A/N: Okay, guys, I know I kept you waiting. After over a year of writers (or creative in general) block, I've finally managed to complete this. Considering that I had to get back into the story and the characters, this chapter was a bit rocky to say the least. My Beta supported me greatly in making it all flow together. Thanks.
Since I got a lot of messages telling me that this chapter won't show up, this is the second try...
That being said, stay healthy.
Now on with the story...
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, apart from the plot and a character.
MoD2: Harry Potter, Keeper of Life
Chapter 7: Let it be over, once and for all!
Harry looked at John like he had just grown a second head.
"What!? After all of this...you don't want to go after him?"
"No, I want to kill him, right now. I know that we made a mistake by not acting sooner, but running into things too quickly might just as well cost us."
Harry wasn't so easily appeased.
"Right now he will still be weak, we can end this once and for all. And you want to fold your hands in your lap, AGAIN!? You're even worse than Dumbledore!"
John shook his head. It hurt to hear Harry say that.
"What is it Harry? Do you really want to go after Voldemort, just because you think he is weakened? Or is it just this weird thought that if you kill him everything will be right again?"
The elder Potter sighed before continuing.
"Revenge… It won't make the world become whole again. It won't make it any easier. All it will do is make you a bit less sensitive to it, make you numb inside. Now give me your invisibility cloak."
This caught Harry off guard. "Wha...What do you want that for?"
With a tired look and an attempted smile, John gave him an answer he hadn't expected.
"Because, I'll go there and take a look around."
It had taken John quite a bit of convincing, but finally Harry had agreed to stay behind. He then had teleported to the rough location that had been marked on the map and landed on the outskirts of a peaceful looking village.
What immediately caught his attention was the heavily warded manor house atop a hill. Having no other lead, he made his way over there. He teleported to the outside wall visible from his former location. Looking out over the town, he saw the manor overlooked the local graveyard.
'Were this a movie, this would be too cliché!'
Despite not feeling particularly humorous, he had to chuckle a bit while he went around the manor to the front door. Silently he opened the ancient wooden portal and snuck inside. Under the cover of his invisibility cloak, he checked the pendant and found that the newly made horcrux had to be close by.
Guided by the glow, he maneuvered the halls of the decrepit house. He came across two other people that had seemingly taken up residence in it. Ignoring them for now, he crept closer to where he suspected the horcrux to be. Finally, John entered a room that was too big for the house. Its dimensions had been stretched beyond comprehension.
In the center of the room a big ornate wooden chair had been placed and wrapped around the chair was a snake. Getting closer to the center, he found the glow increasing. Towards the walls it got duller.
'He wouldn't… Oh, you idiot!' John couldn't help but think as he realized that the horcrux was the snake.
Looking at the armrest, where the snake had placed its head, he slipped on Ragnok's gauntlet. Throwing off the cloak, he swung his fist downward, nailing the beast in the head. The spikes that adorned the ancient piece of armor piercing the skull of the snake. With an unearthly sound, the skin of the serpent split open and the horcrux fled its container.
Due to being created so recently, it had not yet stabilized and the piece of soul disintegrated into the stale air of the room.
John concentrated on Death and sent a quick thank you, not really thinking it would be received. It was like he was hearing a low chuckle in his mind for a moment, before he felt a tingle in his back and let himself fall to the ground. Rolling he picked up the invisibility cloak and threw it over himself, while a green curse streaked past.
Concentrating his magic, the man that had attacked him suffered a stroke and collapsed. Hearing quickly approaching footfalls, John teleported away.
A couple of miles away inside a muggle home, Voldemort smiled at the surrounding carnage. He enjoyed being back. Looking around, he saw the torture of the parents, the defiling of the children, and it was balm on his dark soul.
He just considered joining in on the fun, the eldest daughter looking particularly juicy, when he felt like someone had kicked him in the chest. It was like ice, sliding down his throat into his lungs. He felt paralyzed and something was trickling down his nose slits. Forcing his hand up, he found it was blood. By the amount that coated his hand, he was hemorrhaging massively.
