Harry Potter and the 8th Year

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

-Albus Dumbledore, pg. 723, HP and the DH


Harry made his way out of the office and quickly as his legs would take him. Unfortunately, that was not a very rapid speed. The trip back up to Gryffindor tower took a lot longer than one would have expected. Ron and Hermione were trailing behind him the entire time, worrisome faces etching their happy demeanor; but at the same time, elation filled the whole of their hearts.

Voldemort had been defeated. Bellatrix Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, and Antonin Dolohov were all captured, accounted for, and not going anywhere.

Harry finally made it to the portrait of the Fat Lady and remembered that he had not been at Hogwarts all year. He not only knew what the password was right now, but hadn't heard any of the passwords. Ron and Hermione were again right behind him, but they didn't know any better than he did. "Any ideas?" Ron said.

"Wait for someone, I guess." Harry responded very simply. The three of them stood there for a minute before they heard sobbing coming from somewhere very near them. After a few seconds' search, they realized that the noise was coming from the portrait itself. "Er, is something wrong?"

The Fat Lady sneezed into an overlarge handkerchief a few times before responding. "Wrong? Is something wrong?" She blew her nose again. "Of course nothing is wrong. From what I saw in the castle last night, from what I've heard from other people this morning, and the fact that you three are standing in front of me completely whole; nothing is wrong!"

"Why are you crying, then?" The blunt axe, or Ron, spoke first.

"Harry Potter, you will never need payment, password, or protection, to enter a room that I protect." She said, nodding her head forcefully downward at the end. Normally, there would have been a joke from Ron or Harry about the Fat Lady protecting some very rich woman's vault at Gringott's, but after everything that had happened to them, not just over the past year but their entire lives, it wasn't necessary; not today, at least. "You may enter."

The portrait swung open, and the three friends all walked inside to an old, yet familiar site. 'I'm home.' Even through visiting Godric's Hollow and other places that had major significance to Harry, he still felt the way he had earlier that day. 'He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here.' The common room greeted him like a nighttime blanket. It was circular, with warm colors, warm fires, comfortable chairs and couches, inviting message boards, and most importantly, his friends.

"Hey, Harry." Someone said.

There were things he had always come to terms with during his life, but nothing had manifested itself more than that lonely walk into the forest to face a certain death. Of course, later he would find out that it was all part of a more ingenious plan, however, at the time, Harry was able to see his old professor, his godfather, his father, and his mother. They were all there to comfort him in his time of need. He felt like he was fighting, and dying, for them. He wasn't dying for Ron, Hermione, or Ginny. He wasn't dying for Neville, Luna, or Minerva.

At the time, however, he did not know his ultimate fate. He didn't know that Voldemort's seventh piece of soul, his last Horcrux, not only lay inside him, but would also be his protection. There were many different things going on last night, in the Forbidden Forest, that Harry may never understand, but the most important thing was that the Killing Curse had not killed him again. He had heard Albus' explanation, but all he comprehended was that there was a part of Tom Riddle inside of him, and that was the portion that took the brunt of the curse this time, instead of his mother.

Harry had been protected, in short, by his ability to love. He always thought it was closer to his ability to grieve, but when he was walking into that forest, it was not to grieve for others or even fear or mourn for them. He walked into that forest because he knew it was right, not easy.

He could have run away with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione all the way to Australia, as his friend's parents had done. Voldemort would have taken forever to even touch their lives there. He could have been selfish and made his own life however he wanted it to be, but that was not going through his head after he had seen Snape's memories. He loved his mother even more.

"Harry?" There was a questioning voice now, but Harry was still lost in his own thoughts.

Lily was not only an uncommonly gifted witch, as many had said, but she also saw the best in people, like Albus. She and Snape had grown up near each other, and she had befriended the awkward, pale, spying boy. She wished they had been in the same house. What if Snape had been a Gryffindor? Would everything have been the same? Probably not, but that wasn't the point. Snape made his choices! His ability rivaled Voldemort's. His background was similar to both Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, and he seemed to spend half of his life on either side of the fence. However, when it came down to it, Harry's mother had shown Snape exactly what it meant to be a wizard, a person, a free human being: something that perhaps only Dobby's grave could possibly convey.

Harry smiled at himself when these thoughts ran through his brain. He felt like he had met enough people, enough items, enough spells, and enough trouble for many lifetimes. However, if he had to be honest, would Beedle the Bard have complained.

He smiled again.

"Harry?" The same questioning voice spoke.

He smiled again.

"Are you ok, mate?" The diction told him who it was this time.

"I'm ok, Ron." He started to spin, not quickly, but just rotating his feet enough to take in the whole of the common room. By now, he had no idea how long he had stood there, most of the remaining Gryffindors had made their way back up here. Everyone was looking at him. He could feel it. All eyes were drilling into his head from whatever angle they were coming from. He didn't care. For once in his life, Harry felt as if everything was going to be ok.

It sounded, even in his own head, to be quite contrived, but it was the truth. He knew that he would wake up tomorrow, and that his friends would be ok. There were still losses, and they were very close, and he would have to deal with that, but for right now, he was home, safe, content, and surrounded by friends. Where else would he want to be?

A/N: VERY short chapter. I just wanted to wrap everybody around what I wanted to do here. Also, this basically only takes up about two minutes of time, so really it's long, haha. REVIEW PLEASE!!