"...Is it over?" -Neville Longbottom from beneath a table during a particularly unfortunate Potions class. Winter, 1992.
~ Epilogue ~
It was a very familiar view that Harry opened his eyes to. Arched stone that curved around an uneven ceiling, occasionally reaching down slightly in points tipped with magical light. The Hospital Wing had always been a very well lit room, even during the day, as it was now. Sunlight spilled in from a nearby window, a cool breeze meandering its way across the freshly made beds. Slowly he raised his hand in front of his face, unable to keep the bemusement from his expression.
The hand flopped back to his side.
"Unless the afterlife is the bloody Hospital Wing."
He blinked rapidly, startled by the new voice. If his body still didn't feel like lead he'd probably have sat up quickly. He hadn't sensed anyone so close.
"At least I think so."
Still laying back, he turned his head to face the source of the voice, laying in the bed directly to his left. He recognized her immediately of course, but it was still hard to believe that she actually existed.
Silence stretched as they met each other's eyes. Despite being so close, it felt like a chasm had opened up between them. One so impossibly wide neither knew where to begin in attempting to cross it. Did they even want to?
"Why can't I sense you?" Harry decided to ask this question first.
To this the young woman raised her right hand off the bed. A dull golden ring that he'd never seen her wear before adorned her middle finger.
"Black family heirloom I stole from Grimmauld Place," she explained, looking at the ring. With a sigh she removed it and the warm familiar presence of her magic rushed to fill his senses. As well as something else…? "It hides your magic." Pieces clicked together in Harry's mind.
"You hid from me."
It was hard to keep the accusation out of his voice. The hurt. No one knew her magic like he did. No one could identify her but him. She literally took extra efforts simply for his benefit.
"Yes." She didn't bother to deny it. Her expression was filled with sorrow.
"I suppose I should thank you," Harry said eventually. "If you hadn't been there I might not have made it through all those Death Eaters."
"That was my plan, in the end…" she replied.
"Was it worth it? Killing someone for that mark?"
She looked down at her left arm. The bandages that had been covering it were gone, exposing the faint skull and serpent tattoo.
"You know I got mad that they reattached it," she said with a small snort of humor, slowly flexing the fingers of her left hand. She still had very limited mobility with it, and would need a few weeks of rehabilitation to get its full use back. "It felt like an injury I should have to keep. Nice not looking at this disgusting thing for once, too."
"Answer my question, Nym."
She looked back at him only for her eyes to go wide at the wand directed at her heart. The look in Harry's eyes was empty.
"You're here aren't you?" she answered, expression changing to one of acceptance. "Go ahead. I never expected to live through this anyway." She closed her eyes and a small smile worked her way onto her face. "It would be more a comfort for you to do it anyway."
There was a beat of stillness before Harry flicked his wand, hitting her with a splash of water that elicited a squawk of surprise. Another flick and she'd been pulled onto his waiting arms.
"You are a fool, Nymphadora Tonks."
As if he wouldn't notice her despair. That she was shivering in place, her hand tightly clutching the blanket at her side.
"I… I don't deserve to live…" she whispered. Her head was buried against his chest.
"You don't get to decide something like that," Harry said flatly. His hand moved to her left forearm where he felt something he'd never noticed before. The moment his hand closed over her skin the mark darkened perceptibly and she gasped.
"Wha- what did you do?" she said, her voice a mix of confusion and horror. She could feel the connection between them as he explored it.
"I… don't know. I can feel it," Harry said softly. What did this mean? Had he… inherited Voldemort's marks? He pushed the overwhelming thoughts that came with such a revelation aside and focused once more on the girl in his arms. At what she was feeling. Tonks was obviously shaken, but even more so she had questions she wanted answered.
"Don't you hate me? Despise me for what I've done?"
"I'm no stranger to murder, Nym."
They stayed like that for some time. Content to just take in the reality of the moment. That they were both alive. Everything else they could work out after.
"Mr. Potter and Miss Tonks!"
Or at least until an affronted Healer exited her office and noticed her only two patients closely entwined on a single bed wearing nothing but hospital gowns.
"Hey Poppy," Harry said with a smile, unconcerned by the interruption. Tonks positively leapt off of the boy in embarrassment. "I was hoping I'd get to see you. Quick question, why am I alive?"
"You can thank the Headmaster and the Alchemist for that one," she said disapprovingly, still regarding Tonks with a thin look. "And I'd appreciate it if you kept your activities to more appropriate places." She then surprised them both by sweeping Harry into a short hug.
"Thank you, Harry," the Healer said with a smile. "You've saved us all."
"Saved us?" Tonks looked between the two of them in confusion.
"Of course, you've only woken up recently," Poppy said in understanding. Her eyes moved to the girl's dark mark before flicking her wand at it, causing a white length of cloth to cover it once more. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated by the young man you were on top of not a moment ago. It happened last night." Tonks just stared at him in silent shock.
"It really is over, isn't it," he mused. It was a surreal experience. In no way did it feel real. "Where's Dumbledore?"
"On his way to get you. I informed him you were awake the moment I noticed it," said Poppy. "I'm sure you'll have much to talk about. As to your condition…" she moved her wand over him automatically, though it was really out of habit at this point than because it was necessary. "You have recovered from whatever has been afflicting you. You'll be sore for some time, but nothing worse than that. Knowing you though, I'd ask that you return here in a few days for a check-up.
"Now back to your bed, young lady," she directed at Tonks. "I don't think I need to remind you that it was either this or a cell."
"...Right. Visit me later, Harry? We've got… things to still talk about."
"Yeah, I will."
It was to a bright morning sun that shortly after found Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore sitting out by the lake. Fawkes was perched lightly on Harry's leg, happily eating flaming snacks provided by the Headmaster.
"We should do this more," Harry said, liking the temperate air that circulated them, courtesy of Dumbledore's spell. To most onlookers they'd probably be curious as to why the Headmaster was sitting with one of his students, but in truth it was just two friends, enjoying the temporary peace that had been given to them. Not that anyone could tell they were there, further hidden by the Headmaster's spells.
"Agreed," Dumbledore said pleasantly, popping another candy into his mouth. "Remind me to teach you this spell later, it makes the fall months so much more enjoyable this far north. By the way, Nicholas asked me to pass along his regards, and that he would be in touch."
"I'd imagine he would," Harry said dryly. "With everything that's happened though I don't mind waiting. It's been a busy few days."
"That is true, as you've explained to me from your perspective, the fall of Azkaban was yesterday. Happy belated birthday, by the way."
"Thanks, Professor," Harry chuckled.
"That reminds me, though it is certainly no gift I have something to return to you."
Harry looked over to see the Headmaster holding out a wand that he recognized instantly.
"Your new wand," Dumbledore said evenly, letting Harry take it in his hands. "Wand lore is something that I know a great deal of. This one's loyalty has most certainly shifted to you."
"Because I won the duel, huh?" Harry looked at the wand that was used to kill his parents and so many others. It was a powerful object, rivalling his own in sheer destructive force. "I kind of want to snap it, but at the same time it reminds me that I won."
"That is entirely up to you," the elder wizard said evenly. "There are pros and cons to both choices."
"Did you end up keeping Grindelwald's wand?" Harry asked. To this Dumbledore pulled the unique looking wand he'd always used.
"Indeed, I did. I use it to this day in the hopes that no witch or wizard will ever use its power for evil again."
Harry eyed his friend with curiosity before casting his gaze back over the lake, stepping a toe near a line he wondered if he should be treading.
"You know… I'm surprised you never asked me for the cloak back."
To his surprise Dumbledore laughed. A full laugh that said far more than any verbal response would. Still he replied, "Harry Potter, you are as perceptive as your dearest friend."
