Giving credit where credit is due:

My beta friend Melissa read through Chapter 7 for me. Please, if you like what you've seen here, check out her work as well. She is Acoustics1220 on this website.

Epilogue

Bleary, sleep-filled eyes blinked once, twice, and finally came to focus on an identical set of bleary, sleep-filled eyes. In the meager morning light seeping in through the window, she could see her pupils were dilated, trying to cut through the dark and make sense of the world around her. Where was the light switch, again...?

Toothpaste on the brush – so. What next?

She blinked again and tiredly rubbed her eyes. Why was it so hard to remember everything this morning? An uncoordinated hand fumbled around in the medicine cabinet, searching for something that would get rid of her throbbing headache. The label on the side of the bottle told her to take two pills, but she blatantly ignored it and downed three.

Her head hurt.

Coherence had kindly decided to return to her and her migraine was slowly fading away. What had she done last night? She wanted to tell herself that she'd spent the evening comfortably perched in the living room by the fire, reading a book, yet there was that nagging feeling that something else had happened. Something important.

She'd figure it out eventually. It probably wasn't that important anyway.

Without really thinking anymore about things, Nora continued on through her morning routine. After splashing cold water on her face, she blinked and backed away from the mirror. She suddenly knew what was wrong. Her hand absently strayed to her neck, tracing patterns over the bare skin of her Adam's apple. Where there should have been the weight of a silver chain and a cross there was nothing.

She anxiously glanced about the bathroom, scanning the floor for any sign of her necklace, but it was gone. Nora fretfully chewed on her lip – the necklace was very old and precious to her. Where had it gotten to? The very idea that she had foolishly lost it was simply inconceivable. She'd never taken it off before; at least she couldn't remember the last time its familiar, reassuring presence had parted ways with her...

He emerged from the headmaster's office with his face set into a blank, impassive mask. Luna nervously approached him, holding her hand out to touch his cheek. She gave him a shy smile, trying to make eye contact with him but he kept his gaze pointed at the floor.

"Come on, Harry," she whispered, tugging gently on his arm. "Let's get out of here."

She pulled at his sleeve but he shrugged her off and shook his head. He tilted his chin up and locked eyes with her. "I can't."

There was a certain firmness and sense of finality to his words and his countenance that discouraged any further questioning. But Luna wasn't going to give in so easily. Her eyes had been set on Harry for years – he wasn't going to slip out of her reach in a matter of days. She moved closer to him, trying to wrap her arms around him in an embrace but he took a step back and sighed.

"Luna."

"Harry?" she asked softly, her voice wavering slightly. "What's wrong? What did he tell you up there?"

"What's wrong?" he echoed, shrugging and jamming his hands into his pockets. "What's wrong?" His lips curled upwards into a taut, cheerless smile. "Everything, Luna. Everything's wrong."

"Let me help you," she offered earnestly, a concerned look coming across her face.

He shook his head again and brushed an escaping tear out of his eye. She held her breath as he stepped toward her and pulled her into a hug. What was he trying to say? Was he finally hers...?

"Luna," he croaked, sounding hoarse. "Thank you. For being here, for helping me."

"It was nothing," she replied, her heart pounding madly in her chest as she felt his strong arms holding her tight, holding her close to him. Then suddenly he pulled away and she blinked, wearing a questioning expression. "I-"

"I need to go on alone from here," he said quietly, avoiding her eyes. "Maybe you can help me some other time, but not now."

"Harry..." she breathed, crestfallen at his decision. So it really had been too good to be true. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived and savior of the wizarding world, was walking away from her. She felt her shoulders drop but made no other movements; she made no other attempts to win him back. His mind was already made up – and there was nothing she could do about it except face it as bravely as she could. "Look at you," she tried futilely. "You're in no shape to be by yourself! I can go with you, I can help you-"

"I'm sorry, Luna." He shot her one last sad smile and gave her arm a reassuring squeeze before calmly walking down the hall, away from her, away from Hogwarts; away from the things he had once loved so dearly.

It was raining. Large drops fell from the sky, splattering against the windshield and blurring the world before him. He could barely determine the passing cars from houses or trees – all of the unfocused shapes of color and light were blending together into one messy collage of uncertainty. Everything around him was unclear and indefinite.

Nothing really made sense to him, but that's the way his life was at the moment, so he felt entirely at ease being in the midst of such confusion.

Through a droplet-covered window, he frowned at his own obscured reflection in the side mirror. Somewhere on his way here, the mirror had been bumped so now all he could see in it was a distorted image of himself. He'd rather it was shattered and unusable.

