A/N: Okay, this is the very last chapter of Gravestones, and the last chapter of my fanfic career. No need to put me on alert anymore, since I shan't be writing fanfic. But you can keep checking my profile every once in a while, because I will post there on what's happening with my book I am writing.
I started planning ideas for this chapter pretty much right after I finished Half-Blood Prince (July 16th, 2005). It has been stuck in my head, refusing to leave, ever since. I wrote it down this evening and felt immense satisfaction in doing so. I really love this chapter. I think it, combined with the previous one, are perhaps the best chapters I've ever written of any of my fanfics. You may disagree, and you can tell me so! Basically, PLEASE REVIEW! Enjoy!
"How long has it been since he did this?" Remus asked quickly.
"No more than a quarter of an hour. We had to untie ourselves."
Ron, Hermione, and Remus were bolting down the Ministry Atrium to the lifts. The Ministry was oddly deserted compared to the previous times Remus had been there. Granted, he'd only been there a few times – people in the Ministry did not take kindly to werewolves in their workplace. The empty hall caused their heavy footsteps to echo on the hard wood floors and seemed to accentuate their labored breathing. But something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
"I thought you said there were Death Eaters!" Remus called to Ron and Hermione, who were a bit ahead of him.
Hermione stopped in her tracks, grabbing Ron's shirt to stop him as well. Remus skidded to a halt beside them and watched as at least two dozen Death Eaters began to emerge for the lifts. They immediately started pelting Unforgivables at them and the three dove behind an outcropping of wall where the fireplaces began. Remus immediately began throwing stunners around the edge without even looking to aim.
"We need help! We need to get to Harry!" Hermione shouted, her eyes alight with fear as she ducked just in time to miss a jet of red light.
Remus nodded. He quickly assembled a message in his head. We need help. We're here in the Ministry, and I think Harry is here with Voldemort! Send everyone!" He knew he sounded as desperate as he felt, but he needed them now. He couldn't lose Harry too…
"Expecto Patronum!" he shouted, and immediately a burst of light issued from his wand. He watched as a his Patronus sped away to deliver his message. Then he immediately returned to the battle.
Hermione had blasted a hole in the side wall between the fireplaces, had into one of them for better cover and was now hurling some pretty nasty curses. Ron remained at their original post, lying down on his stomach and aiming every hex he could think of at the Death Eaters. And while both of them were doing extremely well, enough to make an ex-professor very proud, they simply could not penetrate through the overwhelming amount of Death Eaters that outnumbered them eight to one. They were moving in much too close for comfort, and Remus had to do something about it.
He looked quickly to the right and saw the Fountain of Magical Brethren, damaged in the last struggle between light and dark a few years previously, sitting nearby in the perfect position to provide him cover. Without thinking, he bolted across the open ground, dodging a sudden onslaught of spells crashing around him and ricocheting everywhere. Near enough, he dove behind the fountain but hadn't quite been fully covered before he was hit with a Cruciatus Curse in the leg. Screaming in agony, he jerked and twisted under the fiery pain until he accidentally rolled the rest of the way behind the fountain and the curse lifted. He took a deep breath to collect himself and suddenly noticed that the atrium seemed to be louder than before. He looked around.
It seemed the Order had arrived. Even though they had lost many throughout the previous few months, he still saw familiar faces and his heart burst with gratitude. Mad-eye was there, sending multiple spells in quick succession, turning his countering Death Eater into a pulp. Kingsley was battling two at once, but holding his own, his wand arm moving in a blur. Molly Weasley was warring against a foe bent on her death and doing extremely well. There were many others, at least fifteen in total (many of them Weasleys), all fighting courageously.
Remus shook his head. What was he waiting for? Ron and Hermione said Harry was in the Ministry Archives Office. That was the third to last level in the building. He had to get to the lifts.
He peered up from behind the fountain and saw that the Death Eaters seemed sufficiently distracted. He brought his wand to the ready and bolted from his cover. He threw stunners right and left, trying to help others and avoid getting hit. He dodged a Death Eater backing up against a barrage of curses sent by no other than Minerva McGonagall, and then he was in the clear. He bolted for the lifts.