"You dropped too many hints, it was hard not to put it together," Harry argued.
"You give yourself far too little credit, as always," Dumbledore said, shaking his head. "Though I do believe I still have a few years yet in me, please ensure that I am buried with the wand. If that is impossible though, I'll feel secure in knowing that you are protecting it from misuse."
"You would really trust me with the Elder Wand?" Harry said in shock. "After everything I've done…"
"I would trust you with far more," the Headmaster said easily, reaching a hand out and resting it briefly on Harry's shoulder. "There is no need to prove yourself to me." The faith the old man felt in him warmed his chest, and left a burning fire there. "Now…"
Dumbledore stood, vanishing his seat as Harry did the same. Fawkes took to the air and lazily moved about them, letting the wind carry him here and there.
"Walk with me for a moment as we speak of what is to come."
They moved in silence for a minute before Harry began what would be a very different conversation than the earlier one. There was much to work out.
"Did you recover Voldemort's body?"
"We did," Dumbledore confirmed. "His was an existence that needs physical proof of an end. Your absence for the last seven months, as well what has been happening during that time, puts us all in a precarious position. Voldemort may be gone, but his followers remain and will not believe his death without the body. Even then, there will no doubt be a number who become more aggressive, who want to avenge him and his ideals, who even may consider rising up to take his place and carry on the fight. We can consider all of these not just as possible, but likely to happen."
"How has everyone treated my absence?" Harry asked. Voldemort had said he'd been turned on by the populace, but…
"Most in the country were torn between you having been killed or run away. You're… detainment, for lack of a better word, by Draco Malfoy is perhaps the silver lining that we are looking for. People will rally behind you when they discover you had been effectively captured, only to break free and take the fight directly to Lord Voldemort."
"I actually had an idea about how to deal with the Death Eaters," Harry said hesitantly. "Before you got me I discovered a… side effect of what happened last night."
"You are not referring to what Nicholas did to keep you alive," Dumbledore said to clarify.
"No, I'm not." Harry took a breath, knowing this was going to get a bit strange. He still wasn't sure how it made him feel quite yet either, but something like that wasn't going to stop him like it may have in the past. "I'm connected to the Dark Marks. I can feel them all, like faint threads in my mind, reaching out into the distance. I touched Nym's mark before you picked me up and it reacted like it would have if Voldemort had touched it."
Silence stretched as Dumbledore considered what Harry told him and the various ramifications.
"We may never fully understand the truth of what you have become," he began, "but that is no reason to doubt yourself or falter. To me and those you hold dear, you will always be Harry Potter. I believe that this is enough."
Harry couldn't help but smile at that.
"Yeah, me too."
"That being said, do you believe you could locate an individual with a Dark Mark?"
"I can probably do anything that Voldemort could. He also placed the Serpent's Mark on most of his newer followers, and I can control them with Parseltongue. It's a little scary to be honest."
"Then the real question is what to do with them, I suppose you're asking," the Headmaster said in understanding. There was no mistaking that the two individuals had a very different approach to dealing with Death Eaters, but the problems they faced were the same. "There are individuals who will fight to the death, and others who will run without a second thought. Regardless, the moment word gets out that they are being tracked it will make locating them all a great deal harder."
"So we get them all at once," Harry said, once more holding his new wand aloft. "I'll call them and we'll use that to trap them. Whoever runs can be arrested and tried. Whoever wants to fight to the death… let them. They would be the most dangerous ones anyway."
Dumbledore sighed heavily.
"It pains me to hear you talk of killing so casually," he said with a frown, but he said nothing against the plan Harry proposed. It would work. They could not afford to let those with the more advanced Serpent's Marks roam freely. "Perhaps after this final push we will both be able to rest our wands for good."
"We need to do this today, the sooner the better. Lunch time would work best, give the most people time to find excuses to get away for the meeting." That gave them scant hours to put the entire affair into motion, but it was enough.
"Anywhere will do, we just need an anti-apparation and portkey wards so that people can't actually escape. Muggle repelling wards, the usual."
"When we are done speaking then I will take you to a suitable place," the Headmaster said in agreement. There was no time to tarry after all. "Then I will bring our forces from Hogwarts."
"Just make sure you tell Snape not to go. I actually kinda like him now."
"Professor Snape, Harry."
"You plan on enlisting Her, I'd imagine."
For the first time Harry stopped walking, averting his gaze from the Headmaster in awkwardness.
"Ah… yeah. It's complicated."
"That I already knew." Dumbledore sighed before shaking his head. "For once I am going to say that I am too old to be dealing with this and leave it to the younger generation. She is very much your problem now."
"Generous of you. Anyway, what about school and everything?" Harry asked, glad that they now had a plan to finally end it definitively. "Things will be back to normal in a week or two probably, but…"
"You'd like to continue your education, yes?"
"Yeah, I could use the normalcy and it'll keep me out of the media for a while," he reasoned.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Dumbledore said, pleased that Harry wanted to return. "Your friends will be absolutely delighted to have you back. I don't think you understand the profound effect you have on them when you are here. It was all that I could to reassure them that you were at the very least alive, if missing."
He knew he didn't need to apologize and yet still felt responsible for how he'd put everything in his life that wasn't Voldemort to the side. Just a little bit longer and he'd be back. He wouldn't leave anything to risk. The Death Eaters were the final piece.
Again Dumbledore gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. It was funny how much the little act helped.
"Have you heard from Narcissa?" Harry asked.
"Not yet, though knowing her if you are here there is a one hundred percent chance that she will come back to find you. It is most likely that she is presently with her sister. No doubt you will see her before I do today. Shall we head back?"
"Yeah, we need to get working."
Harry drew the invisibility cloak around himself as Dumbledore allowed the illusion he'd kept woven around the pair during their entire time outside to dismantle. Disembodied, Harry's voice spoke.
"For our plan… can I count on you to coordinate with the Ministry without me being there?"
"Of course, I will be very persuasive. Is there anything else that you'll need?"
"Actually…" He paused as he made up his mind. "I'll need a couple favors."
An hour later Harry stood at the center of a large stone building that reminded him of the massive room in the Department of Mysteries with the stone arch. It was probably used for public performances or something similar, but today it would be the final resting place of Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters. Dumbledore had worked with Amos Diggory and Amelia Bones to lay their trap. The wards were all up. The place was his. Now it was on him to bring the guests. He had half an hour to do so before his reinforcements would surround the building and the grounds. But first…
He closed his eyes and located the two presences in his mind that he recognized of the anonymous threads he'd come to understand as the marks. He considered them briefly before beckoning to them. It was like he'd taken hold of the thread and pulled.
Almost at once three familiar magical presences appeared to his senses. Two that he'd called, and one that he'd prayed would come as well.
Running footsteps barely preceded Narcissa's shout as she ran through one of the many entrances along the wall. She did not stop running until colliding with him at the center in a crushing hug that he was happy to return. To see her safe and even running about put him at ease in a way that nothing else had so far.
"I'm so happy you're okay," she said tearfully. "I couldn't go back into the school right away, Bella said I needed more healing."
"She was right," he insisted, gently pulling himself out of her grasp as the elder Black sister walked into the room finally. She also looked perfectly healthy, though that made sense. "I'm better now. I'm not going anywhere."
"Bella said you… called her?" she continued, confused and concerned. "What exactly is going on? How-"
They both turned to find the other person that Harry had reached out to. She was standing with her wand out and pointing at who she likely felt was the biggest threat in the room.
"Nym, put the wand down and get over here, we don't have a lot of time."
"What is this, a family reunion?" Bellatrix said with little humor, unconcerned by her niece's aggression. "Actually, weren't you supposed to be dead?"
