There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.
Wind breezed through the trees, the aged bows creaking as they were torn forcefully from their slumber. Leaves fluttered around his legs, and Harry shivered slightly, however, seeing his friend, fought the chill making its way up his spine.
Draco Malfoy walked towards him, his stride purposeful, and his face set in a grim line that reminded him so much of Lucius.
"Harry," the greeting was curt, and Harry nodded, sitting down on one of the old logs that littered the forest floor. After only a glance, Draco joined him, and Harry felt some hope that their friendship would be salvaged. If he had been wanting to belittle him for his choices then he would have remained standing, now they were on an even ground. They were equals.
"Draco, I believe you would like an explanation," Harry's words were slightly cold, showing he could not be swayed or drawn to any other course. Draco never moved, another good sign.
"Indeed I would," Draco's eyes were tired, and Harry knew he had spent the night in Azkaban with his father. If he wasn't mistaken, Lucius's trial was today, and Harry knew right now that the elder Malfoy had earned himself a ticket to Azkaban regardless of his defence. Draco knew this too, and the way he held himself was slightly more withdrawn, only the inherent need to keep his reputation from allowing himself to fully crumble. In pureblood circles, however, the signs he was exhibiting showed more than he was supposed to.
"I first came to Hogwarts with the intention of infiltrating the Order, and destroying it from within. In my capacity as spy, I came into contact with Ginny, and my… perspective changed. This led to my subsequent joining the Order, and betrayal of my father," Harry said all this coldly, and basically it boiled down to 'I met a woman'. He hated that part, as that was the part Draco would latch onto, but it was so much more than that, and Draco wouldn't see it.
"You did all of this because of that blood traitor?" Draco's voice held no contempt, only mild curiosity, and a slight hint of bewilderment.
"She is not a blood traitor!" the anger in Harry's voice surprised even him, and Draco's eyes widened a fraction.
"So the Dark Lord's heir can love," Draco looked as if he was looking at a vaguely interesting creature, but Harry saw the volume of curiosity beneath the silvery eyes.
"What side do you pick?" asked Harry, growing slightly impatient at this. Did they really think him so cold that he couldn't love?
"The winning one obviously, and that appears to be yours," chuckled Draco, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. This was Draco's way of defecting without it appearing he was doing so. He was keeping his titles, and his reputation, and above all they would remain friends.
"I would expect no less of you, Draco," Harry smiled, the first genuine smile to appear on his face since the end of the battle - just over a week ago.
"Now, I must leave, even in Azkaban my father would find a way to kill me if I wasn't at his trial to support mother". Weariness once more passed over his features, and Harry embraced him, feeling Draco at first resist, but then awkwardly return it.
"You have a chance to escape him, please use it," Harry said sadly, with Draco nodding once - either in understanding or acceptance he never knew - and disapparated with a small crack.
Making his way back up to the castle, Harry wrapped his cloak around him a little tighter. It was almost Christmas, and already the grounds had seen their first sprinkle of snow, glistening in the midday sun. The sky was clear, and a gaggle of birds flew by, their journey already beginning to a warmer land, and Harry wished he could follow. He wished he could escape the cold confines of this castle, and the sad faces of those who had lost loved ones in the battle. He wished he could take Ginny with him, that they could carve a life together. However, he accepted that was for the future, and now was a time to honour the dead, and the living who had given so much to the cause.
Moving into the courtyard, the last sight he expected to see was his parents, he thought they would be with the Weasley's comforting them over the loss Percy - Harry hadn't known him, but according to Ginny they had been estranged for a few years, and had only reconnected during the summer. Now, he saw his parents underneath an old tree, Lily lying against James, who was running his fingers through his hair, making it look as if he had just gotten off a broom.
"Harry, there you are!" called Lily, her cheeks flushed, but Harry never thought it was with the cold, and her eyes contained a fire he had only seen in old photographs.
"How did you know I was out here?" asked Harry, moving over to them, seeing Lily had conjured blue fire in a jar, and that the warmth seemed to hit him when he was a foot away.
"Ginny told us, she said you were talking to Draco," the question was evident in James's face if not his words.