"Where do you think you're going?" screeched a horrible voice from his left and a hot spell zinged past his left shoulder.
"Bellatrix," Remus hissed, turning slowly to face her, hatred coursing through his veins.
Bellatrix Lestrange smirked. "Miss me?"
"Absolutely," Remus said with a contradicting deathly glare. Before she could even open her mouth to comment, he shouted, "Stupefy!"
Her eyes widened and she barely raised a shield in time, but Remus was already shouting out more.
"Incarcerous, tarantellegra, petrificus totalus!" She of course blocked all of these, back on her game, but then Remus nonverbally thought, "Levicorpus!"
Bellatrix shrieked as she was pulled into the air by her ankle, so startled that she actually dropped her wand.
"I'd say something clever, dear Bella, but you aren't worth the breath," Remus said with as much distaste as he could gather toward this horrible witch. Immediately he thought "Liberacorpus" and she fell all the way to the ground with a crash. He heard a loud crack and knew her neck had snapped. She was unmistakably dead.
"For Sirius," he said as he stepped over her body.
Not willing to waste any more time, he ran to the lift. The gates seemed to take an age to rattle shut and the lift slowly moved downward.
"Come on… come on… Hang in there, Harry. Don't do anything stupid…" Remus muttered impatiently, feeling a drip of cold sweat trickle down his spine.
"Level Nine, Magic Legal Services, Wizarding Health and Nutrition Center, and Ministry Archives Offices," said the woman's cool voice.
The lift doors opened and he immediately bolted down the hall. Looking at all the doors, he searched for the correct name...
"Ministry Archives!" He exclaimed and quickly snatched up the door handle.
It was locked.
Without even thinking, without even trying to unlock the door, he pointed his wand at the handle and, with a loud explosion and a puff of smoke, blasted it apart. He kicked the door open and stepped inside.
"Harry?" he called, looking around.
The room was in ruins. Papers were strewn everywhere, some smoldering from stray spells. Shelves, desks, and chairs were all tipped over, most damaged to some degree. The great stone pillars that lined the room were all either dislodged or completely broken apart. The entire floor was broken in two, sloping downwards and caving into the room below.
Remus' ears perked. He thought he'd heard a voice, though it was muffled. It seemed to be coming from below. He carefully walked to the edge of the great fissure in the floor and looked down.
Harry was standing just below him. The side of his head had a thick stream of dried blood running down. He was littered with cuts and scratches, and he appeared to have a blood stained rag of some sort wrapped around his shoulder. His feet were bare, which Remus felt was rather odd, but he didn't have time to contemplate it as he saw Voldemort step into view. The Dark Lord seemed to be hissing something, although Remus couldn't be sure. He had to figure out how to get down there!
"Is there a particular reason why you're speaking in Parseltongue, or do you just feel like showing off?" Remus heard Harry ask as he turned, looking for something, anything, to get him down there. "Where are you're Death Eater Goons?"
So he's down there by himself? He looked down again saw a gigantic pillow below, but he couldn't very well drop down there right in between Harry and Voldemort.
There was more hissing, and then he heard Harry speak again. "Oh, I'm brilliant, thanks."
No you're not, Harry! Remus wanted to scream at him. What are you doing?! Then he got a closer look at the room Harry was standing in. The Department of Mysteries! Remus knew how to get there. He stood and ran to the door. He heard more speaking, but ignored it, preferring to get there as soon as possible. Kicking the door back open, he bolted down the corridor to the lift and jumped on just as the doors were closing. It didn't take all that long to get down to the next level, and he quickly ran out of the lift and down the long dark corridor to the Department of Mysteries. The door, fortunately, was ajar. Bolting through it, he went straight across the circular room to the door directly to the right of the middle door. Wrenching it open, he dashed through. The long hallway seemed to bring him back in time to when he was running through the same corridor with Mad-eye and Tonks and Sirius…
He wrenched open the far door once he had reached it and before him was the veil room that had brought so many nightmares upon him. He arrived just in time to hear Harry's voice call out.
"-against Tom Marvolo Riddle."