He wanted to say something, or disapparate, but before he was able to, his eyes rolled back and his body hit the ground. Somewhere, far far away, he heard his followers cry out. He wanted to reassure them, tell them he just had to rest for a bit, but he couldn't.
Then the world faded to black.
In the Potter home, Harry was pacing restlessly. He had wanted to accompany John. Killing Voldemort was imperative now. Every person killed by that madman, while they just sat by, would be on his conscience now.
After what seemed like a small eternity, John teleported back into the living room. He took the invisibility cloak off and undid the gauntlet.
"What happened!?" Harry wanted to know.
"I destroyed the Horcrux. He hid it inside a snake. I killed it and… one of his followers as well." John hesitated at the last bit.
"He attacked me with a killing curse, so I responded accordingly."
The girls standing off to the side looked a bit troubled, but quickly caught themselves again. Harry just winced for a second, before his face became hard.
'It's truly war now.' John thought full of sorrow. The one thing he didn't want for Harry. It probably was illusory to think he could get out of this without having to see too much carnage.
Harry still had a hard set on his jaw as he asked about their other target.
"What about Voldemort?"
John just shook his head.
"No, he wasn't there. But he probably noticed the destruction of his Horcrux. Without a body, his soul would have probably passed on by now, but since the rest of it is inside a body now…" He left the sentence there.
From her position on the stairs, Luna was curious.
"But still, he shouldn't have much left. Maybe it WAS enough to kill him."
John shook his head again.
"No, as long as his body is integral enough to serve as a true anchor to this realm, and sadly we have to think so, his last shred of soul will remain."
He was pensive for a moment, before his eyebrows raised.
"However, with as little as he has left, I don't think he will feel as splendid as he did a couple of minutes ago."
Sirius, with impeccable timing, chose this moment to enter from the kitchen. He was wearing fake reindeer antlers and carried a baking tray full of cookies.
John closed his eyes for a moment, it was the 24th… tomorrow would be Christmas. They had forgotten.
Dan, Emma and Xeno all looked at him like he had grown a second head.
"Fuck this! Tomorrow is Christmas and I almost forgot! All because of Horcruxes and possessions and … Fuck!"
Dan and Xeno were trying their hardest not to laugh, while Emma was looking like she wanted to reprimand him.
The past few days had been so high-strung and tense, not only had they forgotten about Christmas, but they also had bottled up quite a few emotions.
The children started to laugh, but it soon turned into them crying, latching on to each other.
Dan and Xeno laughed for a moment, Emma crying right away. Sirius tried to be cheerful for their sake, but Azkaban had left its own shadows on him. John, with tears and mirth in his eyes, hugged him, and he was able to release some of it at last.
A couple of hours later, the tired bunch had settled into the living room. Sirius' tray of cookies had been demolished and Xeno had made them all some hot chocolate that managed to lift their spirits some.
Harry still felt incredible guilt and responsibility over Cho's death. The girls had talked to him about it, while they had snuggled up on the couch. They told him that it was only Voldemort's fault for leaving the vile thing in a school full of children to be found. It helped a little, knowing that his family didn't blame him, but the healing cuts and bruises on John's face reminded him that her family might not.
Xeno and Dan were thinking along the same lines and had been since Cho had died. They thought that it could have been their daughters down there. Still they were firm that they would see all of this trough and that they all would be fine in the end. There was just this nagging sliver of doubt.
Emma was cuddling Bob the bunny. She had since they had entered the living room. She had been crying the hardest and the longest of them all. All the tensions and fears of the past few days, discharging in a maelstrom of emotions and tears.
John and Sirius sat on chairs they had gotten from the kitchen and talked quietly. Sirius had been through a lot these past years, first he lost his friends - his family, really - then he was wrongfully imprisoned for years.
Now he was just out and trying to get his life back together and was thrust in the middle of what seemed to become the second war.
Dusk had turned into night when John got up and told everyone to go to bed.
On their way to bed, everyone had their own thoughts and fears still lingering around them, but all wondered what Christmas would bring for them.
The dark lord, and would be conqueror of the world, Voldemort was not quite experiencing the Christmas he had hoped for. He was laying down in his cot, behind his throne room, where he had expected to rule over his subjects. At least Severus had returned to him and was trying to stabilize his condition.
