A/N: I was much too upset about the lack of explanation in Death Hallows about James and Lily's relationship and especially about James himself. Too much through the books he was depicted as a man who a woman like Lily would never marry. This one-shot is to reconcile that. Cannon with books 1-7.
Summary: Harry now knew himself strong enough to face the reality of the stone rather than the dream. Emerald met emerald. "I just have to know." J/L slight H/G post-DH
With Everything I Have
The deathly path he had trod only hours ago seemed far less threatening with the sun rapidly filling the forest undergrowth. Harry's steps, while still a bit shaky from weakness, relief, sorrow and unrest, fell on a more direct path through the forbidden forest than they had when he was marching to his death.
But he was still alive. More alive than he had ever remembered feeling.
When he had finally been able to shake off Ron and Hermione, even Ginny and the rest of the Weasley's, Harry had headed straight for the forest. Straight for the last, and hopefully final, question of the past that he wanted answered. That he could get answered.
He did not remember exactly where he had dropped it…but he had lied when he told Dumbledore he was not going to go find it again. For one thing, something so powerful could not just be dropped and forgotten. History, and common sense, dictated that was impossible.
For another thing, Harry now knew himself strong enough to face the reality of the stone rather than the dream.
As he drew nearer and nearer to the deepest section of the forest, the clearing where Voldemort and his followers had waiting for his surrender, he began searching the ground for the ring.
It was easier to spot than he had anticipated and easier still to simply pick it up and turn it in his hand.
The lack of hesitation he felt as the stone weighed heavily in his hands could only be explained by three words. Voldemort was dead. The real weight, the burden and fear, the responsibility...it was gone from him now. He had done what he was born to do…the rest of his life was for him.
And it would begin with her.
She was alone this time, her light footsteps barely discernable on the forest floor. As her deep, red hair came into view, he let himself smile.
Emerald met emerald…and she smiled back.
They stared at each other for several minutes. He let himself study her, drinking in her face and eyes. She looked older…the age she might have been now, had she lived. An age where she truly was Harry's mother.
He searched for the words he wanted to say, the questions he wanted to ask, but somehow, she reached them before him.
"You're father wants to be here," Lily Potter told him softly.
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but the words died in his throat and he swallowed heavily.
Lily managed to keep smiling. "We're both very proud of you…" her voice seemed to shake a bit and tears gathered in her eyes, "…so proud."
"I couldn't have done it without you…and dad," Harry admitted, struggling to keep his emotions back. "But I'm glad it's over."
She was standing right next to him now, her hands fidgeting at her sides as if she wished she could touch him.
His desire for his mother's hug bit angrily inside, but he forced reality to smother it down. He realized now that he would have to do this quickly. The more time he spent in her presence, the harder it would be to let her go.
"I…I wasn't going to come back," he stuttered out, holding back the tears. "I know what this stone can do…what dreams can…" he cut himself off closing his eyes and turning away from her for a moment and taking a deep breathe. Turing back towards her he saw that pearly, translucent tears now slid freely down her cheeks and her eyes were not wavering from him. Steeling himself, he locked eyes with her again. "I just have to know."
Somehow, she knew. He knew that she had known from the moment she stepped out of the woods.
Why would he call for only his mother?
"It isn't fair for you to be just getting a short answer from me about it," his mother said gently. "There's so much…so much you'll never really know about."
Harry shook his head sadly. "I don't need anymore…I just need to know from you." He hesitated. "I need to know if you loved him."
Lily managed a wistful looking smiled up at him and spoke very gently. "Who? James or Severus?"
Harry almost flinched at the second name, his mind still coming to terms with the idea. "Either."
The sound of his name on her lips made his own tears start to fall.
"I loved your father with my whole heart, nothing held back." She kept his gaze as she spoke, showing him that she was telling the truth. "It might have taken us both several years to grow up about it, but," she shrugged, "life will do that to you."
"How do you know he loved you?" Harry couldn't keep from asking.
"Because I told her."
Harry's head jerked up at the new voice, a second, slightly ghost like figure, was walking toward them, and the black, messy hair could not be mistaken. Harry froze in confusion.
"I can only be here if you want me to be here," James Potter explained to his son, coming up along side his wife and slipping an arm around her waist. It was a casual movement, one Harry had done to Ginny and he had seen other couples to on a number of occasions.