Remus' heart dropped as he saw Harry standing on the dais, just in front of the veil. Voldemort's back was to him, but he knew that the most powerful dark wizard in history was furious beyond measure. The floor beneath them began to tremble, and just as Remus was about to take a step downward to intervene, although he knew it would end in his death, Voldemort and Harry shouted at the same time.
Remus watched silent horror as the two spells, instead of crashing into their opponent, collided with one another, green meeting red in a bright flash of white. By Voldemort's posture, he seemed shocked and fearful, but Harry… Harry was ready. And Remus knew what he was about to do just before he did it.
"Harry, no!" Remus called, but Harry did not hear.
James' son jerked his remarkable wand backward, yanking Voldemort as if they were playing tug-o-war. Either Voldemort was so unprepared that he couldn't defend himself, or Harry's magical strength had grown beyond what Remus had ever imagined, but Harry was able to lift Voldemort off his feet and pull him up to the dais at a ferocious speed. Voldemort seemed unable to let go of his wand and Remus heard an unearthly screech of terror as Voldemort crashed into Harry. When the two wizards made contact, the great white light in at the center of the spell connection suddenly burst forth, expanding in no more than a second and suddenly exploding with such raw power that it blasted Remus off his feet. The ceiling trembled and seemed to cave in further, gigantic chunks of debris falling everywhere. Great resounding crashes came from everywhere, making him feel as if his eardrums would explode. He covered his head and curled up, waiting for the tremors to stop.
Finally, the floor seemed to feel solid once more. Remus carefully peeked his head out from under his arms and blinked, waiting for the dust to clear. Shakily, he stood and beheld the room before him. The arch holding the veil was smashed, with only a small portion of it still standing. The great cushion that Harry no doubt created was completely buried by debris. Stone chunks the size of Muggle washing machines riddled the room, as well as many smaller pieces. There was no sign of Voldemort or Harry.
Remus ran to where he had seen him last, right to the top of the dais. The only recognizable thing was a wand, which must have belonged to Voldemort, lying up against the remains of the stone arch, slightly splintered. He could not see Voldemort's body and easily concluded what had happened to it, but didn't give it a further thought.
"HARRY!" Remus bellowed. He looked around wildly, and out of the corner of his eye saw a spot of white. A hand. Harry's hand.
"Harry! Harry, I'm coming." Remus scrambled over large chunks of stone to the edge of the room. As he came up to Harry, he saw a streak of blood smeared down the wall, no doubt where Harry had collided with it and slid down. Remus thought he might be sick.
He looked down and his breath caught in his throat. Harry was almost completely buried in heavy stone. All Remus could see was his head, the top of his chest, and his left hand sticking out of the pile of rocks. He was unconscious, his glasses askew, and on top of the injuries Remus had noted previously he also had a dribble of blood coming from his mouth, a sure sign of internal bleeding. Remus had no doubt that if he lifted Harry's head and felt the back, it would be bleeding freely, probably from a cracked skull.
Struggling to catch his breath, he put his ear to Harry's mouth and listened.
"He's still breathing!" he called out to the empty room in joyous disbelief. "He's still-" He couldn't finish, for his exclamation had turned into a sob. Covering his mouth with his hand, he felt a steady flow of tears dripping onto his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he snatched up Harry's hand and gently squeezed it.
"Harry. Harry, it's Uncle Moony. Come on, you've got to wake up."
Harry remained motionless, so Remus, still holding Harry's hand in his right, reached over with his left and shook Harry's right shoulder. Immediately Harry's brow furrowed and he whimpered.
"I'm so sorry Harry, I know it hurts, but please wake up," Remus said soothingly, though it was slightly broken with his tears. Harry groaned and winced before slowly opening his bright green eyes, clouded with pain. Remus carefully adjusted his glasses so that he could see. "Hey there. You gave me a scare, son."
It had just slipped out, but as soon as he said the word "son," he realized that it is what he'd come to see Harry as. He would give anything for him, and seeing him, a seventeen-year-old boy, in such immense pain, made Remus want to lie next to him and die from the guilt of it.
Harry blearily looked up at him, his eyes unfocused. "Dad?" he whispered weakly, his lips barely moving.