"Recognize me now?"
Bellatrix's eyes went wide as her features shifted into a very familiar Death Eater that had been working her way into Voldemort's inner circle. At once her hackles rose.
"Both of you stand down or I'll make you!" Harry snapped, no longer tugging at their threads but grabbing each with a fist. Each woman let out a surprised gasp, eyes flicking to their Dark Marks. "Now, come here."
Narcissa watched in apprehension and confusion as the boy she'd come to see as a son cowed two of the most powerful witches in the country with apparently nothing but his voice. Finally the three stood facing him, Nymphadora to his left, Narcissa in the middle, and Bellatrix on his right.
"Harry, what's going on?"
Harry took a deep breath. They had twenty five minutes remaining and he needed as much time as possible to let people arrive. They would be quick, Lord Voldemort was not one to wait when calling, but the more time the better.
"At one o'clock I will exterminate all the remaining Death Eaters throughout the country."
Whatever any of the women might have been thinking, it was thoroughly destroyed by his statement.
"Voldemort is gone and when everyone learns of it there will be problems. We have one chance to control the damage as much as possible right here."
"You mean to call them all here," Bellatrix said immediately. "And kill them."
"They can run if they want, but the Ministry will be waiting outside to catch them. I don't care about them. I care about the ones who will want to keep fighting. The ones who think they can be the next Lord Voldemort and carry out his vision."
The faintest whisper drifted across his mind and he stomped on it.
"And you want us to help you wipe them out," Tonks said, her gaze moving around the group. "Sure, they all deserve to die anyway. What about you?" she directed at Bellatrix.
"I've never cared in the slightest for Lord Voldemort's followers. I'll… follow you for now."
"I had a feeling you'd both agree," Harry said with a grin that did not match the pleasant tone of his voice. "Just remember that you're working together for this one. If either of you take a shot at the other you'll regret it."
Tonks just looked at him flatly.
"Only you would have the balls to threaten us like this. I can't say I don't like it, though."
"Anyway…" Harry derailed quickly. Twenty minutes left. "Only you and Bellatrix are staying. Narcissa has to go somewhere safe."
"Wha- Harry you can't tell me-"
"I agree," said Bellatrix. "You are still recovering, and nowhere near our level."
"Auntie, she's right," said Tonks, not happy who she was supporting but doing it nonetheless.
"Narcissa." The woman turned to the teen now addressing her. "I did not fight as hard as I have for as long as I have, to risk you dying here. Please sneak back into Hogwarts. Poppy will give you the full care you need. She's been expecting you."
"And that's it?" she returned, the fight leaving her. "You three against all of the remaining Death Eaters? That's still..."
"Cissy, honestly," said Bellatrix with no small amount of annoyance. "Look at who you're talking to."
"Fine, fine." She looked at Harry one last time. "You get home safe, young man. We have a lot to talk about. Keep him alive, you two."
And with that she left, Harry and Bellatrix only relaxing after they felt her apparate away.
"Nym, take the appearance of that Death Eater woman you were pretending to be," he said, rummaging around in his pockets for something.
"What about you?" Bellatrix said, taking in the area that they'd be fighting in. "Boy-Who-Lived slaughters dozens? I kind of like the sound of that."
"Thanks, I don't need more bad press than I already have," he said grimly, finally finding the potion vial he was looking for. It was a blood red. "To your health, ladies." And with that he downed the most vile tasting brew on the face of the planet.
Both women backed away as his skin began to bubble and push outward in places, he gained some height, his hair became more contained, and his eyes… his eyes became a bright red. A wave of his newest wand made the small modifications to his clothing so that it would fit better. Suddenly standing before them was Lord Voldemort, exactly as he had looked the night before.
"Well this is scary, isn't it?" he said, making both women flinch but for wildly different reasons. He reached out and lightly took hold of Bellatrix's chin, watching her go stock still under his touch. Tonks was wide eyed, but had a hand over her shoulder in fear.
That's right, she still has the snake mark. I'll have to take care of that later.
"Don't worry, it's still me… probably," Harry said, enjoying the effect he was having on them. "Now, hold out your arm."
Automatically they extended their marked arms. He considered each before shrugging and grasping them both and causing them to gasp. The Dark Marks went pitch black as he called on all of his servants. Beckoned them to come to where he was as quickly as possible. There was nothing more important than his call.
"Is this what it's like to be a Dark Lord?" he mused aloud. He was the only one finding the situation humorous, however. Bellatrix was barely maintaining herself upright while Tonks had fallen to her knees, panting heavily as he used them to amplify his call. Little though they knew it, both were thinking the same thing.
Whether he'd intended it or not, Harry Potter technically was Britain's newest Dark Lord. And they knew exactly where they stood in relation to that fact.
He released them the moment he felt the arrival of the first wizard outside. Then the second. The third. More and more and more began pouring in as they apparated to the edges of the premises, unable to get closer without walking. Slowly they entered, finding their Lord flanked by two of his closest supporters who waited in silence at his side. Dozens had arrived and they just kept coming. Mostly men, but some women as well, all wearing their dark robes and masks. In fact in the entire building, it was just the three at the center that were unmasked. They seemed inhuman as they filled the space. And so they waited.
Eventually the distant toll of a bell signaled the top of the hour. Harry could sense no further arrivals, but that just meant the ministry was doing its job properly. He had to put his faith in Dumbledore to be ready. And really there was no one better to trust for matters like this.
"My… ever faithful followers."
Harry smiled, internally mocking Voldemort. Imitating him took no effort, the transformation flawless. It was almost like he was alive again, wasn't it? The victory he felt over the Dark Lord flooded him afresh.
"In such numbers I have called you all," he said calmly, pacing slowly. There were well over a hundred there. Two hundred? It could not have been more than that, but even so, had they ever been fully amassed? "For today marks a very special day in the history of this movement. Today is the day that this movement…"
He paused as he took them all in.
Silence struk the room like a hammer. The shuffling of feet, the fidgeting of hands, soft and loud breaths… all of it stopped.
"For you to have joined me and attempt to live out your twisted, filthy desires… to dominate the weak, bend them to your will, discard them with impunity… You have been tested to live in a world much larger than you, and you…"
He stared at them with utter contempt. This group of animals that preyed on innocents for their own pleasure and ends.
They would finally know and experience exactly what they'd become.
Harry quickly blocked the hearing of Tonks before uttering one final statement in Parseltongue.
"Kill each other."
Amelia Bones had seen a great deal in her time as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She'd been on countless raids, participated in joint operations with the Department of Mysteries, served both as a Hit Wizard and Auror before being appointed to her position, and held almost every commendation that the Ministry gave for her line of work.
But never before had she presided over an operation like this one.
"You wish to end Voldemort's movement, don't you?" Dumbledore had said to her a scant two hours prior. She'd had nothing to retort, unable to take her eyes away from what was unmistakably the Dark Lord's corpse she was looking at. "Then you will need to do exactly as I say."
Wait outside of the building at precisely one in the afternoon.
They could do that without issue. They used magic to conceal their presence as they surrounded the building and waited, not stepping within the anti-apparation and portkey wards that had been set up prior until after the bell struck. The wall had been set.
Within one minute of the hour, Death Eaters will flee from the building in fear. They will be greatly distracted and pose little threat. Quickly incapacitate them and let none escape.
And flee they did. Dozens of Death Eaters ran from the building, pushing and shoving one another in an effort to get away from something behind them. It was child's play to down them all, even those that managed to get their wits about them and attempt to fight back. Eventually no more emerged, but they kept their wands at the ready. For what hadn't stopped was the horrific sounds of whatever was happening within.