He couldn't get up, not even lift his head, without risking heavy bleeding from his nose, eyes and mouth. The brews he got from the potions master soothed his symptoms, but they soon grew worse again.
Even without the dreaded blood, he couldn't lift his head for fear of the vertigo that would overcome him. He was afraid, but couldn't show it. He was afraid he might die soon.
As the 24th turned into the 25th, Tom Riddle could feel the bony hand of the Grim Reaper stretch its fingers out to him.
Christmas was a pleasant, albeit quiet, affair in the Potter household. Instead of exchanging gifts, they all cherished their family and loved ones. They sat in the living room in the evenings, talking, drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows over a magical fire.
John and Sirius had taken to levitating mistletoe over the kids whenever they stood close to each other. This yielded some admonishing looks from Dan and Xeno, though Xeno looked more constipated than angry. Fact was neither of the fathers wanted their daughter attached to a boy just yet, but both agreed that if they ever chose one, they would be glad if it were Harry. They could marry him, when they got to be 35 or so.
Slowly but surely, life returned into the House and while they still mourned Cho and the means by which she had passed, the pain started to ebb away.
Harry still took her death the hardest and woke from nightmares several times a night. But every time he woke, the girls were there for him and soothed his nerves.
It was after Christmas that John received a call that changed the mood again.
Minerva McGonagall was shaken to her core. Severus had just come by the castle and had told her of Voldemort's resurrection, as well as his current state. He had asked her to relay this news to the Potter's and hoped that they would be able to intervene before the Dark Lord became strong enough to use his wand again.
So she found herself taking one more long drink of whiskey before she used the mirror John Potter had given her.
"Hello Minerva, I hope the Christmas holidays at Hogwarts are quiet and calm."
"Oh yes, Hogwarts is calm and bright these days, but… well… V-Voldemort has returned."
She quickly held up her hands.
"I know this is bad news, but there is some hope as well. He is terribly weakened at the moment. He can't use magic, not even stand up straight. If he were not some type of monster, he would already be dead… Please use this moment to strike and bring an end to him..."
She picked up her glass and drank the rest in one go, not caring that John would see it.
"Minerva, we knew about this already. Matter of fact, I think we're responsible for the shape he's in. Did Severus tell you of his whereabouts?"
"They had to hide him away, lest one of his followers see him like this. Only the remaining members of the inner circle know of his condition. They brought him to Malfoy Manor, hid him somewhere in the house. Severus is brewing new potions for him daily, botching them on purpose, but he says he can't outright kill him."
John sighed. He had known this would come, but it had come a lot earlier than he would have liked.
"I'll think of something, and we'll end this war...preferably today."
After ending the call, John had goosebumps running up his arms. Only Harry could put an end to Voldemort. It was unfair that he would be forced to do this, so shortly after the traumatic death of Cho. It was even worse that it would be John forcing him.
He looked into the mirror, looked at the bruises and cuts on his face and finally allowed them to heal completely. It was unfair, but so was life.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, John was uncertain how he would break the news to the assembled friends. He knew Harry would be ready right after the words had left his mouth, but he would return a changed person.
With one last deep sigh, he entered the living room.
It was only a couple of hours later, when John and Harry stood at the edge of the wards of Malfoy Manor. A couple of hundred yards behind them, Xeno had pitched a magical tent and now he was waiting there with Wang and the girls.
Harry was holding his staff in his left hand and his wand in his right. The expression on his face was grim, this was supposed to be the last battle in this war. Then it would be over at last.
"You wait a moment, as I unravel the wards and..."
John's voice held an edge of anxiety. He didn't know what gave him the cold sunken feeling that weighed on his stomach. Harry cut right through his words.
"No time to be so subtle, no need for it anyway."
His voice was cold and far away. He lifted his index finger, found one of the flitting runes on the wards magic and pushed.
The wards over Malfoy Manor and the grounds shattered instantaneously.
A loud blaring horn was heard, calling out over the grounds. Telling everyone that the wards had been breached. The sound persisted, while John and Harry made their way to the main entrance of the house.
Somewhere along the way, Harry's eyes started to glow an eerie green color.
