Author’s Note: This is the sequel to Ages and Months. If you haven't read those, this one will make no sense whatsoever. If you have read those, you'll be a little better prepared. If you haven't read them in a while, re-reading might help.
Harry opened his eyes. He was standing in the familiar living room of number twelve Grimmauld Place. He was alone, and when he looked through the windows and doorways, he saw nothing but a boundless white glow.
He spun around and saw a woman standing in front of the fireplace. She was a bit shorter than he was, with shoulder-length red hair that hung untidily around her face. Her jeans were tattered, and her sleeveless shirt had been torn in half and inexpertly repaired. The thin fabric revealed slender, sinewy arms and a naturally generous figure that had been honed and hardened by constant activity.
“Hello,” he said, watching her cautiously.
Her lips twitched upwards. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Wh—” He stopped, transfixed by the slight grin on her face. His gaze slid up to her brown eyes, and the eternal tragedy he saw there made his heart lurch in his chest. “Oh.”
“Smart girl, that Hermione.”
“Yeah.” Harry looked away from her face and noticed a spray of tiny, crater-like scars that spread downwards from her shoulders and beyond the low collar of her shirt. He coughed slightly, trying not to imagine what could have caused such an injury, and looked around the room again. “Where am I?”
The woman took a few steps closer to him and glanced around. “Looks like Sirius’ place, doesn’t it?”
Harry nodded, looking away from her and trying to ignore her warm, salty smell. The clock on the mantle was stopped at half past eight, and his breath was the only sound in the room. He could see that the woman was breathing, but she made no sound at all. Even the fire crackled in silence.
He sighed. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“So it seems.”
“Well… good, then, I suppose.” Harry wondered if he would finally be able to talk to his parents for more than a few moments. If this woman were here, then they would surely be nearby, too.
“Provisionally dead, to be precise.”
Her words wrenched his attention back to her. She was less than an arm’s length away now, and the scarring on her flesh was more visible. “What?”
She crossed her arms under her chest, smirking again. “You’re dead, but you don’t have to stay that way.”
“But…” Harry blinked, his mind racing to adjust to the conflicting ideas. “How is that possible?”
“It’s complicated. The gist of it is that Voldemort didn’t quite kill you with that curse. He killed the piece of himself you were carrying around, and that shielded you a bit. Your mother’s old protection helped, too.”
“So now you’re dead, but you don’t have to stay dead. You could go back, instead. If you want to know more than that, you can ask, but all that really matters is that you get a choice.”
Harry frowned. “But if I go back, won’t the bit of him go back, too?”
“No. Weren’t you listening? He completely killed that part of himself.”
“So then he could be killed, right? Even if I were alive?”
“Yes. Well, after the snake is gone.”
Harry took a long, deep breath. He had only just accepted that he needed to die, and now he was being told that he could live after all. He could see Voldemort defeated. He could see everyone safe at last.
“Of course, there is a downside,” the woman said, cocking her head to one side. “You’ll have to face her.”
What could possibly have happened to change her scent? “Her?”
“Oh.” Harry imagined Ginny as he had last seen her. It would take a while to explain why he had lied to her and gone off into the forest alone. She would understand, he thought, but she definitely would not like it. He sighed again.
“If it helps, I think there’s a pretty good chance she’ll forgive you eventually.”
Harry looked up and saw genuine sympathy in her eyes, but he shook his head. “Oh, I know she will. I’m not so worried about that.”
“Yeah. She would’ve done the same thing if she could. Wouldn’t you? I mean, this you… erm…” She was smirking again, standing with one hand on her hip with her hair covering part of her face. “What can I call you?”
She paused for a moment, and her grin faded. “Ginevra will do.”
“I thought you hated that name.”
“I did. Later it stopped mattering so much.” Her eyes slid out of focus, but after a moment she shrugged. “Anyway, it’s up to you. Go back, or go on.”
He began to respond, feeling that the answer was perfectly obvious, but then he paused. The world outside the room was beginning to take shape, and he could see the pavement running along the front of the hidden house. Part of him longed to see who walked that way and where they went.
The woman was watching him, her expression still and sharp. Her eyes had warmed a bit and looked, if not happy, then not quite as sad.
“Where is… umm… Harry?” he asked.
She snorted. “Right in front of me, of course.”
“No, really. If you’re here, why isn’t he?”
“You are here, Harry,” she said, shaking her head impatiently. “Look. I’m a part of Ginny, and she’s a part of me. But now she’s the real part, and I’m not. So I can only exist where she doesn’t, and he can only exist where you don’t. Get it?”