His heartbeat picked up as headlights approached and slowed down, parking along the side of the street. Harry leaned forward over the steering wheel, squinting to see through the rain. The driver killed the lights and stepped out of the vehicle a moment later, pulling out an umbrella and unhurriedly walking up a short path to a house. He watched the figure through the side window, pressing his nose up against the glass to try and get a better view. There was a flash of red hair-

He opened his door, stepping out into the elements; he didn't care that he was rapidly becoming soaked through since he had forgotten to wear a cloak. There were other, more pressing issues on his mind.

The slender, feminine figure in front of him paused at the front door of the house, fumbling with the lock. Harry was about twenty feet away from her when he called out, "Hey!"

At first the woman didn't turn around; she kept trying to open the door.

"Hey!" he repeated, taking a step closer. At long last she turned around and faced him, her house keys dangling from one hand, her umbrella held in the other. Harry allowed a small smile to crack his lips.

"Hi," she said. He thought she sounded breathless from excitement. She stood there in all her loveliness, watching him, waiting for him to say something.

He opened his mouth to speak when a car passed by too quickly and splashed water all over his back. Harry barely noticed – he was already drenched from the rain. "Nora," he began, but he stopped when he felt a heavy hand rest itself on his shoulder. Startled, he turned around and his mouth opened in disbelief as he found himself unexpectedly staring up into the solemn face of Albus Dumbledore.

"Good day," he called out pleasantly, waving his free hand at Nora and steering Harry back to his car. The younger man anxiously craned his neck to see over his shoulder but Nora had already disappeared behind her front door. "Please," Dumbledore said blandly, gesturing to his car. "If you would be so kind."

Harry gave the old man a wary sidelong glance as he opened the door and seated himself back in the driver's seat. There was no visible trace of the weariness or the resignation that had been so prominent in his features back at Hogwarts. Instead, the headmaster appeared to be in good spirits, if his lively blue eyes and his faint smile were any indication. Dumbledore stepped around the vehicle and sat down in the passenger seat. Turning to his right, he sent Harry an apologetic look.

"What are you doing here?" Harry asked bluntly, his hands on the wheel and his eyes staring straight ahead at the clouded windshield.

"I came here to prevent you from making a mistake, Harry," the headmaster answered quietly, still trying to make eye contact with him.

"You know," he spat out as he gripped the steering wheel too tightly and his knuckles turned white, "why can't you just stay out of my life?"

"If you want me to, I will," Dumbledore replied evenly. "But I cannot allow you to ruin your life before it even begins again."

He turned his narrowed eyes onto the man sitting next to him. "What are you talking about?"

The older man's sharp, calculating, cobalt stare seemed to cut right through to his core and Harry felt himself lean back, away from the gaze that was making him feel so vulnerable. "I'll be blunt with you then," he began, raising his eyebrows. "I think you've earned it, after all." Harry didn't say anything as he waited for him to continue. With no fanfare whatsoever, Dumbledore said, "I erased Miss O'Connor's memories of you."

Silence descended upon the pair, thick and uncomfortable. Harry didn't know what to say so he kept his mouth shut, waiting for the further explanation that he knew wasn't going to come. After some time had passed, he asked, "Why?"

Dumbledore nodded. He had been expecting that question. "Because she knew too much about us, about wizards. She was a liability and she was a serious breach of the Statute of Secr-"

"That's bullshit," he spat out venomously. He looked straight into the older man's eyes, pointed a finger at his chest and said, "I could have married her."

"Yes," the headmaster said after a short hesitation. "You could have."

"So I'll ask you again," Harry cut in savagely. He knew he was being short and he didn't care. It felt too good to finally let some of his pent up anger out. "Why'd you do it if you knew that?"

Dumbledore's lip twitched but there was no other expression on his face that could give away his innermost thoughts. "I didn't think you'd choose her," he said quietly after a while.

"Didn't think I'd choose her?" he burst out, furiously scratching at the back of his neck. "Did you think that I would want to go back to live in the wizarding world? The world where I'd be reminded every single bloody day of what I had lost?" There was raw emotion in his voice and in his words. "I... I was happy here. With her."

For a moment, Harry thought he spied a suspicious droplet of moisture at the corner of one of the older man's eyes, but Dumbledore blinked and it was as if his eye had drank it up. He stubbornly glared at the headmaster. "Fix her."

"I beg your pardon?" the older man asked, his white eyebrows arching up in surprise.

"You heard me!" he pressed on more forcefully, slamming his fist against the wheel. "Bring her memories back – reverse the spell!"

