Death and a Butterbeer Chaser, Hold the Cat
Chapter One - Company
1155 p.m. 2 May, 1998 Gryffindor Common Room, Hogwarts
Startled, Harry opened his eyes, and found he was staring at Crookshanks who had appeared, apparently out of thin air, and was resting comfortably beside him on the couch he had fallen asleep on earlier in the Gryffindor common room.
The only sounds Harry could hear were the gentle crackling in the common room fireplace and the buzz saw purring of Crookshanks.
"I'm not Hermione, you bloody fur ball," Harry whispered. "She and Ginny are sleeping in the 3rd year boys' dorm." Grabbing his glasses and wand off the table beside him, he saw by his watch that it was just shy of midnight.
"How in the name of Merlin's original broom did you get here anyway? You're supposed to be at Muriel's, waiting for everyone to come home." Crookshanks, not answering, turned to look at the stairs leading down from the Gryffindor boys' dormitories, his purr ratcheting up a notch in intensity and volume.
Glancing over, Harry could see a tall, cloaked figure standing on the stairs. Crookshanks' purring morphed into a hiss, and he kept switching his gaze from Harry to the figure on the stairs.
"I wondered if you would be coming," Harry addressed the figure on the stairs as he stood up from the sofa. "After everything else that happened today, I assumed you would be along sometime." The silent figure started to descend the stairs, and Crookshanks launched himself from the couch to place himself between Harry and the dark hooded figure.
"I'm not here for Harry, Crookshanks. I'm just here to speak with him." The hood of the cowled figure inclined a bit towards Crookshanks, whose fur was now standing up and the rumbling purr had been replaced with something remarkably like a roar. "Truly." At that, Crookshanks quieted, then backed up a bit, and crouched down on the floor, still watching the figure intently.
"I guess Beedle was right," Harry said, warily looking at the figure stopped at the foot of the steps. "Death is tied to the Hallows"
"Was there any doubt? Even Hermione believes now, and she's very difficult to convince of anything. She loves you very much, you know." Death slowly crossed the room to the fireplace.
Confusion in his eyes, Harry asked "Ginny? "
"She also loves you, but I was speaking of Hermione. That's why Crookshanks is here," Death replied. "May I sit?" he asked, pointing at a pair of chairs beside the fire.
"Certainly, I suppose. I guess my manners are atrocious, you are a guest here, after all." Pointing his wand up the stairs, he intoned 'Accio Butterbeer' in his mind and was gratified to see a couple of bottles come sailing down the steps to his hand.
"Care for a drink?" Offering one of the bottles to Death, he seated himself in the chair. Opening the remaining bottle to keep his hands from shaking, he continued with only a touch of bitterness in his voice, "Hermione's in love with Ron, I think you might be a bit confused."
Settling himself in his chair, he looked at Death, robed and cowled, in the flickering firelight. The light seemed to avoid the opening to the cowl, no face could be seen. However, a gloved hand raised the bottle, and when it was lowered the contents of the bottle were markedly less than when it started.
"You're partially correct, while she does love him, she's not 'in love' with him. Ironically enough, she's in love with you, as you are with her. That's why Crookshanks appeared tonight to protect that which she loves. Also, to protect her. He doesn't believe she could survive losing you again."
Harry tried to return the hidden gaze, dispassionately, but it was difficult to figure out where to look. "You said you were here to talk…"
"Yes, rather straight to the point, aren't you? It's a pleasant change, you know. Usually I get bargaining, denial, hysterics, that sort of thing."
Smiling grimly, Harry replied, "Let's see. I've already died once today, returned, defeated Tom Riddle, and in the process watched more people die than I care to think about. There's been too much death today, no offence. Since you said you were here to talk, I thought I'd give that a go. It was either that or grab the cloak and spend the rest of my life hiding. I've had enough of that, thank you very much."
"Ah, and there you've come to the crux of it, thankfully not a Horcrux though." Taking another sip of the butterbeer, Death pointed at Harry with the bottle. "Those people who died are not your fault. Tom Riddle set events in motion years before you were born that came to pass today. There were events and powers in motion before Tom Riddle was born that led to this. Why else do you think the Hallows are in the world?"
Noting the confused look on Harry's face, Death continued, "Tom Riddle, or Lord Voldemort as he styled himself, was evil, but he wasn't Evil." Harry could hear the change in inflection, the power in the word when Death said 'Evil' the second time. "Muggles and Wizards alike forget that there is true Evil in the world, it's much more comforting to blame things on an individual or group that can be eventually beaten."
"Then you're saying it wasn't Riddle's, fault?"
