Opening his eyes, he blinked up at the whitewashed ceiling of the hospital wing and sighed. He'd seen it so many times over the years at Hogwarts that he was now familiar with every chink and crack in the ancient stone. A face came between him and the ceiling, no surprise there. It seemed like he spent the end of every year in Madam Pomfrey's care, with Dumbledore there when he awoke.
"Hello Harry," the Headmaster greeted him, smiling – a real, happy smile such as he had not seen on the Wizard's face in ages. Dumbledore's expression seemed so out of place with recent events that Harry's brows knit together in bemusement, but as he did so, he noticed something strange. The skin on his forehead felt oddly loose, as if it had been stretched and released. He pulled up his wand hand but found it wrapped in bandages and shooting dull pains down his arm. Trying the other one, he discovered it undamaged and raised it to his temples in a habitual gesture to rub at the scar, only to stop in confusion. The mark that had identified him to the Wizarding world for seven years was gone. He looked at Dumbledore in bewilderment and saw his smile broaden into a grin. Dazed, he asked,
"Is he really dead?"
"I am certain of it," was the reply. No cryptic remarks, no mysterious comments, just for the first time in forever, a simple straightforward, 'yes.' When Voldemort had disappeared that first time, many had been willing, even eager to believe he was gone for good, and Dumbledore had been one of the very few who had not dropped his guard, who had been the voice of caution in a community bent on celebration. For him to say now with such confidence that Voldemort was indeed gone was infinitely reassuring.
Closing his eyes, he felt all the stress that had built up inside him since hearing Trelawney's prophecy ebbing away, leaving him with sweet relief. Neither can live while the other survives. He'd taken it to mean that he must kill or be killed, but now he knew that he had never really lived before, he had only survived under a shadow, as had his enemy. He was free to live now, really and truly live without fear. He'd been strong for as long as was necessary, but now he let the tears fall, filled with a profound sense of release. He was free to dream again, to plan for life after Voldemort. He'd never been certain he would survive, only that he had to, because if he did not, the world he left behind would not either. As if a dam had broken, he began to weep in earnest, the tears running in salty trickles down his face and into his collar, and he made no effort to stop them. Exhausted, he soon slipped into a dreamless sleep without potions or spells, the first such since Cedric had been killed and Voldemort had returned.