The Hardest Thing
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Summary: It is not dying that was difficult, but coming back to life.
Avada Kedavra, the same unearthly green as his eyes, hit him with all the force of a freight train and bore through his chest. Powerful magic seized his soul, ripping it out in a single, sudden movement that left his lifeless body to collapse into the rotting leaves below.
He was lying on something smooth and warm when he woke up—if such a term could still be used. This new world was light, but did not burn his eyes, and a contradiction of being so similar to the realm he left behind and yet so completely different to be indescribable. The only way to truly describe it would be akin to a black and white photograph, but with all the blacks and whites and shades of grey reversed.
Some things were quite similar; there was still ground and sky, though the ground felt warmer even through his shoes and the sky shone like a sun itself without burning his eyes. Millions, even billions of people and animals practically covered the endless landscape. The dead, yet they were not exactly like the ghosts he had seen at Hogwarts. These forms (and his own) were brighter, more solid and had a sense of belonging to this realm that always eluded the likes of St. Nicolas.
Hedwig was the first to greet him. She appeared like a patronus, shimmery and silver but more solid than the incorporeal manifestations he always produced. With one last flap of shining wings, she elegantly landed on his arm and gave him a pleasant tweak of the fingers as if to say "I missed you."
"I missed you too girl," he said, bringing his faithful owl close to his chest and hugging her like a child with a favorite toy.
Others came—patroni like versions of themselves with hints of their former colors. Remus Lupin, looking younger and freer than even in his teenage years stepped forward, Tonks by his side, energetic as ever and cycling her hair between silver, gold, and various metallic colors. Harry felt a pang of sympathy for his godson, who lost not only his parents but his godfather in one battle, but his death was a necessity. Voldemort couldn't possibly be killed otherwise.
Sirius Black pulled himself away from one of the many women in the afterlife and sauntered over, cocky and carefree as ever. Behind him was a sight that would have stopped his heart, were it still beating, Lily and James, his mother and father gliding towards him.
"Harry," his mother was first, enveloping him with her arms and her love, "my son." Tears of liquid diamond were streaming down her face, as if the smile on her face wasn't enough to convey her happiness. Mere words were inadequate.
His father enveloped them both, glowing even more brightly if possible. Sirius, Remus and Tonks stood aside, letting the moment last as long as possible.
"Padfoot, Moony," Harry gestured with one free arm.
Laughing Sirius leapt into the group crying "dog pile!" Surrounded by his family, Harry had never felt so wanted, so loved. The boy who would no longer whimper beneath the cruciatus gladly wept in the arms of his family.
But it was not just them. His grandfather and grandmother came as well. Aunts, uncles and dozens of relatives gathered around him. The boy who had never truly known family found himself practically drowning in it—and how sweet it was. The dream he had only ever seen manifested in an enchanted mirror was here, right before his eyes and holding him lovingly in ways that dreams never could. Everywhere he looked proud smiles and loving eyes met his.
Surely this was heaven.
Then his mother looked down, and he followed her gaze to see not ground, but the living world below. Harry watched the still living Voldemort torture his dead body and hold the corpse aloft like a broken doll and felt a flash of fury in his silent heart—it was still his body after all—but that was overshadowed with the realization that his enemy still lived: to torment, to terrorize, to murder and ravage. His duty was clear and Harry wanted nothing more than to tell duty to go fuck itself.
Everything he ever wanted was right here (save his friends but they would probably be along soon enough) what obligations did a dead person have to the land of the living. Besides, it was not as though he could do anything being dead.
As if reading his thoughts, his father spoke, "yes you can."
Harry gave him a puzzled glance.
His mother spoke, "when Voldemort (nobody flinched) hit you with the killing curse and transferred a part of his soul to you, he unintentionally made himself into your Horcrux. Just as he could have used that connection to come back to life, so can you."
"I can…go back?" he questioned.
Though he should have been stripped of all mortal pains, Harry felt like something was choked in his chest. He could still feel the love of his family: his mom, his dad, Sirius, Remus, Hedwig, Tonks…they were all here, everything he ever wanted was here. He looked down again, watching Hagrid gently set his body at Voldemort's feet. He heard McGonagall's unnatural scream, the protests of his friends, Neville's single brave act to carry out his last wish.
Surrounded by his family, in a circle of warmth and love, stripped of all mortal pains, Harry made his choice.