Do not enter the building until two things have happened. Firstly, all sounds of fighting within must have stopped for a full, uninterrupted five minutes.
And so they waited. Once there was a lull for about thirty seconds before a shout of what was unmistakably someone dying passed over the air. Eventually the five minutes passed.
Secondly, the anti-apparation ward must be dismantled. Once this is done wait another minute before going inside.
"Everything according to plan, Albus," she said under her breath, using her wand to destroy the ward stone that had anchored them. Most of the Hit Wizards were processing the captured Death Eaters, but a large number of them went inside with her. They barely made it past one of the doors before stopping in their tracks.
The room was the scene of a massacre.
"Bloody 'ell…" the man to her right said, eyes as wide as everyone else's. "What happened here?"
"Did they kill each other?"
"I heard one of them outside…" another said, drawing everyone's attention. "Begging for help. He said… he said the Dark Lord was killing them all."
"Get it together!" Amelia snapped, making them all jump. "We've got a ton of work to do. Someone get over to the Ministry, I don't care who thinks they're in charge, just bring more squads."
As they scurried to it, Amelia let out a long breath. If the Dark Lord had caused this, but he was actually already dead...
Who caused this?
It was a question she never sought the answer to. Some things were better left a mystery.
"Well, that went well."
Harry had just finished returning his clothing to normal now that the polyjuice had worn off. Sitting with him on the top of a random London building was a silent Nymphadora and Bellatrix, both too caught up in what had just happened to care about their dislike for each other.
"Went well, he says," Tonks said dimly, looking at the sky. "I don't even know what happened, they all tore each other apart. Why did you do that to my ears at first?"
"So that you wouldn't join them."
She blinked twice.
"Are you alright, Bellatrix? You haven't said anything."
"I'm fine, Master."
They all paused at that, none more shocked than the woman who'd said it. She buried her head in her arms, cursing herself in a low voice.
"What a fucked up group we are," Tonks said in an amazed voice. "Like, I want to laugh, but I know that if I do I'll just start crying. Do you know what I mean?"
"Ah… yeah," Harry said after a second, unable to disagree. Bellatrix said nothing. "Nym, come here, I want to get that mark off of you."
At this both women looked over at him.
"Get rid of the mark?" the metamorph said in shock, looking down at her arm automatically.
"I can't do anything about that one," Harry said, shaking his head. "I mean the other one. Show it to me."
"Harry, I don't…"
"Do you want me to force you?"
Knowing there was no way around it, Tonks tapped her shirt with her wand, causing the entire right sleeve and shoulder to vanish, exposing the black snake tattoo that started down by her wrist and wound its way nearly to her neck.
"This is how I controlled most of the Death Eaters before," Harry explained, running a finger along it with a frown and causing Tonks to twitch. Bellatrix also frowned at the mark, remembering how she'd begged the Dark Lord to mark her as well. To give him more control over her body without even realizing that it could do that. She didn't know whether she was upset or relieved that it hadn't happened in the end. "Anyone with a large enough snake has used it a lot for power. It poisons their minds and makes them more violent. Easier to influence. They can't resist an order given in Parseltongue."
"You can get this thing off of me?" Tonks said hopefully. It was a curse and she'd done everything in her power to prevent it from growing, but that hadn't always been easy. The fact that she still lived after all this time with her mind was impressive enough.
"Yes, but it'll probably hurt a lot so I'm going to stun you first."
"Okay, I trust you."
She laid down on the roof before he stunned her and used a numbing charm on her arm. Remembering something else, he turned back to Bellatrix.
"Come help me, you're a pretty good Healer."
She hesitated for a second before moving over to his side.
"What do you expect to happen?" she asked.
"This might make a big hole in her arm. Just do what you can."
"Leave her body and curl on the ground before me."
At first nothing happened, but after a second the snake sank into her arm, as he'd witnessed before, and exited her through a smartly made cut thanks to Bellatrix's wand by where its head had been. It was disgusting to look at, but with the numbing charm and her being magically unconscious Tonks didn't make any movements. Bellatrix quickly began healing the internal damage of her arm and Harry vanished the blood covered snake, glad to be rid of the thing.
"Love snakes, but those things are fucking awful," he said absently, returning to his companions.
"She needs a better Healer than me, but she's alright for now," she said quietly.
"...You're welcome, Master."
"...Is that going to be a thing now?"
"Please don't ask me about it, I am very confused."
Well, if a Bellatrix Black who said "please, thank you, and you're welcome" wasn't enough of a sign that she was mentally broken down, he didn't know what was.
"Alright. I'm going to take Nym back to Hogwarts. I'll call you when I can get you to visit with Narcissa." He lifted Tonks in his arms after lightening her with his wand. "Bellatrix."
She gave him a sidelong look but was clearly paying attention.
"For what now?"
"For staying with me after the duel," he elaborated, eyes falling to the stone at his feet. "I… didn't want to die alone."
And with that she vanished in a rush of displaced air.
Harry looked at the place she'd been standing before letting his gaze fall back to the young woman in his arms.
"You know Nym, it's times like this that I actually miss my cupboard. Damn do I have issues."
Finally the roof returned to being empty once again.
It was to a breath of relief that Narcissa saw Harry enter the Hospital Wing a little over an hour after she had gotten there. He was flanked by Dumbledore and carrying an unconscious Nymphadora, but didn't have any injuries that she could see. Apparently everything had gone to plan, whatever that had been. They exchanged something in low voices before Harry nodded and Dumbledore stepped back out of the Ward.
"Spare me the pleasantries, Harry, out with it," Madame Pomfrey said crossly, moving the unconscious woman to a free bed.
"Do you remember the mark on her right arm?" he asked. "I got rid of it, but it caused some damage."
"At least you had the sense of getting her some help before bringing her back," the Healer said with a huff, moving carefully over Tonks's exposed arm with her wand.
"You can tell?"
"Of course, who do you take me for," she said, barely paying him any mind at this point. The Healer absently rubbed the top of his head for a moment before walking over to her office to get Tonks some potions. Clearly flustered, he finally walked over to Narcissa, conjuring a chair and sitting beside it.
"I didn't know you were so close with Madame Pomfrey," she observed.
"I don't know if close is the right word," he returned, sparing another glance for the Healer before turning back to Narcissa. "What has she done for you?"
"Standard Cruciatus treatment," she said, moving her hands and arms a bit. "It's uncomfortable because they have to find out if any of your nerves aren't working like they should be."
"Are you alright?" he asked worriedly. After all she had been moving around before and now she was sitting in a bed. At least she wasn't in one of the gowns.
"I've lost a bit of feeling here and there but it will come back by the end of the week," she reassured him. "What about you? I can't even begin to understand what you've just been through."
"Well, I guess it started the day I raided Gringotts…"
Narcissa listened with wide eyes as he described his movement through the bank and fought with the Dementors.
"To think that was you…" she said with awe. The mass destruction of the dementors was a mystery that no one had an answer for, at least until now. "There aren't many left, you know."
"Good, they're foul creatures," he said in disgust. "After that though…"
He paused, suddenly looking stricken, unable to meet her eyes.
"Tell me, Harry."
"Draco captured me."
Narcissa closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath and letting it go slowly. Of course he had something to do with it. She realized then that Harry was about to tell her how her son died.
"Did… you kill him?"
She had to ask. She remembered clearly Voldemort saying that Harry had killed both her husband and son, but she needed to hear it from him.
"I… not directly."
He described the room where he had been taken. That it was a safehouse of her ex-husband's. How Draco had lost his mind, and ultimately his life. Silently Narcissa wiped away the tears that had fallen throughout his recounting. She'd long known he was gone, but was glad at least for the closure, as horrible as it may have been.
