"I have to go back, haven't I?" asked Harry.
"Oh, I think that that is up to you," replied Dumbledore, a ghost of his former self twinkling in his bright blue eyes, the eyes Harry had been seeing for months, now.
"I have a choice?" whispered Harry.
"Oh yes. We're in King's Cross, you say? I think, if you so desired, you'd be able to board a train." Dumbledore regarded Harry with a fondness so deep Harry wondered if perhaps he'd imagined the cold, unemotional professor in the Pensieve.
"And where would it take me?" whispered Harry, touching the scar on his forehead, the scar that had changed his life, the scar that had made him famous—the lightning-bolt scar.
"On," said Dumbledore simply. He gazed at the clock on the end of the platform, his eyes glazing over—looking but not seeing. "It is time now, I suppose, for me to be on my way. The best of luck, Harry," he added, a small smile playing at the edges of his lips.
"Wait, professor!" cried Harry.
But the figure of Dumbledore had faded into the misty shadows of the platform.
The Chosen One. The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter. The names and labels of his life flashed before the seventeen-year-old, faced with a choice so monumental it could change the world he'd left, only a few minutes ago. From his piercing green eyes—his mother's eyes, oh—fell tears as pure as the blood of a unicorn.
It did not feel right to him to abandon his friends. But Voldemort had promised that once Harry turned himself in, Hogwarts would be spared and its army left to lick its deep wounds. It did also not feel right to challenge Death. He had defeated Death once, in a time before he could speak—a time he could not remember, save for a flash of horrible green light. To defy Death again seemed cheating the reaper of his reward.
They will know that Harry Potter died to help them. They will know that I died because it was the only way out, he consoled himself. "They will know," he whispered to himself. The thought echoed off the bare walls, returning to his ears and jumping in his brain as he wondered if they would. If they would understand the choice he'd made.
The wail of the train reached Harry before he saw it. The Hogwarts Express pulled to a squeaking stop before him. There was no doubt in his mind, not any more. This was the last, the final time he would board this train, and it would take him to a place from which there was no turning back—forward was the only way left.