Disclaimer – I don't own any of the characters of JKR's Potterverse and make no money.
Harry drifted down the long sidewalk, it seemed to run beside a railroad track. Everything seemed to be white - the stone columns that rose so very high to an unseen roof obscured by the drifting mist, the walk that stretched endlessly on beside the tracks. Even the stone benches.
It didn't seem terribly important, of course, as Harry skipped along, jumping on and off the benches. He knew he would meet someone soon – the knowledge of that had been in the forefront of his mind the moment he'd found himself here.
At last he heard some footsteps that were not he own. He hurried, no longer playing along and caught the person. He could see the figure stop and turn, waiting for him. It was Larkin.
Harry laughed and grabbed him around the waist, dancing around with the chuckling Larkin. The old werewolf was looking well … no longer tired-looking and there were no scars visible.
"Larkin, it's good to see you." Harry laughed and twirled around, unable to keep still. "I saw you …" Harry hesitated, frowning. "... I saw you die ..."
"Yes, you did." Larkin answered gently. "And I have to go on … to my next adventure, as Albus Dumbledore is fond of calling it." Larkin lay his no longer arthritic and painful hand on Harry's head. "But you have much yet to do … there will be someone along to help you with that ..."
The mist scattered a bit on one side, and a doorway became clear. Shadows and whispers drifted from it. Harry couldn't see them or understand them but Larkin clearly did, as he smiled at the doorway.
Harry watched as Larkin walked eagerly to the welcoming voices and shadows. He turned briefly to wave to Harry before he walked through. The drifting mist obscured the wall and doorways once again once Larkin's figure was through the arched doorway.
Harry watched for a bit, he felt a bit deserted, but Larkin had said someone would be along soon, and he knew that was true. Odd how he was unafraid being here, alone. He must be dead, like Larkin, though Larkin had seemed a bit vague about that. Harry hummed and strode along, kicking at the mist and laughing at the fanciful shapes it took. A unicorn's form drifted into a misty dragon and then a very large fluffy-tailed kneazle.
At last he heard footsteps coming from another dimly lit doorway and a figure appoached Harry, becoming clearer as he got closer.
"I know you." Harry chortled happily. "You're my godfather, Regulus Black!"
Regulus smiled back at him and took him by the hand. "It's good to see you again, Harry." Regulus led Harry to one of the seats facing the tracks and they sat. "I'm here to make sure you get safely to your destination."
"Where is that, exactly, Regulus?" Harry asked, a bit worried, now.
Regulus pointed down the tracks a bit and the mist parted - at least enough so Harry could see a train sitting there, and the terrible form of a skeletal creature, followed by six smaller forms. Misty creatures were herding them onto the train which took them away, their screams echoing down the chamber.
"What was that?" Harry gasped, alarmed for the first time.
"That is what is left of Tom Riddle – who called himself Lord Voldemort. The smaller creatures are the horcruxes – small pieces of himself that he tore away." Regulus answered.
"Why are there six – he only had five that we knew of?" Harry objected.
Regulus sighed. "When he killed me and then attacked you, he accidently made a sixth – that lodged in your scar. When you were hit with the killing curse again, it was sent with the others." Regulus smiled, "But the killing curse is meant to only kill one … not two, so you can go back if you wish. You can't be forced back ..." A train pulled up slowly as Regulus talked "... but your family will miss you if you don't."
The door opened and Regulus stood, pulling Harry to his feet. "So, I don't have to die?" Harry asked.
Regulus shook his head, "Just get on the train – it will take you safely back to your life." Regulus looked at him with a grin. "... but I have a few messages for you to take with you ..."
Harry lay, looking very small, in his bed. Lily held Cybele and clutched his hand on one side. Severus sat on the other side, holding Harry's other small hand and was uncharacteristically silent. His initial hope when Harry started breathing again was fading fast.
In the few hours since the battle there had been a flurry of activity. Lucius had rounded up the children, gathering the ones at Malfoy Manor back and he and Narcissa had quieted them. James had immediately gotten Albus and the ministry there, taking charge of the bodies – and the lone survivor of the Death Eaters – Bellatrix.
St Mungos had sent a squadron of healers, luckily for the Granians some of them knew how to treat equines – or at least keep them alive long enough for a vet to be summoned. Thistles gashes would scar, but he would live to steal apples once again. Nettle's shattered legs was pieced back together. The vet had initially been doubtful, but upon hearing that he and the other two had fought and defeated Voldemort, he had sweated over the legs until exhaustion and declared that the Granian would limp, but in a winged horse that meant little.
Remus had taken Larkin's body to Hogsmeade, for the werewolves to bury with the greatest honor they could devise. Fudge had insisted that the ministry be allowed to place a monument and Remus had nodded fatalistically.
The healers attending Harry were puzzled and had no answers. A few offered a theory – that Regulus' sacrificial magic had partially deflected the curse once again … but some damage had been done. Since this had never happened before they could not say what damage, exactly. An empath had been shoved in the room, to see what she made of it. The grief and pain in the room was overwhelming to her, but she tried.
