Taking the Train

Taking the Train

"Oh yes." Dumbledore smiled at him. "We are in King's Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to . . let's say . . . board a train."

"And where would it take me?"

"On," said Dumbledore simply.

Chapter 35 – King's Cross, pg. 722 of Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover edition

Harry paused for a moment, letting the feelings of warmth and security that had permeated his talk with Dumbledore sweep over him completely. It would be so easy to just go on . . . but was it the right thing to do? He had fought so long and hard, and he knew that if necessary, there were others who were more than ready and able to finish the task. Was it enough that he had gotten them this far? Was it his turn to rest and start life's next great adventure? Dumbledore was smiling at him serenely; somehow, Harry knew that asking him what to do would leave him with more questions than answers.

Ginny's hard, blazing look swept through his thoughts again, but here, where the fear of death did not exist, the feeling it evoked was that of a pleasant memory, a reminder of Harry's happiest days without the pain of their loss or the dull ache of longing. The reality of Ginny was fainter, the feeling of her hand in his, of her laugh, of her smell, were harder to conjure in his mind here, where loneliness and darkness and nightmares could not invade.

"Maybe we are not meant to be . . . us ," he thought. "I hurt her so much. It's selfish to think that she might want me again, after what I did."

At the same time, his mind formed another image, that of his parents, and Sirius, and Remus, as they stood with him in the forest. "You've been so brave," his mother had said. And from his father, "We are so proud of you." Those words, plus a few hastily uttered phrases from the graveyard during his fourth year were the only things his parents had ever been able to say to him. What would it be like to have a real conversation with them? To sit down and ask all the questions that had been burning in him his entire life? To describe for his father how he became the youngest Seeker in a century at Hogwarts, to hear his praise for something as mundane as catching a Snitch to beat Hufflepuff, or to describe for his mother the difficulties he had had trying to ask a girl to the Yule Ball . . . was he meant to finally have the chance?

The pull of possibility was equally strong in both directions. "Go back, or go on?" Harry thought. He could not decide. Not here, where his mind was pleasantly befuddled, where even the sound of the flayed baby mewling somewhere in the mist did not disturb him anymore.

"Maybe that is the point of being here, to help me decide what to do," Harry thought to himself. Almost immediately, he became aware of something out of the corner of his eye, something that had not been there a moment before. Dumbledore stayed silent, seeming to fade a bit into the mist, as he leaned forward to watch Harry, his fingertips gently touching in their familiar gesture. Harry approached the object slowly; at first it appeared to be a large, ornately carved wooden door with a picture painted on the front, but as he got closer, he realized that he recognized the words carved around the edge of what was actually a large mirror.

He had not seen the Mirror of Erised since his first year, but there was no mistaking it. And no mistaking the picture reflected back at him. Despite the mist swirling around him, and the six years that had passed since he first gazed into the mirror's depths, it was clear to Harry that his heart's desire had not changed. There, smiling back at him, was his father, looking much as he had only minutes ago when he comforted Harry in the forest. His mother grasped his father's hand tightly and turned away to hide both the smile and tears that coursed down her face. Around his parents, Harry saw the indications of others, the rest of his family, but the fog was thickening rapidly, and the entire scene began to fade before he had much of a chance to view his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and apparently, dozens of cousins. Before he knew it, the mirror itself was gone too, and Harry was standing alone, staring off into the further reaches of the station.

Harry turned around and looked again at Dumbledore, who was still sitting calmly, watching him through his half moon spectacles. The twinkle in his eye was somewhat dimmed as he asked, "did you see what you needed? Or what you expected?"

"Both, I think," answered Harry. I . . . I think it is time for me to go on . . . to be with my parents, and Sirius. The mirror told me that my work . . . back there, is done. After all, I did not see myself destroying Voldemort when I looked into the mirror, I saw my family again. The Resurrection Stone could not bring them fully back to me, and now it is time for me to join them.

"Are you sure that is what you want to do?" asked Dumbledore gravely.

Harry looked sharply at him for a moment, as if expecting his old Headmaster to disagree, or try to talk him out of going on, but the man remained calm and silent.

