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A Curse of Truth
Epilogue: Letters from the Dead and Departed
I decided I'm not going to skip today. I don't feel like it at all; in fact, the thought of skipping makes my heart hurt. Instead, I walk slowly back through the Ravenclaw common room, passing my Housemates as usual. Something is strange about them today, though. Is that sympathy etched on their faces? No, they must be sad about William, too. He was a good friend.
I wish I hadn't thought about him again. I don't like crying.
As I walk into my dorm room, I'm glad for the disruption of having a somewhat small brown box on the foot of my bed with a note attached. Intrigued, I sit down and read the card.
If I'm still around, please return this package to me. If not, please open it and distribute the smaller packages within.
I can't help it, fresh tears fall once again. I try to blink them away enough to see what I'm doing, which doesn't work until I actually get the box open and spread out the six equally-sized smaller packages, wrapped in plain brown paper, each with a note attached. I find that the top one is addressed to me, so I quickly tear open the envelope.
You were the first Hogwarts student I ever spoke to, did you know that? I'm sorry for that day on the train, I admit I was teasing you a bit. I wish I hadn't. Since you're the one I've known the longest and you've had such a profound affect on me this past year, I felt like you might be the best one to deliver these.
Speaking of these gifts, I'm sorry about what happened, whatever it was. Obviously since I'm writing this, I knew that something might have happened to me. I only hope that everything else turned out okay. If it's just me that's gone, as I hope, then don't feel too bad about it, because I didn't belong there in your world, anyway. I don't know about the extent of the power you possess, but I wouldn't be surprised if you figured at least some of that out. Ask Harry or Hermione about it sometime after you give them their letters.
Luna, you're a beautiful and brilliant young woman. I'm really happy I got to know you over the past year. The item this letter is attached to...well, I intended to keep it myself and offer you a copy later, but seeing as I no longer have need of material possessions, I leave it to you to do what you will. When you find out why I did what I did, I wouldn't blame you if you got rid of it. I know, I am quite literally unable to blame you now, but even if I could, I wouldn't.
Goodbye, Luna. Never change for anybody except yourself, because I love you just the way you are, and I'd love you no matter who you decide to be. You deserve all the happiness in the world.
All my love,
I close my eyes to let the torrent of emotions wash through me. Sadness, mostly...the most painful sadness since my mother died. But there's also a lightness that wasn't there before, because he got to say goodbye. My mother never did, and I still wonder sometimes what she would have said. I carefully open the smaller package and the tenuous hold I had on my emotions is shattered.
I cry into my bed. I cry harder than I have in a long time.
I don't know how many times the picture replays William squeezing me into his side and kissing me on top of the head. At some point one of my roommates comes in and quickly turns around, at which point I realize with horror that I'm keeping William's last notes from everybody else. Cleaning myself up and trying in vain to make myself look at least somewhat presentable, I set the new picture next to the one he got me for Christmas, and go to fulfill my friend's final wish.
I sit with my head in my hands, knowing I could have done more. Why didn't I do more? Gran tells me it's not my fault, but I can't help it. Everybody seems so happy that Voldemort is gone for good, but...
Suddenly a light touch on my shoulder makes me jump. My head snaps up as I feel disgusted by my weakness, but my disgust melts away when I see Luna. Only it's not the Luna I'm used to. The happy, dream-like look in her eyes is gone, replaced by the same haunted, red-rimmed eyes I saw in the mirror this morning. Her hair is even messier than Hermione's. Another tear joins the streaks down her face, and she wordlessly hands me a small package with a note addressed to me, and she gives an identical one to Ron, who is sitting across the table.
"What...what's this?" my cracked voice says, at which a bubble of disgust surfaces once again.
"From William," she says, before tears fill her eyes again. She gives me a quick hug and runs out of the Hall.
I stare in shock at the letter and the package for a moment before tearing into it.
Well, if you're reading this, it means I'm gone. If I know you as well as I think I do, you're probably beating yourself up a bit. I don't know the extent of what happened, but if it's just about me, then don't. My plan was always dangerous, and I knowingly manipulated everybody – even Harry – in order to execute it. If all went as planned...well, almost all...then everybody else made it out okay. If not, I'm terribly sorry. If you want to know the full extent of why I did what I did, ask Harry or Hermione when they're ready. If either one or, Merlin forbid, both of them went with me...well, I'm counting on you to hate me as much as I would hate myself.
