"Well, if it isn't the Boy Who Finally Died!"
Harry knew that voice, even if it had been years since he'd last heard it. He opened his eyes -- magnificently unsurprised that he could see, he'd been here before -- and saw Fred Weasley standing just a few feet before him wearing that familiar, mischievous grin.
"Fred!" he yelled. He gripped the other man's arm.
"In the flesh, mate," he replied. "Although 'flesh' might be the wrong word. We're dead, you know."
"Yeah, I got that part," Harry couldn't help but grin. "Are you the welcoming committee, then?" He looked around, drinking in the sight of King's Cross. The ceiling soared above him, and it was a dazzling white, just as he remembered.
"Weasley's Wizard Welcome, yeah. Ron and Hermione are around here somewhere... probably 'reminiscing.'"
"Reminiscing?" Harry asked blankly. He'd started turning left and right on the spot as soon as he'd heard those names.
"Look at yourself! You're young again! If Ginny were here, what would you want to do?" Fred, seemingly unable to help himself, grabbed him and roughly mussed his hair.
Harry looked down at his hands. They were young again, unblemished by time. He felt his face; no wrinkles to be found. He felt spry and athletic, no longer weighted by decades of living, but once more in his prime. "What the --"
"Better than magic, eh?"
"But when I was here last time, Dumbledore still looked old!"
Fred shrugged. "Mysteries, mate. He probably looked old because you saw him as old."
"Does that make sense?" Harry asked.
"Not really. Does it have to?" Fred looked genuinely curious.
Harry eyed him suspiciously, not fully trusting the 'wise old sage' act coming from a Weasley. Especially this Weasley, who, if he remembered correctly, had never been serious longer than a few moments in his life. But, Harry supposed, he could have changed in his death...
"Listen, I've got a great idea," Fred lowered his voice, and Harry was transported back a million years to Grimmauld Place and stolen doxies. He hadn't really changed at all. "They don't know you're here yet, so why don't we give 'em a little surprise? For old time's sake!"
Harry laughed. "Of course. But let's find them now!" Ron had been gone for seven years, after all, and Hermione had followed three years later. His best friends in all the world...
"Of course, of course," Fred waved his arm magnanimously. "I think they went this way..." His long legs required Harry to trot a little to keep up.
"Why are you still here, anyway?" Harry asked, glorying in the fact that his legs did not tire and his lungs did not threaten to vacate his chest and take his heart with him. "I thought for sure you would've gone on."
"I'm waiting for George," Fred said simply.
"You've been missed, you know," Harry said quietly. "Your death --"
"I know. I saw Mum and Dad, had a chance to chat. Catch up," Fred grinned again. "Auntie Muriel stopped by, too, not long after I died. Played a bit of a joke on her, too, it was great. When she'd gotten over it, told me all about the funeral. The fireworks? Brilliant. Couldn't believe it was all Percy's idea... you just missed him, by the way, he hung out for a while, then got on the train."
And then he saw them. He'd forgotten how red Ron's hair had been before it turned white; it shone even from yards and yards away. They sat with their backs to them, Hermione in Ron's lap, smiling again, happier than he'd seen her since Ron had passed. Even as he watched, they laughed, and it echoed in the station as though a huge crowd had roared with joy.
Harry had stopped. He drank them in; it wasn't until now, this moment, when he saw them again that he realized how very much he had missed them.
They hadn't noticed him. He walked forward as quietly as he could.
"Hold up, I'll distract them," Fred whispered. He gave Harry a gleeful grin, and strode over to his brother and Hermione. Harry watched as he put his arms around them and said something. Judging by Hermione's indignant squawk and Ron's snort, it was something inappropriate.
Something completely Fred.
His bare feet made hardly any sound as he continued toward them. He realized he was trembling and wanted to shout, but didn't want to ruin Fred's joke. The poor man had been here for decades, probably was bored out of his mind...
"You look particularly happy," Ron told Fred. "Almost as happy as when you saw Angelina. Find another girl with whom to while away the time?"
And suddenly Harry was nervous. What was he supposed to say? How was he to announce himself? He wished they'd just look over, but Fred's big head was in the way.
"Honestly, Ron, does everything have to be about girls?" Hermione asked. Harry knew that she was smiling without having to see her face.
"Just one girl for me, but Fred here woos every young miss who passes through here."
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but no sound emerged.
"As it happens, I did find someone skulking around, but --"
"But I'm not a girl," Harry said.
And then he was engulfed. Ron and Hermione had flung themselves at him faster than he would've thought, knocking over Fred in their hurry to reach him. Harry found himself with one arm around Hermione while she sobbed and laughed into his shoulder, and the other arm around Ron, who lifted them up, swung them around, nearly falling over. Ron was shouting "He's dead! He's finally dead! Finally!" and hitting him on the head, while Hermione clung even tighter. Harry was laughing as exuberantly as he had in what felt like forever.