Upon reaching the wooden main portal, it exploded inwards, the small splinters and pieces losing their momentum after a second, leaving them suspended in midair.
Much like John had done at the Dursley household all these years ago, Harry slowly walked through the cloud of fragments.
The Death Eaters on the inside were of two minds about the spectacle.
Some gripped their wands even tighter, while others dropped them to the floor. Most of the latter kind ran past them trying to get out and away from the demon with the glowing green eyes.
John quickly bound them on their way past them, this would leave them as Christmas presents for Amelia and the aurors. All wrapped up nicely.
After a second, the remaining dark witches and wizards managed to shake off their stupor and began to attack.
Harry raised his staff and the dresser raised and met the oncoming volley of curses head on. The wooden piece of furniture warped and wobbled, before exploding into a billion tiny shards.
The next volley was stopped by a cupboard John had levitated in front of Harry. While they couldn't really die, he still vividly remembered how long it took him to resurrect the last time he was hit by a killing curse and their goal was to end this fight quickly.
Not that he was willing to take any kind of risk where Harry was concerned.
The boy in question slowly stepped forward through the second dust cloud of wood splinters. A quick tap of his staff on the stone floor, brought up a waist high wall that they took cover behind.
Harry looked at John, his normally lively green eyes, dull and hard.
"I'll take the three on the right side, you take the four on the left, then all that's left is the eight in the middle."
Nodding, the senior Potter went around the left side of the wall and his outstretched palms glowed. The sickening cracks of shattering bones and wood were heard as the wands and hands holding them were broken again and again.
Harry ducked around to the right side of their cover. Thinking of his targets, he wanted to cut their wands with a cutting spell. No one was prepared for the screams of agony that quickly followed. The cutting spells, that Harry had sent their way, had been overpowered, very much so. They had easily ripped apart the quickly cast shields of his opponents.
Their wands had been split right down the middle, but the spell hadn't stopped there and continued right down their arms. Blood was pouring freely from the split forearms, while their bearers tried to cradle the limb without causing them more pain.
The remaining death eaters were looking at their fallen comrades. They hadn't expected this level of brutality from the other side. They were used to stunning spells they could quickly counter, but this was beyond what they expected.
John and Harry used the momentary distraction of the Death Eaters and sent a concussive wave at them. While two managed to remain standing, the rest was on the floor, throwing up.
The two that had remained standing heavily swayed on their feet and didn't put up much resistance to John's binding spells.
Feeling their way through the mansion, Harry and John let their magical senses guide them. They had tried using the pendant, but came up short and now tried to find the hiding place of Voldemort by searching the place for strong wards and similar constructs.
They were sneaking along the corridors and sometimes had an encounter with a couple of lonely guards here and there. After a shattered wrist and a bludgeoning hex to the head, they were dealt with without too much fuss.
John had just turned a corner and suddenly dropped to the floor writhing in agony. From the shadows of a doorway stepped a death eater holding his wand trained on the tortured man on the floor.
Harry saw this and lost all control he had held to so desperately and loosened his magic on the attacker.
The massive bolt of lightning that hit the death eater square in the chest, lifted him up and smashed him into the wall with tremendous force. The intense light immediately blinded Harry and the resulting clap of thunder burst his eardrums.
Thunder also shook the foundation of the manor, and while none would admit it, frightened every occupant left conscious.
Being in such massive shock, having suffered such heavy trauma, Harry's magic was triggered by his survival instincts. Healing energy flooded his body and his sight and hearing returned.
He saw John getting up from the floor and stormed over to him.
"The disadvantage of bodies…" The prone figure groaned as Harry approached him. "...all these nerve endings."
He tried to laugh a bit, but failed miserably. Reaching him, the younger Potter placed his hand on his arm and the still rampant healing energy transferred to John. All of his fried nerves healed in an instant making him gasp while the pain subsided slowly.
"Harry, you have to keep your magic in check, or you'll completely burn out your body."
The body of the boy couldn't handle these amounts of raw magic over a longer period of time. John often wondered what feats Harry would be able to accomplish once he was fully grown.
Nodding in the general direction they had gone in before, Harry murmured.