You're a strong, brave, and loyal friend, Neville, and you didn't deserve my manipulations. I'm sorry. Thank you for everything you've done for me this year. You will make a great Lord Longbottom, never doubt that for a moment.
My tears fall freely at the image of all of us in the workout group smiling and laughing happily. I remember when Colin snapped the picture and William immediately went to speak to him. How long did he know? It's not fair...not fair that he should be gone without my being able to tell him that I don't care what he did. He and Harry saved us from Voldemort, how could a few white lies overtake that?
A determination fills me to honor his memory, and I turn all my thoughts toward ways to accomplish that.
I remember when my neighbor died, I was really sad even though Daph and I weren't very close with him since we hadn't seen him for a few years. He was such a nice old man; he always had some treat or another when we snuck over there. That was the extent of my experience with death. Both sets of my grandparents died sometime before I was born, and I never thought to ask about them. My parents didn't have any siblings, either, so I had no aunts or uncles.
But when the group reappeared and I saw Hagrid pick up William's lifeless body, I couldn't breathe. I didn't believe it at first, but with the tears in their eyes and the looks in their faces, it couldn't have been one of his pranks, as much as I hoped it was. Daph always told me that Slytherin girls do not cry where somebody might see them, but there was a burning wetness pouring down my face before I had even realized it. I didn't understand what was happening when my mother was holding me back from going to him.
I didn't want to come back to Hogwarts, because now I can't stop thinking about him...expecting him to turn every corner in front of me or walk in the room with Hermione or Daphne on his arm. He was always so happy despite some of the sad things he told me. It was easy to remember the big things; outside the common room when he asked me to the Ball, in the Great Hall where we danced...but it was the little things that popped up everywhere else that hurt the most. An encouraging smile here, a little squeeze there. I can't even sit in the common room without expecting Tracey to come in saying that somebody wants to speak with me. I'm only safe in my bed, where only my pendant reminds me of him. I tried hiding it, but that only hurts worse.
The familiar, circular thoughts are chased away by a soft knock at the door, and I'm automatically rushing to the door in some horrible, vain hope that William is on the other side, even though I know that's impossible. I open it to reveal a Luna that appears as upset as I am. Then I feel bad at the thought since she knew him longer, so she's probably even worse.
She pulls out a small book-sized package and holds it out. "From William." My heart leaps for a split second before I realize that her tears are flowing again. I quickly wrap her in a hug before my own dams burst and the pair of us collapse to the floor. No words pass between us, and I have no idea how much time passes before I'm able to sit up and open the letter.
If you're reading this, then something bad happened. I'm sorry about that. I never wanted you to be a part of what I was doing because of this possibility, not because I thought you were too young or just incapable. I did promise Daphne, but more importantly I cared about you too much. I just hope everybody else made it out okay.
But now that I'm gone, as I promised you may find out anything you wish to know. There is too much to write in a letter, but Harry and Hermione know the most. If your sister isn't too angry with me, though, she may find out as well.
Thank you for being my date to the Yule Ball and helping me enjoy it so much. I really hope I wasn't too bad of a date, even though I didn't have a chance against such a beautiful and graceful young lady. You deserve a long, peaceful, happy life, and I can only hope, through my deceitful actions at the Third Task, I helped with that.
Goodbye, my sweet Stori. Take care of your sister. I love you both for all that you've done for me.
All my love,
I don't know how long I stare at the letter after I finish, but Luna is gone and my eyes burn from shedding too many tears. The wrapping on the package is wet...probably soaked through and ruined whatever is inside. With a gasp I tear open the package to find a picture frame much like the one Daph had gotten for Christmas that I was so jealous over, except mine is even more beautiful. The picture of William and I dancing at the Ball makes me smile and hurt at the same time, and I pull both the picture and the letter to my chest as I let myself fall to lie on my back.
I loved him, I know that for sure, now. Maybe like a brother, maybe...well, it doesn't matter now. Either thought hurts just as much. I just wish I would have told him.
The same question has taunted me every waking moment and in my every dream. The latter is worse...much worse, when I see his face twisted in anguish from my betrayal. Why did I let my father stop me? He didn't know what was at stake! But he couldn't have, and that's why it's my fault. William was brilliant...a completely bizarre kind of brilliant, but brilliant nonetheless, so it had to have been my failure to stop Crouch that undid his plan. Why didn't I do it anyway?