“Erm… yeah, I suppose.” He gave up and glanced out the window again. “And everyone else… are they here? The ones who can be, I mean,” he added quickly.
“You’re not fooling anyone, Harry,” she said, her face relaxing. “Yes, your parents are here, and Dumbledore, too. But you won’t be able to see them until you leave this room.”
He nodded. “So, if I go back, Ginny and I can try to finish the battle and live our lives. But if I stay here, I get my parents back, and Dumbledore, and… and…”
“And me. Yes, probably so.” Ginevra’s eyes glowed suddenly with reflected firelight. “Gladly, even. You only have to choose.”
Harry tore his eyes away from her and stared into the dancing flames. “Can I ask you something?”
She chuckled, a throaty, visceral sound. “Why do you only ask permission after you’ve already started?”
He grinned without thinking. He knew this person. Some of her. “It saves time, I suppose.”
“Go on, then.”
Harry forced himself to look back at her. “Did James and Lily ever exist? I mean the young ones, my… I mean our…”
Her smile grew, but it faded at the same time. “The twins? No. Almost, once, but…” She lifted the hem of her ragged shirt, revealing a huge, glistening scar that ran diagonally from her ribcage towards her left hip, disappearing into the waistband of her loose-fitting jeans.
“Shit,” Harry whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
She dropped her shirt and shook her head. “Don’t be. You gave them another chance. In the end, that was all we really wanted.”
Harry nodded. “I understand.”
His gaze flicked to her hips again, trying not to imagine her body unmarked by her war. She had carried his children, once. He had known every inch of her, and she had known every inch of him.
Harry was glad he could focus on the scar, though he was ashamed to admit it. The jagged line made it harder for him to imagine unblemished expanses of her skin.
“Were you ever happy at all?” he asked, unable to help himself. “You and he, I mean?”
She looked away from him, her eyes warm again. “Oh, yes. Moments, here and there. Sometimes a whole day. And even the worst…” She hunched forward slightly, wrapping her arms across her ribs. “Even for the worst of it, I’d rather have been with him than anywhere else.”
“I’m glad,” he said quietly. “I’m glad you were happy sometimes.”
Her red hair, slightly darker and duller than he was used to, had fallen in front of her face again. He reached up and tucked it gently behind her ears, one side at a time. With desperate speed and strength, she grasped his hand and held it to her cheek for a moment. Then she turned her head and kissed his palm languorously, her mouth warm and moist against his skin.
Flushing slightly, Harry withdrew his hand as gingerly as he could. Red-faced, she began to speak, but then she closed her eyes as her face crumpled, her lips tightening into a frown he had only seen twice in his life. She lifted the shoulder of her shirt and wiped her eyes before any tears fell.
“Thank you,” she whispered, opening her eyes and schooling her features again. “You should go. She’ll be waiting for you.”
“Yeah,” he whispered. “How… how do I go?”
She pointed behind him, and he turned towards the door. Ginny stood there wearing the same old jeans and jumper she had chosen for the battle, and her face glowed with youth and strength. She was translucent, however, as though she were a full-colour ghost, and her eyes were not focused on anything he could see. She stood in front of him, her hand outstretched.
“Is she… is she dying or something?”
“No, not in the least,” Ginevra said tightly. “But she looks a bit worried.”
Harry studied Ginny’s face for a moment and grimaced. “Damn. She’s guessed already.”
“Would you expect any less?”
Harry looked away from Ginny and turned back to the woman behind him. “We’ve always wanted to thank you.”
“You don’t have to,” she said, shaking her head. A few strands of hair fell into her face again. She produced an elastic out of nowhere and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. “You’ve done far more for us than we ever did for you.”
He frowned, confused. “But you don’t even exist anymore.”
The woman smiled fully for the first time, without humour or pretence or tragic wisdom, and that smile he recognised. “Exactly. Go on, now. I’m sure she hates to be kept waiting.”
“Yeah, I know. Just…”
“What is it now?”
“Did we do any better? I mean… it’s been hard, especially this last year, and we never knew if we’d actually fixed anything. So if we can finish it today, would that… would that be good enough? Or are we just going the same way you did?”
Ginevra rolled her eyes and glared at him. “Don’t be thick, Harry Potter. You’ve got eyes, and I’ve always known when you were giving me the once-over. Or the twice-over, for that matter.” Her eyebrow quirked as he felt his face redden. “I was one of the last of us left alive, and I was in better shape than the rest. I was twenty-one. What do you think?”
“Stupid question, I suppose.”
“You’ve asked worse. Now go, for Merlin’s sake, so I can rest in peace.”
Harry wanted to say something comforting, to apologise, but he did not know how he could help her. “Goodbye, Ginevra. I’m glad to have known you.”
