Disclaimer: I own very little.
A/N: I am really relieved to have another WIP ended -- but at the same time I'm feeling a bit desperate. Lately my HP muses seem to have completely abandoned me, and now that I don't have an already finished story to post, I really don't know how long it will take from me to have another update submitted to any of my HP stories. I can only ask you to be patient with me; I am really doing my best.
"THE MAN WHO LIVED INNOCENT!" declareed the headlines in the Daily Prophet. The article itself told in full detail just how Dumbledore had managed to trick the Wizarding World in whole, and what Harry'd had to suffer before he could clear his name. There was also a mention of Lucius being innocent, and the story of Snape and Remus was told as well. Nothing was left unclear.
Harry smirked as he read the article, the emerald eyes quickly skimming through the newspaper. Then he snorted. "Order of Merlin for each of us. Well, nice enough," he said. "There's no way they can give us back all the years we lost because of that malicious bastard, and they know it. The only thing that makes me happy right now is the knowledge that the Wizarding World will weep with guilt for quite some time."
"Well, well. Aren't you vengeful," commented Remus mildly. The werewolf glanced at him over the table. "I, at least, am happy to just be here at the moment." At this, he glanced at Snape on his side, smiling. The Slytherin briefly returned his smile, then squeezed his hand gently. Remus squeezed back.
Harry smiled as well as he watched the two men interact. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lucius, who didn't look too displeased with this display, and he felt relieved. If he'd now had to deal with rivalries among the three other men, he would have run away. He had fought enough for several lifetimes already.
Sighing, he then stood up. "I'm going for a walk," he said to no one in particular. The others just nodded in acknowledgement to his words, Remus then reminding him to come back for the dinner.
He walked around for quite some time until he finally headed towards the lake. As he got nearer, however, he noticed that somebody was already standing on the edge.
"Sirius? Why are you here?" asked Harry, confused. He had only ever seen his not-really-dead godfather at night. So, what was Sirius doing here, when the sun still hadn't set?
"Ah, Harry. Just the one I needed to see." Sirius turned towards him, his long hair untouched by the wind that fuzzed Harry's just as overgrown mess of raven locks. "We need to talk."
"Those are the most frightening words of any language, you know," Harry said jokingly. Then he noticed the "lost spirit's" serious expression and frowned. "Is something wrong?"
"Well, not necessarily wrong," Sirius replied with a small smile. "It's just that..." He sighed, then said, "Remus is back in his human form now, and not only that, he has been cured of his Lycanthropy. He and Snape are together, and happily so. My job here is done, Harry. I am going to move on now."
Now, the young wizard was certainly shocked. For a moment he just stared at his companion. Then he whispered, "You're kidding, right?" There were tears rolling down Harry's cheeks, but he didn't care. He just sighed as his godfather extended a hand and gently wiped the tears off his face.
"It's not that bad to die, Harry," Sirius said gently. "Not when there is no pain."
"You can't go," whined the young wizard. "I don't want to be alone again!"
"You won't be alone, Harry," he was told. "And besides, you'll see me again after you have died, too. James promised me that I'll see him, and I am sure you'll see us both as well."
"Sirius?" Harry asked now. "What exactly was your relationship with my father?"
For a moment, the almost-ghost was silent. Then, he sighed. "I loved him, Harry... I loved him as deeply as a human being can ever love another. He told me that he loved me, too."
"Then what about my mother?" demanded Harry. "How was I ever generated?"
"Because that was meant to be, Harry." Sirius smirked a bit. "Of course, the fact that your father married your mother certainly didn't stop him from being with me."
"Oh." For a moment, the younger wizard was silent. "So... you'll see him now, then?"
"Exactly, Harry. He promised me that, and James would never promise anything if he wasn't able to keep his promise. I know I'll see him, and be with him. There's no doubt about that."
Harry sighed. "I wonder if I'll ever find somebody who truly loves me," he said.
