Hello lovelies. Well, this is it then, the very last chapter of this story. It's been a very long ride since I started writing this in 2008, nearlry ten years ago, and I hope my writing improved over that time. Thanks to all of you who stuck with me, especially to the people who were here from the very beginning and found this story again after it moved accounts in 2013.
Thank you, and enjoy,
The statues looked over Ottery St Catchpole, holding hands and gleaming in the afternoon sun. The town had grown much since Harry had visited last and the statues, which had once been shunned by the overall population since the second one had been added, were now the pride of the town. Right now, flags and mufflers draped them in orange to celebrate the victory of the Chudley Cannons on winning the Nationals. Harry waved to Kyle, who had been their Keeper for four years, ever since Lucian could not continue playing due to a heavy head injury. Fans were standing in line, but Harry only had eyes for the fairy-like person sitting at the foot of the statues, nestled between their feet.
''Hey Luna,'' Harry spoke when approaching her. ''Your long years of persistence paid off I see, you really managed to make this town into a lively gathering place.''
''It's the least I could do for them,'' the woman spoke serenely, nodding along to her words and making a vague hand gesture upwards to the bronze faces of Ginny and Neville. ''Thank you too for the support. I know that the teams of Aurors trying to get me to stop came on the High Minister's orders. I could only finish Neville's statue once that stopped and they didn't destroy it every time again.''
Harry smiled wryly at that. ''I'm sorry that I could not convince him in the first place to put it here. I know Neville was on the other side and all, but it wasn't as if anyone publically knew where he stood, only that he was a Pureblood.'' It had been tough convincing Marvolo of that, who was vehemently against the idea of honouring a person who had tried to take Harry's life. Still, after almost a year of squabbling about it and Harry not giving up, the other man had finally decided that further protests were just not worth it anymore and allowed the stubborn Luna to create her memorial. Harry was happy that the statue at least matched Ginny's one. He'd seen Xenophilius' creations and had hoped that Luna would not come up with some grotesque mash-up of materials. Thankfully, the only part of the statue that wasn't bronze was a life plant that grew out of the soil in Neville's cupped hands, to show his love for and talent in Herbology. His aspirations had been to become a Herbology teacher, something Harry had never known while the boy had been alive.
He was called back into the crowd by the horde of fans, and with a generous smile that he'd had to practice in the mirror to show anything else than a nervous grimace, he turned around and faced the stuck-out mix of papers, pens, parchment and quills. A flag in the middle of the crowd made him halt, a pair of painted, glowing green eyes on black and orange fabric held high in the air. Trust hyper fans to turn the one thing that had make his popularity drop massively at one point into a mascot of some sort. Although to be fair, Harry still did not know if the drop had been because of his sudden altered appearance, or because of the official statement of his marriage to Marvolo. Both had happened shortly after each other, so he wasn't too sure. Well, it did not matter now anymore. Quidditch fans had not been put off long by either since the Cannons outperformed most other teams, and Harry's silent musings of perhaps leaving the team had been nearly beaten out of him by his outraged teammates.
The voices hushed a bit as he addressed the crowd, a skill he'd had to learn over the years too. It had been nearly six years now since he led the team, and it had been a wild ride. He was happy where he was now, Harry thought. His job was certainly convenient enough too. Any office job would have clashed with Death regularly knocking at his door, having selected another target for him. It turned out that the being had saved up all the people it wanted to remove from their natural timelines and now all dumped those on Harry to kill. It was very wondrous how the world had not been plunged into utter chaos yet considering how many people existed that were apparently a major threat to its balance. While never voicing his thoughts, Harry suspected that Death might like being able to cheat his own rules a little bit too much. Then again, he could never deny the futures he saw when killing the people appointed to him to assassinate.
Harry shook his head. This was not the time nor place to be thinking about his other, unconventional job. He didn't want his fans to think that he did not have his attention on them. Thus, he kept signing and smiling, only sparing an ironic thought at that Lockhart would have loved to see him like this now, doing the exact thing he'd always despised. But it was worth flying... everything was worth flying.
When the stream of fans subsided a bit, Harry cast a glance back over his shoulder to Luna, who was keeping at a distance from everyone else and merely taking in the scene. She really did look like a serene forest being now, her hair grown out to pool at her feet. Harry wondered how she was able to travel around with hair like that, but she somehow managed. Recently she'd met someone else who shared her passion for odd animals, a boy called Rolf, who was slightly younger than she was, and who now joined in Luna's and Xenophilius' monthly travel abroad hunting for the next hidden magical animal or whatever they got up to when out of the country. Hermione had told Harry recently that the boy had given Luna a painting brush of mooncalf hair, and when she wasn't using it, she always wore it behind her ear as an accessory. Hopefully that meant she had finally healed a bit from her loss of Neville. She still also wore the butterbeer cork that had once served as a Portkey to him though...
His attention was pulled away again when an enthusiastic girl called his name. Harry remembered her vaguely from somewhere, but couldn't place the kid. She didn't seem to mind, beaming brightly as he signed her arm, and then bounced off. This would still be a long, long day...
Harry fingered the dusty, yellowed pages as he stared at the pictures and recalled all the memories he'd thought worthy to keep of the past thirty years. A Pensieve might have been easier, but ironically, he did not think it would be authentic enough. Why would he wish to have a replica of a memory when they looked so much better through his romanticizing mind? Like this, he could think of Ron's latest birthday party without his thoughts being drawn to the snarky comments exchanged between him and his wife. If they ever were to divorce, Harry didn't think he'd want to keep that in his memory either. Maybe it was childish of him to only recollect what he wanted to, but in the end it would matter to none but himself. Also, being immortal, he doubted that he would be able to keep in mind every day he had seen, so why not hold onto only the most beautiful thoughts?
A few loud cries were to be heard in the distance, the sound rolling from the far horizon through the crack in his window, carried on the summer breeze. Harry looked up and could barely make out a few winged silhouettes against the pink and orange evening clouds. Would Charlie and Xaphia be among them? They had lost contact over time, and only the free-roaming dragons were a near daily reminder of Ron's brother, the only human who had fought for dragon rights so hard that he had managed to outlaw both the hunting and the locking up of the creatures in most European countries. Last time they had spoken, Charlie had paid a formal visit to Marvolo. The close flock of dragons Charlie commanded was still allied to Harry's husband, even if they were not often in Britain anymore.
That visit had been around three years ago, if he remembered it correctly, and the other had become much wilder than Harry had imaged a human could become. Not only was his skin scarred with burn marks and cuts to the point where it became so leathery and hard that it did not resemble skin very much anymore, but there had been something in Charlie's gaze that spoke of the man having seen more than only this world. Of course he and Xaphia had never been able to formally marry, since interspecies marriages were unlawful, certainly since most people saw dragons as nothing but beasts. Still, dragons had their own way of choosing and marking their life partners, ways that went far beyond only physical connections or pieces of jewelry.
Harry flipped a page again, eyes locking on the waving and dancing figures on the glossy photos. Always the same people, over and over. Ron and Hermione with their children, Luna and her husband, The Twins, holding up a new invention with their dad smiling in the background. Even a stiff portrait of Lucius and Narcissa had been added, standing next to Draco and their daughter-in-law, Astoria. It had come as quite the surprise to him that the two had married. As far s he remembered, Draco had blown Pansy off with the knowledge that he and Blaise were dating in school. Harry supposed that relationship must have ended somewhere in the years that he hadn't been at Hogwarts anymore, for around two years after Draco had graduated, his engagement to Astoria Greengrass had been announced. Not that Harry kept track much of who married who outside of his close circle of friends. It was only because Narcissa had told him that the event had caught his attention in the first place.
