Disclaimer: Don't own the characters. Just love 'em.
Small note: Though I would love to discuss where you think the future!Gen would be sorted, I have taken my own route and I'm afraid I'm rather set in it. All I ask is that anyone reading this respects my views (particularly in regards to Albus Severus, I'm very stubborn) and not try to tell me how I am "wrong". I do NOT condone movie Sirius and refuse to portray him that way in my story. I believe their version completely DEFACES everything Sirius really was in regards to Sirius death scene. I just wanted to say it. ("JAMES!" ?!? Really, I ask you!) Also, though I am sad to see this story come to an end, I have to say- I am determined to never do so much math again in my life.
This final chapter is dedicated to my reviewers and those at the Review Lounge, especially Padfootatheart, and of course Lauryn, for her unending patience and friendship, without which this fiction would not exist at all.
- - - -
Harry Potter was buried in paperwork.
He had been the head of the Auror Department for twelve years, and since then had reformatted the place for the better, and yet, no matter how hard he tried, he never seemed to be able to eradicate the need for hours and hours of red tape. Necessary, of course, but still incredibly tedious nonetheless.
I am never getting home, Harry thought miserably. This is going to take me years to dig myself out of.
There was a movement at the door and he looked up, startled out of his thoughts. A dark-haired girl in her twenties was leaning against the frame of his office door, looking nonchalant and as cool as anyone might ever manage to look while standing in the Ministry of Magic. Though her features were fiercely beautiful (with the exception of an oddly shaped mouth) and her hair was cut in a short, modern style, her gray eyes stared back at him with the excitement of a child.
"The news?" She said, sounding out of breath as she peered at him expectantly.
"Gryffindor," said Harry smiling. "Just like her brothers, and nearly half her cousins."
"Excellent!" laughed Charlie Weller, standing up straight and clapping her hands enthusiastically. "All the best go to Gryffindor."
"Charlie, I've got some nephews and nieces in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff who'd hate to hear you say that." Said Harry, but he was grinning still.
"No Slytherins?" she said mischievously.
"There's nothing wrong with Slytherin," Harry reminded her. "Some very great men came from Slytherin."
"A few here and there," Charlie winked and she shook her short hair out with her fingers. "That paperwork get to you yet? I sent it flying ages ago."
Harry nodded. "Looks good from what I can tell. I'll give it a better check before I go home today." He ran his fingers over his desk. "I hope you've come to talk because you're leaving. You deserve a little break, you've been here late all week."
She blushed a little. "Actually, I am. I've got… a thing."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "A boy thing?"
Charlie shook her hair out again. "A date. Yes. A date with a boy- one I've been seeing for a while actually."
Harry grinned broadly, caught a little off guard. "Who? Charlie, I can't believe you haven't mentioned this to me!"
Charlie rolled her eyes, still looking flushed. "He's a healer. His name's Ben Whittaker. Was a Ravenclaw at school, a few years ahead of me."
Harry narrowed his eyes a little. "How many years older?"
Charlie just shook her head, chuckling. "Don't start with that! You drove Joshua Wood away with this kind of thing-"
"Wood's little brother? I told you, if he's anything like Oliver he's a complete nut-"
"He didn't even play Quidditch at Hogwarts, and he was a Hufflepuff, sweetest man I've ever met-"
"Exactly, man, he's a good ten years older than you, Charlie. I hope this new one's younger than that or else I'm going to think you've got a bit of a complex-"
"He's only 25, that's two years Harry, and you can even meet him when he gets here if you'd like."
He nodded, softening a bit. "Just looking after you, you know."
She smiled, and for a moment Harry caught the impression of Sirius on her face, the Sirius he had never known, or one that had never come to be. She looked around, as though checking for people near her, and then swiftly leaned down and pecked him on the cheek affectionately.
"Thanks, Harry." She whispered. He knew she meant for everything.
- - - - - -
"Ben Whittaker? Dark red hair, healer Ben Whittaker?" said Ginny, attaching a thick parchment packet to the leg of Albus' owl and opening the window for him the next morning. "I know him, he works at St. Mungo's with Caroline. He treated James that day Lily accidentally made all his teeth disappear. "
Harry took a bite of his toast. "That's the Ben. He mentioned that yesterday. Seemed to find it funny."
Ginny laughed. "Oh, come on Harry. It was funny. Caroline said good things about him. She's the one who trained him, after all."
Harry shrugged. "I know, I know. He's a good kid. He was very polite when I met him. It's just Charlie, that's all."
