Lived too long.
The most famous wizard of all time reflects on the length of his life.
The old wizard looked down into the grave sadly. A single tear escaped from his weary eyes and ran out from under his glasses, down his wrinkled cheek, to disappear into the voluminous folds of his long snow-white beard.
It was not the first time he had stood here, at the edge of the grave of another lost companion, but it was possibly the saddest.
Inside the cypress coffin, lying at the bottom of the grave, was the last of 'his generation'. Now he was the only one left to remember all the others. It was the curse of having lived a very long life.
Words had been spoken, about how well his friend had lived her life, about how much joy and happiness she had brought into the world, but nobody except him could tell them of her youth; of the time they had spent together and how they had suffered when apart. Nobody else knew the girl he remembered fondly.
Around him, people were moving forward to toss a flower or a hand full of dirt onto the coffin. Many paused to touch his sleeve or to mutter words of condolence, but he did not feel their sorrow or their pity.
Her family, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, did not know him. They, like many others, knew of him, but none were close enough to understand. None knew how intensely this particular pain burnt, or how often he lay in bed thinking about times passed and opportunities missed.
His heart ached with the pain of her loss, and a sob almost escaped his lips.
Their friendship had lasted for so long that it had become an unseen part of his life, like the rising and setting of the sun, but as the years passed and one by one people had passed on, they had surprisingly not grown closer. It was as if the loss of companions had made them scared of each other, or that the pain was made worse by their association.
He took a spotted handkerchief from one of the many pockets in his robes and raised it to wipe the tear away.
She had been slightly younger than he. Together they had seen many, many decades, albeit through very different eyes.
He had lived most of his life at Hogwarts; first as a student, later as a teacher, and finally, the bulk of his years as its headmaster. It was the only home he had ever really known, and he was as much a part of the school as the trees growing on its grounds or the ivy on its walls.
She had lived the full life only a loving, caring family could give her, with first sons and daughters, then grand and great-grandchildren. She was not famous, or not as famous as he was, but he had no doubt she was greater than many whose portraits hung high in places of honour.
They both had regrets, everyone did, but now he felt his own the keenest.
Now I am the last one, he thought. He did not know if he could go on much longer. It felt as if a there was a gaping hole in his spirit where she used to be.
There was much to do, but few he could rely on for help. All his old allies were gone, and a few of the newer ones too. The Darkness was, as always, waiting to rise again, as it had done many times before, and it seemed that he was the only one to see it coming. If he did not do something about it, if he did not challenge the forces that seemed never to die, what would happen to the world?
He had to start making plans and laying the groundwork to ensure the Light would triumph. It was likely that he would not see this fight through to its end, but he had to try to do his best. That was a lesson he had learned too many times to forget easily or abandon. The cost of his learning had been high, possibly too high.
That thought made a wave of rage pulse through him. Self-pity was not an emotion to be feeling when standing beside the grave of a person such as his friend had been.
He was old, true, and nobody he had loved from his younger days was around to guide and comfort him, but that did not mean he could not find others equal to the task. You could always love again, even if it meant one day standing next to another grave saying goodbye.
There was one boy in particular that had a destiny too great to leave to chance. Practically a newborn child now, but with the potential to become the greatest wizard of his age, this boy needed to be shaped to be able to meet the challenges he would face.
Making sure the boy was kept safe and given a chance to fulfil his destiny would require some pretty drastic action, and much of it was, on the surface, not very pleasant. It would take years to build the right circumstances, like a game of Wizard's Chess where the pieces may not always do exactly what they are told, or react as planned.
He did not relish manipulating people, it had been done to him a few times in his past and he knew just how much pain could be caused if people were not treated properly. He could not be careless with lives; the end had to justify the means.
"Excuse me headmaster," said a voice quietly behind him.
He looked up suddenly. Everybody else had gone, and only the undertakers remained. They had obviously been waiting awhile, probably out of respect for his fame.
Last one again, he thought smiling.
"Sorry sir, but we need to cover it in now, Professor Potter," said the man nervously.
"Yes. Of course you do" said Harry, then he turned back to the coffin.
"Goodbye Ginny," he said aloud in voice that while slightly shaky, was still strong. "I'll see you on the other side soon enough, but meanwhile, I have more work to do. Say hello to the others for me."
Then he turned and walked away, head held high and back straight, but tears filled his eyes.