Two pages after was the one from Hermione's and Ron's wedding, a solid five years after Hermione had graduated from Hogwarts. Both wore light blue dress robes, and Hermione's parents in their Muggle suit and cocktail dress stood out like a sore thumb. Even Arthur had stuck with robes despite his love for everything Muggle. It had been a great day, with a much more frivolous atmosphere than Harry's own marriage ceremony had had. Marvolo had been able to avoid most of the press on their wedding by not announcing the day officially, but a few journalists had still found out, Skeeter among them, and then there was the fact that the entire Inner Circle was invited, of whom Harry did not like that many people. He'd only been allowed to veto Snape. Still, it was a small miracle that Sirius had not made a scene and had been overall pleasant about the whole thing, even giving Harry away with only a small glare.
He envisioned it in his mind's eye now, leaning back and closing his eyes to relive that evening again. They had started late, since Marvolo had wanted to do it according to ancient magical tradition. Bonfires had burned all around the field they had hired, lighting up the dark trees surrounding the area. Sparks and smoke had filled the air, the fires fueled by purifying herbs, causing a deep scent to embed itself into every inch of clothing it could find. It had not been unpleasant like the wafts in the Divination classroom, but had still made Harry feel as if he'd been slightly tipsy. Not that he'd minded, with only a handful of guests there that he really knew. His friends, Sirius, Remus, Narcissa, Lucius and Sameer respectively. Most of those he'd befriended in the Inner Circle had lost their lives in the war, regrettably, and other people Harry had wanted to invite, Marvolo had scrapped off the guest list, including both Shay and Dudley because they were Muggles. Harry had always held a bit of a grudge against his husband for not allowing them to be there tonight, but there had been nothing he could do.
The ceremony itself had been unlike anything Harry had experienced before, and he'd been nervous as hell even with Marvolo's constant reassurances whispered in his mind. He'd read about and practised the handfasting with Narcissa, but still screwed up slightly in the end with the knot. ''No-one noticed,'' Marvolo had told him after, but that had only served to remind Harry that at least one person had. Still, the mead had calmed his senses somewhat before the rings had been put on too, and the hours after had flown by eating all kinds of traditional dishes, from beer casserole to lentil salad and even Kouign Amann for the wedding cake. It was odd, Harry found. Compared to his friends' wedding, there had been much less magical touches: No floating lanterns or magical fireworks. No gnomes running around the garden or trumpeting flowers. And still... magic had hung in the air, near palpable, even when no-one had lifted their wands.
Harry closed the photo book with a thud, thinking of that he should perhaps add a few more, but not able to come up with what, except for pictures of his friends getting older. New pictures of him and Marvolo certainly wouldn't make sense, since they both aged incredibly slow. Perhaps he should try to put in a picture of Dudley and his daughter. He hadn't had much contact with his cousin anymore either, even though the man had married a witch and his daughter had gone to Hogwarts. It was to be expected, he supposed. Dudley had helped them to go after Britain's first, but Harry had been the one to personally torture and kill Dudley's parents, whom he'd still held dear. Harry really did wish to have contact to the only blood-related family he had left, yet did not know how to cross the barrier between him and his cousin, certainly not since he'd not been allowed to include his cousin in the wedding. With another sigh, he banished the book and made it take its place on one of Harry's bookshelves in the bedroom, closing his eyes afterwards, wondering what to do with the rest of the day.
The raw emotion in that one word caused Harry to jump off his seat and stare with an incomprehensible look at his godfather, who had appeared from within the fireplace while Harry had been engrossed in a book. Sirius' long, grey hair had turned red, smeared with the same blood that also drenched his clothes. The portraits in the round tower room that weren't sleeping sneered down on the man who dared bring filth and grime into their home. Marvolo did not react as abruptly as Harry did, only putting his quill down on the desk behind which he was sitting. Folding his hands together beneath his chin, he merely observed.
''Sirius... by Merlin, what happened? Is that your blood?''
''Remus is dead.'' The words sounded so dull that Harry could not process them for a moment.
''I... I don't understand.''
''That old bastard attacked us. Greyback. I had expected that, at his age, he wouldn't be a threat anymore, but it looks like we've all underestimated him. He's always held a grudge against Remus for being so successful and rising in the ranks so fast. Even though Greyback was the pack leader, he felt that Remus threatened his position. Today they apparently got into an argument and well... that vicious beast decided to end it once and for all. Harry, I... I don't know what to do now.''
''Where is Greyback now?'' Marvolo cut in, ruby eyes flickering dangerously.
With a wry smile, Sirius gestured to his clothes. ''Hopefully more than six feet under. But I learned long ago not to live for revenge... Harry, Remus was my last friend... what will I do?''
Slightly reassured by that Sirius was at least not physically wounded, Harry hugged his godfather tightly. ''I'm still there for you,'' he spoke, knowing those words were empty. Sirius and Remus had been as close as brothers, so close that some might have confused them for partners. ''And I'm sure Remus' pack is too,'' he added. It was true: Sirius was very popular in both British werewolf packs due to his friendship with Remus, and his Animagus form. They would provide comfort while also licking each others' wounds over having lost such a precious friend as Remus.
Harry's husband had risen from his chair and was whispering with one of the portraits before turning towards Sirius with a slightly annoyed expression. ''I understand why you killed Greyback, but that really does leave me in a predicament, Black. You do realise that you now left half of the werewolves in Britain behind with neither their leader nor their stand-in leader left alive? You do not look like you stayed to sort out the situation after getting rid of the head.''
''MY BEST FRIEND IS DEAD. TO HELL WITH YOUR ORDER,'' Sirius shouted furiously, making Harry hastily take a step back. The years had not done anything to quell the man's emotional outbursts. Even now, nearing his eighties and having retired a decade ago, he was still a fearsome foe, with a temper to match. His reactions though weren't what they used to be, and before Sirius could react, he had Marvolo's bone white yew wand at his throat.
''You will not speak to me in such a way,'' the man hissed, still very much the intimidating Dark Lord he had been when Harry had first met him. ''I... understand your grief, but by Morgana, you know how difficult it is to keep a country together. I know that you caught onto something with that brain of yours while you were Minister of Magic. Would you have your personal misery be the cause of more tragedies? Both Greyback and Remus had wolves who were loyal to them. The pack has been split now, and they might already be at each other's throats.'' A look of horror dawned on Sirius' face.
''Sirius, go back and fix it, please'' Harry begged. ''I'll come with-''
''No,'' Marvolo cut in, pinning Harry down with a glare. ''This is not something outsiders can get involved in, certainly not you. It's best when the pack does not know that I or anyone else have been informed about their situation yet, lest they do something even more stupid and break out of their villages. The full moon is near too, in only few days.''
''Sounds reasonable,'' Harry sighed, letting himself sink down in his chair again, but clenching his hands as a feeling of helplessness overcame him.
''You can be glad that you're retired Black, or else I would have fired you here and now. What are you waiting for? Go!'' And with that, Sirius nodded curtly and left again the way he had come.
''Good thing we never removed him from my floo network,'' Marvolo muttered. ''Even now he causes national disasters. Imagine what would have happened if he'd gone home to cry instead?'' Harry cast his love a disapproving glance.
''Don't say that. I know he acted rashly, but Greyback more that deserved what was coming for him. And Remus... he always seemed so immortal. He was still a teacher, did you know?''
