One Year Later
The white, stone obelisk reached heavenward, towering above the Scottish countryside and the smooth surface of the Black Lake shimmered in the afternoon sun. The sky was a bright blue, and entirely free of clouds.
Harry and Daphne stood hand-in-hand looking up at the monument. They wore matching golden bands on their fingers. Behind them stood the remnants of a medieval castle, the stones from its many turrets littering the surrounding grounds. Filius said it could be repaired with time, but Harry feared he was being exceedingly optimistic.
He took a tentative step toward the memorial that had been meant for his mentor, Albus Dumbledore, but had come to represent everyone lost in the struggle against Voldemort. Daphne tightened her grip on his hand and pulled him forward. He hesitated at first, before following her in earnest.
Being here and seeing this shrine somehow made everything more real.
Daphne gave his hand a final squeeze before releasing him and beckoning him toward the inscription at the base of the monument. He closed his eyes and ran his fingers over the name, reverently tracing the letters.
In that moment, he couldn't help but remember himself as a wide-eyed twelve-year-old, sitting in the Headmaster's office- how he had listened to the old man's tales of his past and watched a younger version of that same man perform awe-inspiring feats of magic in the duel that had made him famous.
He remembered his first lesson with the Headmaster, when he had been instructed to attack and give it his all.
He remembered Dumbledore, looking very much like the tired, old man he was, telling him to live his life to its fullest, only moments before sacrificing his own.
"Thank you sir," he whispered. "I couldn't have done it without you."
Daphne took Harry into her arms, both of them taking comfort from the other's presence. They were both humbled by the monument, a reminder of all the sacrifices made to stop Voldemort.
Daphne said a silent word of thanks to Severus Snape. She was the only living soul who knew of his contribution.
Daphne climbed the stairs to the Headmaster's office carefully. Though the bodies had been removed, little had been done to repair the castle.
She had returned, ostensibly to retrieve Harry's Cloak, while Harry himself was still confined to their bed. But she had an ulterior motive. She removed the vial of Snape's memories from her pocket, looking at it curiously. She only hoped that Dumbledore's Pensieve was still in working order.
She crossed the threshold into the office. It was a wreck. An overturned table rested near the crater in the center of the room. The floor was covered with dried blood.
She found the Invisibility Cloak immediately, right where she'd dropped it.
She searched the office for a moment, finding the Pensieve buried beneath a pile of rubble. It was empty, all the Headmaster's memories gone, but unscathed.
She emptied the vial and twirled the memories with her wand, before submerging herself in the device.
She emerged a few minutes later, a look of shock on her face. Harry could never know about this.
"Evanesco!" With a twirl of her wand, Snape's memories were gone forever.
She'd never once regretted her decision.
Daphne took a moment to look across the grounds. It was still a battlefield, and she silently wondered if it ever would, or even could, return to being a school. But today, exactly a year after the battle that had decided the fate of the wizarding world, everything was silent, save for a light breeze whipping across the countryside, carrying with it, perhaps, the whispers of the men who had fought and died here.
She spotted one other couple, standing off in the distance.
Hermione had her latest lover clinging to her arm as she looked down at Dumbledore's memorial. Since Viktor's death, she'd taken up a number of flings, none of them lasting longer than a month. Harry was desperate to help her, but she just wouldn't take his advice anymore.
Daphne looked back at Harry, once again amazed at all he'd accomplished. He was a shoo-in for Minister as soon as he was old enough for the position. A very vocal minority had even insisted that he be given the job immediately.
Even a year after Voldemort's death, the government was in shambles. The natural leaders had all been lost to the war, and Harry wouldn't be ready to enter that arena for a few more years. The ICW had taken a very firm hand with reconstituting the Wizengamot, instituting a party system with proportional representation. The real void had been and continued to be executive power. No one had enough support to really change anything. It was a burden that would surely fall to Harry as soon as he was able to carry it.
Their eyes met and she couldn't help but smile.
"Ready?" he asked.
Harry cast a final glance at the monument before turning, his arm wrapped around Daphne's shoulders, and walking away.
"You know, Potter, I never properly thanked you for that Patronus back in third year."
The future was uncertain, but rich with possibilities and it was up to them to shape it, to create the world they wanted for themselves and their family. It would take time and effort, but it would be worth it. And while tomorrow was undetermined, still theirs to mould, there was one thing they could know for sure: they would be loved every step of the way.
And our journey is at an end. It's been a long ride, and to those of you who've made it to the end, thank you for your patience. This has been my first real attempt at fiction writing and your support was invaluable. So, how about a review, eh?
Keep an eye on my profile for future stories. I've got a few ideas about what to write next, and you can expect something shortly.