A warm fire crackles merrily in the hearth before him, staying the chill winter’s night that lies just outside the windowsill. From inside, where the light is hot and inviting, the evening sky seems deep and dark, though not bleak. The starry points of light now appearing overhead instead only put in mind the earthly calm that has been with him all day. And it is fitting that this day, of all days, should end in such a way.
It is that day again- the fourteenth of December. A day that has followed them their entire lives, in some form or another. An effort that he decided long ago is surely fate making certain that they never forget, any of them. Even though there are none of them now left to remember it, that is, save him.
The exact fourteenth of December he is remembering, over one hundred years ago when it all began, had been a night very similar to this one, in fact. He can recall it now in perfect detail, though he is often hard pressed to remember days past, let alone years.
The waxing moon pale overhead, casting only shallow light over the school grounds, and a matte sky hanging still like velvet across the snow-covered trees. Harry had finally defeated the Dark Lord on that night, surrounded and aided by those closest to him.
His eyes fill at the memory, in a way that only those who have lived through as many sorrows as they have joys will likely understand, he thinks. Even after all these long years, the true meaning of their victory that night still falls on him as deeply as it first did, filling his heart with yearning.
They were finally given their lives together that fourteenth of December. Their simple dreams had been hard-won, but won all the same, where others had not. The peace and happiness they had fought so fiercely for until then were finally allowed.
The fire spits suddenly, drawing his gaze as he sweeps his long, silver beard over a blue-robed shoulder. The flames flicker and curl in shades of red and gold, as red as his own hair once so infamously was, lulling him still further back.
Harry and Ginny had been married on the fourteenth of December, two years to the day of Voldemort’s defeat, in a Christmas wedding that had lent new meaning to the joy of the day. Bill and Fleur’s first child, Henry, had followed three years later, born during the bitterest winter storm of the decade. And it was the day Remus had finally proposed to Tonks, after weeks of nervous anxiety and doubt. So many days of happiness…
And it had been a year ago, today, that he lost her. His wife. His bold, brilliant, beautiful Hermione. And though it seems strange, he cannot say that it was a bitter parting. Theirs was a long, rich life, and like all good things in turn, it too had to pass in time.
He looks around their home, the place where all of their happiness is still held, smiling reverently. There are visible reminders everywhere he looks, photographs that still smile and wave though many of their likenesses are long gone.
The Burrow’s kitchen bursting with family, the table laden with Christmas dinner. Harry rocking Evelyn to sleep the night he and Ginny brought her home. Hermione, watery-eyed and beaming during the marriage of their eldest son, William. His parents, holding their first grandchild with wide smiles. A thousand other things he can no longer remember, but only feel as though they’d been yesterday.
They are all gone now. He is the last of them, faithful four that they were. It is in many ways, he thinks, a much crueller fate than any other yet visited upon him in his lifetime. More than anything, he longs to go to them, to find them again where he knows they are waiting.
He points his wand at the hearth, stoking the dying flames until they fire again and shoot upwards, into the still night beyond. It is then that something in him quiets, and slows, and suddenly he knows as surely as it is possible to know that his time on earth is, at last, come to an end.
He looks to her voice, knowing somehow what his ancient eyes will see, and smiles when he finds her.
Hermione. She stands before him as he remembers her best, her youth restored, as radiant and graceful as the day they were married. The love he sees in her, feels suddenly beating in the rush of blood at his fingertips, is absolute. It is as much feeling as can be had by anyone in a lifetime, he understands, carried from this world to the next and back again, finally come full circle.
‘I knew you’d be the one,’ he says, smiling softly at her. He isn’t certain that his mouth has even moved at all.
Her eyes are bright, laughing, as they did for him the whole of her long life. ‘Of course,’ she answers. ‘Who else would come all this way for such a stubborn prat as you?’
‘Some things never change, then.’ She shakes her head once, her shining eyes giving him answer enough.
‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ she says, the truth of it strong in her voice. There is something else there too that he knows, had it been spoken from this world, would have been the deepest kind of sorrow. But he knows the place where she has come from knows no such thing as sorrow, or longing.
‘I know.’ There is almost regret in his voice, at having been away from them for so long. Had he been told before now that he would be the last to follow, he would not have believed it.
‘Do you remember what you were thinking, one year and two hours ago?’ she asks, though he is sure she does not need an answer to know.
‘That I would come to you again, soon. But it’s been longer than I meant it to.’
‘Yes,’ she says.
‘It’s time to go, then.’ It is not a question.
She nods in answer, only slightly, and holds out her hand. Standing, he reaches out and takes it, the touch of it strong and sure. He is not afraid- he is eager. Eager to be with them all again, as they remember him best.
She tightens her hold, still casting him that knowing smile, and he feels himself suddenly standing straighter, stronger, than he has in many years. He looks at the hand held perfectly in hers, finding that the lines are gone, the joints eased to those of a much younger man who he remembers well. Together they walk ahead, hand in hand, as they have done and will do again.
The world as he has known it begins to slip away, melting as though from a page before his eyes, until all that remains is just the feel of her beside him and that hot, inviting light, beneath them and within, the light that seems to go on and on, endlessly…
It is morning when his oldest son comes looking after him, only to find that he has gone away peacefully into the night. The newspapers that day speak of a brilliant man who will be greatly missed, the last of a celebrated generation responsible for the peace and security that had endured for so long. But more so, they think of the man who, above all else, had lived- and loved- to the end.
A/N: Both the title and the inspiration for this little piece of fluff came from a really beautiful song recorded by Linda Rondstadt and Ann Savoy called “Burns’ Supper,” on their new album Adieu, False Heart. If you can manage to track it down, it makes for a really good companion to this fic if, like me, you’re addicted to music (almost) as much as fanfic : )