It was warm. Peaceful. Bright. He stood on the top of a hill overlooking a picturesque valley. He turned about taking in the scene of serenity and felt only tranquility in it all. He had no worries, or qualms. Only bliss. Yet, he felt empty, hollow somehow as if something was missing.
He looked down at himself to find he was wearing light colored pants and a crisp shirt, that felt soft against his skin. He looked at his hands and noticed they were clean. He looked closer at his left hand, the one that he knew had been scarred, but it was unmarred.
This puzzled him but he still felt no unease. Then he heard something that filled him with inexplicable joy.
"We've been waiting for you."
He turned and saw three people he knew, people that made his heart leap into his throat, though he didn't know why. He knew that he knew these people, but he couldn't remember who they were or where he knew them from. Still, he was overjoyed at the sight of them.
"It's all a little disorientating at first, but, it'll pass. It's gone now, son. You're free now."
The woman beautiful, with shimmering red hair falling over her shoulders. Her eyes were bright green and her smile soft and warm. She reached out and touched his cheek gently, looking proud.
"Oh how I've missed you."
Her touch was like nothing he'd ever known, gentle, warm and full of love. He melted into her touch, feeling comfort like he'd never known, and it made him want to cry.
The taller of the two men stepped up and held his shoulders, looking him over. His hair was messy, and black, and he had an easy grin. He wore round glasses and his brown eyes sparkled in the sunlight. "You've become quite a man, and I couldn't be any prouder of you. You did well, son. You did so well."
"Never had a doubt, pup."
The rather ragged looking man grinned. His black hair was to his shoulders and he had a dark moustache. His voice was the most familiar of the three, and he felt comforted by it. His shirt was open and he had strange tattoos covering his torso. His eyes looked full of mischief, yet it wasn't frightening, instead it was welcome.
And then it all came rushing back to him. He knew each of these people because he loved them all. Tears sprung to his eyes as he finally embraced his mother. She let out a cry of joy as she wrapped her son in a warm embrace, and kissed his cheeks.
"Mum." he whispered.
She held him a few more moments before pulling back to look at him.
"Is it really over?" He asked, looking to his father, and Sirius. Both men nodded. Harry let out a howl of joy, and embraced his mother again. He then grabbed Sirius and his father and hugged them as well. The four of them laughed, and hugged one another over and over again in celebration at being reunited.
"So what happens now?" Harry asked when he'd hugged everyone at least three times.
At his question, the three adults faces fell a bit. Harry looked to each of them, trying to discern what had caused the sudden shift in their moods.
"When you crossed into this realm, the taint that was Voldemort was split from you. You don't remember it because it was very excruciating. It was decided that it should be us to come to you. But your friend was right, you were a very special case. Hermione should be very proud of herself."
"How'd you know about that?" he asked, looking surprised.
"We can see you, and your friends, Harry." James nodded. Harry followed his gaze and saw a large mirror that he knew hadn't been there before. Through it, he saw all his friends, as if frozen in time.
"Why aren't they moving? Are they hurt?" Harry asked worriedly.
"Time moves very differently here." James tried to explain. "Fact is, I'm not even sure if it exists at all."
"I don't understand." Harry looked confused.
"Nor do we." Sirius grinned.
"James, we don't have much time." Lily reminded her husband, and James nodded.
"Harry, listen to me. I know you have questions, and I wish we could answer them all right now, but we can't. Listen to me, son. You have been given a very rare gift, a second chance. It's time for you to use it. You have a family waiting for you."
Again, Harry's father nodded toward the mirror. Harry followed his gaze again, and his heart pounded as he thought of Daphne, who looked to being crying.
"She truly loves you, Harry." Lily smiled stepping up next to her only son. "I know you love her as well, I can see it on you face even now."
Harry allowed himself a small smile.
"It's time." Sirius said a bit sadly. "You've done what had you had to, now it's time to go live your life. Marry that girl, and make lots of little ones, and for the love of Merlin, be happy."
