The Reader

Disclaimer: JKR is a much better writer. And I don't own the Wizard of Oz, Battlestar Galactica, Sunshine, The Lord of the Rings, or anything else I may reference. (This list is gonna get seriously long if I have to keep mentioning every one.) Title from "I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger."

Rating: T again.

Summary: See prologue.

Chapter 39: Over Jordan

I've said before that I don't believe in happy endings. That's true, because, no matter what the victory, there are still casualties. There is still loss, still a sense that some things can never be made right.

I sat in the Weasleys' kitchen again, my customary cup of tea before me, untouched. The Burrow was uncharacteristically quiet. Its residents had retreated to another room to grieve as a family. Sirius and I were not a part of this mourning. We had our own to do.

I continued to stare at my mug. I didn't want the liquid inside. For once, I wanted to feel, wanted to drown in the hollow awfulness of it. It was grief never-ending. Nothing could fix the piece of me that had been broken, plug up the hole that had been left behind when my dearest and oldest of friends had passed from this world.

Sirius sat beside me, dressed to match his name. One of his long arms hung over the back of my chair, not quite touching me. I needed him to touch me, needed to feel the warmth of another human being beside me, but I didn't dare ask.

He knew me so well, he pulled my chair as close to his as it would get, then pulled me back against his chest, his arm tightening, securing me.

It was two days after the final battle, and I still couldn't stop crying. The tears came afresh now, having abated while in the presence of others. I let them fall unhindered.

After a while, I noticed it wasn't just me. Sirius' chest was shaking against my back. I stretched one arm up behind me to touch his face, assure him that I was there for him as he was for me. His cheek was wet beneath my fingers, and he held my hand there with his own.

There was a soft knock at the door. Sirius helped me sit upright, planted a soft kiss on my salty cheek before rising to answer it.

"Andromeda," I heard him say. There was a little emotion in the name, and I remembered that these two had the doubled suffering of losing Tonks too. I hadn't known her that well...

Andromeda had Teddy with her. I rose to take him from her, letting Sirius hug his cousin, giving them a moment to themselves.

There was something comforting about holding Remus' son in my arms. I rocked him back and forth gently, knowing he was blissfully unconscious of what he had lost.

"I knew your father," I whispered to him, sniffing. "He was a great man. You'll never know him, because he died to make you a better world."

"So you know about that too."

I looked up to see Harry standing in the doorway. His face was pained, stretched into an unnatural expression.

I heard Andromeda say she was going to pay her respects to the Weasleys. Sirius came over to join Harry and I. His arm slipped around my waist.

"I thought we'd lost you too, Harry," Sirius said quietly. "I thought...And then I saw Kara's face, and I knew it couldn't be true."

I clutched Teddy tighter to me. I had felt victorious in that moment, standing there in the midst of chaos, while everyone around me believed the battle lost. Now I just felt empty.

"It doesn't seem fair," said Harry. "Everyone died...for what? Couldn't there have been some better way? It just doesn't feel right that I'm still alive, when everyone else..."

I nodded. It didn't seem fair to me either. I didn't deserve what I had been given.

But that wasn't the point, was it?

"It has nothing to do with being fair, or deserving," I said. "Voldemort never deserved to live. Your parents never deserved to die. We all make our decisions. If we're lucky enough, our friends make decisions that are to our benefit. That's their gift to us. We just have to make the most of it."

Sirius' arm tightened around me. Harry nodded his understanding.

"Remus said that to me once. He said my parents had given their lives for me, and I shouldn't gamble away their sacrifice...They...they said they were proud of me."

"When?" Sirius' breath came out in a rush.

"I saw them just before I went to meet Voldemort," Harry explained. "Dumbledore left me the resurrection stone. It's a long story."

The silence fell again, but it was less thick. I wondered what this new life would be like, one that didn't involve battles and dread. One that involved weddings and children named after heroes.

"What do we do now?" Harry asked woefully.

"Now," I said, looking down at Teddy once more, "we live in this better world they've made for us."

It was nearly unbearable that one generation should have to sacrifice its entire future for another, but that's what they had done. Dumbledore was right. You don't fight for those lofty dreams and noble virtues that comprise "the good side." You fight for the people you care about, for their lives.

And you take comfort in the promise that it's not the end. There is hope even in sacrifice. There is hope because of sacrifice.

In a small English town called Godric's Hollow, in a tiny churchyard, there is a joint tombstone that boldly proclaims the truth for anyone with enough faith in them to listen:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

In the words of Bilbo Baggins, "I regret to announce that this is the end." I'm done for real now, but I really want to thank all of you before I go. You've made writing this such a pleasure. I've looked forward to each and every one of your reviews. I'm actually rather sad to be done. Thank you all so much! "I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye!"