''Of course I know, I still paid his salary. But you're right that it is a shame that man died. I had wanted to ask him to teach at Hogwarts again. He's taught three generations of wolves already, surely there had to be one who could take over his job there. Well, it doesn't matter anymore now, does it?'' Harry approached the other and sat down on his lap, hugging his lover tightly, letting all his emotions go over the link. Confusion, hurt, anger... Over the years he'd found that this was the best way to cope with any situation: to communicate with Marvolo and share what he felt. He was very glad that the other allowed it as often as he needed that bond.
Harry did not move even when he was done, basking in the closeness of his husband. After a few indulging minutes though, Marvolo nudged the younger man. ''I still have work that I'd like to have finished by tomorrow.''
''Why are you even still working?'' Harry grunted, displeased. ''You're a hundred and ten. Merlin's balls, don't you want retirement?''
The other let out a deep laugh and stroked a few strands of unruly hair out of Harry's eyes. The unnatural green glow of them was reflected in blood-red irises, as if the Dark Lord was watching a Killing curse being cast. ''Immortality has no place for retirement. I don't exactly have a pension that can last forever, and I recall someone being against stealing. Most of my fortune was gathered with money from the dead, but that will be hard to replenish now that we live mostly in peace. I don't really feel like going to abroad now to off a few of my enemies just because you want me to stop working. Besides, I finally got what I wanted.'' The man spread out his arms as if to encompass the entire tower his office was located in.
''Yes Yes, headmaster, I get it.'' Another, slightly more perverted comment was at the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it when the image of a bloodied Sirius flashed in his mind, together with the knowledge of Remus' death. Instead, he forced his thoughts into another direction. He really was happy that Marvolo had finally been able to realise his own dream of being back at Hogwarts. He'd replaced Flitwick when the former Charms teacher had passed away at the age of 138, only five years ago. Sameer had disliked his position as headmaster after several years and had been replaced by Snape, who had only lasted a single year because of how much the students body dislikedhim. Instead, the greasy bat had returned to his dungeons and cauldrons, teaching with even more viciousness than ever before until his retirement, after which he'd become a surprisingly successful author of potion books. Harry had seen his revisions of the old school books, and had wondered out loud why Snape had never taught them all the improvements he'd apparently known of. Marvolo had suggested that Snape had wanted his students to use their own brains a bit more, but Harry thought that was a ludicrous theory. Snape was just plain mean, that was all there was to it.
''Do you like your position until now?'' Harry wondered. ''You always looked far more excited when you were 'just' a Dark Lord.''
''I am... content with it. Of course, it's not as exciting, but those times are over for now. Even if I had remained only a Dark Lord, or even only this country's High Minister, there would also have been less excitement than we used to have. After all, there is no war. No intrigues anymore, no difficult battles to plan, no immediate enemies unless I search them out. I would be either sitting in my office, waiting for something to happen, or force the country into chaos again just so I would have something to do. We both know I was very tempted to do so on multiple occasions over the years, and only pursuing magical artifacts and knowledge kept me from it. No, I much prefer this, where my mind and hands are kept busy, and I still have time left for both you and some of my own side projects when I research magic. That is not to say, of course, that I will never return to my former callings. I still am the ruler of the British Isles, I only currently do not have such a strong desire to do much with that title. I envy you though. You are able to shed more blood than I ever could now.''
''Hey, if you want my job, it's yours,'' Harry laughed. ''I certainly don't revel in killing.''
''I do miss it.'' Harry nodded slowly. Any other person might have given strange or fearful looks at those words and the grave sadness they were said with, but Harry had learned to accept all sides of the man he loved, even the more unpleasant ones. And while it had been handy, and even necessary during the time of war Harry had grown up in to have a man at his side who was used to killing and pleased by it, it became an inconvenient trait in times of peace. Of course, none would convict their current leader over past crimes, but if Marvolo would suddenly start murdering again, rebellion could follow. It was difficult for the man to cope with, and apparently raising Inferi from graveyards and killing them again just didn't give that same feeling.
''How about you come with me?'' Harry suddenly suggested. He wondered why he had not come up with that in all those former years. ''Next time I get a target, you can kill it.''
''Those selected by death need to be killed with the Hallows. And you are the wielder of the Hallows.'' Marvolo stated, raising an eyebrow. ''I thought that was the deal?''
''Well, technically, yes, but am not only using the Hallows. I use my environment, and even other objects to be able to execute my targets. If I think you would have a better chance of offing someone, and would lend you the Elder wand for example, it would still be me who created that situation, and thus killed them. Look, it's like with the Basilisk.'' Suddenly, Harry got all excited, since it just clicked in his head. ''You didn't personally kill Myrtle, she was killed by the Basilisk's gaze. However, you could still use her death to make your first Horcrux right? It still counted as your kill and split your soul, because you had created that situation. It had been your order that made the Basilisk kill her. So if Magic deemed it was still you murdering Myrtle, that also means that according to the laws of Magic, me making you kill a target still means I killed it, in a way. And honestly, I doubt Death would mind as long as his target is removed.''
Marvolo twirled his wand between his fingers. A feeling of longing that wasn't his own entered Harry's mind, followed by excitement, but instantly quelled by suspicion and fear. ''We don't know if it works. For all I know, Death could deem you unfit to be his assassin and take your life as his own. I cannot risk that.''
''Then,'' Harry said resolutely. ''I'll talk to it. Next time I see my... employer, I'll ask.''
''I have good news.'' Harry announced. Both had been sitting on the balcony Marvolo had built as an expansion to the Headmaster's office a few years ago. They had been reading and drinking tea, trying to kill time together, when Harry had apparently remembered an important piece of information. His interest caught, Marvolo looked up, his head slightly cocked to the side to urge the other to go on. Instead of giving a direct answer, Harry smirked and pulled his second wand from the secure holster on his leg.
The instant Marvolo's eyes locked on the Elder wand, the ever-present hunger that gnawed at his insides flared to life. ''You have another target?'' The excitement was hard to hide in his voice. It had been months, months during which he'd been waiting. On his lover's nod, he grabbed a cloak and mask. It had felt odd at first, to disguise himself, but it was a necessity. Even with the guarantee of Death that Harry's kills would not bring trouble, that might not count for Marvolo. The position he was in did not allow him the same freedom as it used to, so he'd had to find a solution. The mask disguised not only his features, but also distorted his sound, scent, and even magical signature, one of the inventions of the Twins that had been for his private use, and that had never been allowed on the open market.
Several hours later, they were running over a rainy, dirty street. The cold street lights barely lit up the ground below them. The Dark Lord did not need the light though, and it only helped hinder his prey. The rush of the hunt was so exhilarating that Marvolo barely noticed the crazed laugh that fell from his own lips. Everything was for this, he thought. Composure, rules, even the image he had so carefully crafted for himself, it all fell away now he held deadly magic at his fingertips. The Death Stick reacted as well as his own and did, if not better. He was not its Master and would never be, but the wand allowed his to wield it as long as its purpose would be fulfilled through that.
He'd cornered his prey now, a young girl with a tear-stricken face, too young to even possess a wand yet. The only weapon she clutched was a useless pair of scissors, and occasional bouts of accidental magic that held nothing to the Dark Lord. He had her backed up against a wall, and she was sobbing hysterically now. It was laughable to think that she would grow up to be that dangerous... and yet, wasn't that the exact same thought he'd had when trying to murder Harry when his husband had been only a baby? Said man was now a few paces behind him, a tool of Death himself, and immortal being bound to fate, and bound to the man who had put him into that position. Marvolo had never regretted being so pushy on the matter. It did not matter how you lived your life, as long as you lived. Why let time devastate your very being when there were ways to circumvent that?