Lucius Malfoy's face flickered into Sirius' mind, but he pushed it away. Everything on its due time. "I'm sure you will, Harry," he just said. "Your very own Mister Right might be closer than you even know."
"I trust you on that." His godson gave him a weak smile. "When will you be leaving, then?"
Sirius glanced over the lake. "It seems that about now," he said cheerfully. "Can you see them coming?"
"Yes," whispered Harry, his eyes locked on the same thing as Sirius'. "Yes, I do see them."
They both watched as two Thestrals flew over the lake. When the creatures came nearer, they saw that each carried a ghost-like, transparent form. Nearer still, and they could see the flaming cloud of almost-hair around one form's head and the messy raven mop on another's.
"Long time no see, Padfoot," James said cheerfully as he landed in front of them with his Thestral. "And Harry. You have grown, my son." He smiled fondly. "We are really proud of you, you know."
"You shouldn't be," Harry said quietly. "There's nothing to be proud of."
"And on that you are wrong," Lily said firmly. "We have every reason to be proud, and thus, we are just that." She smirked slyly and chuckled. "Now, get mounted so we can leave, Sirius. I've had my husband all to myself for twenty-four years. It's about the time you get your share, too."
"Gladly, Lils." Sirius smiled at her. Then, although he hadn't moved, he was suddenly sitting behind James on the Thestral's back. "Goodbye, Harry," he said softly. "I'll meet you later -- hopefully much later."
"Later, then." Harry forced himself to smile, although his eyes were full of tears now. His parents and godfather all smiled at him, and waved a goodbye. Then the Thestrals rose into air again and started to fly towards the sunset. Harry tried to follow them with his gaze, but the creatures and their riders soon vanished, sliding into the slight breeze of the night and mixing with the clouds.
For a long time, Harry just stood there, watching the sun set and darkness fall over the world. Stars started to slowly appear onto the sky. His eyes automatically searched for a very particular star. As he then found it, he could swear that it winked at him. It most probably did, on that note.
"Harry?" called somebody from behind him. The voice was accompanied by the sound of somebody walking nearer. "It's time to get inside, Harry. Why are you standing here, anyway?"
"Oh, no reason at all," the young wizard said quietly, turning his head to glance at Lucius. "I was just saying goodbye." At the other man's questioning glance, he said, "It's a long story. I'll perhaps tell you some day." After all, he had never told Lucius that he had seen Sirius even once after that first night.
"I hope you will." The blond smiled slightly at him. "Now, do get inside. Remus has made some delicious-smelling stew, and he would be really disappointed if you didn't even try it."
"Well, we can't have that, now can we." As they started to slowly walk towards the cottage, Harry finally said, "You don't regret it, do you? Bringing him back to his true form, I mean."
"Of course not," replied Lucius softly. "At first I did, I'll admit that. But now that I've seen Severus with him... I can't regret it. I can't even remember when I've last seen Severus so happy. Besides, you know the saying: If you truly love something, set it free. If it returns, it never really went away. And if it doesn't..."
"...It never was yours to begin with," finished Harry, nodding. "Yes, I do know that."
"Well, it now seems that Severus never was mine to pine after," Lucius said. "Whenever I see them together, I know that they are just meant to be together. There's no messing with that."
"They are meant to be, true," Harry said with a slight chuckle. "Trust me, I do know that."
Lucius gave him a curious glance, but didn't make any comment at his statement. Instead, he just pulled Harry closer and put an arm over his shoulders. There was nothing romantic in the gesture the way he did it, rather it was just a symbol of some odd brotherhood, but still it made Harry feel surprisingly warm.
And if Harry walked a bit nearer to Lucius than he absolutely had to, neither said anything about it.
A/N: Remember, if you are waiting for an update to any of my HP stories, please don't hold your breath... I'm not abandoning any of them, but at the moment I'm having a hard time trying to get anything updated.