Without forcing her to answer, he turned back to Ginny and placed his hand in her ephemeral grasp.
Ginny dragged him into a classroom whose walls were intact and shut the door, blocking out the sound of the celebration in the Great Hall. She put her hands on either side of his face and pulled him down for a long, burning kiss. Then, with one hand firmly wrapped around his, she perched on the teacher’s desk and pulled him up to sit next to her. Once settled, she took a deep breath and then nodded sharply at him.
She nodded again, her lips pressed firmly together, as the fingers of her free hand traced his knuckles.
“I had this sort of … err… encounter before I came back. I was back in the living room of Grimmauld Place, and… and a woman was there.”
“Who?” Ginny asked softly.
“It was…” He shoved one hand through his hair and absently rubbed the back of his neck. “It was our Lily, Ginny. Only without the disguise. It was… well, it was you.”
“We were right,” she breathed, her eyes wide.
“Yeah. She was actually twenty-one, and… well, she told me to call her Ginevra.”
“Ginevra? I would never let someone call me that. Not even you.”
He nodded. “I know. She said it had stopped mattering to her.” He told her as much as he could remember of the conversation, straining to recall the woman’s words. As he talked, he found himself circling Ginny’s kneecap with his fingers, his nails scraping lightly on her jeans. Watching the repetitive motion of his hand somehow helped him to tell his story about the older woman. When he had finished, he forced himself to look up at Ginny’s face. Her eyes remained fixed on the floor for a few minutes, and Harry took the opportunity to examine her again. She had collected a few cuts and broken several ribs during the battle with Voldemort, but Madam Pomfrey had already mended them all. She was filthy and clearly exhausted, but she was whole. Unblemished.
“What was she like?” Ginny asked, looking up at last. Her face was slightly rounder and softer than Ginevra’s had been.
Harry frowned, confused. “Well, she was twenty-one, like I said, and she had this awful scar that…”
“No, Harry. What was she like?”
He took a deep breath and stared blankly over her head, his fingers still tracing circles on her thigh. “She… I could tell that she… she had been you, once. She was… familiar. But she was also… You remember that look in Lily’s eyes? Like she’d seen every horrible thing in the world and somehow decided it was all her fault?” Ginny nodded. “That’s what she was like. Everything about her was that. But in spite of all the pain and loss, she was… she was funny, in a way, and loving, and…” He trailed off as words failed him.
Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, her cheeks pale. After a moment she asked, “Did you think she was beautiful?”
“Of course.” Harry was not truly surprised that she had understood more than he had said. He took a moment to choose his next words. “The most beautiful things about her were the bits that were still you.”
She snorted softly. “Well put.”
“It’s true, Ginny. She was glorious, honestly, but she was too hard, and… too sharp. Worn down to the bone, but still sharp somehow. You’re going to be ten times more beautiful at that age than she was, Baby.”
She did not blush, but she dipped her head for a moment. Then she lifted his arm over her shoulders and leaned into his body, holding his other hand against her chest with both of hers. “Did you think about staying?”
“A little. Mostly to see my parents. But… I think I was always going to come back. Ginevra knew it, too.” He shrugged and squeezed her gently. “You were here.”
“I’m still angry with you,” Ginny said. “But you’re right. I would have done the same thing.”
“And I’d have understood,” he said, nodding. “Eventually.”
Harry leaned over and let his cheek rest against her hair. Her flowery smell and the clean, sweet fragrance that lay beneath it had somehow survived the battle. Harry lowered his arm to caress her waist and back, glad of the lithe softness that had not been ground away by half a decade of war.
“Do you suppose she regrets it all?” Ginny asked. “Half her life was… was so horrible, and then she died to give us a chance to be happy. I’m not sure I could really accept that.”
Harry considered Ginevra and how Ginny must feel about her. “They loved each other until the moment they died. I think that once I came back here, they could be together again without any war.” He shrugged and tightened his grip on her. “So maybe we’re not so different after all.”
She raised her head and smiled a little. “I hope so, for their sake.”
He pulled her closer and leaned down to kiss her, eager to let the world go by without his help for a long while.
“Can’t we go, Daddy? Pleeeease?”
“No, Liliana,” Harry said.
His daughter looked up at him, her brown eyes framed by jet-black hair that, on her, looked beautifully wild. Her pout was enough to tear a hole in anyone’s heart, and Harry dreaded her growing up. “But why not?” she asked.
“We’ve talked about this before,” Ginny said firmly. “It’s the same as last year. You remember coming to see Aunt Fleur and Uncle Bill last summer, don’t you?”
