Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena Hope, as well as my betas 3CP, Luq707, Regress, and Thanos for their work on this story.

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Author's Note:

This is not what I would call a happy ending. I think most of you will prefer this rather than if I would have left it hanging at the end of chapter 63, but this goes in a very dark direction and I will warn you of that now.

If you would rather remember the ending of last chapter as this tale's conclusion instead of something darker, it might be best if you stop here.

I also apologize for posting a day late. This was drafted A LONG TIME AGO and bringing the writing up to snuff required no small amount of work, especially as I wanted to preserve what I could while still ensuring a degree of elegance.

Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons

By ACI100

Epilogue: The Last Enemy

Thirty-seven years later…

Bells tolled from the castle's highest towers. Their wailing cut across the sloping lawns and out over the Forbidden Forest before settling in the hearts of those who had gathered there in mourning. Crows took wing from their perches on the castle's parapets and soared towards the trees. Their cawing joined the bells' call until a symphony of sorrow strummed down from on high.

Charlus watched the crows fly off into the distance with a bitter smile. You're all thirty-seven years too late. A gentle tugging on his sleeve brought him back to earth. "What are you thinking?" Dorea asked.

Charlus released a long breath and let the sadness settle over him. "The same things I always think every time we're here."

Dorea sniffed and bowed her head. "We just keep coming back though, don't we?"

Charlus gently massaged her shoulders as he stared up at the memorial and drank it in for what must have been the thousandth time."I think we always will," he said with the air of a distracted man repeating pet phrases for the sake of maintaining conversation.

The towering likenesses of a boy and girl were wrought from gleaming marble. Their fingers were intertwined and they wore triumphant smiles as their statues shone a dozen different colours in the morning sunlight. A small pang pinged inside Charlus's chest. He had always felt the depiction was inadequate despite its ostentation.

They didn't look like this, he thought the way he always did when staring up at them. They had bubbled with life until the bitter end. No decorative stone could ever do them justice.

Charlus lowered his eyes to the raised platform atop which the statues stood.

Here lies Harry Potter and Emily Riddle
Heroes whose time came much too soon.

Foolish feelings rose up in him, the sorts of feelings Charlus ought to have dispatched of years ago.

One last lie…

Only one body was buried in that tomb — he had searched himself.

"Do you still think he's out there?" Dorea's whisper was like the wind through the branches of a willow tree, so faint he was not certain she had spoken.

That foolish feeling fought for purchase deep inside him. Once, he had believed. They had never found Harry's corpse amidst the ruined Entrance Hall. Part of him had known it proved nothing, given the Killing Curse's destructive backlash, but back then he had dared to hope.

It had been so easy — hoping. There had been no trace of the Deathly Hallows unearthed by an extended search of the castle, and Charlus had considered that proof enough for many years.

"I don't know anymore," he said at last. "I'll swear until my dying day that curse didn't kill him and I don't think the Hallows are gone for good, but I don't know what he would be doing." The pressure in his chest mounted. "I'd like to think he'd have come back to us by now." There were so many things that he would like to think.

Dorea stroked his arm. "It's been nearly forty years," she murmured. "We have another Harry now and our first one's still missing."

The comment was almost enough to make Charlus laugh. Harry had called it after all, despite Charlus's lingering doubts over the fairytale-like story he had been told.

Things had begun happening in the years which unfolded after Harry's alleged death. They had only one child — a boy they named James who looked just like Harry. Their son had grown up into a roguish young man and married a redheaded muggleborn named Lily Evans.

And now they have a son who's the spitting image of the friend I lost. The eyes, the hair, the face; everything was perfect except that little Harry lacked a lightning-shaped scar and would one day need glasses.

"It makes no sense," he muttered, staring off past the marble statues and up towards the castle's highest towers from where the bells still tolled. "I don't know what he'd be doing if he was alive, but I just… part of me still can't imagine him being dead."

"Elena still swears he planned it all," Dorea said with a small smile halfway between forlorn and fond. "She still remembers something he said about letting him die."

"That fall gave Elena a concussion and we all know how Stunners blur memory." It was a weak protest and they both knew it.

Dorea squeezed his hand and wiped her eyes. "We should go," she said. "Looking longer won't bring him back."

If only it could, Charlus thought as the pair trudged off towards the apparition point. He'd be back a hundred times by now.

Six months later…

The silvery hem of an ancient cloak slithered through brittle autumn leaves, but a soft rustling was the only sign of it.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The bundle shifted in his arms, but he held it close against his chest and squashed down the rising guilt.