Ginny ran a hand through his hair affectionately. "I know. You've been like a father for her, helped her study to become an auror, trained her yourself, taught her all about Sirius. I know, Harry. I hate to see what happens to you when Lily starts dating."
"Lily will never date." Harry said stonily. "Ever."
"That's what my brothers said, too." Ginny laughed. She kissed Harry before he had a chance to respond. "You know what's funny, though?"
"What's that, Gin?" Harry said distantly, still thinking about all the things Ginny had done behind her brother's back, most especially those she had done with him. He frowned.
"When I met Ben, I thought he kind of looked like your mother in all those old pictures you have of her. His hair is almost the same color, too. And Charlie's the spitting image of Sirius... it's almost as if Sirius is falling in love with your mum."
Harry chuckled. "Ginny," he said, pulling her to him. "That is completely ridiculous."
- - - - -
Sirius Black was finally out of 12 Grimmauld Place, and for the first time in as long as he could remember he finally felt alive. Adrenaline was pumping through Sirius' veins as a jet of red light whizzed past his head, and he grinned as he shot his own spell in his deranged cousin's direction. Bellatrix hissed at him as she dodged his spell easily, and Sirius chanced another look in Harry's direction to make sure he was still safe, pressed against the wall with the Longbottom boy. This time, he was not going to let a Potter die.
He turned his attention back to his duel, leaping onto the rock and ducking underneath another jet of red light. "Come on, you can do better than that!" he laughed, the echo of his voice carrying in the great empty room.
He didn't see the second jet of light coming, bright green and quicker than lightning. He didn't feel it either. He only saw it connect with his chest, saw a second of Bellatrix' triumphant face and Harry's horrified one as he fell backwards.
It's all right, Harry. He wanted to say, I'm not hurt. I don't feel anything, just a little cold. I know what it looks like, but I'm not dying. I can't be dying. I have to stay with you.
But he couldn't say anything at all. His mouth wouldn't move, and besides that, he wasn't breathing anymore. He was falling backwards, and now all he could see was a dark, fluttering cloth, and for a moment everything went black and he was gone.
And then, only a moment later, his eyes opened again, and he could move. He was in a bright white room full of nothing but windows, a room he'd never seen before. In front of him was a dark, fluttering veil. At the other end of the room was a giant closed door.
Sirius ran toward the veil, trying to reach it and run through. But once he had come within a few feet of it, no matter how much he ran, he would get no closer. He reached for his wand, but realized that he had let it tumble out of his hand when he'd gone through the veil the first time.
"Harry!" He called, dropping to his knees and panting from running so long. "Harry!"
"You won't be able to reach him, Sirius. You can't go back through the veil once you're here."
Sirius jumped to his feet. He knew that voice, the soft feminine voice that had come from behind him.
"Lily? He said, bewildered, as he turned around. His heart leapt when he saw
her, slender and beautiful and standing before him as though she'd never even met Lord Voldemort or Peter Pettigrew. He threw his arms around her in a fierce hug, and then pulled back again. "How- What- I need to get back through that veil-"
Lily smiled sadly. "I'm sorry, Sirius. You can't go back."
"But-" he said, pleading." You don't understand. It's Harry, he needs my help-"
"You did good, Sirius." Lily said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You protected my son. But there's nothing more you can do now."
Sirius slumped down to the floor, crossing his legs and putting his hands over his face. Lily sat next to him, curling her feet up behind her and rubbing his back.
"Lily," he said finally. "I'm dead, aren't I?"
Lily nodded and Sirius gave a wry, barking laugh.
"Unbelievable," he muttered. "I don't get to do anything for the Order for months and when I finally get the chance, I can't even manage to stay alive."
"Don't be so glum, Padfoot." Lily said, still rubbing circles on his back. "James and I, we're proud of how you've been down there. It can't have been easy to be cooped up for as long as you've been, and we couldn't have asked for a better Godfather for our son. We do wish you hadn't blamed yourself so much for what happened, though."
Sirius grimaced. "You mean not realizing Wormtail was a traitor and letting you walk right into Lord Voldemort's trap?"
Lily hit him lightly. "Sirius Orion Black, you know you couldn't have done anything about it. That's life, and there's no way to change it."
"I could have kept your secret myself, instead of coming up with grand plans, thinking I knew everything-"
"Sirius, do you really want to spend your afterlife rehashing all the problems of the first one?" said Lily quietly.