James nodded. He was quite solemn for a seven-year-old, and he took his role as older brother very seriously. “I remember,” he said. “You do, too, Lils.”
“But I want to go!” she insisted.
“You wouldn’t like it anyway,” Harry said. “It’s just a bunch of old people standing around being boring.” He released Ginny’s hand and leaned down to look into his son’s green eyes. “Now, James, you’re in charge while we’re out. Make sure you and Liliana are nice for your aunt and uncle. We’ll be back after bedtime, but we’ll check to make sure you’re sleeping.”
The boy nodded. “Okay, Daddy.”
The two children hugged Harry and Ginny, though Liliana made quite a production of holding on to him for as long as she possibly could.
The kitchen door swung open, and Fleur swept into the room. Even after more than a decade and three children of her own, the French woman was still the most striking person in any room. Except, Harry thought, when Ginny or Liliana was around.
“Are we ready, then?” Fleur asked.
“I think so,” Ginny said. “Thanks for doing this, Fleur.”
“It is nothing.” Fleur looked down at the two children and smiled. “Would you like to see Victoire? She is in the sitting room.”
“Vicky!” Liliana shouted, her face brightening instantly. She scampered away through the open door, and James followed her at a more sedate pace.
“Sorry they’re a bit wound up,” Harry said. “I hope they won’t be too much trouble.”
Fleur made a distinctly French sound of dismissal. “It is nothing, I said. Your James is very good at chasing his sister, and Victoire watches them both.”
“Where’s Bill?” Ginny asked.
“You do not know?” Fleur said, cocking her head to one side. “Each year, the rest of us gather, also. I watch the children until bedtime, as I… well, I was not yet in the picture, as you say.” Her face softened into an expression of luminous compassion. “Go. You do not wish to be late.”
Harry suddenly felt awful. “We never meant to exclude you, Fleur, or any of the others.”
“Oui, you did,” she said, nodding gracefully. “As you should. We all know this.”
“Thanks, Fleur,” Ginny said, hugging the taller woman. “We’ll be back before too long.”
“They will sleep well and safely. Do not worry. Go.”
Harry and Ginny walked out the front door and into the garden, and Ginny shook her head. “I never would have guessed that Fleur could be the most like Mum.” She looked back over her shoulder. “I always feel nervous about being apart from them on this one day.”
“Me, too,” Harry said. “I can’t help thinking about… you know…”
“What never almost happened?”
“Yeah, that.” He grinned slightly. “C’mon, Baby. We don’t want to be too late.”
Ginny nodded and slid her hand up his arm to hold his elbow. Harry turned sharply, and they vanished with a soft pop.
Grimmauld Place was no longer hidden and warded as it had once been, but still no one Apparated into the house. Harry and Ginny appeared on the front doorstep, and he knocked briefly.
The door opened immediately, and Kreacher bowed them into the entry hall. “Mr. Potter, Mrs. Potter, welcome to the House of Black. Master Black is expecting you in the parlour.” He waved a gnarled hand down the corridor, where light spilled out of an open doorway.
“Thank you, Kreacher,” Harry said. “I hope you’re doing well?”
“I have all that I desire,” Kreacher said, bowing again. “You are most kind to ask.”
They walked down the hall and stopped in the doorway. The room had not changed at all in thirteen years, and Harry suspected that Sirius wanted it that way. He stood near the far wall, his hair greying and his face lined, but his eyes were still alive with energy and mirth. He was talking quietly with Arthur and George, who each held glasses of a deep burgundy liquid.
Closer to hand, Ron, Hermione, and Molly sat on a sofa, and the older woman was clearly bestowing some sort of sage wisdom on the younger couple. Fred smirked as he watched them, a small glass of Firewhisky in hand.
A floorboard creaked under Harry’s foot, and all seven occupants of the room fell silent as they looked up at him and Ginny. Harry’s eyes fell on two candles that stood alone in the middle of the floor. He stared into their flickering flames, feeling Ginny’s hand tighten in his just as it had long ago, and then he took a deep breath. Sighing, he looked up at Sirius and nodded. “Hello, everyone. It’s good to see you.”
Author’s Note:Thus ends The Ages Trilogy. I hope this answers some of the outstanding questions from the first two parts while raising a few more. Some people may want to read additional stories in this universe, but I think I've now said everything I have to say about it. I'm happy to answer any lingering questions, though I won't promise to explain everything to the tiniest detail. After all, you never know when inspiration might strike for something new.
I know that many people are wondering about the status of Meaning of One: Part Two. I'm working on it, I promise, and I hope to post the next chapter within a few weeks. Thanks for your patience.