I didn't think I could feel guilt anymore. Nearly forty years ago he had thought he knew guilt when lying to his friends and family, but he had known less than nothing.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The shadow of a large church loomed above a high hill's crest and a distant line of tangled hedges reduced to dark outlines by the bright lights streaming from the church's courtyard.

His next step carried him over the rotted remains of what had once been a wooden fence half again his own height. Now it was little more than splintered planks sticking together with the desperate determination of the dying.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The first line of headstones appeared out of the darkness up ahead. The rows were straight and neat, standing in stark defiance against the wild grass whose blades reached almost to his knees in most places.

He stopped just feet away from a grave more well-kept than all the others. The rocks composing most had grown crisscrossed with shallow cracks and were all overgrown with ivy. This was made not out of smooth grey stone, but dark basalt that blended halfway into the surrounding night and was inscribed in a clear hand.

Tom Riddle

The silvery cloak slid from his shoulders and he waved the Elder Wand. A cauldron appeared at the headstone's foot and dark water soon bubbled under a conjured sphere of light.

Harry stared down into the water and observed his face reflected on its surface. Nothing's changed.

Nothing had. Not for thirty-seven years.

It had been the cost of victory — almost forty years of lonely madness and the loss of whatever humanity he'd had left.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Tom Riddle's headstone split with the sharp snapping of stone. Pale vapour hissed from the cracks like smoke and shimmered silver underneath the sphere of light, then drifted down into the cauldron and shot up sparks.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

A line of heat trailed the Elder Wand's trek across his palm as blood trickled down into the concoction and turned it the colour of rich red wine.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Harry knelt and placed his bundle down on a rare flat patch of grass, then slid the Peverells' ring from his right hand and let it drop into his left palm. There he examined it for a long while as the temptation mocked him. It was why he had not held the ring like this since using it down in the Chamber of Secrets all those years ago.

Harry considered, as he had before, which soul to call upon.

Dumbledore's twinkling eyes were almost as tempting as the ones he wanted most of all, but he could not make himself say the words. Seeing disappointment in Dumbledore's kind face might soften his resolve and he could not risk that.

Harry squared his shoulders and turned the ring over in his hand three times. "Nicholas Flamel."

The ancient alchemist flickered into being just feet away from him, dressed in a lab coat and wearing Reginald Edward Gress's face. "You must not do this." It was the first time Harry had ever heard him sound afraid.

"I have to," he replied, gripping the stone so hard his wrist began to cramp. "Have you not seen what her death has done to me?"

There was a tragic cast in Flamel's dark eyes as he gave a single, solemn nod. "Those scars will never heal."

"She will heal them."

"There is no healing the soul." Flamel looked hard into Harry's face. "This would shatter yours beyond repair."

"You once told me that love is about sacrifice," he reminded the man whom he had once called Professor Gress.

Flamel's false face grew dark as the depressive pits Harry had sunk into long ago. "And I would take back those words if I had known this was where they would one day lead you."

"Are you not curious?" The question was scarcely a whisper, its sound slender as an arrow shaft. "You were an alchemist, you lived for this sort of magic."

"Not this." Flamel gestured between the bundle and the cauldron. "Never this."

A pang went off inside him and the guilt rose up again, fiercer than it had been for thirty-seven years.

It's a sacrifice, he reassured himself. All the pain, all the guilt, all the damage this will do...

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"Will it work?" His patience had worn thin; no longer could he tolerate the guilt or Flamel's feeble words of warning.

"I do not know," the alchemist admitted. "There is no precedent for this. It is a violation of nature and most would call it impossible."

"Most, but not you?"

"Never me." A shudder shook the old man's frame. "Anything is possible — the prices… they are just so high."

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"Can you think of another way?" Longing like few men had ever known punctuated every word. "I'll do it if you can — I don't want to do this, you must know that."

Flamel's face was a twisted visage of bitterness and agony. "This is beyond my skill," he said with the grave tones of a physician condemning a failing man to death. "I am not the one who spent thirty-seven years studying life and death the way you have."

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"I hated you, do you know that?" A crow cawed from one of the overgrown trees beyond the rotted fence. "When she died and I realized who must have told her how to save me… I'm not sure I've ever hated anyone the way I hated you."

All six hundred of the years Flamel had spent alive splayed across his face and sliced deep lines into his cheeks. "I always thought it would be you who asked me."

"It made no difference to you." Harry tried and failed to keep the accusation from his voice.

The slim wraith writhed and shuddered. "I am not proud of it, but it was the only way."

"I know. I forgave you in the end, it just took a really long time." Harry gave the once immortal alchemist a sad, farewell smile. "I hope that you'll forgive me one day too."