Conflict flowed through the link, and Marvolo halted for a moment, ignoring the girl in favour of his husband. Ah, Harry... one would think that after half a century of being forced to kill and see the futures one prevented would dull one's sensitivity. Not Harry's, of course... it was no secret that the man disliked the price he had to pay for his own eternity. Not that he couldn't enjoy killing, or even torturing, but only if that person had already done evil deeds, not when they would do so at one point in the future. Marvolo didn't care either way: whether they were criminals, would become criminals, or were entirely innocent. For him this only made for a good excuse to indulge in his hunger, a convenience to spill blood once again.
He lifted his wand, shivering with anticipation, and cut open the girl's side, relishing in the piercing scream that was swallowed up in the rain. He drank in the sight as she fell to her knees and pressed her hands to her sides. Bulging eyes, slippery innards trying to find a way out, choked screams... this was what he truly lived for. At times like these, Marvolo allowed himself to be completely true to himself and admit that this had been the main reason why his rebellion had grown so out of hand. The thrill of the hunt, the deed of adding more blood to his stained hands. If Harry had not been able to arrange this, he was certain that he would have arranged another massacre, no matter the consequences.
And yes, of course at the start his goals had been pure, in his own way. He'd wanted to right the unfairness between Muggles and magicians by raising the worthy to power. The first time he'd killed to further his goal and his immortality had even been conflicting, almost painful. But his hunger had slowly grown, and twisted his ideals. He'd always thought during the first war that he couldn't go back, that he would have to give up on his craving if he wanted to realise his original goals... and that had sadly been correct. After the second war had ended, in the years of peace, there was no place for monsters anymore. But he was not some heroic leader. He was the Heir of Slytherin, who got restless at the thought of letting people live.
With a sickly green flash, it was over, and he stared intently at the fearful eyes as life left them. Instantly after, Harry gasped and stabilised himself against a nearby wall as the images of what would have been passed his mind's eye. Marvolo only got some incomprehensible flashes, but it was enough to know that the girl would have overthrown everything they had worked so hard to build up.
''Come, let's go back before someone discovers her,'' Harry spoke. Marvolo cast a last, satisfied glance at the corpse and dissolved the wards he'd put up over the street the moment the girl had set foot on the pavement. Having done his part, Marvolo handed the Death Stick back to its real owner, his thirst sated for now. He'd be able to deal with a few boring weeks before it would start gnawing again. It usually took longer than that for a new kill to arrive, but it would do for now.
Strange, at the start he had found the arrangement slightly demeaning, and only agreed since he saw no easier way to get what he wanted. Harry was a tool, and he himself was being used by Harry... but he had gotten better at ignoring that fact. Would he really survive eternity living like this, ruling over a peaceful country, guiding the next generation of witches and wizards, only now and then getting a slight relief? He'd already gotten tired of the rows of submissive and fearful followers, and only Harry kept him sane during those times. Perhaps it was time to do something else entirely...
''Let us return,'' he agreed, holding out his arm. Even long after Harry had learned to apparate, both of them preferred it like this. Feeling the weight of his husband in his arms, Marvolo swirled around and left behind the scene of their crime.
''It's a relief to play with you,'' Hermione spoke. ''Rook to C5.'' Her move made Harry groan when he realised he'd made a stupid mistake.
''Why, because I'm so bad at this that you always win?'' he asked humorously.
His friend let out a hearty laugh. ''I don't always win. But you don't either. Ron got frustrated by how bad I am and prefers to play with the High Minister.'' Harry had long given up on getting Hermione to stop calling his husband that. No matter how hard he had tried, his husband was on a different level of society than his friends were. They would never have comfortable family dinners together with friends... Well, it was something Harry happily gave up to be with the brilliant man.
The game continued, and as they went on and Hermione wordlessly stirred her tea, a frown appeared on her face, a very typical expression Harry had learned to recognise well over the span of their friendship. It was a frown that had nothing to do with the concentrated look she usually wore during their chess games, and that told Harry that dark thoughts clouded her mind.
''Do you have trouble with Ron again?'' he carefully asked. Honestly, he had no clue why he two had remained together for so long, and still would not separate despite the many fights. Their rows seemed to occur every other day, even more frequently than when they had been teenagers. It wasn't that they hadn't grown up, but both were just too different to fit perfectly together and be that close to each other every single day. Hermione had difficulties accepting how casually Ron dealt with emotions and how jealous he had become again of her once she'd risen to a higher position, and Ron could not deal with Hermione's way of caring too much for causes that would not change anyway, and her obsession with perfection. Truth be told, Harry could only handle both of their negative sides because he was only their best friend, and not in a romantic relationship with them. Probably Hermione would have fitted a bit better together with him than Ron would have, but a long-lasting marriage was also something in which she would drive him certainly nuts.
Neither of them ever admitted to making a mistake in marrying the wrong person though, not even to Harry, no matter how much they complained about each other's wrongdoings, so Harry just rolled with it, tried to listen and help where he could. ''It's not that this time,'' Hermione spoke after a while, surprising and mildly intriguing him. There weren't many other topics that usually troubled the woman so much that she would grow silent instead of enthusiastically trying to solve whatever problem she had. Hermione sighed and elaborated: ''I feel trouble coming up. The peace this country has had until now has been so prosperous, but I fear it may come to an end soon. Several sources from inside and outside the Law Enforcement Department have informed me that unrest is brewing overseas. A wizard there has been gathering people around him in a way that reminds me of tales of how the High Minister used to in his early days. He is very anti-Voldemort and uses the influence he is gaining to act strictly against any law the High Minister has enforced here in the past, to ensure those will never be acted out in mainland Europe.''
His friend gave an expectant look after she finished giving her information. ''I heard of something like that from Marvolo,'' Harry admitted. ''But neither of us took it very seriously. Marvolo confirmed that it is definitely not a new Dark Lord waiting for an opportunity to try and snatch power away. He's more of a Light type, and I can't believe this guy, who is supposedly in his twenties, would form a larger threat than Dumbledore used to be. What was his name again...''
''Hector Naymin,'' Hermione promptly answered. ''And yes, I know he is Light, but I would not be so quick to dismiss the threat he poses. Dumbledore had more experience and more power maybe, but he was an eccentric man with also many enemies in his own country. Naymin is charismatic and knows how to collect allies. He has a career in politics, unlike Dumbledore who tried to stay out of that and do his own thing, in turn gaining animosity from the government. In my opinion, we should take him seriously. Also, he's attempting to use the story you fabricated about the High Minister creating another philosopher stone against you, and has already pointed out the major flaws in it towards large groups of influential people.''
Harry bit his lip, having thought it might become a problem. ''In what way is he trying to discredit that story?'' he asked.
''Well, for one, everyone knew Flamel still aged normally, and neither you nor the High Minister do. That makes you instantly suspicious of using different, most likely forbidden magic to gain eternal youth.'' And accusing silence hung in the air. His immortality had always been a taboo topic between Harry and his friends, since Harry could give no information about how both he and his husband had achieved it.