"There's a house just outside of Cordes-sur-Ciel in France that you might like. It belong to you great grandfather, but with a little love, you could make it your own." Harry's father smiled.
"Oh, my son. I love you very much, and I am so proud of the man you've become." Lily said teary eyed. "It's time to return to her. To all of them. Go, live your life."
Harry nodded, holding his mother tightly.
"Will I ever see you again?" Harry asked, his eyes blurring from tears.
"Not until it's your time." James embraced his son one last time.
"Which better not be for a very long time." Sirius laughed. "You've got some lost time to make up for."
The three adults who Harry loved so much began to slowly walk backwards away from him.
"Remember that we love you." Lily waved.
"Tell Severus that we're sorry. Tell him he's a far better man that we gave him credit for." Sirius said.
"Good-bye, son." James saluted.
"Wait! How do I get back?"
"You already know." Sirius grinned.
"Follow your heart." Lily said, blowing him one last kiss.
"I love you."
Harry turned to stare into the mirror. He saw Daphne, standing just as she had been the whole time. She looked so beautiful, though she was suffering from a breaking heart. Harry's own heart gave a lurch at the thought of the pain he was causing her, and he reached out to touch the mirror.
He jumped slightly when his hand became translucent. He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Of course it would be that simple, he thought. He at deep breath and let it out slowly. With a last look over his shoulder at his mother, father, and Sirius, he stepped into the mirror.
"Harry!" Daphne screamed as the boy fell to the ground. She ran to his side, and turned him onto his back. She gasped at the sight of him, he was clean, not a single drop of blood, and most noticeable was the fact that his scar, the mark that he'd been given so long ago was gone, as if it had been wiped clean.
"Is he alive?" Hermione asked, her voice shaking.
Daphne felt his neck, fighting back a shiver at how white he looked, and felt a faint thump of his heartbeat.
Tears began to fall again as she nodded.
"Harry?" She said softly, running her hands through his hair. "Harry, can you hear me?"
"Come, child." Professor McGonagall said as she pushed her way to the limp form of her student. "We'll get him back to Hogwarts. Hagrid, would you please?"
Hagrid nodded and scooped Harry's body up. Daphne walked beside the half giant, clutching the hand of the man she loved and they all left the auditorium leaving only Severus Snape and the body of the fallen Dark Lord behind them.
Snape watched them go, and then turned his gaze to the crumpled form of his former master's body. He took a long deep breath, letting it out slowly. Then, with a swish and flick, he levitated the body into the veil where it disappeared forever.
Albus Dumbledore had just heard Kingsley Shacklebolt's report on what should have been the end of the war. The dark skinned Auror had told the headmaster that they had waited for several hours, but nothing had happened. Dumbledore sighed at the news, and told Kingsley to gather everyone and return to headquarters. Obviously Lord Voldemort had smelled a trap.
Kingsley sighed and agreed, then he had left the infirmary. Dumbledore was worried now. Snape had yet to return, and Dumbledore hoped that the defense teacher had not been killed. Worse yet, McGonagall and Hagrid had accompanied Snape in his errand.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration, and then succumbed to another hacking coughing fit. His time was nearing, he knew, but he had to hold on, he had to know if his plan had worked. Dumbledore had to know if the Dark Lord was dead at last.
His answer came crashing through the Infirmary door.
"Poppy!" Hagrid cried. "Poppy, we need yeh!"
Dumbledore sat up in his bed and watched as Hagrid lay a body in a bed nearby. He was accompanied by Remus and Tonks. He began to worry until he saw McGonagall and Snape coming in the doorway to join the group gathered around the bed.
"He won't wake up." Dumbledore heard a female voice say.
"He's going to be okay. He has to be." Another voice said, pleadingly.
Dumbledore began coughing again, his entire body shaking badly. He looked up and caught Snape's black eyes. The former Potions master glowered at him, then turned his attention to the body in the bed. After a moment, The sallow skin teacher stormed over to the headmaster's bed.
