Two weeks later found the now healing heroes seated in a hall, waiting for a wedding to begin.
Remus Lupin stood at the front of the hall, fiddling with his jacket. He kept adjusting it so that it was completely straight. Everything had to be absolutely perfect. It's starting, he thought, with great alarm, as the procession began.
They had "borrowed" Gabrielle Delacour to be their flower girl, and George was playing the part of the ring bearer. Next, came Neville and Luna, both looking slightly worse for the wear. They were followed by Harry and Ginny and then Ron and Hermione. Tonks came up next, arm in arm with Elle's old Quidditch friend, Bernard. She winked cheerily at Remus, letting him know that Bernard was here as her date. Remus smiled to himself and shook his head, glad that she was trying to move on. Next, came Fred and Mrs. Weasley, to finish up that part of the procession.
Arthur Weasley came up alone, as the Best Man, since Agnes, the Maid of Honor, was giving her mother away. When he reached the front, he gave Remus's arm a friendly squeeze and turned to see the bride and her daughter walking up the aisle. Remus turned to look and his heart leapt into his throat. Elle blushed slightly underneath her veil and turned to smile at her daughter.
When the reached the front of the aisle, Agnes lifted her mother's veil and embraced her tightly. "I love you," she whispered, before taking her place at the front of the bridesmaids.
But as Elle turned to look at her future husband, a smile shining upon her face, the door at the back of the hall burst open. The wedding party turned quickly to see who had ruined the lovely ceremony and were greeted by the sight of a ragged man in very tattered robes. Elle's face drained of color, and she appeared as though she might faint, while Remus stumbled forward, gasping, "It can't be."
But it was.
Sirius Black had returned.
The silence in the room was deafening as the groom walked forward, his steps so slow that it was as though he were afraid the vision would disappear if he were to step too quickly. When he finally reached the man, he just stood there, staring for a moment, until the very tired-looking Sirius said, "You aren't going to kiss me, are you?"
The crowd, which must have been holding its breath, released it in a ripple of laughter. "No, my dear friend, no," said Remus, embracing him.
It was at that point that Harry began to move forward, but Ron threw out an arm to stop him. "Give them a moment."
When the two old friends pulled away, Sirius gave him a curious look and said, "Who're you getting married to?", thinking to himself that it must be Tonks.
But when he looked past Remus and saw Elle, who had begun to cry, his face paled. "I thought you were gone," he said.
Sobbing, Elle shook her head and ran forward to hug him. Sirius caught her and held her tightly.
After a long moment, she pulled away, smiling through her tears. Remus placed his arm around her waist, and yet, neither of them could take their eyes off of their friend. "Are you going to get married or not?" said Sirius finally.
Arthur Weasley stepped down from his place as Best Man and gestured to Sirius, who, after giving him a grateful look, took his place, followed by the soon-to-be married couple. As the ceremony began again, Sirius caught Harry's eye and winked.
And for the first time in months, Harry smiled with all his heart.
On the final count, Elle tossed her bouquet into the crowd of girls behind her. Hermione caught it effortlessly, with a big smile on her face. Ginny, noting this, elbowed Ron in the ribcage, causing him to turn a flaming color of red. "Shut up, Gin," he grumbled, as Hermione approached with the bride, still clutching the bouquet.
Hermione, acting peculiarly girly, giggled slightly, before asking, "Where's Harry?"
"And now, he's gone," finished Harry, who had been recounting his tale to Sirius. "Forever." He, Sirius, and Remus were sitting beneath a tree in the yard of the hall. "I still can't believe you're back," said Harry, shaking his head.
"And I still can't believe that you finally got Neville a girlfriend," snorted Sirius, causing Harry to laugh.
Remus, however, kept his somber expression. "My God, Moony," said Sirius, causing his friend to crack a smile at the use of his old nickname. "Don't you ever lighten up?"
Remus smiled slightly. "Two years," he said. "Where have you been?"
Sirius's grin faded. "Wait a minute," he said, nodding at Elle's approaching figure. "She would want to hear this, too."
There was a moment of silence until Elle reached the tree. "You're going to ruin your dress, love," said Remus, as she began to sit down.