''Look, Hermione... I don't care how much people believe in it. Yes, it sucks that a guy like Naymin is pointing out the obvious flaws and making people doubt us, but they have no definite proof. The whole point of this story was that we needed an explanation, and this is the only feasible one we could give and hope to be publically accepted. The only other known method of immortality is Vampirism, and that certainly isn't magic that would make the people happy. If we would have spread that story around instead, Marvolo would not have been able to hold the country for a single week without being forced out of office. And no, for the thousandth time, it really isn't Vampirism, for neither of us, no matter how similar the symptoms look. I still do age too, just slowly. or do I still look fifteen to you?'' Hermione sat back with a stubborn look on her face. ''I don't want to endanger you by telling my secret, and I don't want to endanger my husband by telling anyone of his, so please stop trying to make me spill the methods we used. It's not as if you have any interest of becoming immortal yourself, do you?''
''Heavens no,'' she said, scrunching up her face and shaking her head, making bushy hair fly into all directions. ''It just kills me to know that you have knowledge I cannot obtain. I even snuck into the Department of Mysteries, but to no avail.''
''Hermione!'' Harry sternly said, not having thought she'd do something as risky as that. While she had a protected status due to her service to Marvolo, Muggleborns were sadly still punished more frequently and harsher than those born into magical families. If anyone had caught her snooping around there, even she as a respected lawyer would not be let off easily.
''Nevermind that, and alright, I'll stop asking about your secrets. My point still stands that it can be used against you if Naymin indeed tries to convince people that you're vampires. And even if he doesn't, you can't just leave him running around, can you?''
''That Marvolo did not perceive him as an immediate threat does not mean that he agrees with people slandering his name or trying to go against his wishes. I doubt Naymin will live very long'' What he didn't tell her was that he had other reasons to suspect exactly that. Naymin came from Croatia and tried to spread his influence over southern Europe, the exact region Marvolo had set his eyes on. Britain alone had become too boring, apparently, and only joining in Harry's hunts was not enough anymore for Marvolo's thirst for action, fear and blood. It had only been a matter of time, Harry supposed. Personally, he was against another war, for he knew how horrible it had been to be forced into one and lose so many people he cared about. Still, he would not stop the man he loved, for he had seen with his own eyes the good that had come forth from that war. Their society was by no means flawless, he admitted that much, but he'd seen that the general happiness had gone up in both magical and Muggle society, and due to the breaking of the statute of secrecy, magic could be used to fix most major problems in the country too, whether it was an epidemic or heavy storms.
''I hope you're right... I feel awful wishing a person dead, but I don't want Britain to get messed up again. It was horrible coming from a peaceful life, and then having the revelation that I was a witch be overshadowed by the fact that the world I wanted to try and belong to was at war, with the people I loved being possible unknowing victims of it. I am very glad for that the Pureblooded ideologies were lessened so much and that our Lord found that it was better not to cause too much animosity between small groups within the magical community.''
''So you stopped your fight for equality?''
''Of course not!'' Hermione was on full offense now. ''And you shouldn't sound so nonchalant about it either! It's still horrible that Muggles are treated by magicians as second-tier citizens, and having even one Muggle parent instantly lowers one's chances of a good job. Since most of the schools, even Hogwarts, have a Pureblood staff, Muggleborns also have it a lot harder there. I'm one of the lucky few who was able to gain a high position because of my past and contacts. Most don't have those options, so I need to be there for those people.''
''I do think that it's a goal worth striving for... but you know that I can't.''
''Like hell you can't.''
Harry snorted. ''My husband is the High Minister of Britain, and I am only a Quidditch player. No matter how much I may disagree with him and discuss at home things that I think are problematic, I can never oppose him in any public way. Do you realise how much that would discredit him? No Hermione, I do try to sway his opinions, but I'm not going to risk the press trying to make sensational news over fights we might be having. Also, while we are both equal in our relationship, I am not the one who ever wanted to lead a country, and I certainly don't hold his political power, nor do I want to. I'm sorry, I know you want me to help you with your rallies and campaigns, but I won't, for the reasons I just mentioned.''
''I think they're weak reasons,'' the woman huffed. ''You cannot fall from grace as long as he accepts you, and since you share each other's thoughts and are eternally stuck with each other, I doubt that will ever change. You also haven't cared about the press in any other instance, so I call you a liar, Harry James Potter. The only reason you won't help me is because you don't care more for the rights of people you don't know than for your husband's opinion. You're blinded by love and don't want to admit that he has grave faults, hypocrisy being one of them. No, I won't apologise for that. I don't care if I get thrown into prison like all those other people who voiced their opinions and disappeared. I'm not going to force you to do anything you don't like, but please be at least open and honest about it. I've known you for most of our lives, Harry, and you'll always be my best friend... still, I sadly can't say that you changed for the better.''
Hermione ticked her spoon on the side of the teacup with a loudness that showed her annoyance. Harry tried not to let her words hurt him, while at the same time he knew those words rang true. Back when it had all started and Marvolo had shown up in his bedroom and taken him away from the Dursleys, Harry had thrown away what he had seen until then as his duty, not because he'd already known that the Dark wasn't actually as evil as it had been portrayed, but because he'd been selfish and valued his own happiness more than that of those around him.
Honestly, he didn't know why others thought he had a hero complex. He'd gone after the philosopher's stone because it had been a thrilling adventure and cause he'd wanted to one-up Snape. He'd gone after Ginny because he cared for Ron and his family, for no other reason than that they'd been good to him before. He'd tried to hunt down Sirius for personal vengeance, and then saved the man to instead get revenge on Wormtail for his parents, another personal goal. The Triwizard Tournament had only been to stay alive, and everything he'd done in the war afterwards to please the man he loved. Regarding that, he had no idea why Hermione said he had no changed for the better... in fact, he didn't think he had changed at all since then.
''If you don't have anything more to say on that topic, I suppose we should finish up our game.''
Harry agreed, unable to voice his thoughts in any way that would make her have a more positive outlook of him. She was right. He was not a person who would risk his own happiness for strangers. Maybe he might have done so once... although he could not recall a time like that, if he was honest. To his defense however, it was also true what he had said: on multiple occasions he had tried and succeeded to push Marvolo into being more lenient on Muggleborns, and to protect their basic rights. Still, not wishing to get into a lengthy argument with his friend, he kept silent about it, knowing that Hermione was aware of his backstage support even if he would not take to the streets holding up signs. It made him at least better than the majority of the country who did absolutely nothing about the situation apart from nodding along when it was mentioned.
When he looked at Hermione sitting in the seat facing him, her face all worried creases that became deeper every year, framed by greying hair, he thought that perhaps he would have another talk with Marvolo again.
The bedroom was far dustier than it had been in better times. Harry's favourite house-elves had both died, and he did not like the one that currently did the cleaning, so often he sent the creature away again to instead do gardening work, which she was better at. Harry did not mind the dust as much as Marvolo did, mainly due to always having hated how spotless his old house in Privet drive had been. Thus, before crashing on the bed, he'd only flapped the sheets a bit and then curled up on top of the blankets, ignoring Marvolo's annoyed expression.
''Trying to see how good you look?'' Harry asked, propping himself up on one elbow and peering at the newspaper in his husband's hands. A large picture of his white, serpentine face was on the front page, looking haughtily down on every reader in the country. Marvolo rolled his eyes and shoved the paper in Harry's free hand. Sitting up and making himself comfortable by propping some pillows against his back, Harry started reading.
The Prophet: November 11th. 2085
Victory for our country!
Twenty-seven years it has been since Spain and France attacked our borders. Twenty-five since they were joined by Italy, Portugal and Croatia. Today however, we mark the day on which the last of those countries has capitulated and been added to our ever-growing New British Empire.