"We're almost there."
John nodded and they continued on. They weren't looking back, just trying not to think what had happened to the man that had been hit by lightning, trying not to breathe in too deeply to avoid the smell of ozone and smoldering flesh impregnating the air.
They didn't have to walk much further, when a strong ward on a very small piece of the wall to their right caught their attention.
Harry looked questioningly at his father.
Nodding, John replied.
"Probably, can you undo it? Like the one on the grounds?"
With a shrug, Harry went over to the ward, identified the main rune and fixed it with his finger. He had barely opened his magical channels to pour energy into the rune, when the ward simply shattered.
John's eyebrows shot up.
"That was quick."
Nodding, Harry replied with a sigh.
"It had been hurriedly set up, a nice quick and dirty job. Would have given most people quite a pause."
He went to one side of the invisible door and nodded to John, who lifted his hand and the wall simply disintegrated. Inside were four people, no, five.
Harry spied Draco Malfoy huddled in a corner under a table. Other than him, the senior Malfoy's were poised to strike, flanked by two humongous wizards in dark robes.
The ensuing battle was short and brutal. The curses were traded too quickly for the human eye to follow. The Malfoy's continually attacking, while the behemoths shielded them.
Neither side seemed to gain the upper hand in the battle, until Harry had a small lapse in concentration and quickly found two bone shattering curses headed for his head.
John reacted instinctively and blocked the vile spells with his bare hands, Harry was almost sick after hearing the series of sickeningly wet cracks, inches from his face.
He immediately felt the familiar surge of power from his gut as anger tried to get the better of him. This time he actively influenced the formation of, what he came to realize was, another lightning bolt.
Allowing it as little power as possible, Harry directed the electric blast at the feet of his attackers. The ensuing bolt was smaller, less bright and it's clap not quite as loud.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut as soon as the bolt was released. The light was still intense, tinged red from the blood vessels in his eyelids.
Upon opening his eyes again, all four of their opponents were laying on the floor. All were still semi-conscious, but seemed badly concussed. Harry quickly bound them in conjured ropes and used a proper cutting spell on their wands this time.
Lucius Malfoy watched with disbelief in his crossed eyes as John's shattered hands mended themselves. Harry checked on Draco and found him unconscious, but in good condition, considering the circumstances.
Nodding to John, both Potter's cast their eyes to the door at the back of the small room. Both poised themselves to either side of the small portal.
With a deep breath and a quick nod to Harry, John threw open the last door. He quickly ducked out of the way, but the expected curses never came. Slowly, carefully, the Potters made their way into the room. On a small bed with an iron frame, lay the frail form of Voldemort. His breath was rasping and blood had clotted around his nose slits.
Harry stepped closer and the red eyes of his nemesis opened.
"Ahh... Harry P…" The Dark Lord's voice was interrupted by a coughing fit. "... Potter."
He rasped in a deep breath.
"What a shame that you have to see me like this, I would have made a formidable opponent at my best."
He barked a weird sounding laugh and fresh blood started to drip from the remnants of his nose.
"I can't even get up and get my wand from the table over there." He gestured to a small table by the wall. "Much less hold it up or cast a spell. You've probably come to end my life? If so, I won't be able to stop you. Not that I would want to anymore."
He had another coughing fit. Blood flew from his mouth this time.
Harry leveled his staff at him and smiling Voldemort closed his eyes. Realization hit the boy.
"No! I won't be doing you any favors!"
Harry's voice was sudden and harsh in the quiet of the room. Allowing both his wand and staff fall to the ground, he grabbed the serpentine head before him and placed his hands on Voldemort's temples. In a feverish whisper, Harry chanted multiple lines of text at once, the layered sounds hanging in the stale air longer than should be physically possible.
Around his hands and the head they were holding, red bands of magic came to be. On them runes started to appear and move around. Some moved slowly, others were too fast to see with the naked eye.
John stood by and tried to read the purpose of the chant from the runes that appeared but to no avail.
Voldemort's eyes had rolled into the back of his head and Harry's had started to glow a more vibrant sickly green. It took about a minute for Harry to finish his casting and with a disgusted look he allowed the head of the dark lord to fall back onto his pillow.