Suddenly I realize, after hearing it again, that the knocking on the door is what woke me this time.
"Daph?" Tracey's muffled voice carries across the door.
I don't answer.
"Daph, someone is here to see you," she says, voice thick with emotion.
Irrationally my heart jumps at the thought that it might be William...that the body Hagrid carried away wasn't his. The dull emptiness becomes a piercing torture once again, and no amount of Occlumency exercises can chase it away. "No," is all I can get out. My throat is raw so my voice is hoarse.
"It's Luna, she's got a package for you. It's from...from William," she says, her voice hitching on his name. Hearing it aloud hurts so much worse than just thinking about him. "She already left one with Stori but she won't let anyone else take yours."
The knife twists further, but I deserve it. I make it over to the door, and it takes me a minute to focus enough to undo the locking charm. On the other side, Tracey is standing with Luna, the latter of whom looks much like me. Tracey is crying now, too, apparently caught up in our emotions. Luna hands me the package, then surprises me by giving me a quick hug before darting away. A hug from the girl I never would have even met without William hurts almost as much as the accusing, lifeless stare I see in William's eyes every time I close my own.
"I'll make sure she gets out okay," Tracey mumbles, wiping her face and following Luna out.
Attempting to steel myself, I open the letter.
If you're reading this, then I'm not around to annoy you anymore. Yeah, I'm sure I messed up somewhere along the line. Hopefully I didn't mess up too bad and I'm the only one that's not there to celebrate. If I did mess up even worse, well, I'm sorry for not turning your cunning mind to this task as I had originally promised. I struggled with the question long and hard, but in the end I decided I couldn't share my plan because of the risk to me. That's what we foolish Gryffindors are good for, right? Whether I blew it big time or I'm the only one missing at the party, feel free to mock me at my grave, wherever that ends up being if I have one.
I know you always stop me from speaking my mind about you, but I'm going to take advantage of my captive audience this time. I meant every one. You know you're beautiful, so I don't even have to describe those piercing, ice-blue eyes that so entranced me, or your Yule Ball dress that perfectly accentuated them. The picture I gave you for Christmas...I didn't need my own copy because I could never forget your smile that day. The gift enclosed is the same way. I hope it makes you laugh – your true laugh – as much as it made me laugh. The world is a brighter place with it.
However, I know that you might be angry with me. You most likely are, in fact, not just for the failure of my plan to work out exactly as I'd hoped, but because I manipulated you along with everyone else. Perhaps as a Slytherin you might forgive me for that easier than the others, but either way, I'm sorry. You've long noticed that I knew some things that I shouldn't have, and you were right. If you'd like to know more, I'm giving the full story to Harry and Hermione. But know that I took a chance on you, and I'm glad I did. I never could have done what I did without you, so thank you. I just hope it was enough.
Goodbye, Daphne. I'm sorry for everything. If the other guy is in the same place as I am, then I hope you have a long, peaceful, happy life you deserve. If not, well, I hope you help put him where he belongs, because I know you'd succeed where I failed. I know you'll take care of Stori, so I don't have to tell you to...but she's going to be as strong as you one day. I love you both for all you've done for me this year.
All my love,
P.S. You kissed me after I wrote this, and I know you said it wasn't just from you, but...I don't know what would have happened with us, with Hermione, and then there's Harry...well, I don't know what to say except I do love you. I know we never said it out loud before, but I do. You might not care or want to hear that after tomorrow, but...okay, it's been an hour since I started to write this postscript, and I don't think I'm going to figure out what to say. Whatever happens, I just want you to be happy. I'm sorry about everything.
I didn't think I could produce any more tears, but apparently I'm wrong. Of course he didn't know about my betrayal when he wrote this, so every compliment is another twist of the knife. I am angry at him, because he made a huge mistake – trusting me. I deserve every ounce of misery, so I tear open the wrapping to find yet another picture. I watch William sneak a peck on my cheek just before I shove him away, then he trips and falls to the ground laughing hysterically. I remember that at that point he looks up at me and says he is not even remotely sorry. I hate my past self for the face I make at him. I hate myself for staying away. The tingle of his lips on mine...a moment ago, a lifetime ago...makes the betrayal even more agonizing.