Remus' heart nearly broke. "No, Harry, this is Remus. Uncle Moony."
Harry tried to speak again, but it came out as a slight gurgle and a, "…oon...y?"
Remus smiled, although he was anything but happy, and said, "Yes Harry, it's Moony. I'm going to help you, okay?"
Harry very slightly shook his head. "It hurts…" Remus could not think of anything to respond to that, but Harry began to speak again. "Izzee… dead?"
Remus was having a very difficult time keeping his composure, but he nodded. He knew when he saw Voldemort's wand that the darkest wizard of the time had indeed been defeated. But at a terrible price.
"Yes, Harry, Voldemort's dead," Remus said, and despite the terrible situation, he couldn't be prouder of this young man before him. "He fell through the veil just like you intended. You did it. You saved us all."
Harry slowly nodded, though it seemed to bring him great pain, and he looked away slightly, his eyes drooping.
"No, Harry, stay awake!" Remus desperately shouted. Harry's eyes wrenched open again.
"Dad…" he mumbled, causing bit more blood oozing over the corner of his mouth.
Remus shook his head multiple times, not believing what he was seeing. "No, it's Uncle Moony, Harry, don't you remember?"
Remus remembered. And unbidden came an onslaught of memories, flipping through his head until his mind rested on an early August morning so many years ago.
Remus jumped from where he was sitting at his meager kitchen table, poring over a small leather-bound book. He whipped his head around and looked at the kitchen fire, which was glowing bright green. There sat Lily Potter's head, grinning like mad.
"Remus, come quick! Harry's been talking up a storm!"
His eyes widened in pleasant surprise. He had told the Potters to let him know when Harry started talking only yesterday. He quickly got up and rushed out the door. Hurrying down the steps, he hardly noticed the beautiful morning, with the sun just coming above the trees, before he'd reached the Potter house. He didn't even bother to knock; he never did.
"So where is he?" he said hurriedly to Lily, who came walking into the living room, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Who? James?" she asked in confusion. "I think he's upstairs-"
"No, Harry! You said he was talking!" Remus spluttered, bewildered by the way she was acting.
He barely registered her quizzical look before he heard something like an evil cackling coming from up the stairs. Immediately his eyes narrowed.
"Upstairs, you say?" he asked. By the time she'd answered with a curious "Yes," he was already heading up the stairs. He wrenched open the first door, which was the master bedroom, and immediately zeroed in on what appeared to be another Lily. "Is this really a prudent way to use your Polyjuice Potion stores?" he asked with annoyance.
"Shh!" said the imposter-Lily. "Do you want her to find out?" Lily pointed downstairs.
"Yes, I want her to, you prat!" Remus burst out. "I was really excited! That was just cruel, James."
James rolled his eyes. Well, Lily's eyes. "Relax. You've been out of mischief for too long. But look, I've discovered that if you drink only a half a teaspoon of Polyjuice, you transform back to your normal self within ten minutes!" As if to illustrate what he'd explained, James began transforming back into himself.
"And the use for that would be?" Remus asked, watching James' eyes fade from vibrant green to a dark hazel. "Wait, never mind, I don't care." With that he trumped downstairs and into the kitchen, where Lily was getting ready to feed Harry a spot of freshly baked bread. Remus immediately headed over to where little Harry was sitting in his booster seat and plunked down next to him.
"Okay, Harry, I need you to do me a favor," Remus whispered loudly, watching out of the corner of his eye as James walked in. "Can you say 'Uncle Moony' for me?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "Please, Remus, he's really hungry! He was just about to eat!"
"Perfect!" Remus said excitedly and snatched up the small piece of bread Lily was holding. He held it in front of Harry, knowing it was one of Harry's favorites. "Now, Harry, say 'Uncle Moony'!"
Harry simply blinked at him. Remus sighed exasperatedly and began to wave the bread in front of Harry's face. "Uncle Moony! Uncle Moony!" Harry continued to stare.
"Remus, I think you might be cracking up a bit," James laughed.
"Uncle Moony!" Remus continued. "Come on, do you want bread? Say 'Uncle Moony!'"