Harry bent down to pick up his staff and wand, only to hear a chuckle coming from the bed.
"Thank you, Potter."
Voldemort rolled out of bed and grabbed his wand. John moved in front of Harry to shield him.
Nothing happened, the tip of the dark lord's wand remained unlit, not even the faintest glimmer. Harry snapped his fingers and ropes snaked around him, binding his arms and legs.
"Dad, you better call Amelia now."
John looked at him with wide eyes.
"What have you done?"
"I healed the lacerations that are caused by his loss of soul. It's not permanent, but it should keep him around, so he can stand trial for his crimes." Then, like it was an afterthought, he added. "And I took his magic."
"How… what… I…"
Harry looked at him, his normally vibrant green eyes, dull and dark.
"Ritualistic magic, I finally made the connection when Cho died. This would have saved her. Without magic, he wouldn't have been able to hold on. We could have gotten him out and then reinstated magic in her…"
His voice faded. John placed a hand on his shoulder, while Voldemort started laughing behind them. It wasn't a healthy kind of laughter either.
They had just stepped outside, the adrenaline rapidly leaving Harry's system, when he felt terribly sick. He turned to one of the bushes that lined the walk way by the door and threw up.
He felt close to tears, could feel his limbs shake and his teeth chatter.
Harry couldn't believe what he had just done, he could still hear the moaning of the people he had injured ringing in his ears. The sound of fighting was still there inside his head. Could still smell the aftermath of the lightning strikes he had unleashed.
For a moment, not even a second really, he had the thought that this was what Voldemort had been doing. Hurting people, simply put, and Harry was afraid of becoming just like him. He clenched his arms around his chest and threw up again. His upper body rocking back and forth.
A hand on his shoulder got him out of his momentary stupor, then the caring arms of his father embraced him.
"I'm so sorry you had to endure this Harry."
Harry expressed his concerns through chattering teeth.
"What... What if I become just like him now? Dad, what if I turn into such a monster, just like him? I don't want to be like that, ever!"
Tears were streaming down Harry's face unchecked. Smoothing down his son's hair, John answered him.
"You'll never be like that, as long as you still worry about becoming like him. As long as you still feel like you feel right now, you can't ever be like him. It's hard to fight, I know. Hurting and even killing people, it takes away from you, reduces you, it costs us dearly. Try to think of the people you try to protect by fighting for them. It will not make it any easier, but it will allow you to live through it."
Taking a deep breath, Harry separated from his father and wiped his eyes.
"You're right, I'm doing this for Hermione and Luna, for their parents, for our family and our friends… it was time to put an end to this and finally live our lives in peace."
John looked right into Harry's eyes as he said this and knew that a peaceful life wasn't imminent for Harry Potter. The shadows in his eyes spoke of horrors that would stay with him for years and maybe forever.
It took Amelia no longer than ten minutes to arrive with an entire squad of Aurors. The members of the inner circle, including the Malfoy's, were quickly taken into custody. Draco was led past the Potters, regarding them with an unreadable expression.
Then Amelia stood before what had been the darkest wizard in ages. She looked at the man that was Voldemort. After a moment, she delivered a deft right hook into his face.
"For my brother and his wife."
The bound ex-wizard fell backwards, blood dripping from his nose and mouth. Amelia straightened her robes and looked at the present Aurors.
"He tried to attack me, everybody here saw that."
They all answered with a crisp 'yes Ma'am!'. There was no love lost for Tom Riddle.
"Take him into custody, he'll stand trial for his crimes and be punished for all of them!"
She returned to the Potters that were waiting for her outside. It had been a hard day for all of them.
"I won't ask how you did it, I just want to thank you. Don't worry, you won't be facing any legal repercussions, not while I'm head of the DMLE."
Harry, completely emotionally drained by this point, was swaying on his feet, his face ashen. John had to place a steadying hand on his shoulder.
Leaving their tent as the aurors arrived, the Lovegoods and Hermione were standing by, waiting for the officials to clear the Potters so they could return home. The girls both had red and swollen eyes, while Xeno held an aura of distress.