I'm determined to speak with Hermione and get the whole story, and tell her how I betrayed her, too, by kissing him. Maybe that will get her to yell at me and curse me and tell me it's all my fault, but somehow I doubt it. I place the two photos face down for a moment, but then I set them back up and force myself to look at them. After all, how can I face William's best friends if I can't even face myself?
All day my mind alternates between being angry and horrified and amazed at the events of the past year, especially...last night? Two nights ago? I can't remember. It's all been a blur of tears...tears from my remaining best friend, tears from the outrageously large eyes of an odd house elf, tears of my own. Nobody else approaches us except for Neville and Ron, and neither knows what to say. They just sit for a while and then leave. Hermione says nothing, she just squeezes me tight, even though that hurts as much as when she stops. Her presence reminds me of William, of what the odd American had done for us this year. He should be the one here, not me.
He knew. All this time, he knew. I was horrified and angry when he bound me, but when I saw his tears and heard his explanation it was pure, abject terror. I should have broken free before he Stunned me. I know I could have done it somehow, but I was too shocked at what he said. I could have done it, and he'd still be here, in Hermione's arms where he should be.
But would I still have been able to—? I doubt it. That's the worst part...he went in, fully aware of what he was doing, and did what I couldn't have. He killed Nagini. He weakened Voldemort's form to have the same weakness Quirrell had. He saved Hermione. I merely finished the job, and now I get all the credit and he gets buried and forgotten.
Damn you, William. Thinking his name brings fresh tears to my eyes as, once again, the knowledge that I'll never speak to him again pierces my heart. Damn you, why did you do it?
"I-it probably says in there," a voice says, startling me when I realize I voiced that last thought aloud.
It's Luna, looking down at me with swollen eyes, hair as puffed out as Hermione's, holding out two packages. My eyes pick out my name in William's sharp, slanted handwriting.
"He knew," I say dumbly.
Luna nods. "My last deliveries...I...I couldn't...his last wishes..." she breaks down and runs away when Hermione and I both take our packages.
"I...I can't..." Hermione says, hugging the package and burying her face between my shoulder and the couch.
The physical reminder brings fresh tears to my eyes, but I force myself to open the letter. I need to know why.
If you're reading this, then at least something went right tomorrow, or probably yesterday for you. I'm planning on apologizing profusely when I do what I have to do, but in case you didn't believe me, then I do insist I really am sorry about manipulating you all this time. I am positively dreading the look you're going to give me when I take your place. If you're reading this, then the best possible outcome is that Hermione is sitting next to you and everybody else is okay, not counting Riddle and his followers. If that isn't the case...well, you probably hate me enough that you've burnt this letter to ashes before reading this far. If you haven't done so, please feel free to do so with what few things I have and pretend it's me, then treat my body like any other nameless Death Eater, because I deserve worse.
If everything else turned out okay, then I expect you're still not as happy about it as I would be if I could still have feelings. You should be, though. You know that I didn't belong there in your world, but you don't know why. Yes, I did know what was going to happen, unless I changed it. In fact I thought you caught me when I let slip that I knew Fleur's hostage was her sister. A quick rundown:
You and Cedric would have grabbed the Cup at the same time, and Wormtail would have killed Cedric right away. Voldemort would have resurrected himself with your blood, and your touch wouldn't have been enough to kill him. You would have dueled him to a standstill and escaped with Cedric's body. Nobody would have believed you except your friends and Dumbledore.
Next year the Prophet would have run a smear campaign against the both of you, and still nobody would believe you guys about Voldemort, so he would have grown in power and in numbers. He would have tricked you into coming to retrieve the Prophecy that I told you about by sending you a vision through your scar where he was torturing Sirius. You and your friends – who you would have trained in the Room of Requirement (that's how I knew about it) would have fallen for it despite Hermione's insistence that it's a trap. Sirius and several others would have come to rescue you from the ambush, and your godfather would have died.
The year after that, Dumbledore tries to retrieve the ring Horcrux himself and is fatally cursed. His last act is to save Draco. Malfoy is forced by Voldemort to let a band of Death Eaters into the castle and Snape kills Dumbledore in order to make Voldemort think Snape is on his side.