"So how'd you finally go?" Ron asked when they'd finally calmed down.
"That's okay, Hermione, I don't mind," Harry grinned at her. "I think my heart just stopped. One minute I was reading in my chair, and the next I was here!"
"Really?" Ron asked. "Thought for sure you'd go down fighting. Blimey, you survive two Killing Curses and your heart just stops. Talk about anticlimactic."
But Harry roared with laughter. "I'll have you know that I'm happy that I died peacefully. At my age, I'm sure my heart would've stopped if I'd met another Voldemort... wouldn't have been able to handle it."
"Harry, we're so happy you're finally here!" Hermione breathed, and her cheeks glistened with tears. "We've been waiting for you, you know."
Harry blinked. "You mean... you haven't gone on because of me?"
The exasperated look that Hermione gave him was so achingly familiar that suddenly had a huge lump in his throat. He grinned at Ron, who asked, "are you mental? Of course we waited for you, mate."
"I know," Harry told them. "I should've known. You barely ever let me go to the bathroom by myself when Voldemort was around, of course you'd wait here for me."
Fred cleared his throat. "Is the emotional reunion done? Can I talk now?"
"When have you ever needed permission to talk?" Ron asked him. "As I recall, you were just as bad as George."
"Speaking of..." Harry looked around him. "You've been waiting here all this time, Fred? What do you do?"
"Oh, there's loads of stuff to do," Ron told him. "You just have to think it --" he demonstrated by grabbing bottles of butterbear out of what seemed to be thin air, "and it happens."
"Plus, I've had company," Fred said. "Fleur was here for a while, still as gorgeous as ever --"
"She's your brother's wife!"
"And then when Bill finally showed his face, they hung out for a bit before moving on. And other people were here too. The worst bit was the beginning when I had no clue how everything turned out, but Auntie Muriel told me all about it," Fred tousled Harry's hair again. "Heard you were bloody brilliant, mate, didn't expect anything less. And Lee Jordan and Oliver Wood showed up... this place is great for playing Quidditch, believe me."
"And Hermione and I found things to do, too," Ron said smugly, winking at Harry. "The best bit was when Luna came riding in on a Crumple-Horned Snorkack."
Harry laughed. "So they're real?"
"Apparently everything is real here," Hermione, unable to admit to the possible existence of the elusive beast, replied.
"That was pretty brilliant," Fred admitted. "She let me have a go, too, after I'd promised that I'd clear the building of the Nargles. Apparently there was an infestation."
"So is that what this is?" Harry asked, once more looking around at the seemingly empty building. "A place to party?" He was startled when the other three laughed at him.
"This?" Fred gestured, eyebrows raised.
"No way, mate," Ron agreed. "The real party happens when we board the train and go on."
"This is just a place of waiting, Harry," Hermione told him. "It's the first stage, sort of like the Muggle Limbo," at Harry's mystified expression, she continued, "it's wonderful and peaceful, but it isn't it. There's another journey ahead of us."
"And we'll all go together?" Harry asked quietly. "After Ginny gets here?"
He already knew their answer -- wherever they went, they would be together -- but another burst of light filled him when they nodded. But before they could do much more than that, a mighty roar echoed through the station.
And George was sprinting toward them, that familiar broad grin splitting his face.
"GEORGE!" Fred met him, and they flung their arms around each other, pounding each other's backs. Ron was there a moment after, and the three brothers danced jubilantly in a circle as carefree as they'd been growing up at the Burrow.
Harry and Hermione hung back, letting them have their moment of reunion. But George spotted them and ran to scoop Harry up into his arms. "I can't believe I outlived the Boy Who Lived!" He cried, and Fred and Ron laughed. Even Hermione smiled.
"Not by much," Harry told him indignantly. "I've only been here a little while."
"Almost a year!" George corrected him. "And I'm older than you."
Harry's mouth dropped open. "A year? Already? So... time is different here?"
"Never mind that!" Ron cut across him. "How was his funeral?"
"It was great. Loads of people crying. Huge turnout," George told them. "Story after story on him in the Daily Prophet, and the Ministry immediately dedicated July 31st as Harry Potter Day."
Harry groaned. He'd fought long and hard not to have a holiday centered around him. The other four laughed at the look on his face. And when he heard their joy, he realized that he couldn't really feel anything other than amazement at his own. Let them have a Harry Potter Day; he knew that he'd never been truly alone.
"How's Ginny?" Harry asked. "And the children?"
George gave him a look that was not solemn, but not jubilant either. "They're having a hard time of it. Al was the one to find you, you know, and they all sort of moved around like ghosts. I haven't heard Ginny laugh, really laugh, since you passed."
"Yeah, I know the feeling," Harry gave Ron and Hermione meaningful looks. He'd missed them every day. "But I'm going to wait for her."