"You told him." He said accusingly. "It had to be you. How did you find out?"
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about Severus." Dumbledore lied.
"It's over. You were wrong." Snape said simply. "Voldemort is dead, and Harry is still alive."
"It worked, though not exactly as we had planned. You nearly got all those children killed in your fanaticism." Snape glowered. "The war is over. You can die now."
Snape turned and returned to where the others were gathered, leaving Dumbledore gob smacked. His heart sank with guilt as he realized what he'd just been told. Harry Potter was alive, and possibly without the Horcrux. Voldemort was dead at last. And worse yet, he had been wrong. He had nearly gotten an innocent child killed because he had truly believed he was infallible. He had nearly gotten six innocent children killed because his pride wouldn't let him believe a sixteen year old could be smarter than he was.
Dumbledore fell back against his pillows, tears falling from his eyes. The war was over, at last. He had lived to see the end, though he had almost ruined it. His whole body quaked as he succumbed to another fit of coughing.
Dumbledore looked up as the coughing subsided, and he saw his deputy headmistress sitting beside him. She reached out and took his hand, though her eyes were dark, and her face a mask of disappointment.
"You betrayed us. I know why you did it. You just wanted to save us all. Severus' plan was sound. It would have ended, despite your meddling."
"I'm sorry. I truly am." He wheezed.
"I know. And perhaps one day, I will be able to forgive you. Perhaps even Harry will one day forgive you. Oh, Albus. How could you?"
Minerva McGonagall felt Dumbledore grip her hand tightly as he fought for breath. His bright blue eyes searching for something unseen. He coughed again and his body stiffened. McGonagall felt tears coming to her eyes as she watched her friend. She knew he was fighting for another moment on this plane, but she also knew, Death was impatient.
"It's time, Albus." She whispered. "It's okay now. You need not worry about us any longer. We're free now, all of us. It's time for your next adventure."
Her words seem to comfort him as his body began to relax, and his breathing slowed. He could see beyond the great stone walls now. He could see great green fields, and brilliant blue sky. And there, waiting for him, was a woman he'd once known long ago, beckoning to him.
He heard them, all around him. He knew their voices, and he desperately wanted to talk to them, to tell them he was there and that he loved them. Especially her. He missed her the most, and he wanted to hold her again, to kiss her.
He fought against the darkness, reaching ever outward towards them. He needed them, and they wanted him, they all said so. He fought so hard, always reaching out trying to get to them. He wanted her, he had to be with her again. He loved her.
"Daphne." He called out.
Daphne gripped his hand in hers, kissing it softly and holding it against her cheek. His eyes slowly opened, and she felt a wave of relief as he stared into her face. He smiled softly, turning his hand so he could caress her cheek.
"You're a right prat you know that?" She said tearfully, smiling at him. "Don't you ever scare me like that again, do you understand?"
"I promise." His voice was scratchy, and his throat horribly dry. He slowly sat up feeling stiff.
"Hogwarts?" he asked her, and she nodded, pouring him a small cup of water, which he drank slowly.
"We brought you back right away. You've been asleep for almost two weeks now."
"Two weeks?" he asked astonished.
"You were so weak. It was really scary. You practically fell through that archway in the blink of an eye, but…"
"What?" He asked, offering his cup back to her for a refill.
"When you stepped in, you were covered in blood from your scar. Snape said it was likely that when Voldemort died, the Horcrux in you became like a beacon or something, that's why it split open. But, when you fell out the other side, almost that same instant you stepped in, you clean, like you had just bathed, and your scar…"
Harry was leaning forward now, very interested in what had happened.
"It was gone." Daphne whispered, looking up at his forehead
Harry reached up to feel the spot his scar had resided and felt only smooth skin in it's place. He began to get up, wanting to see for himself.