"Of course it was. He chose to follow and embrace the evil that he had made his own. It's always a choice. You can be cruel because you're stupid or uncaring, but to be evil requires a choice. He wasn't the origin of Evil, and his death is not the end of it either."
"Are you always this cheery a bloke," Harry asked, wondering where this was leading? "If it's about the cloak…"
"No, that's yours as it was your father's and so on. And I think that your putting the wand back into Dumbledore's tomb will keep it out of unwise hands for the rest of your lifetime. The stone is sitting in the forest, waiting for a time when it will be needed again so everything is at it should be."
"So you just dropped by for a drink and to tell me not to feel bad about what happened," Harry asked, anger and frustration leaking into his voice? "I realize you're Death and all, but those people died because I came back to Hogwarts. They died because of me"
"Beg pardon?" Blinking in surprise, Harry shook his head slightly.
"I said, 'merde'. As in 'You're not that important.' As in 'Voldemort tried to conquer the world, and you want to feel responsible for it?' As in 'Tell me one thing you could have done to have defeated him sooner without endangering anyone else.' That's what I meant by 'merde'. That's one of the things I like about the French, they are able to put so very much into a simple word." Sitting back into the chair, Death waited expectantly as Harry tried to make sense of what was being said.
After a few seconds, Death continued, "Listen to those who love you. They don't blame you." Setting the now empty bottle down on the floor beside the chair, Death leaned forward, narrowing the distance between the two of them.
"We'll meet once more, Harry. However, that will be at that time when I meet all, muggle and wizard alike. I don't know when, and if I did, I wouldn't be allowed to tell you. Even so, there will be a time when it's right and you'll be ready to rejoin all of those who've gone with me on ahead. Live your life. Love those who love you. Love some of the ones who don't, it might make things better and if nothing else, it confuses them greatly. Dumbledore was right about love, you know."
Turning away, Death gazed around the common room, glancing over the portraits, which were eerily empty. Turning his invisible gaze back towards Harry, it sounded as if he were reciting from a lesson told long ago. "'…And now abides Faith, Hope, and Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love'. Because you held all of the Hallows, and didn't try to cheat me, I'm allowed to tell you what I can, so our next meeting won't be any sooner than it needs to be." Harry could feel the gaze from within the cowl sharpen.
"You do remind me a lot of Ignotus, but you have your mother's eyes."
Shaking his head, Harry drained the rest of his drink and set the bottle on the floor beside him.
"I get that a lot. Back to what you were saying earlier…" Trailing off, Harry waited expectantly for Death to continue.
Chuckling eerily, Death nodded to him. "You are different. Most people, finding themselves in this situation would be pestering me for the Ultimate Secret of Life or the keys to the Universe. You, on the other hand, are only interested in things you already know the answer to."
Smirking, Harry nodded, "Forty-two, but that's not what's important to me."
Death laughed, which didn't sound comforting at all. "And just who imparted that to you?"
Shrugging Harry smiled enigmatically. "Hermione. She thought the book would broaden my outlook on things. She loaned it to me over summer hols one year. Why did you say she's not in love with Ron?"
Shrugging, Death tilted his head to the side. "I didn't say it, she said it. The two of them had a long talk after dinner. Coincidentally, it was while you were having a similar discussion with Miss Weasley." Sitting back in his chair, Death nodded. "How did that work out for you?"
"It was … interesting. Ginny was relieved, more than anything I think. Sometime over the last year, she accepted the fact we'd broken up and started thinking about what was really important. She didn't want to just dump 'The 'Boy Who Lived' on a whim, even though we weren't seeing each other still, so it was very awkward for the first couple of minutes. We were both trying to figure out how to tell the other, and we both sort of blurted it out in unison."
Nodding, Death leaned forward and tilted his cowl a bit to one side. "I think you'll find Miss Granger has a similar story, once you two get around to talking about things."
Standing, Death turned and slowly headed towards the portrait hole. "She's awake; she'll be down in a moment. Fare thee well Harry."
"Good bye. I'll think about what you said," Harry answered, watching as Death began to fade from view, the closer he came to the portrait hole.
Hermione appeared at the top of the stairs, wand in hand with a look that boded ill for anyone foolish enough to stand between her and the wizard she sought.
"Harry? Were you talking to someone? Why are you up in the middle of the night?" Running down the stairs, Hermione wrapped her arms around Harry's neck, pulling him close to her. "I was so worried that I'd lost you. I dreamt that death had come for you, again."
Startled, Harry searched Hermione's eyes and saw that the love and concern that he had never thought to find in this life was there, as it had been for several years.
"I'm here, someone was just checking up on me. I go and kill one Dark Wizard who wants to enslave the entire world and everyone is worried that I'll go mental because suddenly I've got spare time on my hands."