"You shouldn't blame yourself," she said finally when he'd fallen into silence.
"That's a good one, tell me another."
"I'm serious, Harry." Narcissa looked up at the high ceiling before returning to the teen at her side. "Draco's life was taken by Lucius and the Dark Lord. It's been over half a year for me to think about it."
"Tell me," she said, lightening her tone. There were better things to talk about. Happier things. "What do you want to do now?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"No more hiding," she said with a small smile. "No more hunting. Will you go back to school?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, matching her expression. "I was talking with Dumbledore earlier about that. Do you think they'll let me be a seventh year? I did miss half a year of school. More, actually."
"The Headmaster will work something out," Narcissa said confidently. "He won't separate you from your friends."
"What about you?"
"Well, I doubt you want to live in the trunk anymore," he reasoned.
"True…" She honestly hadn't been thinking of her own living situation. Then again, she'd have needed a home regardless. "I'll have to get cousin Sirius to help with the money, but well…" she smiled grimly. "I'd imagine there are going to be a lot of new homes for sale soon."
"I can help," Harry said at once. "If you want me to."
Narcissa smiled widely at this.
"I'd be upset if you didn't."
Dumbledore closed the door to his office with a tired exhale. He hadn't gotten any sleep the night before for obvious reasons, and would no doubt be losing more in the week to come. He looked over to the long wooden casket that held Voldemort's body, magically preventing it from decaying or being otherwise tampered with. The Headmaster trusted nowhere but his innermost sanctum for its storage, and the prospect of not needing to think about Lord Voldemort and his followers again was enough to counter having such a terrible roommate, if only temporarily.
"Who would have thought this is how you'd next visit my office, Tom," he said absently, giving Fawkes a brief scratch on the head before taking a seat at his desk. With Harry now visiting Narcissa in the Hospital Wing and Amelia reporting the successful end of the Death Eaters there was planning to be done. Amos and Amelia were reestablishing control of the Ministry. Thicknesse would be in custody by dinner. The few Voldemort supporters that had never been marked would very rapidly find that their power base had completely disappeared, quite literally overnight.
And he would lift the veil of fear that shadowed his school.
"Albus, do you have a moment?"
He looked to the latest addition to his desk. A small picture frame the size of a paperback book. Within it was the profile of the famed Alchemist. Given the recent event, he had felt it necessary for them to have a more efficient way of communicating.
"Of course, my friend," he said with a nod.
"Has the boy woken up?"
"More than that," Dumbledore said, unable to contain a small chuckle. "Up and routing remnants of a Dark Lord's following. He's back at the school now though."
"Is he," Flamel said in interest. "That is promising, I suppose. Have there been any noticeable changes?"
"No, it would appear she is still dormant," said Dumbledore with a frown. "He would have mentioned something."
"As expected then." The Alchemist fiddled with something out of sight. Was he taking notes? "I have no idea when or even if something will happen, but I have no doubt that He will eventually come to call."
"And we can count on your support when that happens?"
"I imagine He will target us long before the boy," Flamel reasoned. "But of course, Albus, you can."
"Then I have nothing to be concerned about."
"Let me know if anything changes."
With that the frame went dark, only a shadowy figure remaining. Dumbledore suppressed a scowl before placing the frame flat on its face. The Alchemist and his wife had helped, no doubt. The method used to save him though…
Something he knew only the faintest amount of. Something he had absolutely no control over. And something that had been done to his friend without his knowledge, although it was to keep him alive. The Flamels' solution was so radical, so extreme, that he couldn't help but keep returning to the same question.
Was this truly the only way?
He'd lived long enough to know that the answer to that question was almost exclusively no in every situation. Harry needed to know, and soon he would tell him.
Today though… he would stop piling worries on the boy for at least today. He owed him at least that much.
Now to prepare his dinner speech.
Halloween at Hogwarts had always been an exciting affair. The Hall was expertly decorated, appropriately themed with the more amicable ghosts doing their best to startle any students they could, and the food was as always excellent and plentiful. The students were no doubt saddened by a lack of party the way there had been one the year prior, but it made more sense this time around. More than twice as many people lived at Hogwarts compared to before, and an effort to allow everyone to enjoy the festivities at the same time put a noticeable strain on an already stretched thin kitchen staff and Dining Hall. But they all fit with a bit of magic, and they were content.
Dumbledore watched over the Hall as usual, seated at the center of the head table, however it stretched considerably further in each direction, allowing for other prominent members of the Ministry that had been forced to join them or face death at the hands of Voldemort and his followers. There were some notable absences that evening though. The Heads of the various Ministry Departments that had fled to Hogwarts were missing, as well as the vast majority of the Aurors and Hit Wizards that had come with them. Of course, only he knew exactly what they'd been busy with since lunch.
About halfway through the meal the Headmaster pushed his chair back and stood. Slowly the considerable volume in the room lessened until it was finally gone, instead filled with the creeks of people shifting in their seats, the shuffling of robes, and an occasional clink of dinnerware.
"Thank you for your attention, this will not take long." He paused for a second, eyes moving between the students and their extended guests. "Sixteen years ago on this very day, the Dark Lord Voldemort was brought within an inch of death, forced to retreat and regain his strength as his following faded into obscurity. More than a decade of celebration followed this until finally he returned with vengeance. There is not a single person in this room who has not been affected by the terror he has brought, be it old or new. We have been living in this castle, surviving, trying to cling to what we find safe."
He paused as he regarded them all with a profound respect.
"I believe you should all be commended for how you've continued to push through in spite of the odds. You bring an old man like me hope, and a great deal of joy, to see you continuing to grow together, even in circumstances like these."
The students and adults continued to listen in silence. Various thoughts floating through the room, but all waiting for him to finish. Something told them all that this was no normal announcement.
"That being said, it brings me no greater pleasure than to tell you our times of hardship have come to a close." Confusion rippled through the crowd. "Put simply, Lord Voldemort is dead."
Though he was prepared for it, it didn't prevent the almost physical wave of sound that erupted from everywhere in the room from knockin him back into his seat. The teachers were no exception. Only a limited few were aware of the news due to necessity. With an internal sigh he pulled his wand and gave it a wave over the room causing three very loud, chest-shaking bangs that quickly returned the room to silence.
"Apologies, there is a bit more to say," he said with a smile. "As I've just said, Lord Voldemort is dead. No doubt you are wondering how I know this? The answer is also simple. His body is currently being held in my office."
No one had anything to say to that.
"Additionally," Dumbledore continued pleasantly, as if he hadn't just talked about the high profile dead body in his office, "earlier today the Ministry, along with the law enforcement that has been residing with us at the castle, captured the vast majority of the remaining Death Eaters in the country. Lord Voldemort and his movement have effectively been wiped out." He held up his hand to stall the coming tide of sound that was sure to burst forth once more. "Details about how this happened will come in time. For now though, I felt it was my obligation to lift the weight from your shoulders as soon as I could."
His gaze finally landed on one student. The one who had just quietly come through the door while all eyes were glued to the man at the center of the head table. The student smiled and gave a weary nod. The message was clear even without words.
Go on, get it over with.
"That being said, with Lord Voldemort's defeat, we can finally welcome back a student we have long missed in these halls. It is very good to have you back with us once more, Mr. Potter."
The whip-crack sound of several necks nearly breaking as people turned to the was more than likely something that students invented to embellish the scene when telling anyone who hadn't been there that night. The scream of one of the Gryffindor Seventh Year girls as she quite literally knocked everyone next to her to the floor in an effort to clear her seat was most certainly real.
He got no further before she'd jumped him, nearly bringing them both to the ground.
"You're alright," she breathed in relief. "You horrible, horrible friend, where have you been?"