You would not have gone back to Hogwarts for your final year, in which Voldemort practically took over both the Ministry and Hogwarts. You would have learned about the Horcruxes the previous year but had no idea where they were. You, Hermione, and Ron leave school and find them – including breaking in to Gringotts and escaping on a dragon! You come back for the final battle, where Voldemort hits you with a Killing Curse and destroys his own Horcrux, Neville kills Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor, and you defeat Voldemort in a duel. I'm going to tell you at least some of this tomorrow so that you'll believe me, so hopefully that works.
Sirius and Dumbledore aren't the only ones who would have died. Fred Weasley, Remus, Tonks (who had a baby by then), the real Moody, Amelia Bones, Snape, Colin Creevey, Lavender, Dobby, Hedwig...all would have been gone. That's not nearly a full list, either – just the ones I remember – and I don't need to tell you how awful it would have been for Muggles during the year under Voldemort.
So that's what I was up against. I could have exposed Crouch as an impostor all the way at the beginning of the year – in case it hasn't occurred to you, that's why I was always afraid of him – but I was afraid of the outcome. Voldemort would have found a new way to kidnap you, or simply used someone else and developed some other defense against you. I thought this way had the best chance of success, assuming I could play my part.
I don't know if I can, though. If I think about it too much I shake so badly I can't write. Well, it's in the past for you, so no sense in burdening you with my fears, although if you're reading this then I guess they were justified. I hope that I succeeded in the rest, but if not, I'm sorry. If I failed, I might not know enough to say what's going to happen now, but I know you can take it from here. Your friends are your greatest asset, so don't ever make the mistake of pushing them away.
Goodbye, Harry. I don't know what happened so I don't know how you feel about me, but I want you to know that it was an honor, and I really do think of you as a brother.
P.S. Ah, this is awkward, but I don't really care what happens to my body. If there's anything left, perhaps Dumbledore or St. Mungo's, or the Department of Mysteries would like to dissect me and figure out what exactly I am. The Sorting Hat told me I'd have been in Ravenclaw if I didn't ask to go to Gryffindor, so if somebody can learn something from my body...
P.P.S. Final brotherly advice: I'm not going to tell you what to do with your love life, but if you let memories of the dead and departed push you away from any potential relationships, I will magically appear again – bigger and stronger – just to personally incendios grata your ass. Hermione, Daph, Stori, Luna...every one of them are fucking awesome and they deserve someone fucking awesome, like you. I'm counting on you to kick their boyfriends' asses if any of those boyfriends don't know that. Just 'cuz the girls are smart about other stuff doesn't mean they'll be smart about that.
P.P.P.S. Don't tell them I said that. Or do tell, I suppose, since they might take it out on you.
P.P.P.P.S. May every god damn my soul to every eternal torture if Hermione isn't there, but if she is, make her read her letter.
A raspy chuckle startles me out of my hiding place against the couch, and I lean back to find Harry looking at the letter, smiling through his tears. "He wants you to read your letter," he says, then he leans back and chuckles some more. "He knew you wouldn't want to, like he knew everything else." Harry shakes his head and smiles sadly, pulling me into a tight, simultaneously painful and comforting hug before re-reading his letter. Bolstered by the apparent partial alleviation of his pain, I gather myself and open my own.
My Dearest Hermione,
I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am for everything you've done for me over the past year, and how sorry I am for everything I did to you. I didn't show up on Platform 9¾ with a plan at all, but I never expected to grow so close to you. I certainly can't say I regret it, but I know I cheated my way into it, so I do feel horrible about that part of it. As for the rest...well, we've talked about it enough, you know how conflicted my feelings were.
If you and Harry are reading your letters together, then I did something right. Hopefully everyone else on our side is okay, too. If he came with me, then I cannot apologize enough. The thought is almost too much to bear.
I won't write any more on the subject, but I do have to come clean on one thing: I did know what was going to happen as long as I did nothing to change it. I thought you were going to expose me so many times this year with whatever it was you did that could make me tell you the truth, including that last time a month ago when Luna came out and said I knew the future, and then a few days later when Daphne nearly let slip that I knew who put Harry's name in the Goblet (a fact which she squeezed from me some time earlier). There is a reason I wasn't surprised about Harry's name coming out of the Goblet, about Ron's jealousy, about the dragons, about the Ball, about the lake, and about the maze. I wrote the same sequence of events in Harry's letter, but here's what would have happened without my intervention:
So that's what I was up against. I could have exposed Crouch as an impostor all the way at the beginning of the year – in case it hasn't occurred to you, that's why I was afraid of him – but I was afraid of the outcome. Voldemort would have found a new way to kidnap Harry, or simply used someone else and developed some other defense against the blood protection. I thought this way had the best chance of success, assuming I could play my part.
