A/N: Aaand, here we have it. We're finally done. I don't know about you lot, but I feel really satisfied. I was aiming to give this story an ending that was sort of cautiously hopeful, in a realistic way. I'm rubbish at endings, so if you're left with a feeling of closure, please drop me a line letting me go. I know I feel good, but I can't be sure if that's because I've brought this to a satisfying conclusion, or if it's just "Yay, I finished something I started!" Also, if you haven't already, I recommend going back and reading this story from the beginning - it won't take you very long, and I think it works better as a continuous narrative.

(To One Who Hears Voices - I would have PM'd you, but you reviewed anonymously; I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm an atheist. This story is an expansion of a previous story, Fairytale, and the verse from Isaiah just fitted with the theme.)


Chapter Nine
Once Upon A Time

"He is built back up into a great hero, a superhuman, someone of newspaper articles and chapters in books. He cannot be brought back down, cannot be changed back from paper and print into the child he was."

The news of Harry Potter's death sent the media into a frenzy; several newspapers put it on the front page with scarce mention that the Dark Lord was also dead.

Severus snorted and put the Daily Prophet down on the staffroom. In life, they called the boy insane more than once; he cannot bear to look at their canonisation of him now.

Severus knows different.

He remembers that boy in his first Potions class, mixing up the hellebore and the moonstone. He remembers the way the child had spoken in a mumble and never looked anyone in the eyes, like he thought no one cared what he had to say. The way he clutched at anyone who showed him the slightest bit of kindness, like he was starving.

The papers won't write about that in their articles. The books – both the ones hastily being written now and the ones to come – won't talk about his unkempt hair and knobbly knees. When people speak of him in revered tones, they'll call him a hero. They won't say that he always wore broken glasses, because no one was ever bothered to get him new ones. The mundane little realities of a martyr are dull, after all, even when the martyr was still breathing.

Severus stands angrily, and stalks off to his dungeons.

All those thousands of sheets of paper will never know the real Harry Potter, because few people knew the real Harry Potter in life.

The door to his quarters slams shut behind him, and he stands in the middle of the sitting room, breathing heavily. He does not know why this angers him so much, but it does; fills him with a rage so great that almost seems to possess a dull intelligence of its own.

His eye is caught by a package on his desk. Reaching for it, he tears off the paper and pulls out what's inside. It is a book. Thick and familiar.

A Guide To The Art Of Occlumency.

The rage leaves him all at once, and he is left with nothing but grief. He sits down heavily, clutching the book in both hands. He remembers another pair of hands that clutched this book as tightly. They belonged to a dark haired boy staring at him with wide, grateful eyes. He is unable to get the image from his mind.

He opens the book, intending to flick through the pages. A scrap of paper slips out, fluttering to the floor. He reaches down for it.

He recognises the handwriting at once, is halfway through making a mental note to scold the boy about his abysmal penmanship before he catches himself.

There are only two words on the paper. He stares at them for a moment and then, to his utter horror, feels a lump rising in his throat. He tries to swallow it, but it catches on a sob. A low keening comes from deep in his chest. He sits there, note in one hand, book in the other, for longer than he cares to remember, face twisted in a grimace of mourning.

Harry Potter saved the world.

That little boy does not deserve to be dead.

That little boy.

The thought bolsters him. He straightens, his eyes glinting with determination. He pushes the book to one side and pulls a stack of parchment towards him. He dips a quill in the ink pot and begins to write.

Harry Potter was a person. A child, with a beating heart and pounding lungs and a life he never got to live. People should know that.

The paper flutters back to the ground, unnoticed.

"Thanks, Professor."

"Once upon a time."

The End