Remus waved it rather close to Harry, and Harry snatched it right out of his hand before stuffing it into his mouth. James and Lily burst out laughing.
"That's a Seeker, that is!" James said excitedly. Remus turned around grumpily. "What's the matter, Remus? You want to keep waving bread in a one-year-old's face?" James bent over Remus and waved his hand about while saying in a high-pitched voice, "Uncle Moony! Uncle Moony!"
And suddenly, finished with his bread, Harry pointed to Remus and said, clear as day, "Uncle Moony."
James dropped his hand and gaped. It was Remus' turn to laugh. Lily joined in heartily, mussing James' hair fondly before turning back to her cooking.
"Good job!" Remus said exuberantly, and gave Harry another piece of bread.
Remus closed his eyes and another tear leaked out. He made no attempt to wipe it away.
Harry was speaking again. Remus opened his eyes and saw Harry staring back at him, and had it not been for all the blood and the way Harry had just addressed him, Remus might have thought Harry was completely coherent. He was certainly staring very intensely. Remus gripped his hand tighter and leaned forward, caressing Harry's face lovingly with the other, and waited for Harry to speak.
Harry seemed to struggle. His breathing had become more ragged and the gurgling in his throat seemed to become more prominent. His intense stare seemed to glaze over again, but he continued to look directly into Remus' eyes as he whispered three little words.
"…I love you."
Remus stared, stunned beyond speech. Harry finally couldn't keep his eyes open any longer and allowed them to drift shut. He seemed to have fallen asleep for a moment, or so Remus wanted to convince himself. But suddenly Harry sucked in a shuddering, painful gasp, and all his muscles tensed. Then he exhaled, his muscles slowly relaxed, and he lay still.
A soft breeze was playing its way across his face, gently pushing back his hair as he took in the small wood surrounding him. The birds were chirping merrily, seemingly wanting to shout to the world how beautiful the day was. He could hear laughter from a short distance away, where a small child was playing happily. He slowly walked through the gate and stepped onto the sparse grass, poking his cane gingerly. With every step his old body was wracked with pain, but he continued to press forward. He slowly arrived at his destination and stopped short, looking at the etched epitaph in front of him with a bittersweet longing.
Harry James Potter
Beloved friend and son
A True Hero
He felt his eyes prickle and welcomed it. He carefully lifted the week-old flowers out of the cup, trying not to jostle the hundreds of cards and trinkets that had been left either recently or long ago. He gently replaced the dead flowers with the ones he had carried in, tenderly running his hand over the stone beside it as he did so. He traced the name he knew so well, the name he would always remember. Although he'd had to say goodbye all those years ago, he knew that soon he would be able to say hello again, and be able to caress the young man's cheek as he caressed his gravestone now.
Standing slowly, ignoring his creaking bones, Remus stepped back. Before he turned and headed back to his old home, he spoke. His soft, tender words were caught by the gentle breeze and carried up into the sky, whispering to the heavens in beautiful sincerity.
"I love you too, Harry."
My FINAL Author's Note Ever: Well, that's it. The end of my very last fanfic. Is there anything you didn't understand? Anything you want me to clarify? Any gaps you wish me to fill in? I assure you, I can answer your questions. You need only ask. I'm the Dumbledore of my fanfics. Even when I'm long gone, I can still help you out. (That was a reference to the chapter, "Kings Cross" in Deathly Hallows, in case you didn't catch it.)
Ha! Speaking of that chapter, here is a quote you should burn into your memory, contemplate, and apply to your own reading and writing. JKR is a genius.
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
That is the motto for all of us authors out there, let me tell ya.
By the way, you should find some connections in the ending segment, there, to the first chapter. Just so you know.
On a different note: Although she did not help me on this story, I would like to thank my best friend and indespensible beta, Melissa d (HoofsTails Gal). She has been a tremendous support not only with my writing, but also with my every day life, and I don't think I can ever thank her enough.
Also, thank you so much to all of you reviewers. You keep me going. You make me think. You put a smile on my face when I have every reason to frown. Thank you so much. Keep it up! I may not be writing anymore, but I still check my email religiously. PLEASE REVIEW!