"Calm down." Daphne urged, pushing him back into the bed. She whipped out her wand and conjured a small mirror, which he took gratefully.
His eyes nearly popped out of his head at the sight. There was the faintest line, but otherwise, his lightning bolt scar had vanished. He set the mirror down, feeling overwhelmed.
"It's really over then."
"Yes." Daphne said, trying to fight back another onset of tears. He smiled at her and gathered her into his arms, kissing her so passionately, her toes curled. She returned his kiss with equal emotion, and they held each other for a very long time, just enjoy the comfort of their closeness.
A little while later, Harry's other friends came by and each of them welcomed him back. He learned that Dumbledore had died the night they had returned, and that he'd missed the funeral. He also learned that the war was over for good. Death Eaters were rounded up and taken away, many of them sentenced to death. Ron grinned as he presented that morning's Daily Prophet, with a large picture of Draco Malfoy being taken into custody. Harry allowed himself to laugh as he read the article a bit. Apparently Draco was trying to buy his way out of the country. The article guessed the Malfoy heir would be getting 25 years, as it was only possible to prove attempted murder.
"Maybe he'll get a cell next to his father." Ron chuckled.
"What else have I missed?" Harry asked.
"Just this." Tracey smiled holding up her hand which was wrapped in Ron's
"When did that happen?"
"Day after we got back." Ron blushed. "Hard to argue against a girl who kisses you."
"Why would you want to?" Neville chuckled, and Hermione hit his arm playfully. The others laughed as well, and Harry reached out to Hermione.
"Thank you." He said simply, but his eyes reflected so much more. Hermione nodded, her eyes misty.
Harry had to spend another few days in the infirmary under the watchful eye of the school matron, but was soon allowed to rejoin the rest of the school. Almost everyone noticed that his scar was gone, but many had heard variations of what had happened that night, so no one really bothered to ask.
Harry also learned that Ron's family had come by to visit him, with Molly Weasley crying over him and begging for his forgiveness. Harry assured Ron that he bore no ill will towards his mother, and was looking forward to visiting during the summer.
On the last day of school, the day before the students were set to depart, Harry wandered down to the dungeons, and knocked on the office door of his defense teacher.
Harry opened the door slowly and stepped inside. "There's a rumor going around that you're retiring, sir." Harry said.
"It's true." Snape said looking up from his paperwork. "I've suffered the insolence of children far to long, and I think I've earned myself a rest."
"Where will you go?" Harry wondered.
"It's none of your concern. Suffice to say that it will be quiet, and free from annoying brats." his voice was harsh, as usual, but Harry could see a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"I', sorry that I didn't do this sooner. I wondered if I dreamed it all, or if…It doesn't matter. I have a message to give you."
"Oh?" Snape quirked an eyebrow.
"Sirius says that they're sorry, and that you're a better man than they ever gave you credit for."
Snape eyed the young man before him for a moment, before he found his voice again.
"You saw them?"
"Yeah. She didn't say anything, but I think she forgives you." Harry said softly. "I just thought you should know."
Harry turned to leave, when Snape stopped him.
"Thank you, Harry."
"I don't know if you're one for travel, but if you fancy a journey, there's a little place in France called Cordes-sur-Ciel. It's supposed to be quite nice. If you find yourself around that area, I'd like it if you came to tea."
"I will…consider it."
Harry gave a small nod and left the man to his thoughts, feeling as if they had somehow finally come to an understanding. Harry knew in his heart he might well never see the man again in his life, and that was alright. Snape deserved his peace, he had earned it.
FOUR YEARS LATER…
"Are we late?" Hermione Longbottom asked as she stepped from the fireplace and into the kitchen of her friend's home. She was followed by her husband Neville, who hugged Daphne warmly.
"You're just in time." Daphne smiled. "Would you mind?"
"Of course not." Hermione said, shucking her coat and setting to work, chopping carrots.
"The boys are outside, Neville, and there's butterbeer in the fridge."