"I'm afraid I can't do that," came the unwanted answer. Before Harry could cut him off again, he quickly continued, "The mind is a fragile thing."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

Dumbledore frowned as he took his spectacles in his hand and began polishing them on his robe. "I'm afraid that if I meddle with her memories any further I could cause permanent damage. Reversing Memory Charms is quite a bit riskier than casting them."

"So what you're really saying is that... she's gone?" Harry wondered out loud, feeling faint.

The headmaster sighed and folded his hands together. "Yes."

Harry looked out the window at the house again, almost expecting Nora to come bursting out through her front door to give him one of her fabulous warm welcomes. The phantom sensations of her embrace and her kiss made him draw a slow, painful breath. A depressing ache settled in his chest as he realized that never again would he be able to hold her in his arms, to hear her whisper his name, to stare so deeply into her eyes.

She had been torn away from him by Dumbledore – not out of anger or any intent to cause pain – but simply because he'd wanted to protect him, like a father protecting a son.

Knowing that truth should have made it easier, lessened the hurt some, made him back up and see the situation from an objective outside perspective – but it didn't. The pain was still there and along with it came an overwhelming sense of fatigue.

He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. In a strained voice he said, "Get out of my car."

Dumbledore didn't move and even through his closed lids he could feel his penetrating stare on him. "I made a mistake, Harry."

Hearing the old man admit that he had failed didn't pacify him. Instead, all of the emotions welled up inside him and turned into black, icy, unforgiving nothingness. He just wanted Dumbledore to go away. Tonelessly he declared, "I've already heard your apologies. Now get out of my car."

A heartbeat later there was the unmistakable click-thunk of a car door opening and closing. He opened his eyes and saw that Dumbledore had left. It was still raining too hard for him to see out the window properly – to see whether or not the old man had decided to Disapparate or simply walk away – but that hardly mattered right now; his mind was elsewhere. Harry miserably slumped down in his seat, turning a doleful eye back on the drab, ordinary building that was home to Nora O'Connor.

His Nora, who would never be his again.

It might have been the fact that it was raining, or maybe it was because he was completely alone. In the end, the reason was unimportant. The unforgiving reality of what he had once held and what was now lost to him forever was too much for him to handle.

Sinking down in his seat, he held his face in his hands and for the first time in years, he wept.

Albus Dumbledore stood before an elegant floor-length mirror which had been handed down to him by his predecessor, Armando Dippet. He was dressed plainly in crisp yet somber grey dress robes.

"Looking sharp, sir," wheezed the ancient mirror in a tone of due respect.

The headmaster smiled blandly but did not reply. He knew his time had finally come, and if he had to go, he was going to do it with as much dignity as he could possibly muster. Fawkes cocked his head to the side and gave him a quizzical look, as if asking, "What are you doing?" The handsome phoenix was nearing his Burning Day and it appeared as though he was struggling to remain atop his perch. Dumbledore gently stroked the bird and sighed as more of his feathers fell out.

"An old man must pay for his mistakes. I'm allowing a conference with the press on school grounds," he quietly explained to Fawkes. He flattened the folds on his robes and added, "You may come in, Minerva, I know you're standing there."

If the deputy headmistress was surprised at all, she didn't show it. Her jaw was set firmly and her gaze was unwavering as she strode purposefully into Dumbledore's private chamber. "I'm glad you're finally seeing reason, Albus." He nodded silently as she continued, "You never could have kept it a secret for much longer."

It was true, and it at least consoled him to a certain extent. After he spoke with the awaiting journalists and told them that the scandal was not a lie, he would not be a popular wizard by any means. When word got out that Albus Dumbledore had kept Harry Potter, defeater of Voldemort, in captivity for two years...

He'd already received an owl from a representative of the board of governors for Hogwarts and the message had all but told him that he would no longer be headmaster of the school. Dumbledore was sure of the fact that there would be many, many more such demotions in the near future – in material as well as respect. The public outcry against his actions was going to be enormous and impossible to ignore.

In short, his days of power and influence were going to be over.

Well, best to get it all done without delay. Mustering his courage and what remained of his pride, he stood tall and nodded at the witch.

"Minerva?" She arched a quizzical brow as he gave her a disarming smile. "Take care of the school for me, won't you?"

Her eyes softened and a faint smile appeared on her face. "Of course. You know I would, Albus."

There he was, standing barely three feet away from her, looking just as handsome as she remembered and still exuding that aura of unassuming charm. Even though nearly a year had passed since she'd last seen him, his hair was as messy as ever, but she thought it was oddly appealing, and a wistful smile appeared on her face as she remembered running her hands through it in the past. Her gaze came to rest upon his strong chin and his lips, traveling down his body, admiring the broadness of his shoulders...