I hope that I succeeded, but if not, I can't tell you how sorry I am that you're all left to clean it up. If I failed I just hope it's not much worse than it would have been without me.
Goodbye, Hermione. Despite what happened, please believe me when I say that everything I felt for you was real. I love you, but you have always deserved far better than me, and I hope you'll live a long, happy, peaceful life.
All my love,
P.S. I'm going to tell you almost the same thing I told Harry. I don't know what happened so I don't know how you feel about me, but if you let any memories of the dead and departed get in the way of any potential relationships, I am going to magically appear and personally...make sure Daphne or Stori or Luna kicks your ass.
P.P.S. Send a letter or a postcard to the following address in January, 2013:
P.O. Box XXXXXX,
Xxxxxxxxx, XX XXXXX
Give him my name and yours, and ask him how he's doing. He'll miss me.
P.P.P.S. Invest in Apple Computers (AAPL) sometime in the next six years or so and don't sell it until at least 2012.
Ignoring the bizarre final advice, I stare at the letter for a long, long time, absentmindedly rubbing my scar as I let the tears flow. I wish I could tell him that I don't blame him, that I love him, and that there's no way I could deserve better.
Even though I know he wrote this letter the day before the graveyard, I wish he would have mentioned what he did there that gave me this scar, because I know it was him. Harry said he thinks the same Killing Curse that took William from us also hit me, but there was no rebound, and I know it never touched me. And...I feel like William's...here somehow, the same comforting presence that let me fall asleep that night. Strangely, thinking of him like that doesn't hurt as much as I would have thought. As I blush slightly in remembrance of the position in which we woke up – where my hand was – I trace my scar again, and a thought strikes me...it feels an awful lot like an eihwaz...
A hand pulls my own away from the scar, and I shiver when Harry presses his cheek to it. "Yours is different," he says with a note of surprise.
"No Voldemort to infect it," I say almost absently, then suddenly it hits me: that's exactly what happened. "Your scar...your mother's rune, her sacrifice reflected the Killing Curse but was corrupted by the Horcrux ritual. William...he figured it out right there in the graveyard, and he..." He did the same thing Harry's mother did...for me. "Oh William, why...?"
"He loved you," Harry says simply, but he shakes his head with a small smile as if he can hardly believe it himself. "He really did."
"He loved us," I correct him, blinking away the tears blurring my vision as I smile back at him. "He told us often enough." My smile fades at that thought. "But I didn't tell him back as much as I should have."
He frowns and nods. "Me neither." We both drop our gaze, though we're still leaning heavily on each other. "I love you, though," he says softly. "I didn't say it enough before...and I think he would..." Harry trails off, and I know what he was going to say. William would want him to...as ridiculous as it sounds considering the feelings he and I had for each other, he really would want Harry to say it.
"I love you, too," I say, "And yes, I think he would, too."
Harry hugs me tighter, and the pain is starting to lessen. Not much, but it's starting. He takes a deep breath, and I'm glad to hear he apparently feels a similar kind of relief. "He did what he promised, didn't he? He got me through."
"He did exactly what he promised," I agree, thinking back to all the times he tried to push me toward Harry, I wonder just how much he knew...
"Magic is a wonderful and terrifying thing, Harry...after over a century of studying it myself, it still manages to surprise me all the time," I say, pressing my fingertips together and looking over my glasses at the two young friends of poor Mr. Lerner. The last couple days have been rough on them, though it warms my heart to see them leaning on each other so. "There's no telling how much Mr. Lerner knew. Had I known...well, it doesn't matter. As for the Tournament, Harry, magic is based on will and intent, and I suspect the contract was fulfilled by your intent to compete. After all, none of the other Champions touched the Cup either, which signified the end of the competition. I daresay there were Champions in the past who became unable to compete but did not lose their magic."
"But sir, what he did to Hermione," he says, glancing over at the girl's most curious scar, so similar to Harry's, "did he create a—?"
"No no," I say quickly, "whatever he did, he did not remain as a wraith, as Voldemort did. You say he gave no hints at all?"
"None," Hermione says, looking down.
