Potter on Paper: Fanart and Fanfiction by Mudblood428
AFTER THE DIE IS CAST
“I don’t mind staying, if you want me to,” argued Ginny.
“It’s okay, I’ll only be a moment,” he said reassuringly. “You can tell Ron and Hermione to come back in… ten minutes.”
She nodded tentatively. He pressed Ginny’s hand and looked on as she departed down the stone steps away from the old oak at the peak of Godric's Hollow cemetery. There were buds and blossoms growing on the branches now, an invisible breeze disturbing the blades of wild grass and dandelions as it passed over the shaded hill. When Ginny had rejoined Ron and Hermione at the grounds’ edge, Harry turned back and straightened his robes, squatting down before the large granite slab that he had visited for the first and only time over a year and a half ago.
He cleared his throat, and smiled.
“Hi, Mum and Dad. It’s me again… Harry,” he said to the stone. “Wish I could’ve come back sooner but it’s been a bit hard getting out these days and I suppose there hasn’t been all too much to report anyway. Oh... these are for you,” he said, placing a small cluster of flowers upon the ground at his feet.
Once more, he read the inscription carved into the headstone that bore both his parents’ names: No greater love hath man than to lay down his life for another. As Harry had suspected, Lupin admitted to choosing the inscription himself during a late night conversation with Harry at his Grimmauld Place home during Harry’s recovery. Lupin had been eerily quiet talking about Harry’s parents that night, and Harry wondered later if their talk had anything to do with his decision shortly thereafter to elope with Tonks to Southern Ireland.
Harry realized then that there was plenty of news to share.
“Maybe you’d like to know what’s happened since the last time we spoke. I’d tell you about what happened at Kings Cross Station, but… you were there, weren’t you? Reckon I’ll save us both the trouble of reliving it, I think, since there’s so much else to say,” he began, crossing his legs under him and taking his seat on the ground.
“For starters, Ron, Hermione and I graduated from Hogwarts last year, so that’s good. Commencement happened so soon after the battle, you know, so I decided to lay low for a while once the ceremony was done – let all the excitement blow over because goodness knows they wanted me for all manner of questioning and interviews and other rubbish. The only interview I agreed to was with Luna Lovegood, a mate from school. She runs the Quibbler now since her Dad’s decided to retire to the Alps to do research for his next project; Animagus spies from Budapest or some other conspiracy theory-type thing, I suspect,” he chuckled. “Anyway, I testified and signed my name where they needed me to; I got to clear Snape’s name and get the Malfoys pardoned, and that’s all I was interested in doing for the Ministry. I haven’t actually talked to Malfoy since we were at the station together, though rumor has it he and his parents left the mansion, emptied out their Gringott’s vault and headed east. I’m not surprised – a pardon from the Ministry of Magic isn’t going to win your friends back,” muttered Harry. “I dunno. I get the feeling that I haven’t seen the last of them…
“In the meantime, I’ve been doing some covert Auror work, weeding out the whereabouts of Voldemort’s last loyalists, which isn’t all that challenging. The job’s more advisory than out fighting or anything, and that was my own decision. Truth be told – and I don’t know if it’s to do with my close call at King’s Cross or not – I just think I’ve done enough fighting for now.
"So Professor McGonagall and I have been talking about reopening the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts. Don’t worry; now that Voldemort’s gone, I’m sure the curse went with him!” he said, laughing. “McGonagall, apart from trying to get me to call her ‘Minerva’, says Hogwarts hasn’t seen credentials like mine since Haggar Wimbly-something-something took the post after defeating some dark witch in the late 18th Century,” he said, waving a dismissive hand in a way that made him glad Hermione was down below where she couldn’t reference Hogwarts, A History from memory and correct him.
“Anyway, I’m pretty chuffed over it," he continued. "It’ll be like old times, like running Dumbledore’s Army in the Room of Requirement, only this time we won’t be hiding out from Umbridge! And Neville’s already the Herbology professor there, so it’ll be nice to have a friend in the faculty.
“Speaking of friends, there’s another wedding to look forward to. No, it’s not mine,” he said, amused to find that he was blushing. “Ron and Hermione got engaged to be married this past Christmas, and I’m the best man. Really, I’m surprised it took him so long to ask her, he’s been mental over her for near a decade! Although… I admit, now that Ginny’s out of school and I’m going to start teaching, I suppose I could say it’ll be only a matter of time before we make some future plans of our own. You’ll be the first to know when we do, of course,” he said, gesturing politely to his parents’ names.
“For now, I won’t steal Ron’s thunder. After some brilliant games playing for the Hertfordshire Quidditch League, he’s a shoe-in for the Cannons this year. And with a distinguished witch like Hermione on his arm, he’s strutting around like a bloody peacock; after all, she nicked Percy’s position in the Ministry after Scrimgeour sacked him and got herself promoted to the Muggle Relations Department two months into the job. All this time I thought they’d tear each other to pieces one day, but it seems they’re just what the other needed – Hermione’s finally got someone to boss around and Ron’s finally getting some respect from his family,” said Harry cheerfully. Reconsidering for a moment, he scratched his chin. “That is, erm… well, let’s just say Fred and George are still the usual suspects whenever Ron’s racing broom starts sprouting mini Bubotubers of the overripe variety.”