She turned to Lily, "He's in no pain ..." the empath offered, hoping that would comfort the boy's mother. "... but I can't sense him – he isn't dead, but he doesn't seem to really be there at present."
Dumbledore had looked troubled at this, he'd noticed that the boy's scar was different – no longer red, it seemed to be faded and almost gone. He knew this meant something, and his half-formed fears about the scar goaded him. He'd not been able to face the possibility of a partial horcrux – it was definitely a crudely made one at best, and he had hoped it was not enough to hold Tom here. Now – another Avada Kedavra – and both Harry and part of Tom were missing ...
Now, at Harry's bedside with his life possibly ending was not the time to speak of it.
Lucius now hovered at Severus' side, looking as helpless as he felt. James stood behind Albus and held the sniffling Charlus to his side. Sirius had arrived with the ministry and had joined the vigil at Harry's side, along with Corbin and Neville. Draco had managed to creep next to Severus near Harry's feet, unwilling to leave his friend.
Lucius, though was the first to notice that Harry's breathing changed and a small twitch. He hissed to Severus, "Look ..."
Every eye in the room was fixed on Harry as he yawned and looked around in surprise. "What's everyone doing in here?" He asked, perplexed.
Lily burst into tears, frightening Harry. Severus rescued Harry from being squished to death by his mother – or perhaps drowned by her tears, and then crushed him in a tight hug, himself.
The other children cheered happily at Harry's return, thoughts of him dying disappearing quickly.
James grabbed Charlus and Neville's hands, "I'm glad Harry's going to be okay." He said to Lucius, knowing that Lily and Severus were unlikely to notice he'd even left, and went to the floo.
The puzzled healers looked Harry over, declared him fit and also left. Albus looked at him in bemusement and said. "I'm curious, Harry, does your scar feel different?" At Severus' look of inquiry he added. "I think Harry survived because a piece of Tom was caught in there."
Severus and Lucius looked horrified, but their protests at that implication were silenced by Harry. "Oh, you're right about that, Headmaster. Regulus explained it all to me." He seemed oblivious to the bombshell he'd dropped on them and continued. "He said that it was a horcrux, too, but the killing curse was only supposed to take one life, so magic sent me back."
"Regulus?" Sirius managed to croak out.
Corbin wasn't so restrained and chirped, "You saw my father?"
Harry nodded, "Yes, he said to tell you and Sirius that he's proud of you, and to tell Laurel he's glad that she found you and that she's doing well."
Sirius felt a little lightheaded with relief, he'd still been carrying a burden of guilt about his brother. He'd had it so long he hadn't realized how it had still weighed him down. He reached over and patted Harry's leg. "Thank you kiddo." And dragged Corbin away, promising Corbin they would return soon. He needed to see Laurel – and think.
"Tell us what you saw, Harry." Severus asked quietly, settling Harry back against the pillows and smoothing the blankets back over him. Harry smiled and told them all about Larkin and the figure of Tom and his horcruxes, and Regulus sending him back.
"... and he said to say Hello to all of you. Said to tell you he was happy ..." Harry said, and then turned to Albus. "He said to tell you thank you … he's glad you've taken care of Corbin."
Albus sighed, nodding and patted Harry's head, also leaving. It was good to know his troubled young friend had found peace. Whenever he would plan something for Corbin, he would wonder about Regulus, hoping he knew that he was taking care of his son.
Harry squeezed Lily's hand and looked at Narcissa as well, "He said he was glad he could make for the mistake he made with the prophecy by saving Draco and I." Lily nodded, a bit grieved that Regulus had still felt guilt for that. Narcissa just nodded and hugged Draco tightly.
Harry looked around at Severus and Lucius. "I thought he would have had more to say to you guys – you were such good friends."
Severus and Lucius just smiled. "That's just it – good friends don't need a great deal of words. We know what he meant with "Hello", and that he was happy."
Lucius patted Harry and Severus' shoulders and whispered they would be back in the morning, and the Malfoy's returned to their Manor, relieved that the victory had been won without losing Harry, though they grieved for Larkin.
The Snapes ended up sleeping in Harry's room, Cybele curled beside her brother, with Lily curling around them both, barely managing to stay on top of the bed. Severus slept in the chair, wand still in his hand. Irish curled at Harry's feet, glowering out beyond the bay window, daring the world to try to take any of his family, again.
Lily sat on the porch, several days later, watching the latest batch of reporters making much of the Granians and Mia, the Aethonon. Narcissa had left her here, for now, so the press would leave them alone. The Granians had stuffed themselves of treats and Thistle had needed to be treated for colic from it … again.
Jimmy Parkin and Andrew now stood guard over the Granians to prevent further gluttony. Irish shadowed Lily or guarded Harry as much as possible. There had been a stream of ministry people in to 'check on Harry Snape'.