I sigh. Oh, to have picked Mr. Lerner's brain just once! Suddenly it occurs to me that he never looked me in the eye for any length of time, indicating he knew about Legilimency. And yet, apparently Dobby had said the young man was not a wizard. "I'm not certain we will ever solve this mystery, or indeed some of the others Mr. Lerner left us with, I'm sorry to say."
Harry knits his eyebrows together as he looks up at me. "What do you mean, sir?"
I sit back and take a deep breath. "This is a delicate matter, Mr. Potter, but I'm not sure where else to turn. Professor McGonagall has exhausted the resources of both the Ministry and the school, but she can find no mention of his relatives."
Hermione's face crumples as it falls to Harry's shoulder as she stifles a sob. "His friends are his family, sir," she says, voice thick with emotion. "That's what he...he always told us."
I stand and turn around, tears threatening to leak out before I force the thoughts away. "I see."
"He...he wanted to donate his body to anyone that wanted it," Harry says, causing me to spin around in surprise.
"What?" Hermione had asked the question at the same time, too.
"In my letter, he said he wanted somebody to learn something from him," Harry says softly, "maybe about...what he was."
I turn my back to them once again, pretending to examine the objects on my bookshelf, trying to avoid my thoughts of the young man. Did he not know, either? "Would you like me to make the arrangements? I can contact you both to finalize them if you wish."
"Yes, sir, that would be...that would be fine," Harry says woodenly. Hermione answers in the affirmative as well.
"I'm sorry to have brought it up, but perhaps we can do with some happier news," I say, turning to the bereaved teens to find them still holding each other but looking up curiously. "With the capture of Peter Pettigrew and the two dozen Auror witnesses to Voldemort's final defeat, your godfather has been given a trial..."
I slowly and painfully open my eyes, glazed with tears from my torturous dreams. Were those reactions real? I hope so; that was a much more pleasant, if difficult to experience, outcome. I shiver slightly at the aspects of the plan I hadn't considered. At least they didn't burn my gifts this time. Mentally I poke and prod at the spot where my magic used to be, only to find a complete lack of it...to the point where I continue to wonder if it was ever there in the first place. I hold up my hand and stare at the back of it, at the fading scar that I am sure is a result of my last ditch effort to save Hermione...the fading remnant of an impossible dream. When it's gone, will I still believe? Will I even remember?
Does it even matter?
Just like every other day for the last several months, I roll out of bed and go through the motions. Take a shower to wake myself up, eat a bowl of cereal, brush my teeth, throw some clothes in the dryer to make them less wrinkly because I'm too lazy to iron, hop in the car and drive to the post office before heading to work. The mail reaches my mailbox at nine in the morning, and I get there at eight fifty-five every day, like clockwork. On the drive I think about the final touches I have to make to my own fanfiction...almost two hundred thousand words of my unbelievable story. Unbelievable...well, obviously nobody would believe it, but passing it off as fiction gives me an outlet to talk about what I saw, about what I felt. My mind goes into autopilot as I reminisce, so I reach the post office almost before I realize it.
With practiced ease I slide the key into the keyhole and open the mailbox. Under the influence of muscle memory I start closing it again after the briefest of glances. But this time, my hand and my heart stop at the exact same moment. My mind goes completely blank when I find a single letter lying within, affixed with quite a bit of postage...international postage. No name is written with the return address – a jumble of numbers and letters I barely register as an address before I tear open the envelope. My eyes skip straight to the end, straight to the signature at the bottom. As soon as I see it, my head swims, my eyes go blurry, and my arms start shaking.
My world goes dark.
This was hard to write. Okay, that was an understatement...I cried. Yeah, I'm lame enough to cry at my own stuff despite being a grown man. Personally I blame it on the sad song I was listening to at the time. I was listening to it when I started writing it back during Chapter 12 or so...that's when I wrote Luna and Neville's, though the former one changed a bit as I got closer to her. And I was listening to it when I finished.
Part of the reason it was hard to write because the entire story is from William's PoV and this is sort of a self-insert, so I'm essentially praising myself from someone else's PoV. So William (ahem, not 'I') is a little conceited when he imagines what the others say about him. And it is imagined; since the entire story really is from his PoV, he doesn't really know how they reacted. You see what I did there?
As for the identity of the one who sent William the letter...well, I guess we'll never know! I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading!
R & R, C & C