The late afternoon sun danced with the bright green leaves of the tall, ancient trees, casting a kaleidoscope of shadows on the grassy earth below them. A welcome breeze lifted a tuft of messy raven hair, revealing a faint, white, lightning bolt-shaped line where an angry scar once stood out in stark contrast against pale skin. Harry Potter reached up, making an unconscious and wholly futile effort to smooth the errant hair, and then shifted his position on the stone bench to better enjoy the unexpected breeze and the warm, sunny day in this peaceful place.
Celebrations, some of which tended to reach bacchanalian proportions (most especially if the Weasley twins were in any way involved in the planning), were—even at this early hour—gearing up for a night of unrestrained revelry. And, as had happened every year since the Ministry had declared the day an Official Holiday, many cups would be gratefully and enthusiastically tipped in honor of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived Again.
The hero himself, though he'd never think of himself that way, chose instead to spend the day marking the anniversary in this quiet place—at graveside. Over the years he'd spent many of these anniversary days contemplating the man entombed within the cool, stone slabs; a man who'd sacrificed himself for the cause of the Light, a man often forgot by the toasting masses on this day, but never by Harry.
Another lovely breeze stirred up his hair as he looked around at his familiar setting. The castle rose from the earth, standing guard over the grounds, as it always had, bearing silent witness to all that had passed over the years. It'd been home and haven to Harry, but it'd been, at times, the scene of some rather hellish nightmares, as well. And there was no mistaking that this place had once been host to a great battle. There were visible reminders everywhere Harry looked; plaques and statues, markers indicating where the combatants had stood, explaining in reverent detail the heroic acts of the fallen.
Being there should have called to mind that final battle, but instead, Harry sat reflecting on what he'd gained since the man in the tomb had met his end—things he was deeply thankful for.
Voldemort was now well and truly gone, for one thing—a reality that Harry still had to remind himself of upon waking each morning.
For another, Harry finally had the family he'd always longed for: a little girl with a head full of raven curls, sparkling green eyes and a dusting of freckles across her pert little nose; a little boy with ginger hair and a gleam of mischief in his amber colored eyes; another one on the way, and although they'd chosen to be surprised, Ginny was certain it was another boy with whom their Jack Henry would no doubt share his mischievous adventures—though, Harry secretly thought their quiet, studious little Kendra had it in her, too, and he wouldn't be at all surprised if she joined them in their escapades.
And there was his Gin. They'd not had an easy time of it during the years that Voldemort was still a threat, or even for a time afterward, when Harry was still coping with the magnitude of it all, but they were great now. She was his rock, his best friend and a constant source of love, strength and a bit of awe that he'd been able to inspire such gifts, even on those rare occasions when they fought. He wouldn't be at all successful if he'd had to do it without her—as a human being, or as a businessman.
The businessman bit had been as much a surprise to Harry as anyone. Diagon Alley, rocked by a skirmish that occurred when Death Eaters had made an unsuccessful attempt on Gringott's, had been in dire need of rebuilding. Although the resulting destruction was not at all funny, Hermione still got a chuckle out of the poor planning involved—after all the dust had settled she'd exclaimed in exasperation, "Honestly, didn't they pay attention in History of Magic? Goblins never lose; especially when they're put on the defensive!" Harry had immediately jumped to the rescue of the beloved commerce center, not really understanding the scope of what he'd proposed to do; he could think only of restoring Diagon Alley, the place that had been his first taste of Wizarding society and the setting for some of his happiest memories.
He'd been tireless in his efforts, investing his own Galleons and doggedly pursuing others to help in the endeavor. Which is how Fred and George had come to own a sweet shop, as well as their Wheezes, neatly and successfully filling a void left when Florean Fortescue, a student of history, had fled the area preemptively, knowing what was to come.
Harry himself had invested in established businesses in order to get them back on their feet, but had been eyeing Ollivander's abandoned shop, for what purpose he hadn't yet decided, when the man had made his return. The odd silver eyes had twinkled, as Ollivander had sagely explained his absence, "One does not stay in business for more than two millennia, Mr. Potter, without knowing which way the wind blows."
That sentiment had remained with Harry, and thinking of it brought him back to the tomb before him. It was certainly a fitting description of Harry's thoughts about the man—he'd never known which way the wind had blown with him. Their relationship had often been contentious, and at the time, Harry had been certain he'd known exactly what the man was about. To this day, though, he still had trouble reconciling what he thought he'd known of the man, and what had come to light when it'd mattered most.
Acrid air filled Harry's nose and stung his eyes as he walked in the dark, gingerly picking his way over what had become a battlefield, trying not to think about or look too hard at the bodies strewn about like so many rag-dolls, unmoving, some twisted into a mockery of the human form. Thankfully, most of them seemed to be Death Eaters, but not all, and those were the ones he chose not to see.
Fear squeezed his chest and made his insides clench, but he continued on, determined to finish this once and for all. He'd slipped away, hopefully unnoticed by Ron and Hermione, who'd been busy dealing with two Death Eaters that had broken through the lines and had headed for the school. Although he wasn't certain exactly where Voldemort was, he felt compelled to head for Dumbledore's crypt, and was appalled to see his quarry, eerily lit and standing atop the white stone tomb.
"Ahhhh, Harry. Jussst in time. I am about to fulfill a promissse—I told him oncesss that I'd dance upon hisss grave, and sssso I shall," Voldemort hissed, and then laughed, an evil, unpleasant sound. "Join me, won't you?"