After losing most of their allies, Italy and Croatia kept up their violent attacks for a full four years under the leadership of their self-proclaimed 'Light Lord', also known as Hector Naymin, a wizard who has been compared to Dumbledore on many accounts, and by some even to Merlin himself. Using a combination of political power, intelligence and magical strength, the armies he raised were able to hold their own even fighting against most of Europe. The large amount of Veelas in those armies only added to its strength. That strength did not mean much in the end though, for both Naymin and his armies were finally defeated by our own saviour, Lord Voldemort, the Immortal Emperor. A stunning display of geological magic which reshaped the southern Alps led to Naymin's capture, and finally to his execution. Reliable sources claim to also have spotted the green-eyed demon on the battlefield, though no official statement has been released regarding this information. For more on the army structure, see page five. For more on the current border changes, see page six and seven.
''Since when did France and Spain attack us?'' Harry asked. ''And why did the Prophet give me another ridiculous nickname?It was hard enough to get rid of 'The boy who keeps living', that stupid play on words on my original 'title'. What's with the whole demon shit now?''
''People can forget a lot in nearly thirty years love, including who started a messy and complicated war. A whole new generation has grown up since the burning war began, and since most of it was not waged on our own core territory this time, it's easier to twist facts. It sounds better if we had to defend ourselves and then took their land as rightful claims of war rather than that we were the invaders, don't you think? And as for your nickname, I think it's one of the better ones. You should keep it before they revert to using worse ones.''
''Ugh.'' Harry threw the paper on the floor, not bothering to look at the rest of it. He was well-aware of army structures and border changes, since he had heard about it every day for the last quarter of a century. Now he had gained perfect immortality, Marvolo did not pass up on opportunities to have Harry on the battlefield beside him. Of course he could have refused, but sitting at home doing nothing was also not really his style. In a way, it had been interesting to fight again and see how much he had improved. He'd never seen any glory in war and death, and didn't now either, but he could not deny that he'd grown more indifferent to it over time. So many he knew had died already, and he had gotten to know so few other people to care about, that it bothered him a lot less when strangers turned to corpses. ''I'll stick with trying to get them to just call me by my name instead,'' he decided. ''I have the time, perhaps in the future some will listen.''
''You do that,'' the other sounded bored with the topic, and instead started stroking Harry's naked stomach. A shudder went through the younger man as cold fingers grazed his skin, the intention of the gesture instantly sending sparks down his spine. Harry's hips made only the slightest, involuntary movement, and a second later his husband was on top of him, this lips curled into a devilish smile, fully red eyes staring down hungrily. The man watched intently to see every miniscule change in Harry's expression when Marvolo grinded their hips together and closed a hand around a muscular throat.
''Kiss me,'' Harry begged, struggling to breathe. He got his wish in the form of sharp teeth that sank into his shoulder and a tongue that lapped up the blood after. Groaning in pain and trying not to show how much it turned him on, Harry tried to rebuke and sharply turned his face, freeing his neck and biting the hand that had held him down. Marvolo only laughed, instead of drawing away pushing his fingers past Harry's teeth to rub the tongue, choking the other further.
Sadist, Harry thought, unable to speak and trying to take gulps of air in between coughs.
~You know it,~ The assault on his senses continued as if the man had mouths and hands everywhere at once, and Harry realised that magic was being used, pouring out from Marvolo's pores to wrap around them and stimulate the nerves further. Harry twisted and turned to get rid of the heat that was rolling off his body in waves, but he was caged by the hard arms of his lover and could not escape.
All of a sudden, his lungs were free to suck in air. Slightly dizzy and confused, Harry tried to sit up, but Marvolo's hands had only moved to cup his face and forced him down into the pillows again. ~You look absolutely gorgeous, my dear,~ the man muttered, obsessively stroking his cheeks and sniffing his hair. ~Delectable…~ They both held still for a moment, basking in the other's presence, fully opening the link so every thought and desire was shown.
''If you wish for it so much.'' Harry answered to an unspoken thought, grinning. He switched their positions and with practised ease pushed Marvolo down at the same moment he started sucking the man's cock, relishing in the groans he received. The stiff flesh was warm in his mouth, and he tried his best to work down the shaft, licking and sucking, flicking his tongue over the tip and prodding the small opening. The member twitched as he coated it with saliva in preparation, and a strand still connected his flushed lips with the tip even as he withdrew and gave his husband a lust-filled stare.
Taking it as an invitation, Marvolo flipped Harry on his back and covered him again, slowly pushing in. Harry bit the pillows in pain at first as he adjusted, glad that the man wasn't so horny that he had instantly thrust in. Sharp nails dragged over the curve of his arse cheeks with just enough pressure not to break the skin to spur him on, so Harry started moving slowly, making Marvolo pull out almost completely before plunging back in, ever faster. Both men panted hard, Harry to try and keep it together so he wouldn't spill his load instantly over the sheets. The feeling of being filled so completely by his husband's erection was something he craved even at the moment he had it.
During one of the times Marvolo was in so deep that Harry could feel his lover's balls rubbing against his own from behind, the man reached around and started stroking Harry's member, pulling the skin over the tip with fast, jerking movement that matched their pace. It took him all of his willpower to not give in to the sweet bliss of release just yet. With difficulty, Harry tried to get the other to move out completely, and for a moment he admired the large, twitching cock that was glistening with both their juices. ''Don't make me wait,'' the other growled, narrowing his eyes.
Of course, Harry didn't listen, moving torturously slow to get them both in the position he wanted, Marvolo sitting with his legs wide on the bed, and the younger man lowering himself on the waiting, warm cock. He held on tightly to his husband as the other drove in impatiently, and thankfully he'd already been stretched enough before for it to not hurt this time. Letting his sweaty forehead rest on his lover's shoulder, Harry rode out the waves of pleasure, moving ever faster until the rubbing became unbearable and he could no longer hold the pressure that had been building up in his lower regions. Marvolo came only a second before he did, and it was the last drop Harry needed to fall off the edge himself, spurting his semen over the white, naked chest of his love.
Groaning from the instant exhaustion that followed, Harry collapsed into his husband's arms and snuggled close. Turning his head slightly, he pressed his lips to the cold side of the soft neck his head had been resting against. ''Wonderful,'' Harry sighed. ''You are incredible.''
Marvolo untangled himself and spelled the bed and their bodies clean, with one arm lifting Harry up so the other came to lie on his chest. Harry did not wonder about that strength anymore, having figured a long time ago that Nagini probably weighed more than he did. The old snake was lying in the corner of the room, hardly ever moving anymore, and only still living because Marvolo had enhanced her brain and organs with magic to prevent them from failing, using the fact that a snake's body was less complicated than a human's. Still, both feared that she could let out her last breath any day now. Arzón, Harry's friend, had surely already passed away a long time ago. They had brought him finally to Brazil, as had been his wish, and Harry missed the snake dearly, even knowing he could not be alive anymore.
''Why do you always get such depressive thoughts after sex?'' Marvolo sighed, threading his hands through Harry's hair. ''It makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong.''
''As if you could ever do anything wrong even if you'd try,'' Harry snorted. ''So no, I'm just a depressive whiner at times.''
''Oh yes I know,'' The man replied, releasing a suffering sigh, earning him a glare.
''You're supposed to say something nice now.''
''I'm the Immortal Emperor. Last time I checked most emperors weren't known for their niceness.''
''You don't actually use the title though, do you? My Lord?''