Those that had been in the room with Harry all agreed that it was better to let the world believe that the protection from Regulus had still held firm against Voldemort, rather than have anyone looking at Harry wrong for having held a piece of a Dark Lord's soul for a time. Promises of secrecy were made and a restraining spell cast so no one would speak of it by accident.
Fudge, Albus and Rufus made the announcement that Voldemort had been defeated – this time for good. Fudge was blissful – he'd made the right decision in backing Albus and the others. It had been difficult for him, but he had done it.
Lily sighed and called to the reporters that the ceremony for Larkin was about to begin. The scattered like startled chickens and Lily called to the rest of her family so they would not be late, either. The ministry had insisted on a monument and their stone workers and artisans had worked night and day on it.
They had viewed it last night, to give approval. The Malfoys said it was insufferably overdone, Severus had been speechless with horror and Lily had to admit it was … a bit much. The children had loved it, of course and insisted that it was 'wonderful'.
They all portkeyed to a secured area near the monument. Cornelius made a stuffy speech full of praise for Larkins courage and dedication as a packleader. Remus and Andrew made short, heartfelt tributes to him and the fountain was unveiled. Larkins grave was in the middle, covered by the statue centered in the middle of it.
Two massive Granians were rearing, wings outspread with an Aethonon standing in between with her wings furled, looking out imperiously over the crowd. Larkin stood in front of her, his arms encompassing three children protectively. A kneazle lounged at their feet, looking far too supercilious considering how intimidating the statue was meant to be.
The artisans had intended there to be only Harry standing in front of Larkin but Severus insisted that there be more than one and that none look exactly like Harry. This was meant to be Larkin's memorial – not one to 'The Boy Who Lived'. So there were two boys and a girl – generically pretty children, looking innocently out at the world.
The figures were surrounded by a pool of water with jets spraying up happily. It made Severus want to gag, though he admitted they had caught Nettle and Thistle's overdone theatrics exactly, and Mia's look of queenly self-importance was also perfectly reproduced on the Aethonon. Harry had insisted that Irish be included and the kneazle did look like him – at his most disdainful. Larkin, of course, did always look as kindly as the statue made him seem – unless you were threatening those he cared for.
Severus supposed it could be worse. He glanced at Lucius, who had a pained look on his face. Lucius preferred more modest graves and markers. They looked out on the awestruck crowd – the youngsters, of course, loved the winged horses and oohed happily. Lily patted his arm.
"Larkin would have liked the children enjoying the fountain – and the horses, even if it is very … big." Lily said.
They escaped at last and went home, hoping for a quiet evening. Things quieted in the wizarding world over the next two weeks, broken only by the news that Bellatrix had died. The news that her Lord was dead – really dead this time - had broken her. She'd survived only two days after finally being sent to Azkaban. Narcissa had buried her in the family plot and she and Andromeda been her only mourners – they'd not let even Lucius or Ted come with them to their sister's burial.
They had stood at the graveside, remembering the once happy child. She'd been a bit off, even then, but not cruel or savage. Her parents had allowed that to happen, giving her over to the dark and the Dark Lord. It did not have to have been this way. Bellatrix could have been different if her parents had helped her instead of helping destroy her.
They placed a small headstone, and put larkspur and ladyslipper flowers on the grave – the flowers Bellatrix had so loved as a child, and then they left.
Albus watched the band of first years that September as they made their way forward to be sorted. James sat at the table, tensely. He was this years offering as the DADA professor, they were sure the curse was broken with Voldemort's death – but the ministry wanted to be sure, so they were going to see if and Auror could survive for more than a year.
Severus and Lucius sat at the very end of the other side – they'd traded agreeing to teach a few special classes in exchange for being able to watch the sorting today.
The Abbott and Bones girls were first, going into Hufflepuff, and anyone could have predicted. Longbottom and the Potter boy both trotted into Gryffindor as expected. Corbin spent a minute or two under the hat and then went to the cheering Hufflepuff table. The hat screamed 'Slytherin!' before even touching Draco's head, making Lucius smile in remembrance of his own sorting. Harry Snape was called and the tables grew silent, watching carefully. Harry sat for a few moments with the hat looking puzzled and finally grumbled 'Ravenclaw'. Harry jumped down and went to the astonished table they cheered happily as he sat down.
"So they managed it, then, Lucius." Severus said with faint surprise.
"Yes," Lucius added, "They said that they and their friends were going to get into every house – insisted that between them they would be able to keep all the houses united – I begin to think they'll manage it."
Albus smiled, hearing them quite clearly. Yes, it was a new day – no dark clouds or Dark Lords for that matter – on the horizon. Oh, one would come along some day – they always did. Harry and his friends would be ready for them, though.
Albus stood and called for the feast to start.
A/N – At last, the end. It took almost three years, but here we are! Hope you have enjoyed it, I have learned a great deal by writing it.