end with love between the two. Narcissa had gone overboard with plans of their bonding and futuristichope for a family, after all it was all she could do since she had been locked away in one of the Manor's Wings under House arrest. Draco truly didn't want to lose his mother, even if she had fully sided with the Dark Lord. At least with her under House arrest Narcissa could still be close to her only son and rejoice in his happiest moments.

And when the public would have out cried, Harry stepped forward with his blessings and toast of absolute happiness, whether they got along or not. After all, no relationship is perfect. You must live with the bumps and scrapes. You must learn to forgive the deadly and not so deadly mistakes. Love comes from the deepest of emotions. Sometimes the border of hate can become love. Friendships can even be the turning tide of such things.

They weren't the only ones to come out. Severus Snape had willingly, as well as cautiously, renewed his relationship with one eager, hopeful Sirius Black. Harry could see that pain wouldn't fully go away. Not for a long time. The two men had plenty of issues to work through. But he knew that in time their relationship would be even stronger. For what is love without trust and faith. The two most important ingredients in any relationship.

The world was coming into its own. People were learning to stand up for what they believed. And old prejudicesremained but deep within the knowledge of truths. No one would be pushed around. Not while there were others willing to step forward. It's okay to believe in your family traditions. It's okay to believe what you will. But closed minds will only drag you down. Keep thoughts open for new changes and the world will thrive for centuries to come.

His eyes closed as his body swayed to the windy song. He finally felt free but something tugged at the last chain to his heart. Maybe he wasn't as free as he had thought. Maybe I need more. Maybe I need... "Harry?" A slow smile drifted across his features as a soft, nervous, very familiar voice broke through. Maybe I needed to confront my demons with Hermione.

He turned to face the Muggleborn witch. "Hermione."

Hermione Granger stood uncertain before the same man she once called friend and then traitor. The brunettewitch did not deserve to be here. But her lover insisted. Even her closest friend, Ginny Weasley, insisted. Slender hands twined in nervous patterns about the strings of her pullover. "Hello, Harry." Her voice remained soft as brown eyes couldn't look at him.

He never moved, "How have you been?" He missed his knowledgeablefriend. But he knew the young witch had much to learn about life. There was more than studies, wasn'tthere, Hermione? You missed it all because you could only look for the facts and books. It was all you knew. You wanted to prove to the world that you were just as good, just as smart. And that was your only weakness. It took a hard fall to realize it.

And she did. Those she knew had turned their backs on her for that one costly mistake. She floundered in life, fighting to regain the respect and honor she had at one time. She fought to prove she was worthy, that she deserved a chance. She even left the magical world behind to find out more about herself. And that was how she found her lover, soon to be husband. Like her friend Harry, her lover was an orphan, lost his parents at a very young age, even witnessed it. He had fought to prove himself in a world of prejudice. He had no money, no family, nothing. But he had made a name for himself. Working odd jobs to pay for schooling, working twice as hard for college. He had fought for himself because no one else would.

And she had asked why. His answer had been, "In reality, nothing matters. It only depends on the strength of character and how you go through life. I've fought and struggled just to make it this far. And I will continue to do so. I have no one at my side because they had no faith in me. I do. I made my mistakes in life and I'm proving to all that I can learn from them. That I have faith in myself and those around me. I refuse to continuously trust the facts, not when there are matters of the heart to listen to."

It was through his struggles, his faith, and his love that she fought back. It took almost three years before she could look herself in the mirror again. And another three before she could return to the world she left behind. And surprisingly, he had gone with her to face it as well. "I've been better."

And she had. She was just getting back on her feet in the Wizarding world, showing what she knew. She fought and struggled to regain her status within the eyes of the public, even the Weasley family. She had even fought with the Weasley family about her lover.

Her lover had turned out to be Molly's own nephew, disowned through his father. Molly's family had disowned their son when they realized he was a mere Muggle. They could have dealt with a Squib, since they could perform small magical tricks, but not a Muggle with no magical essence at all. Their son fled to the Muggle world, fathering a son who would fight for his own identity after the death of his parents.

Her lover had taught her so much, even encouraged her to repair the damage to her friendship with Harry. She couldn't admire her lover enough for all that he had done for her but fixing things with Harry would be a start. "And you, Harry?"


She nodded. She knew how much things had weighed her friend down. Her life as a battle led her to think about others outside the books. And for once, she was ashamed of being a Muggle-born witch. Believing for that moment she really was a worthless Mudblood, not deserving of the special gift given to selective few beings. "I'm glad. I'm happy for you, Harry. I just wanted you to know that."

With those words she turned away, it was too hard. She couldn't do this. She didn't deserve it. But Harry couldn't let her walk away. Yes, she betrayed him. But so had Ron, so many times and he still forgave the redhead. It was only right to allow her the chance to regain what she had lost. Life is all about chances and risks. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. We are wary of those betrayers but we are more cautious as we bring them back into the fold. But there are those rare times that a betrayer proves their worth by laying down their blood, their life, their sacrifice. And she had sacrificed everything to prove she could be worthy.

She never felt him move until his arms gathered her close, tears sprang free as those welcoming arms held her tightly. "I've missed you somuch, 'Mione." She cried louder, clinging to him as she sobbed openly.

"Harry." He smiled, knowing things would be all right. Yes, there would be battles ahead and demons to face. But it was possible that they could regain some step into the future as friends. Maybe not right away. But I'm willing to try. She has been lost for so long. It is only right we bring her back. We've all been lost sometime in life. And we've all reached out for help.

He looked back into the starry sky, holding the sobbing female close. The stars twinkled, as if releasing the burdens he held for so long. Thank you. We will survive. We will pick up the pieces, heal together. We will continue down our paths. And we will be ready for anything thrown our way. We all will together.

And together, two lost friends clung tightly to one another. Under the stars they made their vows of everlasting faith and trust. Under the stars the wounds of the world began to heal as healing tears flowed freely between them. Perhaps things were looking brighter for the future. Perhaps.