Hermione's eyes flashed and her voice took on that steely edge that it did just before someone found themselves on the wrong end of her temper. "Harry James Potter, you're an idiot. People love and care about you." Then her eyes softened and her voice dropped to a whisper. "I love and care about you."
Leaning in and kissing her, Harry began to hold her tighter, feeling her mold herself to him as they both tried to express seven years worth of frustration, emotions, and longing through a single kiss. "I love you, Hermione Jane Granger. Today, tomorrow, and for always."
Leading Hermione back to the couch he had been sleeping on, they arranged themselves comfortably as they nestled together. Harry conjured a blanket that covered them. Crookshanks jumped onto their combined laps, settling himself down.
Staring at her familiar, Hermione shook her head. "And what's Crookshanks doing here? He was at Muriel's last I knew." Looking immoderately satisfied with himself, Crookshanks began to knead their laps with his claws until he was satisfied that he would be comfortable.
"In the morning," Harry replied setting his glasses on the table and lowering the common room lights before placing his wand beside it. "Love you, though."
Hermione gazed into his green eyes and Harry could see the tears forming in hers. "I love you too, Harry James Potter. Tonight you get a pass, because I remember something about you defeating Voldemort this morning, so I'm not going to push it. Unless you have something equally spectacular up your sleeve for first thing in the morning, we're going to have a very long talk."
Snuggling closer to him, she muttered sleepily into his shoulder, "You realize you're taking our lives in your hands, don't you? If Molly Weasley comes in and sees us sleeping together on this couch, she'll go mental."
"Crookshanks will protect us, or Ron and Ginny will. I have it on good authority that tonight's not my night." Yawning deeply, Harry watched the witch he loved fall asleep before sleep finally claimed him.
11:55 p.m. 2 May 2198 - Peregrine House, Scotland
The flickering light from the fireplace gently illuminates the bedroom, the silence broken by the gentle crackling of the fire and the quiet ticking of a clock sitting on the dressing table by the window. Sitting on the bed, above the covers, Harry gently holds Hermione's hand as she sleeps. Leaning over, he brushes the hair back from her face, and gently kisses her on the forehead.
"Mmmm, Harry. Are you still awake? Come to bed." Hermione fitfully stirs, and turns to gaze to the green eyes that have thrilled and strengthened her for as long as she can remember. "Do you remember what happened today all those years ago?"
Smiling, Harry gazed back into those chocolate brown eyes that were glistening with tears. "I vaguely remember something happening; remind me what it was again?" Smiling, he watched her eyes widen as she smiled, playing the game they loved to play once again.
"You git, you proposed to me during the three year anniversary memorial at Hogwarts. I still can't believe I said 'yes'." Smiling, she brought his hand up to her lips, and kissed the wedding band he had worn since they were married all those years ago.
"Was that it?" Harry smiled. "After proposing to so many witches over the years, they all start running together." Seeing her reach for her wand, he kissed her gently. "I still can't believe you said 'yes', either. Every morning's a miracle because you're here with me. Why are you awake?"
"I dreamt we had company from the old days. Which is silly, we're almost the last of those days. Since Draco died last summer, the only one left from when we were in school is Luna." Chuckling, she reaches up, draws his face to hers and kisses him slowly on the lips.
"What's so funny?" Harry squeezed her hand gently. "I thought you were going to storm the Daily Prophet editorial offices after that 'The Last Death Eater' headline they ran."
"It's the part they left out that I can't believe. The stupid prat goes and dies of dragon pox? At our age? I still wonder how much the family had to donate to St. Mungo's to keep that tidbit out of the paper."
The laugh turns into a cough that wracked her frail body, and Harry held her until she can regain her breath and lean back against him again. When she finally regains her breath, she smiles. "I'm glad we still have Luna, though it's incredible that she's been Headmistress at Hogwarts for the past 97 years. Poor dear, I still can't believe she never remarried after Ron died."
"Luna's fine. She's happy and she speaks to the Glaepels that Ron sends to her window every morning." Harry chuckled. "At least he doesn't send nargels. She owled this morning while the healer was here. Ron told her that he and Ginny were planning something special for our anniversary next week, and she thought we should know." Harry's eyes clouded with tears at the thought of their two best friends who had died seventy years ago, within hours of each other.
"How sweet. I'll bet its Ginny's idea. Ron's one of my oldest friends, but he was always pants about remembering anything other than the opening day of Quidditch season every year." Snuggling close to Harry, she smiled dreamily. "I'll enjoy seeing them again, it seems so long."