The wind suddenly blew his hair across his eyes, and Harry swept a hand over his forehead in attempt to straighten his unruly mop, his fingers halting over the spot above his eye where once his scar resided. More than a year and a half had passed since he had lost it, and yet he still found himself surprised each time his fingertips could not locate the lightening bolt once etched onto his forehead.
“You know… it’s weird not having the scar anymore,” he mused. “I remember there was a time when I liked having it, and then I hated having it, and now that it’s gone… well, it’s just different. I mean, apart from not being able to speak Parseltongue anymore, nothing about me has really changed. Unless, of course, you count the fact that I’m a lot less recognizable on the street, and I rather like it that way,” he said matter-of-factly. “All those times I wished that I could leave that part of myself in the history books and be done with it…. Well, I finally got my wish.”
Harry got onto one knee and leaned forward, clearing away a leaf that the breeze had dropped onto the granite headstone on its way over the hill. He hesitated, and the smile on his face faded to a pensive grin. Figuring that he had already said everything worth mentioning, Harry decided that he was ready to do what he had come to do. As though anticipating his next words, the wind grew quiet.
“It’s easier now, talking to you,” he thought aloud. “I suppose it’s because I have no questions left. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not so worried anymore that… you know… that I’m going to duel a Dark Lord or something,” he said with a sarcastic laugh.
“I know you’re always listening, whether or not I make it back here,” he whispered. “Mostly, I’m here because there’s something I’ve kept for a long time, because it reminded me of what I had to do when the only choice I had was to either run away or stay and fight. You made the same decision once. I want you to have it.”
He dug into his pocket and pulled out the locket that had accompanied him in his travels for all the years that had passed since Dumbledore had died. Gazing down into his palm, he ran his thumb over the weathered metal, a wistful expression on his face.
“One last thing to put to rest,” he breathed to himself. At that moment, he pushed up the sleeves of his robe and began to dig his fingers into the grass and dirt in front of the grave. The earth felt cool and gave way easily to his hands as they carved a hole just large enough to contain the locket. Fingers caked with soil, Harry tenderly dropped the chain into the ground where his father and mother were buried, and covered it up with earth.
When he had finished burying the locket and patted the ground firmly to secure it in place, he left one hand pressed over the mound, the ashen fingers that bore the faded remnants of dark magic and a battle won. He lifted his eyes to his parents’ names, the inscription of bravery and sacrifice boldly etched beneath it, and felt his heart tighten.
The breeze came sudden and strong over the top of the hill.
“Told you I’d make you proud,” he whispered with a smile.
Satisfied, Harry got to his feet and brushed the dirt off of his hands. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Ginny, Ron, and Hermione walking back towards him up the stone path.
“All right?” whispered Ron as they joined his side.
“We’ll go back if you’re not ready,” Hermione chimed in.
“No, it’s fine. I’m fine,” said Harry with a grin, placing his arm around Ginny and giving her shoulder a squeeze. For a moment, they stood together watching the patches of light dance over the stone's surface as the breeze swirled through the branches overhead before Harry turned to them and said at last, “Let’s go home.”
Harry left Godric’s Hollow flanked by his companions with a light heart and a sense that there was much to do once he returned to his home at Grimmauld Place. ‘Tomorrow’ seemed a much bigger idea than it ever had when he was a student at Hogwarts, and he felt it his duty to make as much of it as possible – after all, time is a curious thing, as a very wise man had once told him, and not something to be squandered. Of course, the future would not be perfect, would not be without its share of danger and hardship, and perhaps Lord Voldemort would not be the last enemy that he would fight, but there was far more to be hopeful about than ever before, and Harry had resolved long ago not to miss out on any of it. Eager for whatever adventures lay ahead, Harry Potter entered the next chapter of his story knowing that were he to look into the Mirror of Erised now, he would see himself just as he was: a grown man with love and a family, whose name had changed history and would not be forgotten, who keeps safe in his heart the friendships and fond memories of a boyhood gone by, and whose exceptional courage and power came from an extraordinary heart… not an extraordinary scar.
Special thanks to my sister, Mudblood125, who has beta’ed this story from its inception and dealt with my stubbornness about silly things like… plot… and continuity… and content… and characterizations…
Thanks also to Mugglenet Fanfiction moderators Dory_the_fishie and everyone ever involved in the arduous task of getting my humongous chapters out of the queue, to Spider1111 for also sharing in the creative process, and to CauldronCakeBkr without whom I have a distinct feeling Chapter Twelve would not have been written.
Lastly, tremendous thanks to you, dear reader/reviewer, for sticking by “After the Die is Cast” for the year and change that it took to write it. You’ve kept me motivated, made me a better writer, and made this the most rewarding of my creative endeavors.