Sirius shook his head. "Well what else can I possibly do, Lily, in this big empty white room full of nothing but my mistakes?"
Lily laughed. "Do you really think there's nothing here to do?" She stood up, dusting off her robes and lending a hand to help him up. Sirius took it and followed her as she strode off to one of the many windows. She stood on tiptoe for a minute, peering in, and then stood back, a broad smile on her face.
"Look." She said pointing to the window. Sirius looked at her skeptically. "Oh come on, Sirius, would you just look?"
He sighed and walked forward, and peered in the window. Instead of any kind of scenery, he could see Harry, sitting on the edge of the lake of Hogwarts. He looked forlorn, staring out at the water, his face set in misery. He ripped a handful of grass violently from the lawn and threw it with a guttural roar. When he raised his face, Sirius could see it was streaked with tears.
Sirius stumbled back from the window. "Why would you want to watch that?" He said, his voice uneasy. Lily frowned and peered in the window. She looked back, crestfallen.
"Oh." She said sadly. "He was with his friends just a moment ago, and didn't look so unhappy, I promise. He just misses you, Sirius- and he's got a lot on his mind. Dumbledore's died too."
"But I've only been gone a few moments." Sirius murmured, shaken.
"Time moves differently here, Sirius. It's already been more than a year since you fell through the veil." She put a hand on the window. "This is how I knew what had happened to you since I … left."
"You watched me, too, Lily?" said Sirius incredulously.
She smiled. "Of course. How else would I have known you'd been in jail?"
"I don't know." He said shrugging. "I thought maybe the dead gossiped."
She laughed and put a hand on the window, rubbing it a little and peering back in.
"What are you doing, Lil?" Sirius asked.
"Come look." She winked at him.
He craned his neck to see through the window again, but instead of Harry and the lake there was a small kitchen, and a blonde woman making tea. She strode across the kitchen, disappearing from view for a moment, and returned with a young child, in her arms. She smiled at the baby, whose face Sirius could not see, and kissed her on the cheek.
Sirius looked back at Lily, curious. "This is…" He trailed off and turned back the window, watching the woman, baby still in hand, spin around and around in her kitchen, laughing. He turned to Lily.
"Tawny Weller." He said, curiously. "Why are you showing me her?"
Lily smiled. "Look closer, Sirius."
Sirius looked back into the window once more. Tawny was now bouncing the baby on her hip, watching her coo. The little girl looked up and Sirius, with a jolt, found himself looking into his own face.
"Lily-" he said, unable to tear his eyes away. "Is that my child?"
"Daughter." Said Lily. "A little girl named Charlotte Adhara, and yes, she's yours."
"Charlotte Adhara…" he repeated, looking through the window wistfully.
"She looks just like you, doesn't she?" said Lily, pushing her face up toward the window, her cheeks pressed next to Sirius. She reached for his hand and they watched the little girl break into a slightly lopsided smile as her mother placed her in a high chair and went about making her lunch.
The baby giggled and blew a bubble with her mouth, which shimmered for a moment before exploding in sparkles. Sirius laughed delightedly. "She's a witch, too! I bet she'll be a good one. Good thing I told Tawny, she'll help Charlotte along I suspect."
He lurched suddenly and bumped heads with Lily, who rubbed her forehead where he'd collided with her.
"Did you watch me or Harry with James, ever?" Sirius said carefully.
"Always," said Lily, confused. "Why?"
Sirius shook his head. "Then James must know… my secret. He must hate me. That's why he isn't here, isn't it?"
Lily chuckled and Sirius narrowed his eyes. "I hardly think the end of the friendship that made my life worth living is very funny."
Lily smiled. "I'm sorry, Sirius. But you don't understand, it's not like that there. Your afterlife is only what you make of it, only what you need. James could never be mad at you. He understands, just like you always wanted him to. And he loves you- just like he always did."
Sirius frowned. "There? This isn't the world beyond the veil?"
Lily shook her head. "This is only limbo, where we can go to connect with the living world. There's much more beyond here."
She pointed to the wide door, and tilted her head. "Are you ready to see it?"
Sirius turned back to the window. "I can come back? To look at the baby, and Harry?"
Lily nodded. "Anytime you want. But we should go, James has been waiting."
Sirius glanced out the window one last time. His daughter had food smeared all over her face and she was grinning happily.
"I've been waiting for James, too." He said finally.
With a sly smile, Lily took his hand and guided him to the door, and then they were gone.