"Later, Hermione," he said softly, returning her hug tightly before making to step back. She was having none of it, however, and still clung to him like he'd vanish if she let go. In that moment he was absolutely swarmed by his peers. Ron clapped him on the shoulder, overjoyed, while the other members of his year and more all gave him warm welcomes. He looked for Tracey and Daphne, but there were so, so many people in the room that he couldn't see either of them. It was a mess of bodies and magic. The Slytherin table was also the furthest away from where he was in this much expanded Dining Hall.
"Is it true?"
A voice rang out to him from someone in the group. Despite everything that Dumbledore had said, there was still doubt. They looked to the only other person who it seemed that they could trust on the matter. That if anyone would know, he would.
"It is," he said evenly. "Everything Professor Dumbledore said is true."
"He's gone?" The girl still clutched in his arms looked at him for any amount of deception. Any hint. "He's really, surely, gone?"
"He's gone, Hermione. It's over."
All at once she seemed to lose the strength in her legs and Harry had to quickly tighten his grip around her so she wouldn't drop to the floor.
The words came muffled against his shirt, tears flowing freely. She angled her face and he could see a beaming smile looking back up at him. All the stress he'd last seen in her, all the worry, all the sadness… it was all gone. Laughter bubbled up from her throat and she spoke in a clearer voice.
He looked out at the crowd he'd now accumulated. His friends and peers around him. The hopeful energy that had filled the Hall from Dumbledore's news. Celebration that had started anew. He knew it was going to get crazy again when they got more details, but for now this was enough.
Xx~ One Week Later ~xX
Once upon a time, Tracey Davis believed that she was and would always be runner up to a race she'd never win. She was told constantly that she was pretty, intelligent, and very likable by both her parents and her best friend, yet that contrasted sharply with what she experienced. The girl she loved like a sister objectively beat her in all areas, consistently getting attention while Tracey got less or none at all. Even the school mocked her, placing a half-blood in the pure House of Slytherin. She'd practically lost hope at anything ever being different.
Now, she wondered if she wasn't actually in one of those fairy tales.
"Do you... want another one?"
Tracey took a grape from the bowl at her side and carefully placed it in Harry's open mouth. She sat with her legs to the side, his head placed comfortably in her lap. The grass around them swayed lightly in the warm summer breeze, courtesy of a spell from Harry's wand.
"You two are positively sickening."
Daphne sat not far from them on a blanket, idly flipping through a book that floated in front of her. The expression she wore was one of disgust.
"Oh my, Miss Greengrass, jealousy is not flattering on you."
The raven haired Slytherin turned to the fourth member of the group.
"Shove off, Granger, at least people aren't confused about my position in all this… this," she gave up trying to describe what was happening in front of her and instead just motioned to it vaguely with a hand.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Hermione said coolly. She for once wasn't doing anything academic, instead content to sit in peace and enjoy the atmosphere.
"Almost one year later and people still don't know who's actually his girlfriend," Daphne said with a smirk.
"That's ridiculous," Hermione said dismissively. "My love for Harry is purely platonic."
"Ha, as if you haven't ever wondered what's going on under the robes," Daphne fired back.
"I'm right here you know," Harry said dryly as they continued to nettle one another, though it was more an automatic response than one he was really paying much mind to. His attention was fully on the blonde whose hair kept getting away from being tucked behind an ear.
"I'm sorry," she said softly, her hair pooling around them, partially blocking them from view. "I didn't do any of this right."
She'd lied about being his girlfriend to the entire school. Guilted him into promising that he'd be safe when she knew he was marching to what would likely kill him. She hadn't even been able to make it to him when he'd returned during the Halloween feast. She'd been too relieved and shocked to move properly. At least Hermione made it to him before she collapsed. It was no wonder that people thought they were in a relationship.
"Tracey," he said after a second. "I already told you none of that matters."
"To me it does," she replied. "I've been so selfish, just doing whatever I wanted to make myself feel better."
"You're no worse than I am," Harry said, shaking his head. "You're an angel compared to me, to be honest. I've done terrible things to be here."
"Doesn't change who you are to me." Tracey went crimson with shyness but pushed on anyway. She licked her lips before leaning down and kissing him lightly. "Even if you became the next dark lord I'd still love you."
It felt really, really good to make him speechless from time to time.
Whatever mood had settled in over the pair broke to pieces as the sound of gagging filled the air. Daphne was pretending to hurl. Even Hermione had averted her eyes in embarrassment.
It was probably to everyone's relief that a brown owl suddenly landed next to them with an evening newspaper in its claws, looking at the Gryffindor girl expectantly.
"Thank you," she said, acknowledging receipt of the paper and the owl took off, likely heading for the Owlery. "Oh my, is this it?"
Hermione spread the paper out on the ground so they could all see it. Like many of the other papers they had seen from the Prophet this week, this edition had a single article on the whole of the front page. At the center was a picture of a very familiar face looking out at them, serious in his expression, but giving an impression of confidence and triumph. Bold letters stood out across the top of the page.
HARRY POTTER RETURNS AFTER MONTHS IN CAPTIVITY TO DEFEAT THE DARK LORD! BRITAIN'S SAVIOR DELIVERS US FROM EVIL ONCE MORE!
An exclusive interview and a look into the journey of our hero.
At the beginning of last week, Britain was immersed in a darkness it hadn't seen for nearly two decades. Today, those dark days have become history. Over the week this Paper has been bringing you the most up to date news regarding the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his followers (see pg 2), the state of the Ministry (see pg 5), and what waits for us all in the future (see pg 9). In this edition we bring you an exclusive interview with Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, and who may now be getting yet another title; one for defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Note that for the duration of this interview, Harry Potter always referred to the Dark Lord by name, however for our readers we have omitted it.
"I was wondering when they'd finally finish it," Harry mused, sitting up properly to look at the paper. "Yep, there's the interview. I knew they wouldn't write Voldemort in there, buncha' babies."
"If they want to keep fearing the name then let them," said Daphne dismissively. "At this point it really is just a name."
"I'm surprised you did this," Hermione said honestly, looking over at her closest friend. "This is rather detailed considering that you told us. It makes it easier having you right next to me, but I still get scared just thinking about it."
"While the minute details will perhaps never be known, what is clear is that in defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Harry Potter has become recognized as one of the most powerful wizards Britain has ever known at the incredible age of seventeen. We are eager to see what great things he will do in the future, and can only extend our heartfelt gratitude for what he has given us all." Tracey finished reading, leaning against Harry and wrapping her arms around him. "I'm dating one of the most powerful wizards in Britain, huh?"
"Well the paper said it so it must be true," he said with a grin, causing her to laugh.
"I really hesitate to ask this," Daphne began, grabbing their attention, "but you know they've restarted Hogsmeade weekends right? What're you planning on doing for this one?"
"Just spend time together," Tracey said evasively, giving her friend a look that she knew very well.
I'll tell you later.
Which instantly had Daphne blushing to the roots of her hair. Thankfully Harry didn't seem to notice.
"Only on Saturday though, I'm meeting up with Narcissa on Sunday for lunch. She said she had something really important to talk to me about."
Harry had shared some of the things he'd been keeping extraordinarily close to the vest, one of the most shocking being that he'd saved Draco Malfoy's mother from Voldemort and ended up essentially living as her roommate for well over a year. Particularly to the two who had once been his dormmates, it was still something they didn't know what to think of. But It was obvious that Harry had grown close to the woman and so they kept whatever opinions they had to themselves. In all honesty it was nice to see him happy about anything these days.
Hermione of course had no such reservation.
"That's nice, I wonder what it is."
"I dunno, but I'll tell you if it's interesting."