Flamel's wraith shimmered out of sight and Harry studied the stone still clamped between his fingers, then looked from the Elder Wand to his silver cloak. That will hurt most of the three. Arraying the three hallows in a rough triangle around the steaming cauldron, he closed his eyes and sighed. But they won't be the worst of it.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Harry scooped up the bundle and unwrapped the blanket. Familiar green eyes stared out from a familiar face beneath a familiar head of raven hair.

But no scar. He had always wondered what he might look like without the world-famous scar. Its shape had endured even after the horcrux's destruction, but this boy's forehead was clean and covered only in smooth skin.

The boy began crying in his arms and Harry ran his fingers through the short black hair. "Shhh," he whispered. "It's going to be okay. It will be over soon. As easy as closing your eyes after a very long day." The threat of tears prickled at the corners of his eyes, and a strangling lump settled near the back of his dry throat.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The church bells tolled off in the distance — it was time.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

"I'm sorry." Harry screwed up his face and dropped the baby head-first into the cauldron.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The potion spat and hissed, bubbled and boiled, sloshed and churned.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The Elder Wand crackled like old kindling in the blaze of sudden Fiendfyre which swarmed over the stone like hot water over soft snow. The cloak was more difficult — it had taken some tampering for its destruction to be possible — but eventually, it too burned.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The cold crept in close as dark things danced and whispered. A ghostly glow billowed from the midnight-coloured potion and shrieking shadows stirred somewhere out of sight.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

A humming buzzed from everywhere but nowhere, silent but sonorus, soft but sharp as slender steel.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The humming rose and the glow grew brighter. His skin crawled and panic clawed its way up inside him despite all his years of clearing thoughts like these away.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death, he told himself with hot tears rolling down his cheeks. The last enemy to be destroyed is death!

Sizzling sparks spat and sweet-smelling smoke rose in slender spires, but still, the ghostly glow shone so brightly that he could see only the shadow's outline framed against the swirling smoke as it stepped out of the cauldron.

His heart pounded hard enough to bruise his ribs as the ghostly glow grew faint and the spitting sparks fell silent. Then only the smoke remained, and soon it too faded, carried off on a chilling gust of wind.

There was nothing ghostlike about Emily Riddle and she was no shadow. Life sparkled alongside love and lust in her dark eyes, and her glossy hair gleamed in the light still hovering above her and the cauldron she had stepped out of.

"You did it." Her words were sweeter than honey from a bee's nest, her smile brighter and more beautiful than sunrise, the sight of her more satisfying than subtle sin or skillful sex.

Emily stepped forward and folded him into her arms. Her naked body pressed against his robes and her lips brushed softly through his hair.

"I had to," he choked against her shoulder. "There was one last enemy left."

Her lips pressed against his own and the air was sucked out of his lungs, but it mattered less than nothing. They could have held that kiss forever and still he would not have had to breathe.

Emily's eyes were glittering when they pulled back from him — there was love and lust and relief beyond imagination. "The last enemy has been destroyed."

Author's Endnote:

This is going to be long and rambly. I understand if you don't want to read it given that, so I will just thank you all here in case this is where you stop.

You guys have been incredible throughout this long journey, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much. Whether you loved it, hated it, joined my Discord server, or left a negative review, I thank you for it.

To those of you who stuck with me from the beginning, thank you most of all. I had no idea what I was doing when I penned the prologue, and I will admit now that if I came across this story tomorrow, I would have dropped it within a handful of paragraphs.

We have come a long way since those early days.

Back then I was still a professional athlete who had no real dreams of writing long-term. This was the first real fic I began seriously writing and it shows. The beginning is poor and the prose is dreadfully bloated until about chapter 28, when I started focusing on making things concise.

I have considered revising those first twenty-seven chapters time and time again, but I never will. I enjoy having that representation of the path we have walked along. They might make me cringe and wonder why anyone ever read a single word I wrote, but so too do they make me smile and remind me what a wild ride this all has been.

If you would like to read a story of mine I actually consider well-written from the start, I would strongly recommend The Road to Hell.

It is another time travel fic with a large splash of romance — much more so than is featured in this story since I actually understand how to write it these days — so if you liked this, there's a pretty good chance you will enjoy that as well.

It is set in 1977, but in a world ruled by Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and a global empire established some thirty-five years before the tale's beginning.

Oh, and the pairing is Harry/Narcissa, in case that floats your boat :)

Thank you guys all so much again. This entire journey has been life-changing in more ways than can be described. I can't believe this fic is finished, but here's to the next one :)

I love you all.

PS: Please don't message me about a sequel — I have no interest in writing one and I know what it would look like. Trust me, you don't want it the way you think you do.