Harry Potter was right in front of her, yet she couldn't have him.

It was a shame, really.

When his head had suddenly and quite unexpectedly appeared in her hearth and he had asked her if he could come through the Floo, Luna had let him in without a second thought. Some part of her heart that he hadn't broken resolutely clung onto the belief that maybe he'd reconsidered their relationship, yet she knew from the very center of her being that he wasn't here to do that. She wanted to scream and rage at him for leaving her but there was everything genuine and remorseful in his voice and in his demeanor – and it was impossible to feel angry or bitter around him.

Harry shifted his weight around awkwardly and didn't make eye contact with her.

"I'm sorry for doing this to you."

She managed to put forth a half-hearted smile. "What do you want, Harry?" she asked weakly as she crossed her arms over her chest.

He anxiously clasped his hands together as he looked up and finally looked into her eyes. "You once told me that you could help me. Do you remember? Do you remember when you said that?"

Her gaze clouded over, the memory of the day he left her coming back to her in a rush... Why, of all things, why would he be asking her for help now? Time should have soothed her wounds, allowed them to turn into hardened scars – but the separation, the distance, the emptiness he had left behind had prevented her emotional bruises from healing, and every passing image, every thought, every feeling that she associated with him only reminded her of the pain.

"I'm guessing that you do remember," he continued gently, watching her with understanding in his eyes.

She tried to reply but her voice caught in her throat and the answer came out in a harsh whisper. "Yes."

"Please, Luna," he pleaded insistently. "I need your help now."

"After all this time?" she retorted, her voice cracking slightly. "After an entire year? Where have you been, Harry? You ignored me for a year after dumping me! I had to go through the papers just like everyone else to find out what happened to you! I was so worried. Didn't you get any of the owls I sent you? And you disconnected yourself from the Floo so I wasn't able to talk to you there, either. But you know what, Harry? I've moved on. I would have at least hoped that you'd have done the same – but it seems you haven't."

He winced at her words but she could tell he wasn't going to give up so readily. "Luna-"

"No, Harry," she said, feeling more confident now. "I don't even know what business you have being in my living room right now!"

"You let me-"

"What do you want, Harry?" she finished, hopelessness clinging onto her words. "What in Merlin's name could I help you with now?"

He swallowed once before asking, "Luna, do you still love me?"

What kind of question was that? The sheer nerve of him to even ask it – but it made her hesitate and reflect upon her emotions. Did she still love him? It was true, the mere sight of him was enough to send butterflies zipping around her stomach – but was that really love? As he earnestly stood there before her and asked her that question, she was shocked to find that something inside her was responding to him. An ache that had rested within her soul, dormant and numb for so long, was rearing its ugly head, trying to claw its way out of her chest and split her heart in two all over again.

She kept her mouth closed, afraid of the words that might escape her lips and make a right mess out of things.

"Please, Luna."

Damn him! Damn him for being so... so honest with everything. Harry Potter could be such a difficult bloke to resist at times. What made it worse was that it was obvious to her that he wasn't even aware of the effect he was having on her.

"Again I ask you: what do you want?"

He stared at her for a long moment before finally saying, "I want to forget."

"What...?"

"I can't live like this any longer, Luna. I can't be... who I am... any longer. I've had enough." It was frightening to see someone who she'd always thought of as being so invincible exposing his deepest insecurities to her. A shiver slithered up her spine as he continued on, "Luna... Luna, I need you to help me forget."

"Harry..." she said mournfully, sympathetically, as understanding dawned on her. He hung his head and let his guard down, letting Luna tenderly brush his cheek with her hand. "I... I don't know if I can-"

"For me," he begged. "Please."

Something in her cried out for him, for his loss, for his suffering, and Luna found herself nodding numbly.She knew it wasn't right to run away from one's problems, like Harry would be doing; the best way to resolve them was to face them directly, to learn to cope with them and eventually to conquer them. But she also knew how hard that road was and how tiresome it could be on somebody's soul. If there was anyone in the entire world who deserved the easy way out, it was Harry. And if someone was going to be the one to let him go, it was going to be her.

"Is there anything you want to remember?" she asked delicately.

He looked at her and shook his head. Luna supposed some part of her should have been upset that he hadn't said "you" but she was smarter than that. Her Ravenclaw brains knew that allowing Harry to remember her would defeat the purpose of erasing his memory in the first place.

