Warnings: HBP Spoiler
Summary: Harry, Ron, and Hermione make a trip to Godric's Hollow to visit the Potters' graves. There, Harry speaks to his parents for the first time, and in so doing, discovers that the dead are never truly lost. (One-shot. Bring your kleenex.)
For anyone who's lost a parent.
Gray skies hung over Godric's Hollow, muting the cemetery's unseasonably autumnal surroundings so that Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood quietly amidst a colorless backdrop of headstones and withering grass. Before them was a headstone much larger than the rest, as it was meant to mark the graves of, not one deceased loved one, but two, and it resided at the top of the hill beneath the arching branches of an old oak.
Together, the three cleared away the vines that had overtaken the stone, revealing a carved inscription.
"'In Loving Memory of James Potter and Lily Evans Potter'," Harry read off the tombstone. "'Together, May They Rest in Peace Eternal'..."
""No Greater Love Hath Man Than to Lay Down His Life For Another"," Hermione finished.
Ron sniffed, looking pointedly away from Hermione. "That's good. I should remember that one."
Harry smiled silently at him. "I know. Lupin must've put that there. I think."
For a moment, the three of them stood staring uncertainly at the ground before Hermione broke the silence.
He blinked and turned to look at her. “I don’t know what to say,” he stated plainly with a shrug. “What would you say?”
“You know... Just say what you feel,” she replied gently. “Tell them the sort of stuff you’d say if they were here.”
Suddenly Harry felt embarrassed and looked away, blushing. “I dunno, Hermione. I’m not really good at this sort of thing-”
“No, Harry, I think it’s a good idea. It’ll put a cap on things, don’t you think?” Ron interjected. “You’re only here for a little while. Make the most of it.”
Harry looked at them tentatively, and then turned his gaze upon his parents’ grave. Resignedly, he let out a heavy sigh.
“We’ll be over there if you need us,” said Hermione with a reassuring smile. “C’mon, Ron.” She took Ron by the hand and turned towards the far end of the graveyard.
Harry heard their footsteps fade away from him as he looked upon his parents names chiseled into the granite. Raising a hand, he traced his father’s surname with one finger as he thought of how to begin. Suddenly, his mouth was extremely dry.
Harry licked his lips. “Mum… Dad… It’s me. Harry.” He stopped and waited a breath for the phantom greeting he could not hear; his face getting warmer the longer he stood. Harry took the opportunity to sit down and folded his legs under him.
“I wasn't really prepared to say anything much," he began, almost to himself, "which is sort of stupid, actually, because I always thought I'd know exactly what I'd say to you if I had the opportunity." He paused and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
"I guess… I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. It’s been sort of busy these days… or, I suppose, these last sixteen years,” he said awkwardly. “I'm doing all right, though. I’ve been at Hogwarts, you’ll be happy to know. Although…" he paused, scratching his forehead, "well, they may be closing down the school… and even then, if it’s still open, I’m not too sure I’ll be able to go back…”
The conversation was already going in the wrong direction, Harry thought decisively to himself. Time to switch gears.
“My classes have gone well, though,” Harry added brightly. “I’ve done pretty well for myself – I’m really just an average student, nothing special. Not like Hermione. She’s brilliant, you would really like her,” he said, aiming his voice at his mother’s name. “She helps Ron and me out with our homework sometimes. Well… mostly Ron, actually. They’re my best friends at school – Ron and Hermione, I mean. I probably should’ve introduced you to them, come to think of it… They were here just a moment ago…”
The words faded on his lips as he looked down and realized he had made a little bare spot on the ground beside him by picking off the grass one blade at a time. This is silly. They can’t hear you, said an unsympathetic voice in his head. Harry tried unsuccessfully to ignore his unease, but cleared his throat and went on nonetheless.
“Erm… and my birthday was last week,” he continued lamely. “Nothing too special happened, except I finally left the Dursleys’. It was actually sort of funny – it only took Ron, Hermione, and me to move out four boxes of my stuff, and Uncle Vernon was probably the most pleasant I’d ever seen him. Then from there we went and celebrated a little at The Burrow (that’s where Ron’s family lives) and then Ron’s brother got married, and then we came here." Harry grinned. "Ron's family is fantastic, by the way - I think they've sort of taken me in as one of their own by now.”
Reliving his week at The Burrow in his mind, his smile weakened at the thought of a certain member of the Weasley family.
“Something else you might like to know about me,” Harry remarked with a bittersweet laugh. “There’s this girl - Ron’s sister, actually. Ginny. She’s… she’s really wonderful. She’s smart, really funny – lovely like you, Mum. And Ginny’s a brilliant Quidditch player, Dad; you would love to watch her play. She was even seeker for a while when I couldn’t fill the post, and really good, at that. Last year, when I was team captain, she covered my position when I couldn’t play since I was in detention…”
He stopped for a moment, and reconsidered what he wanted to say. Truth be told, Harry didn’t really want to talk about Ginny’s impressive Quidditch skills. He heard Ron’s voice in his head: You’re only here for a little while. Make the most of it. Harry closed his eyes as a dark heaviness came over him. If he could not tell them this, he might as well not say anything at all.