Running his fingers gently through her hair that was still chestnut brown (with only a little help from her wand), he began to frown as he wondered how much longer he would have her with him.
"Harry, the answer to your question is 'always' " came a voice that Harry remembered from long ago. "You two will always have each other."
"I thought you'd be by." Turning his head towards the fireplace, Harry noticed the dark robed figure of Death sitting in a chair, watching the two of them. "Is it soon?"
Ignoring Harry's question, Death glanced around the room and looked intently at the clock that kept its measured beat on the dressing table. "Did you know that I don't always see the physical forms of the individuals I come for, Harry. The body is just a container and when I've arrived, it's usually ready to liberate the soul for its next great adventure. Not that I can't, but I don't need to see the physical shell they're about to leave behind. What I always see, however, is the soul, and that's a much better picture of the individual. I noticed something rare that night at Hogwarts, about the two of you."
"That we loved each other? I'm told that everyone noticed, long before I did." Smiling sadly, Harry stroked Hermione's hand. "I know I'm a terrible host, but I don't think there's anything I can offer you tonight to drink."
"No need. No, what I noticed is that the two of you, your souls, were part of a greater whole. You were both complete, yet when you joined with her, and she with you, your souls became something else. Something quite rare. You each healed the scar that Dark Magic inflicted on the other and that's what has made all the difference, all these years. What you two have is one of those rare loves that is truly remarkable."
Watching Hermione, thinking about how she had become part of him and he of her, Harry smiled. "Is that why..." Harry stopped himself, realizing the rules wouldn't allow Death to answer that direct a question. "And the cloak?"
"I think that your great great great-granddaughter Ariana is an excellent choice for getting your cloak, Along with the map."
Hermione raised her head from Harry's lap, looking around for the voice that was speaking to Harry. "I knew we had company, Harry. At least this time I'm not missing him. You're here for both of us, aren't you?" The old Hermione Jane Granger steel rang in her voice again.
"Peace, Hermione. I'm not here to take your Harry from you or you from him."
Smiling, she looked from Death to Harry. "See? I told you that you worried too much about Riddle. If Death isn't going to split us up, what chance would Tom Riddle have had?"
Coughing to cover a laugh, Harry looked apologetically at Death. "Are the other Hallows safe?"
"Well that's an interesting question. Tomorrow morning at sunrise, Luna's great great-great grandson Hector will find the Stone while searching for the trail of a snorkack that Luna will send him to catalog. Also, since tomorrow the wand will be free, I think Ollivander will find a wand he doesn't remember making in a box on his shop counter when he opens up in the morning. It's going to sit in his shop for quite a while, we can hope."
Settling down beside Hermione, Harry looked thoughtful. "Things are beginning again, aren't they?"
"Things are always beginning, Harry," Hermione answered sleepily. "You should know that by now." Nestling closer to him, she drifted slowly off to sleep.
Nodding, Death leaned back into the chair. "She's correct Harry. Things are always beginning. And there comes a time when others will have to worry about what's next for them. You two have done everything that was allotted for you to do, and your family and friends and their families are quite capable of going on from here. You've done very well."
Gently resting his head on Hermione's, Harry closed his eyes and asked. "Is there anything else I should know?"
"In the morning, your great-great-great-great grandson James will come into the room, pick up your wand and find that it's now his, even though he's only 8. He'll have the chance to be a fine wizard."
"Good, hopefully his twin sister Lily will get Hermione's." Closing his eyes, Harry drifted off to a peaceful sleep, holding Hermione's hand.
Softly, so as to not waken either of the sleepers, Death continued, "And today at sunrise, a wizard will be born in a crofter's cottage on St. Kilda who has the potential to be the next Dark Lord. What choices in this life he makes will be greatly influenced by whom he chooses to sit with on the Hogwarts Express on his first day. Once again"
Twenty minutes later, the slow gentle breathing of the two had stopped, and the room was silent except for the crackling of the fire and the ticking of the clock.
Death looked over at the clock, crowded with over a hundred hands, depicting the many generations of wizards and witches that are the real legacy of Harry and Hermione Potter. Most were "At home" or "at school", some were "working", and a few were "traveling" at this late hour. One was labeled "Alpha Centauri B Three" as one Hermione Malfoy had joined the nascent colony there thirty years earlier. Instead of their two separate hands, which had circled endlessly together for nearly two centuries, there was now a single hand, with Harry and Hermione's name on it.
That hand was stopped, nevermore to move from 'At peace'.
A/N – Disclaimer – Everything from the Harry Potter franchise and world belongs to JKR and various corporate entities. No infringement is intended, and a heartfelt 'Thank You' to JKR for creating such a detailed world.