"I've convinced him to turn to the Light," said Harry, hating the way his voice sounded so serious.
"I've never liked the Malfoy's," James's sounded a little angry, but Harry brushed it off. He never expected a family that was based entirely in Gryffindor to accept one immersed in Slytherin, but maybe now the war was over the gap could be bridged, his friendship with Draco helping them see from a more aristocratic pureblood perspective, that they had rejected many years ago.
Prejudice existed on both sides, just because he was Light did not mean he agreed with all their assumptions. Certainly a House did not determine your morals.
"James, if Draco is friends with Harry then you'll have to accept that," scolded Lily, and immediately James's lost the righteously angry look.
"Where is Ginny?" asked Harry, watching his parents, and marvelling at how they seemed more youthful by the minutes. Then he remembered the tree, and how they had used to come here when they were in Hogwarts, and he guessed it was their peaceful place, the place they came that reminded them of a time more calm, helping them connect to themselves again. They would be alright, as would everyone in this castle, and it warmed his heart a little when he saw how content they were with each other, and a small part of him wondered if he would have that with Ginny, and a large part of him hoped he would.
"She's in the Great Hall with the others". For a moment sadness passed over Lily's face, but then James's squeezed her hand, and the looked melted away, replaced with a smile, "Go to her, she'll need you now, we'll see you at the memorial."
"Son," Harry heard James's voice as he turned away, "We're proud of you, and if you need us we'll be here."
"Thank you," Harry couldn't have hidden how thick his voice had became, and embracing his parents, he felt the stitches come together, the ties that bound him to these people solidifying. He felt accepted, and when he turned away, and entered the castle, he realised James's words had another meaning. Feeling a grin slide onto his face, he suppressed it quickly, entering the Great Hall as silently as he could.
Ginny, her family, and Hermione were huddled at the Gryffindor table. All had stayed for the memorial, and had practically stayed at the castle in the past week, but Harry knew it was mainly to keep themselves busy, and to stay away from a home that had lost one of it's members. Mrs Weasley was in tears again, and Arthur was rubbing soothing circles on her back, his face the very picture of grief. The rest of the Weasley's and Hermione held a vaguely lost look, and as they ate breakfast, Harry wondered how they were going to handle the memorial after breakfast.
Sitting next to them, he took Ginny's hand underneath the table, squeezing it gently, and trying to give her support. It had been a hard week for them, and he knew it was far from over, but they would get through it, and that he believed in with all his heart. Cinnamon eyes looked gratefully at him, and she rubbed her thumb in circles on the palm of his hand. A gesture of thanks, and he smiled, his grin only growing wider when she returned it.
Seeing a grimfaced Dumbledore stand up, all students and Order members who had gathered stood as well, and Harry felt himself become solemn once more.
"We have won a great victory, but in doing that lives were lost, but not in vain, never think of them as being forfeited in vain," Dumbledore's eyes swept over the Weasley family, "Today we honour them, and everyday we will remember them. It is our duty to make sure they are not forgotten, and this we shall complete to our utmost. We will remember them."
"We will remember them," echoed throughout the hall, and everyone sat down once more, gathering their things to make their way out to the grounds where the statue would be uncovered. Sharing a look with Ginny, they walked out hand in hand, and much to his amusement Harry noted Hermione and Ron doing the same.
They would be alright. They would get past this, and although it would haunt them, it would haunt them together.
Hands clasped tightly, they faced the future.
'Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.'
A/N: Thank you for the feedback! IT'S FINALLY FINISHED! I want to thank those of you who have stuck with me, and my annoying amount of writer's block, and lack of time. This ending, whilst open, I feel is best, as I like to think that the characters lives go on in the world I've written. Also, you may be annoyed that I only mentioned Percy dying, and not a major character, but I wasn't in the mood for a Hamlet ending, and I like Dumbledore, so there was no way I was killing him off! Ergo, Percy had to die :( Anyhoo, enough from me, I guess you're sick of my author's notes by now! Sorry, I'm just happy I finished this :D As always reviews are appreciated, and happy holidays!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter *sigh*
I apologise for any spelling and/or grammar mistakes that are present in this story.