Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own it. If I did Remus would be alive. -sob-
Note: Sorry for the delay in updating - I meant to have it up sooner . . . but I do have an excuse (don't I always?). Scratch that, I have a good excuse! Yes, mwahaha! I was actually in a car accident on Monday; I wasn't injured but my car is basically totaled and over the past few days I've been calling anyone and everyone to fix my car and trying to arrange rides to work. I have made very little headway on the former (mostly since all the people I talk to seem intent on passing on the work to someone else). Can't we just get this over with already? I need my car fixed!
Ahem, yes, sorry about that little rant up there. But here is the fabled final chapterin Dumbledore's PoV. Enjoy!
Chapter 13: Forgiveness
You know, noses serve many different purposes. Vaguely, it occurs to me whether anyone has ever taken the time to notice that, so prominently situated as they are upon one's face. Naturally, they are able to sniff out food and allow one to enjoy those simple pleasures of life in mere scents - freshly-mown grass, the smell of spring, or the crispy air of fall. I once knew a wizard whose nose would begin to twitch uncontrollably at any sign of danger.
And, for still others, noses serve as a means of anger management, consisting of breaking the aforementioned nose. Mine in particular. Aberforth, then Remus. . . . Fred Weasley may have even gotten a slight swipe in there when I - in my Animagus form, of course - flew down just to view the proceedings. Gently, I finger the bridge of my nose, wincing. Still tender. There is only so much magic can do. . . .
Magic can't fix a broken heart.
Magic can't get rid of the burden of a destiny.
Magic can't bring a dead boy back to life.
So concerned was I about my master plan - the defeat of Lord Voldemort - that I did not think of the well-being of the boy that I was trying to protect . . . protect until the time was right. This was a mistake I swore I would never make again . . . not after Ariana. Running fingers over my old and wrinkled cheeks, I can't help but bury my face in my hands and groan. Several of the portraits give me concerned looks, having heard the news by now, of course. Phineas seems especially opinionated about the whole thing.
"For Merlin's sake, Albus. If you want to go so bad, go. . . ." he drawls, picking dust off of his sleek robes. A few of the portraits send Phineas reprimanding looks - Armando Dippet in particular. Fawkes himself lets out an angry cry, he was always rather fond of Harry. Harry. . . .
"That boy has no right to bar you from anywhere. You are the headmaster. Children have no respect these days, none at all. . . ."
"Phineas, please. . . ." My voice sounds overly weary, even to my own ears but I do not have the patience to listen to one of Phineas's long-winded lectures.
However, Phineas either does not hear me or chooses to talk right on, for he bull-headedly goes on. "Personally, I think he's being selfish, not even allowing you to come see him one last time. We all know how much you cared for the boy. Merlin knows why, but still. . . ."
"Quiet, Phineas!" I grate out, much more harshly than usual. There is a murmuring around the walls as Phineas gazes down at me, thunderstruck, and falls silent.
Selfish. Harry. Those two words alone send tears to my eyes.Harry was never selfish, even in the last moments of his life he faced his destiny, unswerving, losing his own life in order to save others' lives. I, if anything, was the selfish one . . . so focused on my master plan (both in my adolescence and now) that I didn't care who had to be hurt to get there. . . .
Whose childhood had to be forgone.
Whose life had to be forfeited.
Burying my face once more in shaking, long-fingered hands, I let out a deep sniff. . . . What have you done, old man?
Suddenly, a collective gasp issues from the portraits; unable to face their sympathetic gazes or "helpful" opinions on the whole matter, I do not even glance up.
"I can't believe it," I hear Dilys breathe. "Oh, dear Merlin, I just can't believe it."
Turning to face the former Healer's portrait, I see the old and stately witch with a hand clutched to her heart. And, following her blue-eyed gaze, I clutch at my own, barely daring to breathe, as if one slight wind might blow him away. . . .
Pale and transparent as a ghost, he still maintains the same messy hair of his father, the same beautiful eyes - yes, even as a ghost - of his mother. However, although he is still, unmistakably, Harry, I can see that this is not the same teenage boy of a mere few weeks ago. Why, the Harry Potter of a few weeks prior was a boy with a monumental burden on his shoulders, a boy who was angry at the world - for what he had been put through and what he had still to do. But now. . . .
Now he is free. Worry lines have been erased from his face, his eyes are brighter, his smile gentler. Upon looking closer, I see no familiar lightning-bolt scar, the mark of his duty to the wizarding world, the defeat of Lord Voldemort.
Slowly, he advances into the room; I bow my head, unable to face those penetrating green eyes. It is as if the positions have been reversed - I, the unruly student and he, the reproving authority. But can I blame him? It was I, after all, who caused him all this pain - not only in the burden of the prophecy but, as a mere infant, leaving him with Petunia Dursley and her incredible anti-wizard values, taking him away from the place where he really belonged. . . .
"Professor?" Harry's voice echoes as if coming from far away. He comes to stand in front of my desk, hovering uncertainly over the adjacent wooden chair.
All my fault. It was all my fault and now I shall receive my just reward. Slowly, feeling more than ever like a student again, I face him.
I open my mouth several times, wanting to say something, anything but unable to articulate it. What is there to say? "Hello, Harry," I finally manage, my voice nearly a whisper.