The man hummed. ''Why would I waste the name I created for myself and got famous through? Official titles are nice, but to be called your highness would sound off even for me. I know I own the land and the people, the constant switching of titles would be obsolete on anything but paper. Nothing matters apart from my own knowledge of my abilities and skills.''
''Aren't you humble.''
Marvolo's laugh echoed off the walls, and Harry basked in this warm side of his husband that only he was ever able to see.
''Any regular human being would have long grown disconnected and bored with the world,'' the man mused, flexing his fingers, which after more than a century had finally started showing signs of wrinkles. ''Am I that abnormal now? My aunt and uncle must be happy. They were right in the end to call me a freak.'' He spoke with the air of a person reminiscing about the long-gone dream of his youth rather than about the nightmare his childhood had been due to his family.
Marvolo looked at his husband with a frown. The Dursleys had always stayed a touchy subject, with some days Harry ranting on and on about them angrily, and other days snapping at so much of a mention of his childhood. They had left deep scars indeed. Taking Harry away from those Muggles was the best deed the Dark Lord had done in his entire life, he thought. ''Think not of them,'' he said in the end, stroking Harry's head. ''Also, we are no regular people, it's true. That does not make us worse than others though, on the contrary. We are above all those who live out their short, boring lives. We've accomplished great things: reformed a country, brought two different kinds of people together, brought forth a magical revolution... And even after all this time, my plans are re-structuring how the public, including magicians, see magic.''
''Indeed you have,'' Harry spoke, sounding distant, staring into nothing as he sipped his wine. A group of noble-men and women danced past their chairs on the ballroom floor, enjoying themselves and paying the couple far less mind than they usually would have, caught up in their feast. Marvolo took in his husband's appearance, his hair still black as always, since Harry thought the current hair fashion for men, dyed silver and slicked back, looked absurd. Instead, he had let a slight beard grow. It had taken him far longer than it should have been since he'd been able to do so, and Harry was always proud of the facial hair he had now. ''It's nearly midnight, my love. Would you like to go see the fireworks?'' the man inquired.
Marvolo considered it for a moment, but then said: ''Not really. Nobody ever beat the firework shows of those Weasley twins, I doubt it would be able to entertain me. I'd rather toast and drink together, with something stronger than this,'' the Dark Lord swirled the liquid in his glass round and round, then downed it in a single gulp. He was too old by now to care about appearances. One of the Malfoy spawn seemed to have heard his request and instantly hurried towards him with a bottle of Throatpiercer, a Goblin-brewed liquor that got popular in recent years since Goblins had branched out from only banking to discover they were good at creating more than weapons, jewelry and money. He shortly thanked the man as their glasses were filled, thankful for having still such an excellent memory that he could remember everyone's names. ''What do you think of your life?'' he inquired, the young man instantly becoming nervous and fidgety, most likely not having expected any questions.
''It's... it's very desirable, my Lord. I finished my education at Hogwarts and am now studying at Wanderford University, where I am majoring in Transfiguration and Animation, with Necromancy as my minor. I was hoping to do my final thesis and practise part about the creation of Inferi without actual dead bodies, so with golems and homunculi instead…'' Malfoy broke off, looking uncertain if he should continue with his rant.
Feeling in a rather good mood today, he offered advice he might otherwise have kept to himself: ''Remember that anything is possible with magic, so your theoretical part should work out fine if you can get the formulas right. If you're not working with actual dead people, you don't have to bother much with arithmacy either. Runes should be able to hold it all together, although I'll let you figure out yourself how to infuse golems with the proper amount of dark animation magic to get them to act like Inferi.''
''A good starting point though,'' Harry cut in, leaning forwards, ''Is to see the differences in how both are usually created and act. Both golems and homunculi are usually controlled directly after all, while Inferi are infused with magic, then given commands, and act on their own.''
''Thank you for that invaluable advise,'' Malfoy said, bowing deeply. ''I highly appreciate it.''
Harry waved his hand. ''You can use us as source references,'' he jokingly said. ''Maybe it'll score you a few more points. First-hand research by interviewing and such, I heard the university makes a big deal out of that.'' Marvolo shrugged his right shoulder at that to show he didn't mind, making Malfoy's eyes go wide and stutter rather ungracefully. He waved the boy off and observed the elaborately decorated ballroom, which was packed full with a colourful array of people. Waging war mostly abroad and taking in so many refugees had given rise to an even quicker growth of the magical population, also now those from the British mainland could freely travel to the islands since it all belonged to the same country.
The crowd gathered in the middle of the room now, since twelve 'o clock was drawing near. It was a sight to behold, since the current fashion came largely from influence of former Spanish territory, making for bright dress robes that partially looked more like ball gowns for the women. As the chime of the clock started, the crowd rose their wands, firing sparks in all colours from the tip. ''A new century,'' the Dark Lord sighed, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs. ''Let us make it an interesting one again.''
His head felt strange, as if he was split into two people. There was the Harry before and the Harry after. After nearly all those he cared for had passed him by, moved on. After even some of their children had left this world already due to wars, illness or accidents. He'd clung too much to his 'old' life, he knew that, but it was something too late to change. While they'd grown old, Harry had remained at his friends' sides, ignoring their timelines growing further and further apart. He could ignore it no longer, for the last of his friends, Luna, had left him this morning too. Her long white hair had made her pale skin look dead already the past few years, and had only been countered by her large, dreamy eyes. Harry could not forget how that stare had locked on his face, couldn't forget her smile, which had finally been engraved on her eternal face.
Of course, their lineages had continued. Harry was one of the few people among his close friends to not have fathered any children. Only Fred and George had not either, for while they had no qualms about their relationship, they did not wish to risk getting a child out of incest. Looking at how inbred most Pureblood families were and the results that sometimes had, Harry had fully supported that decision. They had considered their brother's children as their own though, both from Bill and Ron. Only Percy had kept his distance ever since the first rift with his family, one neither side had wanted to mend. Harry though had not kept in touch with later generations. It was not the same, and he did not wish for replacements of his friends either. It would not be fair to any party involved. Perhaps that was also why Harry had not made any new friends in all these years too. The only people he saw now were reminders of those he had known long ago.
He and Marvolo had discussed children of their own on multiple occasions, but had never found a good time for it. Harry had held both his jobs, although Quidditch was getting more difficult to manage since so much press coverage of his team was about how good he still looked and what his secret of eternal youth was. Death kept him locked in his prime to not influence his abilities as an assassin. Not that he complained about that generally. Marvolo on his side was busy ruling. Since he'd left the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts in the hand of other people, he'd travelled across the territory he had obtained after the wars, for it had not stayed at one. Now his empire had expanded from Britain and the Mediterranean area to encompass most of Europe, and the man had not been bored anymore for a while. His new goal was a single united country, or world domination, however one would call it. And since there would always be rebellions against a goal like that, Marvolo had enough to do, finally finding what made him truly content: striving for more power, always more power.
A resigned sigh passed his lips as loneliness filled his soul, only abating slightly when Marvolo's mind touched his from somewhere far away. I need you, he thought. It was selfish, he knew, but he could not help it. Only one person he cared for was left on this world today, and he could not deal with being apart from that person right now.
His answer came in the form of a green flash of fire in the middle of the room. Fireplaces had grown out of fashion even in the Wizarding world by now, and portable floo was in common use, though often misused since it was so much more difficult to regulate. Their own fireplaces were also mere decoration now, since none would think of using it as a method of transportation anymore. It was odd that something that had been introduced to him as deeply magical when he'd been a child, had fallen out of use not too long after and been replaced as if it had only been an old-fashioned invention that needed a technology upgrade.