“I think I'm in love with her. It’s the first time ever for me,” Harry tried to say lightly, though he felt something pricking at the corners of his eyes. “We were together, Ginny and I, for a while. Merlin, I never knew I could be so happy,” he confessed, smiling in spite of himself. "I'm sure you already know what I'm talking about."
Harry chose his next words carefully. “I had to break it off, though," he muttered heavily. "Things have sort of gone bad, what with the war and Voldemort and me. I mean, if we’d’ve stayed together, Ginny would probably be in just as much danger as I am now, right? I made the right choice,” said Harry unconvincingly.
There was only silence. Harry stared at the quote inscribed on the grave and felt suddenly disconsolate and sorrowful. The cold stone had no advice to impart, could never grant Harry the answers he longed to hear from his parents, and Harry stared back at the gray surface indignantly as though the grave itself were mocking him. As Harry’s eyes bored into the impenetrable mass that seemed to stand between him and what he wanted, he began to speak to a space beyond the carved granite, beyond what he could see and touch, praying someone somewhere was listening.
“It’s hard for me sometimes,” he whispered through the large lump that had lodged itself in his throat. “I want to believe you’re still with me - I really do - it's just that now that Dumbledore’s gone, it seems anything’s possible, and it’s all up to me now, and sometimes I just don’t know if I can do this,” he rambled, raking a hand through his messy hair. “My whole life has been like this endless fight, but I think the only reason I haven’t given up – will never give up – is because somehow I know you’re watching, and no matter how gone you seem, I just can’t bear the thought of disappointing you…
“I want to make you proud, Mum and Dad,” he declared fiercely, his words imbued with all the conviction he could muster. “I know I’m not a boy anymore, but your cause is mine now. I've promised myself, as I promise you now, to put an end to Voldemort’s reign so no one else has to grow up alone.”
Alone. The word seemed to hang in the dead calm like a shadow on the wall.
Harry pulled himself up onto his knees, pressing a hand against the headstone. “I expect Sirius is with you,” he murmured thoughtfully as the pressure in his chest grew stronger. “I’m sure he is. He was good to me while he was alive. Lupin is still here - he's with Nymphadora Tonks now and, though she’s a right handful sometimes, she seems to love him, full moons and all,” he said with a forced smile. “Anyway, he’s still looking after me, if you’re curious… He misses you…”
Harry’s voice cracked. “...I miss you...”
A rush of emotion overcame him in that moment. Tears he could not stop fell gently upon the ground, darkening the dried grass that clung feebly to the earth where his parents were laid to rest. The more he tried to quell the waves of grief that broke upon him, the faster they came. At the last, he surrendered to them.
“It’s funny,” breathed Harry, squinting through watery eyes, “how I’ve never really met you… and yet, anything about myself that makes me happy I owe to you. If only it were enough for me to know you in bits and pieces... I can never seem to find out enough about you to fill the gap you left the day you died...” Smeared and fogged with his tears, Harry's glasses were useless to him, and he took them from his face.
"But don't worry," he cried. "I'll be all right. I'm glad I came, Mum and Dad. Really glad. We should talk more often."
There was only one more thing to say. Harry had rehearsed it in his mind ever since the day he made the decision to visit Godric's Hollow. His heart pulsing tightly in his chest, he prayed he would be able to get it out.
“Mum and Dad... I don't know what's going to happen to me... but, in case I can’t come back...” he whispered, wiping his face, “I just wanted to say... thank you for my life.”
Suddenly, Harry started at the unexpected sensation of a heavy hand on his left shoulder, and at his right, a small hand slipped into his. Ron and Hermione had joined him on their knees beside him. Somehow, he did not mind in the least that they looked on as he wept, and he let Hermione bring his head down upon her shoulder as Ron enveloped them both in his long arms.
An unexpected wind swept through, and as the hair on the back of his neck stood up, Harry’s sorrow lifted. The quiet surrounding them as they sat in the graveyard was uncommonly peaceful as though they were all contained in a sacred space, safe from the harms of the world. He could not describe exactly what it was he felt just then, but he knew his words had not fallen on deaf ears. Indeed, thought Harry, someone out there was listening, watching, guiding him through the motions of his existence – perhaps even leading Ron and Hermione to his side in this and many other times of need. And would continue to do so all the rest of his days.
As the three sat in silent reflection, a pair of unseen spectators gazed upon the trio.
What a lovely family portrait, they thought.