Amelia exchanged a couple more quick words with John and with a pain filled expression that was aimed at Harry, she sent them on their way. Hermione and Luna quickly rushed to his side and enveloped him in a hug, while Harry broke down again crying his heart out.
They quickly made their way back home, the girls never releasing Harry. They had just entered the Potter home, when Harry simply collapsed. John caught the, now somewhat frail looking, boy and picked him up. He carried Harry up to his room and put him in bed.
The girls stood in the door and had a fairly undecided expression on their faces.
John nodded at them. "Go on, stay with him. He'll need you when he wakes up."
They both set their jaws in determination and quickly entered the room as John shut the door behind them.
'Now what do I tell Dan and Xeno?'
He turned to the stairs, every bone and muscle inside his body still screaming in pain. His magic responded, sending out healing waves.
"Bodies…" He muttered. "More of a bother if you ask me."
Harry woke from a nightmare that night and quickly felt the warmth of two bodies beside him. He cracked his eyes open a smidge and confirmed that both Hermione and Luna were laying beside him.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He'd decided that he probably didn't deserve the kindness of the girls, but he would enjoy it for as long as they were willing to give it to him.
Taking a long moment, he simply enjoyed being where he was before he closed his eyes again. Right before sleep could reclaim him, he had one last coherent thought and as outlandish as the concept was to him still, he knew that he loved both of the girls with all his heart.
Opening his eyes once again, Harry felt himself freed of the constraints his physical body usually felt. The foggy white surroundings placed him in Death's realm. He had just made the connection, when the dark hooded figure faded in from the mist.
For a very long moment they both looked at each other in silence, which Death broke in the end.
"Welcome back Harry."
Harry nodded his head. "Death."
"You haven't visited the realm in quite some time and while I can imagine why, this has to stop."
Ignoring Harry's opening mouth, Death continued.
"Plus, I got a request from one of the dead to speak to you and figured we owed her as much."
The voice behind him nearly brought Harry to his knees. His throat choked up as he turned.
His voice was thick.
"Cho! I'm so very sorry about what happened…"
The girl in question smiled and held up her hand.
"It wasn't your fault, so you don't need to be sorry. I took this route, knowing it would kill Voldemort inside me as well. The only thing I'm really sorry about is my parents. I'm sure my passing causes them much pain."
The smile on her face faltered for a second.
"On the up side, I met my Grandma here again. She was a bit sad that I got here so soon, but she's really happy to see me again. We haven't spent that much time together since I was five or six."
Harry's eyes had dropped to the floor slowly while she spoke, tears made their way down his face. With a gentle smile, she prompted him to look at her again.
"Harry?" Seeing him look up, she continued. "I know this is not easy for you and it'll only get harder." Her expression was pained now. "I have to ask a favor of you…"
She detailed her request and while Harry didn't know where he would find the strength to go through with it, he promised that he would.
Standing on the porch, with his racing heart and tight chest, Harry listened as the last chimes of the doorbell rang out. He would have loved to feel the supporting hand of his dad on his shoulder, or maybe Luna's or Hermione's in his own.
While all of them had offered to accompany him, he had turned them down. This he had to do alone.
The door opened and Harry could tell that Mr. Chang needed every inch of willpower not to shut it in his face.
"I'm so sorry." The first tears leaked out of Harry's eyes.
The lines on Mr. Chang's face deepend alongside his scowl.
"Was that all? After everything you have done, that's all you have to say about it!?"
Harry quickly shook his head, afraid that the older man would shut the door still.
"No. I… I want you to hear me out. This is going to sound insane, but I can prove everything I am about to say."
Still scowling, Mr. Chang nodded his consent.
"I have a message from your daughter and she asked me to give something to you."
With tears in his eyes and voice, Mr. Chang was almost too calm as he answered.
"How? How can you have a message from her?"
"We talked last night. I will explain how, but could I please come inside first. I don't feel comfortable discussing these things on your porch."
While he wanted to scream at the boy, to tell him that he couldn't care less if he was comfortable or not, Mr. Chang just nodded curtly and moved aside.
Once the door had closed, Harry continued his explanation.
"Due to some very complicated and disturbing circumstances I am able to visit the realm of Death. I can interact with the dead and have conversations with them."