The fire faded, giving Marvolo's robes a green shine as they flickered up a last time before disappearing. Harry did not wait a single second before throwing himself into the other's arms and pouring out his grief. ''They're all gone,'' he spoke, his voice raw from crying. He hadn't thought that he would have cared this much. He'd had ages to come to terms with this moment, and most of his friends had passed away years prior, but it was still too sudden, too final.
His husband held him, not giving any words of condolences or wisdom. He couldn't, Harry knew, for as his own heart felt like it was being sliced into tiny pieces, Marvolo's was not wavering in the slightest. Well, that is what he got from trying to get comfort from one who had never lost a friend and did not know how that would feel. The one person his love cared about would never die. ''I don't know how to move on,'' Harry admitted. ''I wished that I could have your incredible ability to just shut my emotions off when I please…''
''I thought you disliked that about me?'' Marvolo inquired in confusion.
''Well, I dislike it when you do it, but I also envy you for it.''
''You make no sense.''
''I don't care,'' Harry sighed and closed his stinging eyes, a weariness settling down on his shoulders that had not been there before. In a way, he perhaps had accepted all the inevitable deaths, and that was why rather than being upset about it, he was only sad and tired. A dangerous empty feeling spread out over his body, and he took a step away from Marvolo to sit down again, trying not to feel anymore.
A slap to his face woke him up instantly, and he looked up in shock. In all the years they had been together, the only hits he'd taken had been during sex. ''You idiot,'' his husband said, gazing down disapprovingly. ''After all this time, after you've been in my mind more often than I wanted you to, you still think I like not being able to care so often? Why do you think I gave in to my feelings for you? I finally felt something again, and it felt good. I won't allow you to be so stupid as to throw your own feelings away. I may not know anything about friendship, but you taught me how to care for a person, and to at least fear loss. Would you want me to quietly banish you from my thoughts if you were to ever die after all, or would you want me to feel, no matter how much it hurts? I know what your bleeding heart Gryffindor friends would want!''
''I…'' Harry didn't get any further than that, not knowing what to say. The sting of the slap had thrown off the fog that he'd tried to let into his head, which brought on the cursed feelings again. ''I suppose you're right,'' he finally admitted. ''Though I'll have you know that Luna was not a Gryffindor,'' Harry stubbornly added.
''Come,'' One of the familiar pale and slender hands was held in front of him, and without a moment's hesitation he took it, only regretting that decision when he felt the pull of apparition.
''It would be great if you could warn me,'' Harry coughed. ''Also, I preferred it when you had anti-apparition wards as security around the house. While walking out of the gate to apparate used to be annoying when it rained, at least you couldn't surprise me like that. What happened to you paranoia?''
''Our current security wards are fine as they are. I didn't spend years developing the perfect shields only to not make use of them after.'' Harry did not answer, for he had seen where they had landed: the village of Hogsmeade, nearly a century after he had last set foot in it. A warm feeling filled his chest, for he recognised it all: from the weathered wooden shop signs to the high and pointy houses. The village had withstood the cruel teeth of time and remained the same, just like Harry, and just like the castle that loomed in the distance, dark grey against the cloudy sky.
''Why here?'' he wondered out loud, but Marvolo was moving already, moving with ease through the streets, for the few people who were shopping hastily moved out of the way and bowed for their Lord. Finally he stood still in front of one of the two inns in town, the least likely one Marvolo would like to step foot in. The Hog's head had been home to the last living Dumbledore, and a good friend of Dumbledore had managed a few years after. Finally, it had been bought up by the Patil sisters. Apparently they had often snuck to the Hog's head together with Lavender in their later years at Hogwarts, after the battle when they'd been allowed at the school again by their parents. The three of them seemed to have loved the 'ominous atmosphere' of the pub and they'd also heard it was where Professor Trelawney had been hired. Her inability to predict her own death had not held the sisters off their admiration for the madwoman. Now, the Hog's head was run by Padma's children and grandchildren, having lost most of that original creepiness and filthiness that Harry had associated the inn with, and gotten more of a family-friendly feeling to it.
Harry had to give it to the staff: they were far more professional than most when Marvolo and he walked over the doorstep, not falling into either an awkward silence or coming up to them with overdone admiration. Their polite questions about drinks were waved off however, and Harry waited as his husband held a short whispered conversation with the woman who currently led the business, Cara. A few short, understanding nods on her part later, and Marvolo led Harry further to the back and through a door that had not been there before.
''I discovered this right after the first war,'' the man finally spoke. ''Dumbledore hid it well, having given it to his brother when figuring he did not need it at Hogwarts anymore.'' Curious to see what 'it' meant, Harry gazed into the dimly-lit room which they had entered after descending uneven stone steps into a sort of cellar. At the back was a tall, rectangular object covered by a sheet. Slowly, Harry approached it, finding the contrast odd between how it was hidden away and at the same time the only object in this room that pulled attention towards it. Behind Harry, Marvolo lifted his hand and made a motion with his fingers, magically pulling the sheet off and revealing the gleaming surface underneath.
Decorative brass curls framed polished glass, the words edged into it finally making sense to Harry now he was not eleven anymore. Lifting his hand, he let his palm rest on the side of the mirror of Erised. ''So this is where it went… I feared it had been destroyed. I can't recall anymore if Dumbledore told me anything about its fate.'' Harry turned around to his husband. ''Why did you bring me here?''
Silently, the man gestured for the other to come closer, and when Harry was back at his side, Marvolo turned him around so they stood back-to chest, both facing the large mirror. Wary, knowing how dangerous the object could be, Harry gazed into it, pulled by curiousity. Would he see his parents again? Or his lost friends? But as much as he stared, he saw…
''Us. There is only us…'' Harry stated, confused. Was the thing broken? No, when he looked closer he saw that their reflections differed ever so slightly.
''I know. Me too.'' Their hands found each other's and entwined so they mirrored their image perfectly now.
''The happiest man on earth would look into the mirror and see only himself, exactly as he is,'' Harry quoted, repeating the words he'd heard a lifetime ago when first finding the mirror, spoken by the man he'd come to regard as his first worst enemy. ''But I don't understand… I just lost everyone else who was dear to me, and you wish to rule the world, not satisfied with what you have now.''
''Yes, that is certainly true. You miss your friends, I wish for the world… but love, those are merely regular desires. Other people, other land, it all means nothing without having each other. What you truly wish for, your deepest desire-''
~-Is right here, and will always be.~
So, that's the end then.. It was quite odd to post this chapter, knowing I will no longer be writing on this story, and that all the unused plot points I had for it at one point or the other won't be implemented anymore. I sadly did not manage my goal of a story of over 500,000 words, missing that mark by only a few thousand, but recently I discovered that this story is larger than both the Order of the Phoenix and Prisoner of Azkaban together, so I guess that's close enough.
I do not currently have any other plans for fanfiction stories, as I am concentrating on trying to write my own fantasy/sci-fi novel. But who knows how long I can resist this fantastic pairing. If I do write more, it will most likely be on the account elfinmyth though, where I have my non-mature fics. Requests for short stories will also be considered if you have a plot line I can get into, as long as the pairing is HPLV :) Just send me a PM or leave a review I can reply to.
Please leave a review if you enjoyed the story, it is much appreciated!
Bets luck to all of you writers out there, I'll still be devouring fanfiction often, I'm sure.
Hopefully till next time,