AN:

As always, many thanks to Bigmax81 for beta reading.

This chapter contains a tribute to one of my favourite love couples in literature. Whoever discovers the tribute gets a cookie ;)


Epilogue

Pain, sorrow, remorse. They have made me what I am today.

I have many regrets, but I am confident that the future will be good.

In that I firmly believe.


It was the morning after Halloween, when Hermione was waiting for her two best friends. For her, this was almost a kind of well-rehearsed ritual. A few moments of quiet, watching the raindrops glide down the window or the logs burn in the fireplace.

At least that's how it had been until that terrible news a few weeks ago. Until they had learned that ... Harry was about to die.

Hermione swallowed and bent over the book in front of her even harder. She'd slept maybe three hours that night, feeling tired as hell, and the soft armchair beneath her wasn't helping her stay awake either. But she forced herself to do it anyway. She just had to keep going. Eventually she would come across a cure for Harry's blood curse, she was sure of it. She just had to read more. Much, much more.

When it was finally time for the late risers to get up, however, it was only one pair of feet that thundered down the stairs. Hermione startled from her book, seeing Ron's panting figure in front of her. He was shaking more than she had ever seen him do before, and in his hand he held a piece of parchment.

"Harry ... Harry is ..." he began, but his voice failed him.

He handed her the parchment, and Hermione began to read with a pounding heart.

Ron, Hermione,

by the time you read this letter, I will have left Hogwarts. And please do not look for me, even though I know I would certainly have ignored such a request. But please, do not look for me. Now, in your memories, I can still be the Harry you know, and not what I will soon be.

I will not tell you not to cry, for I know I would shed many tears in your place. But please also remember to smile when you think of the good moments. Because we had those too, didn't we? Good moments and nice memories. My life would have been so much poorer had I not known you both, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

I am not a poet or man of great words. Please just know that I love you. I love you and you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please remember this when you think back on me many years from now, and not the sadness I have caused you. This sadness is my greatest regret. I regret it, I regret it so much. Therefore, please laugh for me. Laugh and live and be happy.

Yours in eternal love

Harry

PS: Please take care of Hedwig too. She will act all cool on the outside, but she is not as strong as you are. And please give her her favourite bacon, which is still in my bag; but not too much or she will get too fat.

Hermione only realised that she had started to cry when her tears were already falling onto the parchment and smudging the ink. She dropped the letter to press herself against Ron, who stroked her back. Shortly afterwards, he too lost the battle against his tears.


The Greengrass family home was plunged into deep silence, the soft ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway the only sound for what felt like miles around. It was an experience Daphne was not unfamiliar with, as often as she had sneaked out as a child to quench her thirst for blood in the nearby forest. And yet, there was something different about this night than all the nights before, and she would remember it for the rest of her life, as long as that might last.

Silence had also surrounded Daphne for the past few months. After Harry's departure, an aching silence had settled over Hogwarts, for the others out of fear for the future and for Daphne out of longing for what was to come. For the past few months, she had lived as if in a trance, counting the hours, minutes, and seconds until today.

Still, the previous day had been one of the most beautiful days of her life, a day of music and laughter, of joy and silent guilt – again silence. Daphne shook her head as if to clear her thoughts as she continued her creep through the dark corridors. Yesterday she had spent wonderful hours with her family. One last Christmas together before she would say goodbye forever tonight.

Already she had been to her parents' room, where she had left a long letter on their bedside table. Athena and Cygnus Greengrass. She would be forever grateful to the couple for taking her in when she had no one else. She had been so proud to be their daughter.

It had been a hard goodbye. Yet the hardest goodbye was still to come for Daphne.

With bated breath, she opened the door to Astoria's room; but fate was kind to her. Not a sound, not a squeak was heard as she entered the room. Slowly she stepped over to her sister's bed. There lay Astoria sleeping peacefully, like a little angel, a creature far too good for this cruel world. Far too good for a sister like her.

Astoria lay on her side and half of her face was covered by her golden strands, while her chest rose and fell gently. What was she dreaming about, Daphne thought with a smile. She reached out to brush the strands from Astoria's face and stopped just short of touching her.

She was a coward, Daphne knew. She was a coward to just steal away in the dark of night. But she had no other choice. She couldn't bear to see the disgust and disappointed looks of her family. And the bitter truth was: she had always been a coward. Except for that one moment over half a year ago when she had dared to approach a brave man...

Daphne reached into her cloak and pulled out a letter. The letter was much longer than the last one she had written to Astoria, just before she had been about to – Daphne suppressed the thought. That was the past.

Now Daphne also took out a small vial, in which a dark liquid shimmered, even darker than the night around them. Gently she placed both on Astoria's bedside table. The letter would explain everything to Astoria, the whole sad story. Daphne only hoped she wouldn't hate her too much afterwards. And the vial ... well, what she would do with it was Astoria's decision alone. Never again would she force anything on her.