"He wants me to figure this out for myself, as he always has," thought Harry. "But a hint or two would be nice." Out loud he said, "the mirror, it never lies, or makes a mistake, does it?"

"That it does not," confirmed Dumbledore. "It shows, no more and no less than the deepest desires of our heart."

"Well, my deepest desire is to be with my parents again. And to meet my grandparents, and great-grandparents, and all the Potters and Evans' that I never had the chance to know. It's not fair that my entire experience with a blood relative of any kind had to be with my Aunt Petunia and Dudley."

"No," agreed Dumbledore. "Your life has definitely not been fair. Tom Riddle saw to that when he killed your parents. But you have been remarkably able to create around you a life that has seen much happiness, laughter, friendship, and, I daresay, love."

"And now it is time for me to have the rest," said Harry firmly. "My real family, around me all the time. Hermione and Ron and Neville will take care of the remaining Horcrux and then Tom, and then Hermione will go find her parents. She and Ron will be together, and the Weasleys all have each other. My last link to my parents died in battle just a couple of hours ago. It is time for me to go be with them."

"And Miss Weasley?" inquired Dumbledore gently.

". . . Ginny . . . Ginny will be okay without me. She's strong, and . . . and resilient, and just . . . Ginny," finished Harry lamely. "I'll admit, what we had was special. I don't think I have ever been so happy, back there, as when I was spending time with her. Even before we were really together. No one understood me as well as she did . . . there were things I told her that even Ron and Hermione didn't know. But I guess part of me always knew that that time was out of someone else's life. It was never going to be for me. Ginny will find someone else who can give her what I could not. And I will be a memory for her that she can tell her . . . her children. . . The Boy Who Almost Lived." Harry looked at Dumbledore almost as if daring him to disagree. Obviously he was not meant to be the one to kill Voldemort, the mirror had said as much. He must not want it enough, must not be strong enough. And so it was time to go where he belonged, and leave the victory to those who could bring it about.

"Very well," said Dumbledore.

"What do I do?"

"I think if you walk that way," said Dumbledore, pointing off to the right, "you will come to a platform, and a train. It will take you where you need to go."

"Will I see my parents there? And Sirius, and Remus?"

"I think you will see quite a few of those you desire to see. And it will be wonderful, and bittersweet, and joyful and heartbreaking, as all new adventures are. But understand, once you get to your destination, you cannot change your mind."

"I understand," said Harry. "Will you be there?"

"I think you may recognize me, from time to time," said Dumbledore.

"Okay, then," said Harry. "I'm ready. Goodbye for now, and thank you."

Having made his decision, Harry did not want to spend any more time thinking about it. He walked off in the direction Dumbledore had pointed and soon found himself on the familiar Platform 9 ¾. The Hogwarts Express stood there gleaming through the mist waiting for him to board. Not another soul was present. The feeling of calm and relaxation Harry had felt ever since arriving at this place was still there, mixed with a measure of anticipation and something else he could not quite identify, as if there was a thought floating just outside his consciousness. The harder he tried to focus on it, the further away it slipped, and at last Harry gave up and focused instead on the fact that soon he would be seeing his parents again. This time, forever.

With a last glance back into the mist, through which he thought he could just see the outline of Dumbledore watching him, Harry climbed into a carriage. Almost immediately, the train gave a lurch and started slowly forward.

Back at the Death Eaters' gathering place in the forest, Narcissa Malfoy was leaning over the still body of Harry Potter, placing her hand on his chest, watching for a rise and fall, feeling for a pulse. And finding none.

"He's dead!" She called to the crowd, and tumultuous cheers and shouts filled the air, mixed with Hagrid's inconsolable howls.

Dumbledore stood in place, watching as Harry walked slowly to the platform and got on the train. Objects in the mist shimmered and changed, as the large empty train station gave way to become a candy store to rival even Honeydukes. Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively at his surroundings as the train began to pull away. "You may not be able to go back once you reach your destination, Harry Potter, but it might take you a bit longer to get there than most . . . I only ask that you keep your eyes, and your heart, open."