Perhaps it has to do with his mother's incredible kindness or the fact that he always puts others' needs before his own or maybe that he's just Harry - a perfect combination of all these factors - but as he hears my soft, weak voice his eyes grow pained and, gently, he places a transparent hand over my own wrinkled one. Surprisingly, rather than the usual feeling of being doused with cold water, a peculiar warmth spreads up my body. I cannot help but smile to myself.
Only Harry. . . .
Drawing his hand back to his side and now looking slightly nervous himself, Harry meets my eyes straight-on looking as if he is steeling himself for something. Then, "I'm sorry, Professor Dumbledore." Almost immediately, he begins examining his worn-out trainers, now afraid to meet my gaze.
Gasps echo through the room at Harry's words; Phineas alone looks smug.
"Harry, dear boy, what could you possibly have to be sorry for?" I ask, echoing my portrait's sentiments and ignoring Phineas's surreptitious snort. "If anything it is I. . . ."
"I'm the one that wrote those horrible things to you. I didn't know, sir. I didn't understand, but . . . but now I do. I'm so sorry, Professor."
"Understand what, Harry?" Once again, it feels as if the roles have been reversed. Usually it is Harry who peppers me with questions about Voldemort, his scar, anything and everything to do with the war and it is I who apologize for my mistake - an old man's mistake.
And here is one of my many, many mistakes.
"That you cared," he replies simply. "Everything that happened to me hurt you just as much, Professor. I know it did, I saw it. . . ."
"Saw it? Harry, my boy, I'm afraid I don't understand you."
"In the final battle, with Voldemort. I was dueling him and, I don't know, I had a vision - no, not a vision, more a - a flashback, I suppose - and you were at the Dursleys. And you said . . . you said how much you didn't want to leave me there and . . . how much you lo-"
"Of course I loved you, Harry; you were like a grandson to me!" I exclaim suddenly, cutting Harry off before he can finish that dreaded sentence. "I still do as a matter of fact. But answer me this, would a man who loved you have left you with Muggles as a child? Would a man who loved you have put you in incredible amounts of danger all these years, would he have you be killed just to fulfill his master plan? His all-important master plan?! A man who truly cared for you would not have done that." I have stood up by this point, my hands splayed on the desk as I lean forward toward Harry, shaking with grief.
"You have come here askingfor forgiveness, Harry," I choke out, "but it is I who should be begging it of you."
Harry stares at me sadly, his own ghostly eyes shining with tears - tears that he will never let fall. "Why do you think there is any necessary, Professor?" he asks. "I'm done. It's over."
"But Harry, your life. . . ."
Harry shakes his head. "It means nothing, Professor; think of all the lives I've saved. Ron and Hermione, Neville, Luna, Hagrid, Ginny-" his eyes soften slightly at the name - "Professor Lupin, Tonks . . . you. I'm done, Professor; I'll be with my parents now. . . ."
I notice that his voice trails off somewhat nervously at this last statement and Fawkes obviously does, too. Spreading his vast, flame-colored wings, he flies over to land deftly on one of my spindly, silver knick-knacks, one of those that - incidentally - Harry broke during our last meeting. I notice him look at it bashfully and I smile slightly but next moment this is forgotten as Fawkes opens his mouth and begins to sing.
I have heard phoenix song several times before but never quite like this. It is - for lack of a better word - art, one note melding into the next, all blending together to melt all my worries and fears away, to make what is happening around me seem almost surreal.
And, amidst the phoenix song in this surreal reality, slowly, ever so slowly, the ghost or shade of a young girl squeezes herself out of the silver instrument. Dressed in an old-fashioned style, her hair is blonde and curly, falling only a little past her shoulders. But her eyes . . . how they twinkled when she smiled, how they would almost seem to dance when she laughed at one of the jokes Aberforth or I told her. Usually Aberforth . . . she loved that one about the goat and the firewhiskey. . . .
Almost seeming to glide across the room, she takes Harry's hand in hers, smiling at me, eyes twinkling. Even all these years later. . . .
I open my mouth to say something but, once again, find myself lost for words. What would be the right words to say? "I'm sorry."? "I didn't mean for it to happen."? How can any of those words express the horrible crime that I committed - the ultimate betrayal to the girl I swore to protect?
However, before she can say anything, she places a hand over mine, just as Harry did. Once again, I am doused in that lovely feeling of warmth, of love.
"Albus," she whispers, her voice tender. "Albus." And we both know no more words are necessary.
I smile at her, albeit rather shakily and she smiles back. Bringing her small, transparent hand up to my face, she swipes it across my face and eyes as if to wipe away the tears now falling steadily. The last thing I see is Ariana's gentle smile before everything goes black.
Note: So. . . . How did you like it? And, before you ask, no, Dumbledore did not die (I don't know if the ending might have implied that to some of you). He just became unconscious because obviously, he isn't dead yet, so he can't see how Ariana and Harry get to -drum roll- the afterlife! Yeah. . . .
Yay, An Ironic Title is finally complete! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it (well, actually more because some of the chapters were a pain in the ass to write XD). Anyway, I've put a poll up on my profile, asking whose was your favorite PoV in the story so if you want, cast your vote for it.
Coming Soon: I am next going to be working on a one-shot parodying the many different Remus pairings in fanfic (besides the canon Remus/Tonks) that is going (tentatively) to be called Everybody Loves Remus. Yeah, creative I know. I'm going to start work on it soon and hopefully it won't take too long to get up -knock on wood-.