He could feel the Imperius Curse trying to assert its will on him; Harry fought the calming sensation as it worked to lull him into obedience and he defied the voice compelling him to climb onto Dumbledore's grave, finally pushing it out of his head.
"Interesssting. No matter. Nagini, my sweet, bring him to me."
Harry braced himself as the snake uncoiled at Voldemort's feet and slithered down the white stone—this was it, what might be his only chance. He had to kill Nagini and then the last Horcrux would be destroyed. Before the snake could get very far though, Wormtail jumped down from the tomb, where he'd been standing with his master, grabbing the snake's head from behind. Nagini moved swiftly, twisting and sinking sharp, venomous fangs into Wormtail's fleshy arm. Undaunted, Wormtail used his free hand to drag his wand across Nagini's throat, nearly severing the snake's head from its body. An acid-green cloud was expelled from the exposed neck and the blood flowing from the wound was thick and as black as tar. Wormtail met Harry's eyes and nodded once as both he and the snake fell to the ground in a heap; Voldemort howled in outrage.
It'd happened so quickly that Harry almost didn't believe his eyes, but he shouted an explanation at Voldemort, who seemed to be gobsmacked as well as outraged, with smugness he didn't feel, "He owed me, Tom!"
Voldemort silently hurled hexes at Harry; he was able to avoid them, his shield holding. And he was relieved to realize that Voldemort's arrogance was still in place; he was toying with Harry, which meant that he was unaware that the other Horcruxes had been disposed of. He didn't know! Harry Summoned Gryffindor's sword non-verbally, while keeping Voldemort occupied by retaliating with hexes of his own—neither of them doing much damage, their wands useless against one another for serious dueling.
Harry put his hand behind his back and felt the hilt of the sword slap soundly into his palm. That was his cue, he shouted, "SECTUMSEMPRA!"
Voldemort screamed in pain, infuriated; Harry had hoped the curse would be unfamiliar, and was rewarded when Voldemort seemed to be momentarily incapacitated by it. But before Harry could send the sword into him, Voldemort raised his wand, screaming, "AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Harry was knocked to the ground, but not by the curse—a black shape had come out of nowhere, pushing Harry roughly aside and taking the curse instead. The lifeless body rolled several paces before coming to a stop, eyes staring blankly at the dark night sky.
Astonished, Harry stared in disbelief at his former teacher—Snape had just given his life to save him.
Dumbledore had left him evidence of Snape's deeds for the side of the Light, and the Order had continued to receive a steady stream of anonymous messages containing inside information. Although Harry had suspected they were coming from Snape, he'd still been suspicious; he'd never fully trusted that Snape had been working for the Light. He shook his head; now was not the time for analyzing this.
Voldemort, bleeding profusely from the rents all over his grayish skin and howling like some mad, macabre creature found only in nightmares, shrieked in indignation and outrage at the betrayal. Harry took advantage of the distraction, sending Gryffindor's sword hurling toward the now mortal Voldemort, perhaps with a little more magical force than he'd intended. It connected with Voldemort at the throat, silencing the shrieks with a sickening crunching sound as it severed flesh and bone, decapitating the madman.
Harry moved closer to the twitching body, adrenaline propelling him, his wand raised and ready. He heard a gurgling sound, as if Voldemort were still trying to scream in indignation over the outcome. The head had rolled away a bit and the slitted eyes blinked once; the expression on the mutated face was one of surprise and confusion. It stopped moving altogether, and Harry dislodged the sword, then hopped up onto the stone and, just for good measure, plunged it through Voldemort's chest, where his heart might be, not knowing if the monster actually had one.
He jumped down and walked over to Wormtail; he was still breathing, though it was labored. Harry didn't think that he would be able to move, but he cast a full body bind on the rat just in case—they may be able to save him, which Harry wanted very much, if only to see the man tried for his crimes, and thrown in Azkaban, and then he went to Snape.
The man had been a tormentor and an absolute bastard to him the entire time he'd known him, yet he'd saved Harry's life. He didn't know what to do with that, and he laughed nervously, maybe on the edge of hysteria, because he could almost hear Snape sneering, "I didn't do it for you, Potter." His face seemed softer in death, less threatening, so Harry reached down and closed the staring eyes.
And because he couldn't think of anything more profound, he said, meaning it with every fiber of his being, "Thank you."
That same lovely breeze stirred the hair around Harry's face again, bringing him back to the present and he gazed at the tomb in front of him. There'd been no hidden diary, no letters or paperwork to shed light on Snape's motivations—nothing at all to explain the puzzle of the man.
And maybe that was precisely as Snape had wanted it—keeping Harry guessing, never knowing exactly which way the wind had blown with him.
It brought him back every year—the hope for answers—and every year he left no more enlightened than when he'd arrived. He supposed he should just accept that he'd likely never know what had driven Snape, but he'd never been much of a quitter, and maybe he owed it to the man to keep trying. If only to keep the memory alive.
And, of course, without any bitterness or ill thoughts of the dead, Harry had claimed a tiny bit of revenge by arranging for Snape to be buried next to Dumbledore, in a setting that was lovely, peaceful and park-like.
He was certain that Snape would've hated it.
"Daddy!" Harry looked up just in time to catch the bundle of five-year-old girl as she threw herself into his arms.
Ginny smiled that beautiful, heart-stopping smile of hers. "Almost ready, Harry? Everyone's there; Mum's holding supper for us."
"I am, yeah." He stood, lifting Kendra onto his shoulders. Heading for the gates, he patted the stone tomb as he walked by, saying, "See you next year, Snape."