"Thanks." Neville smiled, grabbing a bottle and kissing his wife before heading outside to join his mates.
"How's work been for you?" Daphne asked.
"Busy. But, I think we're making progress. I'm waiting to see if I get a research grant. I know I'm close to isolating it. If I'm right, we might be able to actually keep werewolves lucid during their change. They'll be in control of themselves."
"That's amazing." Daphne looked stunned. "I've no doubt you'll find it."
"I can't believe how big you are." Hermione smiled as Daphne added a few more vegetables to Hermione's pile to be chopped.
"Don't get me started. Harry says I looked beautiful, but I fell like a hippopotamus. You just wait till you've got a bun in the oven, and see how pretty you feel." Daphne said, rubbing her pregnant belly lovingly.
"Hermione's got a bun?" Tracey said coming in from the outdoors. "The natives are getting restless."
Tracey hugged Hermione from behind, and reached past to steal a radish. "You're as bas Neville." Hermione chuckled.
"If they're so hungry, they can all get in here and help." Daphne said firmly.
"Fine, we're here." Ron grinned, kissing Hermione's cheek in greeting.
"How are you, Ron?" Hermione asked.
"Good. Training's about to start up again, so I'll be really busy."
"But you love it and you know it." Tracey smiled patting his cheek, kissing him smartly.
"This your third season now?" Neville asked.
"Yeah, second season I'll be starting, though." Ron nodded.
"The Cannons did good by snatching you up. They've been having really good years since you joined the team." Neville remarked.
"And Ginny?" Hermione asked..
"Excited. The wedding should be good. Still can't believe my baby sister's getting married. And to Colin Creevey…"
"Yeah, who saw that coming." Neville asked reaching out to steal a bit of carrot his wife had just cut.
"Hey!, Just because we're not at home does not mean I won't cut your fingers off." She smacked at his arm, then turned back to Ron and Tracey. "When are you two going to get married?."
"Who says we aren't?" Tracey flashed a wicked smile, and held up her finger.
"What? When? Why didn't you invite us?" Hermione shouted.
"It just sort of happened." Ron blushed. "One of those things. You know, you're traveling, you think, hey' wouldn't it be fun…and then you're getting screamed at by your mother for doing it without her there to see it."
"By the way, You all need to go to Las Vegas. It is amazing." Tracey added, hugging Her new husband tightly.
"Did you know?" Hermione glared at Daphne who held her hands up.
"I only found out two days ago." Daphne answered.
"Really low, Weasley. I wanted to go to your bachelor party." Neville smirked.
"Not after the stories I heard about Harry's party.' Hermione shot her husband a death look.
"Speaking of, where is my husband?"
Harry stood in the doorway, simply watching his friends. He smiled at his wife as she embraced him, and fought past her engorged belly to kiss him. "I swear if this is twins, I will hex you until you can't sit down properly."
"You told me you wanted a big family." Harry grinned, hugging her tightly.
"One at a time, Potter. It feels like there's a whole Quidditch team in there."
"You didn't seem to mind when we were making the roster."
Daphne punched him in the arm hard. "You're pushing it buddy. If you're not careful, I may never let you see me naked again."
"Don't you dare threaten me." he grinned, embracing her again. He kissed her lips softly. "I love you."
"I love you, too. Now help me out and set the table, Our friends are hungry."
Daphne pulled away and returned to the kitchen to finish preparing the meal. Harry simply watched her, and then watched his friends bantering back and forth. They had all changed so much over the year, and then again, not a bit.
He always looked forward to these gatherings, ever since he and Daphne had left England right after their wedding. They had done everything they had talked about during school, and Harry had never been happier. Especially when he thought about what still lay ahead for them. With his first child on the way, Harry knew that this was one adventure he was more than prepared for, and with his friends help…no, his family's help, there was nothing that he and his beautiful wife couldn't handle.
He had at last found the happiness he'd dreamt of all his life, here among those he loved.