Daphne turned back to the bed, looking at Astoria's calm, sleeping face, probably for the very last time. And now she couldn't bear the silence any longer.

"Oh Tori," she whispered, "I love you. And I wish you all the happiness in the world, little sister."

Daphne then turned abruptly away and hurried from the room. She ran through the dark corridors and the empty foyer out into the garden shrouded in night, lit only by the pale light of the moon. There she waited until she was sure she had stopped weeping. Only then did she change into her bat form to rise into the sky.

The future was waiting.


A grim but hopefully still genuine soul looked back at Harry from his now red eyes. That was the most obvious of the changes, as otherwise not that much had changed at all. His skin was noticeably paler than before – especially compared to his brightly coloured Hawaiian shirt – but it still passed for a human tone. His hair had perhaps become a little blacker, but he had had very dark hair before. His eyes, though ... never again would he see the eyes of Lily Potter in his reflection, the eyes of his mother.

How would she think of him if she could see him now? Would she be glad that he had been able to leave that path of sorrow and grief, or would she be disappointed that he had left them all behind? Ron, Hermione, the Weasleys. The whole Wizarding World...

"You've saved the world so many times, Harry," Daphne's warm voice rang in his head again. "Now it's time for it to save itself for once. And one life you've certainly saved..."

The sudden beeping of a radio alarm snapped Harry out of his thoughts. He shook his head. Lately he really had far too much time to brood alone. But not for much longer.

Harry took one last look at his reflection, judged he looked acceptable enough, and left the bathroom. In the bedroom, he switched off the beeping alarm clock. Its digits read 10 pm, the exact time they had agreed upon so many months ago.

Even at this hour, it would still be pleasantly warm, so Harry put nothing on over his shirt and shorts before leaving the hotel room. He only left his sunglasses behind, he didn't need them at this hour. And indeed, when Harry stepped out of the hotel onto the beach promenade – not without slipping a coin to the attentive bellboy who held the door open for him – night had already fallen over it.

Yet this did not mean that it was quiet outside. The promenade shook with liveliness and the babble of voices from countless throats in dozens of different languages. It was a hustle and bustle. Thousands of tourists in Hawaiian shirts as gaudy as his were strolling along the promenade, sitting in one of the numerous bars and restaurants, or buying food from one of the food stalls along the way. The air was filled with the smell of sweat, sunscreen, and candied dates.

Undeterred, Harry strode through the crowds and reached the beach, which was still full of people. He had to walk for almost half an hour before it finally emptied out, and another quarter of an hour before he was all alone.

The soft sand of the beach crunched under his feet, the wind slid through his hair, and from above the moon smiled down on the creatures of the earth. But for all that, for light, world, and celestial melody, Harry had no more sense at that moment.

For after he had rounded a large rock, the girl of his dreams stood before him. She looked even more graceful than on Halloween, the last time they had seen each other.

Daphne was wearing a yellow summer dress, but no shoes or jewellery. But there was no need for that. The radiant smile that spread across her face when she saw him was adornment enough.

Harry felt the corners of his mouth rise as well. At last he understood what Daphne had meant when she said that blood could sing for someone, call out for someone. His blood was singing for his mate at that moment.

"Harry!" cried Daphne, running towards him. And this time she didn't just hug him stormily, as she had so many times before, no, she virtually leapt at him.

Harry was thrown back and landed on the floor. On top of him lay Daphne, pressing herself very close to him. Harry was all too aware of the warmth of her body – and his own physical reaction to it – but he didn't bother. They would have all the time in the world, a literal eternity, to explore this aspect of their relationship. And besides, he had sand in his pants.

"Oh Harry, I've missed you so much," Daphne said. "I should never have agreed to wait so long."

Harry laughed out. A sincere, carefree laugh. It felt wonderful. "If I remember correctly, that had been your idea."

"Silly me from the past," Daphne said as she broke away from him. A sly smile played around her lips. "Now kiss me already or I'll kiss you!"

As she said this, the wind blew her dark hair into her face. Harry lifted his hand to brush back the strands. His fingertips slid down her cheeks, over the corners of her mouth and the pit in her chin before he impetuously covered her lips with his mouth. And Daphne returned his kiss just as impetuously, full of love and true bliss.

The pain in them was only an echo now, a memory from another time.

They sank into each other without the walls they had piled up, which were now finally breaking down. The heavy doubts and fears collapsed, giving them both back a lightness that could be found in every breath and every touch.

That evening, two bats rose together into the night sky, and Harry and Daphne disappeared from the songs and tales of the magical world. In later times, however, there was much singing of two undead creatures who had many adventures, and their fate is forever sundered from the fate of wizards.

The End