"We're always waiting for Ginny," Ron rolled his eyes. "Waiting for her to come to Hogwarts, waiting for her to get a bit older, waiting for her to get her head right and realize that she and Harry were meant to be together --" he stopped when Hermione smacked him.
"You are such a revisionist! Harry was the one who was clueless. Just like you were! Still are..."
Fred and George sniggered. "How'd you deal with Harry falling in love with our little sister?" Fred asked.
"It was tough, at times," George tried to look mournful. "Walked in on them snogging two days after the war ended, almost finished me."
"I still think Percy making a joke was what killed me," Fred told him. "I'm sure I never would've made it through seeing my baby sister snogging the Boy Who Scored. Although," he looked at Harry thoughtfully. "I'm not sure that Harry would've survived it..."
"Tell Fred what you did when you found out Ginny was pregnant, Ron!" Hermione was practically bouncing.
Ron looked uncomfortable. "I don't remember," he muttered.
Hermione threw a glare at him before saying, "imagine a nice, family dinner at the Burrow. Harry and Ginny had been married for two years, so it really shouldn't have been such a surprise that they'd had sex," she said the word with relish, and Ron's ears turned red. "They made their announcement, and just as Mum was getting weepy and emotional, Ron lunged across the table, scattering food everywhere --"
"Not everywhere, it was mostly just on me --"
"He didn't even get to Harry, who just s-stood there, gaping at him, and started laughing like a loon. Poor Ginny was so embarrassed..."
All of them roared with laughter while Ron muttered "baby sister" and "wasn't thinking."
"No, wait!" Harry held up his hand. "I've got a good one." He grinned mischievously. "Remember that night when you guys were staying at Grimmauld Place? About two months after you got married?"
"No, Harry!" Hermione cried.
"Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!" The twins chanted, their identical faces gleeful.
"Well, they were just down the hall... and apparently forgot to use Muffliato..." Harry didn't exactly want to come right out and say it; it was far funnier just to imply. Besides, Hermione might try to kill him if he was any more explicit.
"Ron, you dog!" Fred chortled with glee.
That story led to another and another and time passed swiftly. They'd given up butterbeer and were now toasting each other with firewhisky. Harry was surprised to find that it was potent even when one was dead, and became steadily more inebriated. The twins had pulled out some old tricks and were competing to see who could make the naughtiest fireworks.
Harry sat back and just watched them. Ron and Hermione bickered, yet their love for each other was as easy to see as it was when they were young. The twins raced up and down, laughing madly, together again, and it was as though they had never been apart. They'd all conjured pictures of their families so Fred could see his nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews.
Harry had no idea how long he'd been there. He was not tired or hungry. Every once in a while little bubbles of happiness welled up inside him and popped until he was unable to imagine how he could possibly be any happier at all...
And there she was. His girl. His Ginny. She hadn't seen them yet; her arrival had coincided with a lull in the festivities. The twins were out of sight, probably planning a practical joke on God, or something. Ron and Hermione had drifted away after making pretty flimsy excuses that Harry pretended not to see through. He wondered if they'd somehow known...
She turned, and her face blazed like the sun.
They met halfway, he took her in his arms, and bent his head to kiss her. They swayed a little, and Harry could almost hear music. It was like the song of the phoenix which he'd heard only three times in his life, but would always remember. But it was the music of their lives, triumphant yet tender, full of love.
"Harry... do you hear it?" Ginny asked breathlessly.
"Yes," he murmured against her hair. "It's us. It's for us."
She looked up at him and he saw that she was crying. "I've missed you... so much. It was like an ache that never went away, not for almost three years."
He kissed the tears away. "Ginny... we'll never have to be apart again. Never."
They embraced again, until they'd both had enough, for the moment at least. They were young again, together again, and just as in love as they were the day they got married. And Harry had never dreamed that he could be so joyful.
He pulled back with a start. "But there are other people for you to see!" He gripped her hand and pulled her along.
"People? But who?" She asked blankly.
"You guys!" he shouted. "Come out! Ginny's here!"
Just then, a particularly excellent fire work went off, and even with all the noise, he could still hear the music.
"GINNY!" Two voices roared at once, and Harry grinned down at her at her look of dawning wonder and amazement and joy.
"Fred!" She screamed.
"I'm not Fred, he is!"
"You ARE Fred, you prat!" She nearly tackled him, and then George. George swung her around in a circle. Laughing, Ginny ran back to Harry and threw herself into his arms and squealed in his ear.
Then Ron and Hermione came sprinting out of one of the rooms, and Harry thought Ginny's smile would split her face in two. She pulled him along and the twins came in their wake and as they all hugged and laughed and cried the music kept growing louder and louder.
And then the train pulled into the station. And the music they all heard was its whistle, and they knew they were finally about to go on. Fred, Harry observed, was especially excited. He'd been waiting the longest, after all.