The sight of it helped him released a held breath.
Harry held his father's gaze for a moment, but he could see none of the spoiled boy from Hogwarts, the troublemaker who bullied and taunted others for his own amusement. The dash of marauder was still present, but this James Potter looked oddly…at peace.
He turned back to his mother. "What about Sn-Severus?" he corrected himself, remembering his mother's friendship with his ex-professor.
Lily shot a wirily look up at James who gave her a small, encouraging nod, before she answered.
"Severus was my best friend," she stated simply.
"But he loved you," Harry reminded her. The comment brought a sad, reminiscent look to her face.
"Yes." Lily hesitated. "Even before I started dating James, I knew how Severus felt, and it was never reciprocated." She looked at him seriously. "I loved him as a friend, Harry, and he knew that. Besides, his involvement with the dark arts, with Lucius Malfoy and his gang…how on earth could we stay friends if he was going down that path." She gave him a sad sort of smile. "The memories you saw in the pensive of our fifth year…that was probably the last time I ever had a real conversation with him." She looked away and sniffed. "I never did forget his friendship to me during those first few years when I thought I would be so alone at this school." She glanced at him. "Like the way you are with Hermione." Her face grew dark again. "But his involvement in the dark arts started long before I ever knew him. And obviously our friendship was not enough for him to try and change."
Harry glanced at James who was remaining oddly quiet and was holding Lily a bit tighter. When he felt Harry's stare, he looked up towards him. Harry's eyes burned with too many questions, but James knew.
"I love your mother, Harry. Not because I was trying to be cruel to Snape. Not because I was trying to be a show off or get my own way." He stepped away from Lily and came closer to Harry. "I love her because she is a glorious woman, a woman who has strengths and weaknesses, a woman who I pledged my heart to…a woman who I would die again to defend."
He laid a hand on Harry's shoulder and though Harry could not feel it, the completeness of the fatherly gesture made his shoulders relax. "It hard to understand what it means to love someone with everything you have. I know you're beginning to feel it with Ginny. I know you got a fraction of it with Sirius and Remus…I know that someday you'll know exactly how different you and Voldemort were."
Tears once again burned in Harry's eyes and he reached clumsily to wipe them away, looking back at his mother.
She reached up, as if to wipe away form tears herself, but stopped short and clenched her hand as if it had been burnt. Still managing a smile. "We need to go."
"No!" Harry said desperately, hardly able to bite back the urge to reach forward and grasp them both, knowing that he couldn't, that it would just make it harder.
"You started this knowing you were strong enough to end it," James reminded him.
"You've got a brand new world open to you now, a whole new start to your life," Lily smiled through her tears. "We know you'll always remember us and honor us, and you have to believe that that'll be enough."
"Don't I deserve more?" Harry choked out, his voice barely above a whisper, emotions overtaking him stronger than he had ever known.
Neither James or Lily answered him and he just looked at them desperately, the stone still clutched firmly in his hands.
He finally let loose a small, watery chuckle. "This is a lot harder than the mirror."
James smiled. "Yes, but you are far stronger now."
Those few words…they echoed in Harry's mind. The man standing before him was no longer shrouded in the mystery of the past. Though Harry knew that some things would never be told, James Potter was no longer a burdened mystery for Harry, but rather, he was a revered father, honored and missed, much as he had been in Harry's younger years.
One last glance at his mother helped wipe the rest of the fear from his mind and, without letting himself stop, he opened his hand.
Before the stone hit the ground, Harry was alone in the woods again.
Breathing heavily, his eyes glued to the place where his mother had just been standing, Harry dropped both hands to his side. Slowly he glanced to the ground, the dull ring now lying innocently in the fallen leaves, it's astonishing power on hold until the next unsuspecting fool tried to capture its powers.
Not wanting to touch it again, Harry pulled out the snitch from his pocket, still open, its middle empty. Carefully he leaned down, scooping the ring back into the snitch and quickly snapping it shut, reactivating the charms Dumbledore had placed on it over one year ago.
As Harry made his way back to the castle, an odd lightness fluttered about him, his steps lighter than they had been on his journey in.
For once again the snitch would only "open at the close", at which time Harry would indeed see his parents again…would hold them again.
But until that time, Harry thought as he stepped out of the shade and onto the rubble strew grounds of Hogwarts, he had a life worth living, and he would make the most of it.