Silence fell on the group for a minute. Then...
"Want me to feed you grapes with my mouth?"
"Ugh! Get a roooooooom!"
The lunch rush on Saturday was calm for once in the seemingly random American-styled diner in London. Two women sat in a booth, undisturbed by the people around them, including the servers. At first glance one would think the couple were being ignored by the diner staff, but with a closer look, and a talent for reading magic, it would be easy to see that the two sat within a very, very subtle Notice-Me-Not charm, barely strong enough to affect even the weakest of wizarding kind, but more than enough for a diner of Muggles.
They would probably all be shocked to know that one of them was Britain's current most wanted criminal.
"You know, I'm surprised."
Bellatrix looked up from the silly paper placemat with juvenile puzzles printed on it to the woman across from her.
"That you would meet me here. In a place like this."
"I'm a murderer, not a racist."
"It's still hard for me not to see them as inferior," Narcissa admitted. "Harry doesn't like it when I sound too much like basically anyone I grew up with or around."
"They are inferior," Bellatrix said shortly. It couldn't get any more scientific in her opinion. "They don't have magic. We do. I don't hate them for it though."
"That is a good way of putting it."
"Are you ready?"
The sudden change in topic threw Narcissa off for a moment, but she recovered quickly.
"Yes. As I'll ever be."
"Then relax a bit. Whatever happens, happens." She suddenly blinked and looked to the door. "He's here, I'll go bring him over."
A minute later Bellatrix returned to her seat, Harry close in tow.
"Sorry I'm late," he apologized. "I had a late night and slept in."
"It's alright, we haven't been here for long," Narcissa said to him with a smile, moving over in the booth to give him room. "Come have a seat."
Bellatrix watched in interest as Harry Potter fidgeted awkwardly on the spot before sitting, eyes flickering between her and her sister.
"You said you had something important to talk to me about?"
"Yes, I did."
This was it.
"I… I wanted you to look at this?"
Narcissa laid a small stack of parchment with very precise writing in front of him. Thumbing the corner of the top page he looked at the others, noting areas that had spaces for signatures. It looked very official.
"What is it?" he asked in curiosity. Narcissa actually blushed.
"A… well, they're a… adoption papers…"
"Adoption…?" Harry suddenly felt like his voice had become very small. His throat was paper dry. "You… Me?"
"I mean, I know it's silly, you're already of age so something like this doesn't really do anything in the grand scheme of things and honestly they'll cause you more harm than good, I know people will talk, and I just-"
The younger Black sister cut off as she got a pointed look from the elder, nodding her head in Harry's direction. He was simply staring at the document in silence.
"I know we have a... complicated relationship," Narcissa finally said, dropping her gaze to the table. "Anyone looking in on this would probably say we both need serious psychological help. They probably wouldn't be wrong either," she added with a weak chuckle. "But that doesn't change how I feel about this. I can only do what I think is right, and this," she touched the document, "feels right."
Harry let out a long breath before looking at Bellatrix.
"What do you think about this?"
"Why does that matter at all?"
Harry gave her a nonplussed look and said, "Ignoring all the obvious reasons, a Lord should always consider the word of his most faithful supporter, shouldn't he?"
Bellatrix scowled at him, stopping herself from the reflexive urge to rub her left forearm but not before he'd noticed as well. Her rising annoyance was quickly quelled though as Narcissa had taken Harry lightly but firmly by the ear, reducing him to a hapless teenager once again.
"Behave yourself or so help me-"
"I'll stop! I'll stop!"
Bellatrix was unable to resist a small smile. She had seen the two, both individually and together, go through a great deal. Knowing her sister all her life, it was clear she was happy, and it was really only at times like this that Harry Potter ever even remotely resembled a typical teenager.
"I…" she began, getting the others attention, "think you should do what you want. I won't make this decision for you."
Silence fell on over the three at this, and Harry stood up.
"Can you give me a little while to think about it?"
"Of course, Harry."
What else could she say?
"I'll be back in a little while then." And with that he walked out of the diner.
"...He didn't say no yet," Narcissa said after a second, eyes falling back on the papers.
Bellatrix sighed at her sister's anxiety. Well, she couldn't really blame her at this point.
"No he didn't. He apparated," she noted, feeling the distance of their bond suddenly stretch greatly. "I wonder where he went to think?"
"Potter, why are you in my office?"
Severus Snape was undoubtedly the happiest he'd been in quite a long time. He no longer had to do double agent work for the Order. Lily's son had lived through everything. He didn't even have to deal with Dumbledore's nonsense nearly as much as usual. For the first time in years he could actually do some proper potions research for his own projects as opposed to a murderous Dark Lord. One of said projects which was being interrupted by a Gryffindor sitting on an unoccupied table as if he did it all the time.
Of course, the boy's presence was unable to disturb his precise movements. A hand lifted the chimera blood that he gathered with a dropper. Now to add a single-
"Narcissa wants to adopt me."
Snape slowly put the dropper down and placed his potion under stasis.
"Why is it…" he turned to the enigma of a boy with no small amount of annoyance, "that you always come to me with the dramatic emotional things that happen in your life?"
Narcissa wanted to adopt him? He honestly didn't even know where to begin with that bit of insanity. It was almost as mind altering as knowing that his dark mark now forever connected him to the boy. The less he thought about it all the better he felt.
"I dunno, you always come to mind first when I need serious advice," Harry said honestly. "You're… a reliable arse?"
Snape suppressed a snort of laughter at that.
"So you want your mother's likely thoughts on the matter?" he guessed.
"Do you think she'd be mad?" The boy looked incredibly troubled.
"I do not believe that it ultimately matters," Snape replied without hesitation. "Lily is gone, and has been so for many years. You, however, have your entire life ahead of you. Now stop interrupting the precious few hours I have without being forced to endure children and do whatever you want."
With that he turned back to his potion, only picking up his dropper once he heard the door close behind him.
"Annoying boy... if it makes you smile like that then why even disturb me in the first place?"
"...Run that by me again?"
Sirius Black was confused. The closest feeling he could presently relate to was the sense that he was being pranked. But Harry didn't prank people.
"I've formally adopted Harry Potter into the Black Family as my son," Narcissa said with a straight face from across the sitting room table. "This is your copy of the documentation. The Ministry has already received the originals and processed them. It's official."
Narcissa Black most assuredly did not prank people.
No, this was real.
Naturally he turned to his godson for confirmation.
"It's true. I know I didn't talk to you about it, but-" He got no further as Sirius had finally made it over to him, pulling the teen into a tight hug.
"I'm not upset at all, kiddo," he said reassuringly, taking a step back and clapping him on the shoulder. "Or surprised, really. Well I am," he elaborated. "Pretty blown away. But don't act like I didn't know something was going on all this time with my dear cousin here. Hell, this makes it even easier for you to inherit everything when I finally kick it one day."
"I dunno, the newly acquitted Sirius Black must have someone's eye," Harry said, unable to resist a smirk. "What did that Witch Weekly article say? 'From Most Wanted Criminal to Most Wanted Bachelor'?"
"Prat," Sirius chuckled, rubbing his knuckles across the teen's head. "That was nonsense and you know it. Go upstairs and visit with Tonks for a bit, Narcissa and I have some things to talk about that'll bore you. Good things," he added at Harry's suspicious look. "No one's going to start a fight here. Get going."
"Alright, call me when you're done."
They watched Harry leave the room and ascend the stairs before returning to staring at one another in silence. The atmosphere had tensed perceptibly.
"Should I have my wand out?" Narcissa said finally, but Sirius shook his head, still caught up in his thoughts. Eventually he spoke.