This shocked the usually reserved man.
"But that is impossible."
"I wish at times that it were the case, but it's a gift sometimes and a burden I have to carry myself. Could you please get your wife and then let's talk somewhere, where you can be seated comfortably."
It took a while till Mr. Chang returned with his wife. She looked at Harry with poison in her eyes. Once they had retired to the living room and the Chang's had taken a seat, Harry spoke up.
"I've come here today, to deliver a message to you from your daughter. She wants you to stay calm."
Concentrating on his connection to Death's Realm, Harry conjured forth the spectral form of Cho Chang.
"Mom? Dad? Harry you've done it, thank you so much."
With this she turned to her parents and Harry left the room. He concentrated on keeping up the link, but had no desire to listen in on them.
Quickly he went up the stairs, to get the second part of her request from her room. He opened the door Cho had specified. The room behind it gave off a stale smell, like the door and windows hadn't been opened in a while.
Harry's heart was beating so loudly. While he had the permission of Cho to be here, it still felt like he was snooping around a girl's room.
He knelt beside the bed and her scent was still lingered on the bedsheets. His heart pounded even louder and tears welled up in the corners of his eyes. He quickly retrieved the items from under the bed and left the room .
After closing the door he slumped against it, trying to slow his heartbeat and compose himself, before he faced the people downstairs again.
It took Harry the better part of ten minutes to calm himself enough so he could once more look the senior Changs and, even worse, Cho herself in the face.
He slowly made his way down the stairs, carefully taking each step one at a time.
Reluctantly he opened the door to the living room and had to flinch as it quietly creaked open. Three sets of eyes came to rest on him. Two made of flesh and one pearly white.
Cho's eyes lightened up as much as could be expected of her, as Harry placed the requested items onto the table in the center of the room.
"Mom, Dad… on my request, since I could no longer do it myself, I had Harry fetch your Christmas presents from my room, as well as my diary."
Mrs. Chang started shaking from the quiet sobs she was trying to keep in, while Mr. Chang's face had turned wooden.
Cho pointed to the presents.
"This red one is for you Mom and the Green one is yours Dad. My diary… well I want both of you to read it. It will tell you the things I haven't been able to tell you in life. Now I have to tell both of you goodbye."
The barely veiled grief from before turned into an open display of anguish as both of Cho's parents openly sobbed.
"No!" Her mother bit out. "Why do you have to go? Just… stay with us…please…!"
"I can't, me being dead…" Cho swallowed the lump in her throat. "... I can't remain in the realm of the living too long. It hurts… terribly. Even if that weren't the case, it's only because of Harry's powers that my essence can be here at all. He is the anchor."
She turned to the boy in question and nodded.
"I'm ready. Send me back please."
Harry let go of his link with Death and Cho started to fade.
"I love both of you and we will see each other again eventually…"
And then she was gone.
Mrs. Chang broke down, crying hard. Mr. Chang went to support his wife.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable with the situation, Harry cleared his throat.
"I am very sorry for the grief I have caused you today. It was Cho's expressed wish to talk to you one last time. I figured I owed her at least that much."
His voice faded and all that remained were the sobs of Mrs. Chang and very uncomfortable silence. Harry waited for a few more excruciating moments and was about to take his leave, when Mr. Chang spoke up.
"Thank you, Harry. Thank you for allowing us to properly say goodbye. While I can't forget, or even forgive, that your lot was involved in our daughter's death, it was her decision to end her life for a good that was greater than any of us will ever be."
He got up and retrieved something from a small cabinet. Mr. Chang held it out to Harry. In his hands was a letter. Harry already knew the contents.
Using some of their influence, the Potter's had gotten Cho nominated for an order of Merlin posthumously. It had to be first class, neither of them would let the committee settle for less. Cho would make the transition form unknown to war hero in due time.
"My daughter was a hero, and you made sure it'll be known."
Harry bowed to the man before him and turned towards the door. As he left, he also felt a part of the guilt leave him. He didn't notice the light glow around himself as he crossed the doorstep, nor did he see the Chang's awed expressions. The door closed behind him and Harry teleported away.