"Good bye, Harry." Her eyes were suddenly moist and she swept him up into a tight hug. "I never got to say good bye last time..."

"Good bye, Luna," he said into her shoulder. His voice was muffled yet there was a slight waver to it and she guessed that he would have tears on his face, but when he pulled away and stared at her expectantly, his cheeks were dry and his eyes betrayed no emotion. A melancholy smile appeared on his lips; it was a smile full of relief and gratitude and love. It was a smile that said, "I'm finally free."

She regarded the Boy-Who-Lived one last time and felt her jaw trembling as she raised her wand and

whispered, "Obliviate."

There she was again.

That same, charming red-head shared a secret smile with him from the pew across the aisle. He quickly averted his eyes, feeling a blush rising to his cheeks, and when he looked over her way again, he could see she was trying to stifle a chuckle.

Was it wrong to be flirting like this in a church?

He didn't know what it was about her, but there was something there. It was as if she was a beautiful dream who had followed him out of his sleep into the waking world, and he wanted to know her better. He had to.

The service ended and dozens of people stood up, blocking his view of her.

He struggled to push his way through the crowd, sneaking down through a side aisle and quickly exiting the building to find his way to the parking lot. Outside, there was a steady stream of churchgoers walking to their cars, but there was no hint of shimmering red hair among the sea of people.

But then suddenly there she was, leaving through the same side door as he had walked through moments before, looking beautiful and alive. They made eye contact and the distance was closed between them until they were standing inches away, staring into each other's eyes, feeling the mad beating of their own hearts.

"James. James Evans," he said quickly, keeping his eyes on her.

"Nora..." she answered, and a look of mild confusion appeared on her features. "Have we met before?"

He smiled politely and shook his head. "I was about to ask you the same thing."

Nora brushed her hair back and laughed nervously, finally averting her eyes from his gaze. They wandered down his chin, to his neck... "What's that you have here?"

"This?" he asked, pulling a simple silver chain with a cross out from under his shirt. "It's a necklace," he supplied, and he frowned as if trying to remember something. He opened his mouth and then pursed his lips before finally saying, "It- I remember... it was given to me by someone very close to me."

Once again she looked up into his eyes. How could it be? It couldn't be hers... could it? There was just something about him that she had to figure out, something that called out to her, made her breath catch in her throat and quicken her pulse...

"Say, James," she said shyly, "would you like to get something to eat?"

His eyes lit up and sparkled magnificently as he extended a hand to her and she took it. "I would love to."

A/N 11/7/06:

Wow, this one took a while to write, didn't it? Please believe me when I say that I'm incredibly sorry about the delay. I could give you an unsatisfying excuse – oh, it was my job, or my schoolwork was kicking me around – but the simple, undeniable truth of the matter is that I just didn't have anything to write for the epilogue. Even though I had this entire story plotted out (including each of the scenes written above) I just ran out of gas, so to speak, after writing ten chapters in about two months.

I assume you have many questions about what has happened in Obliviate. I hope that what I have to say will clear things up for you, if the epilogue has already failed to do so.

Yes, McGonagall informed the press about Dumbledore's misdoings. If you remember, she was in on the entire thing with Dumbledore from the beginning (she was the second, feminine voice in the first chapter) and she was already questioning him then about whether or not what they were doing was ethical.

I decided to leave Harry's imprisonment vague. There were ideas in my head: maybe Harry could have been disguised as a different student each year at the school, or maybe he was kept in an enchanted prison similar (but far more hospitable than) to Moody's prison in book four. But nothing truly inspiring came to mind and I left it open to be interpreted by your imagination. I think it's more fun that way, no?

In reading such a large amount of fanfiction, I have been appalled by how many times Dumbledore has been turned into such a villain in post-OoTP stories. I know I took a similar approach to my characterization of the great wizard, but I hope that I was able to exhonerate him of all malicious intentions, even if his actions came across as being quite sinister.

Sam and Nate, Harry's coworkers, are the names taken respectively from the lead guitarist and singer of one of my favorite bands, The Format. I just saw them at Ithaca this past weekend... Amazing.

In retrospect, I'm disappointed by the way Nora turned out in this story. People have pointed out to me that she seems to be quite shallow and her actions contradict the way she's supposed to be. All of that is really my fault, so I have only myself to blame. I think I was just happy because this is the first chaptered story that I have ever written so I forgot to flesh out her character enough.

Anyway, that's enough of my blabbering. Thank you for reading my story! Please, if you loved it or hated it, leave a review. It's one of the only indications I get that people have actually read my work.

Regards,

Ryan

VacantSkies

Zaphod Beeblebrox