"You know as well as I do exactly what Harry has done to make it this far." The word went unspoken, but it was obvious what he meant. "But I knew him before you did. Before Voldemort came back. I remember what he was like, and know that he'll never be that boy again." Sirius regarded his cousin flatly. "Don't you ever forget that the first time he killed someone it was solely for you."
Narcissa sagged slightly as her face fell.
"I will never forget that." She regarded him with a heartfelt conviction. "I want to help him live a good life."
"That makes two of us," Sirius said with a nod of agreeance. "You'll need a place to live, right? I think I can help you with that."
Tonks took a steadying breath as there was a knock on her door.
"Come on in, Harry."
"You know I forgot you could sense me," he admitted, closing the door behind him. "I didn't realize you were here until we entered the building, the Fidelius Charm really screws with things."
"Me and Narcissa," he added. "She, uh, adopted me. We came to tell Sirius."
Tonks gave him a shocked look.
Tonks just shook her head, laughing at the absurdity of it all.
"Someone's going to have a field day writing your biography."
They stood in an awkward silence. Eventually Harry broke it.
"After everything that's happened, that's your response? What, Harry?"
"What do you want me to say?" she shot in frustration. "That I'm sad I'm the only one who loses out in the end." She pulled up her left sleeve, the Dark Mark visibly darker due to his proximity. "Harry, you can dominate me. I knew it the moment you touched my arm in the Hospital Wing. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?"
"Probably better than how I feel knowing I can dominate Snape."
A look of utter revulsion crossed both of their faces before they broke out laughing.
"Fuck, I'm a wreck…" Tonks breathed softly, wiping a few tears from her eyes. From laughter or something else she couldn't really tell. "I'm happy and sad. At least you got your happy ending."
"I'm not going to let you hide away in misery," Harry said bluntly. She was just the type to let things fall into disarray. "My life is an absolute mess, you said it yourself, but you're still a part of it for better or for worse. If you try to run I'll chase you down. Just…" he paused, averting his eyes for a moment. "I am dating Tracey now."
"I know you are, prat," she groused. "Not that it would be a good idea in the slightest, but I am still jealous of that pretty blonde." The metamorph slowly raised an eyebrow, the corner of her mouth twitching into a grin. "Shag her yet?"
"N-Nym!" Harry said, affronted.
"I'm not hearing a nooooo," she sang.
The cottage was quaint, tucked away on a small parcel of land in Bakewell. It was by far not the most impressive of the homes that littered the hilly countryside, but it fit in just the same, sheltered by the trees. There was a pervasive sense of serenity that rode the crisp fall air. Of the handful of properties that the Black Family owned, this was the only one located in an entirely Muggle town. When asked, Sirius explained that there was no reason to consider using them for the Order as Twelve Grimmauld Place already came with the best protections they could ask for, not to mention its central location. As to why his family even owned this particular home in the first place…
"The only thing more powerful than magic is money."
Apparently real estate was fairly lucrative no matter which world you belonged to.
Now the two of them stood out front. The ward work was complete. Floo to be set up on Tuesday. There was nothing to move, really. Neither Harry nor Narcissa really owned anything that couldn't already fit in a pocket when shrunk. The place was minimally furnished, and could be modified at their leisure.
"You're going to be alright, Harry."
The teen looked to his godfather as he put an arm over his shoulders.
"Lily and James would be proud of you. So am I."
"Thanks, Sirius. For everything."
"Think nothing of it."
Narcissa poked her head out of the front door, locating them almost immediately. She'd insisted on the pair exploring the town while she did… whatever she needed in the cottage. Now though it appeared she was done.
"Sorry, I just wanted to touch up the place before you walked in for the first time," she said, tucking away her wand in her sleeve. "I'm done now." She gave Sirius a look that had him laughing.
"Well I know when I'm not wanted," he said, giving Harry a light push to get him moving. "Come visit me soon, alright? And don't forget you have classes again." He stepped off the property with a wave and vanished with a pop.
"You didn't need to chase him away," Harry said accusingly, joining Narcissa on the porch. She ignored him though, pulling him through the front door and wrapping him in a warm hug.
"Welcome home, Harry."
And he smiled. For the first time, those words actually had meaning to him.
Author's Note: Yeah, I did that. I mean that's basically all I've done the last two days, but I just couldn't leave everyone hanging on the things they wanted. Yes, there are still loose ends in here but either they're for you to think about and imagine or for me to add to in an After Years chapter (which you shouldn't be expecting, they will come when they do). They could be long or oneshot short, who knows. But that said, I really, REALLY, can't thank everyone enough for the support over the years with this silly thing. You guys are fucking amazing. It is done.
Please let me know what your favorite part of the story was, what you wish there was more of, anything at all. Smash that subscribe button for more content like this and click on the bell so that you get notified when my stuff goes live. ;)
Btw, I looked it up, and there's no canon answer to whether you can use a dead person for polyjuice. So I went with yes (if this ever turns out to be wrong then whatever, I'm not changing it)
Lastly, below is a final gift to you all. A preview of an After Years chapter. Consider it the epilogue's epilogue.
Enjoy, and stay awesome.
~ The After Years: Awakening ~
Harry awoke to the feeling of himself floating, his body moving slightly up and down with his breathing. Eyes opening, he found himself partially submerged in calm water that stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see. The horizon gave off hues of orange and violet, with the sky directly above a light blue.
He sat up, immediately finding the water he was now sitting in simultaneously had no visible bottom but was supporting his weight at the surface. There was a swirling darkness below that looked unnerving but felt no different than the sky above. He pushed himself to his feet with no issue, ripples extending out from where his feet met the unbroken surface of the water.
"Okay…" he said to himself. "Definitely not something I've experienced before… Hello?"
The call was automatic, but ultimately silly. There wasn't anyone-
He turned to find himself facing someone that he hadn't seen in a long time.
It was Stella.
Or so it seemed. Their appearances certainly were similar, maybe even identical, however the demeanor he'd come to know so well was completely gone. It was as if an entirely different young woman were standing before him.
"Is this in my mind?" he asked. It seemed like the most important question.
"A mind?" she repeated, tilting her head slightly to one side as she considered the question. Slowly she shook her head. "No."
Harry looked around again. It felt so… familiar. So… his. He didn't-
"This is a soul."
His eyes returned widely to the woman before him. She reached out and placed a hand on his chest. It was impossible to describe the feeling of her touch.
Her hand returned to touch her own chest.
Suddenly there was a much more important question to ask.
"Who are you?"
The woman tilted her head slightly as a frown made its way onto her face. She looked troubled.
A spark of recognition crossed her features.
Her eyes made their way to his. The frost blue gave away nothing as she observed him impassively.
Far, far away, in a place perfectly concealed by magic, a small figure on a shelf broke apart, crumbling away into what resembled loose dirt. It was not the only of its kind. Indeed there were six others on the same shelf. This one had a unique purpose, like all the others, and as with each other figure it held a great significance to its owner.
The man, whose age could not have been guessed from his appearance alone, approached the broken figure with a frown. He had seen others break before, and dealt with it accordingly, but never this one. The one that held perhaps the greatest role of them all had always been the least of his worries, and was something he rarely thought on. Now though…
He could not simply ignore it.
It had been a very long time since he last walked the land of mortals.
"That's right, I gave my last one away," he remembered, seeing that the wand he usually kept was not in its spot on the shelf. "Was it really that long ago? Well, no matter."
He turned to the center of his abode where an ancient tree of white stood, branches reaching far up into the upper levels of the structure. A slight gesture had one of the lower boughs reaching towards him, allowing him to remove a thin, perfectly straight piece the length of his forearm.
One could say it had a most curious resemblance to a long skeletal finger.
"I could always make another one."