"It doesn't matter," she said absently. "Have you already-"
"I was just about to start," interrupted Sirius.
There was a silence, in which the speaker prepared to tell his story, while his three companions gazed intently at him.
"After Bellatrix pushed me, I felt myself falling, but slowly, as if slipping into death. Which is what I seemed to be doing. But not death as we think of it. It was a specific death." It was here that Sirius paused for a moment and continued more quietly, "I don't claim to know the mystery of the veil. I will probably never know exactly what it is. But I do know that, in one way or another, it was connected with Voldemort." He shrugged. "Maybe it was his power. Maybe he made it himself. Or maybe he just ended so many lives that he, in many ways, had become synonymous with death." He fell silent, allowing this to sink in.
Finally, Harry spoke, "What was behind the veil?"
Sirius smiled sadly. "They were," he said. "James, Lily, James's parents-" his voice choked and he couldn't pronounce the last name.
"Brigid?" whispered Elle, her eyes wide.
"As beautiful as the day she left us," said Sirius. "She was waiting when I fell through the veil, and after the light had vanished, she was there. They were all there."
"But not really. They weren't even ghosts. They were barely more than smoke. I couldn't touch them," he continued. "That was probably the most maddening thing of all. But their whispers were always there. Their smoky figures drifted around me in the dark, until one day, it just vanished. It was like I was falling backwards, away from their voices and back into the Department of Mysteries."
"And now, I'm here," he finished. "And their spirits are free."
"You had to leave them?" asked Elle.
"They knew I would," said Sirius. "We knew Voldemort couldn't live forever. James especially." He grinned at Harry. "He was ridiculously proud of you. They were both proud of you."
"And, after I had told them everything, James said that you, Moony, need to pull your wand out of your ass and start living again."
At this, all four laughed, almost a little too loudly.
"And me?" asked Elle hopefully.
"I told them that you hadn't come back," he said sheepishly. "And that we didn't think you were coming back."
"But," said Sirius, smiling again. "Brigid said, 'You tell Remus that she'll be back.' She knew you'd be back. And she wanted to say she was sorry."
Elle laughed and said, "That's our Brigid."
Harry watched as the three adults slipped into their own private thoughts, while he tried to sort out his own. He had realized by now that Elle must have been a good friend of his mother but could not figure out who Brigid was, except that she had been very dear to his companions.
"Peter killed her, didn't he?" whispered Elle finally.
Sirius sighed. "Wormtail was the Judas," he said. "But it was Regulus's wand that did the deed."
"But how," said Harry, feeling the need to be included. "How did she end up in the veil if it wasn't Voldemort himself who killed her?"
"That's how closely intertwined Voldemort made his followers," explained Sirius. "I'm sure none of them realized the extent of that tattoo."
"He made sure that they went down with him," muttered Harry.
"Even Peter," said Remus, shaking his head.
"What could have driven him to betray us all like that?" asked Elle quietly.
"Fear of death," growled Sirius. "Plain cowardice."
"Don't remember him like that," said Remus suddenly.
"Why not?" snapped Sirius. "It's no more than he deserves."
"Remember him as the Marauder," said Remus.
"The one who hexed Snape in the beginning of our first year," added Sirius, smiling wryly.
It was then that Harry realized, with a jolt, that Snape was dead, too. It was Remus, however, who voiced his thoughts. "He'll have died, too."
"Don't talk of death anymore," said Elle.
"Right," said Remus, with a heavy sigh. "No more of that."
"You've just gotten married," said Sirius, clapping Remus on the back and winking at him. "I'm sure you're going to want to get to your honeymoon."
Remus smiled and looked down at Elle. "Ready?"
Elle's eyes met her husband's, and she nodded. He grasped her hands and helped her up off the grass (a fairly great feat, seeing as how she was completely surrounded by her wedding dress). Remus hugged Harry and Sirius, while his bride kissed the both of them on the cheek.
"Don't worry, Elle," said Sirius, after she had embraced him. "You've still got plenty of baby-making years ahead."
She rolled her eyes and reached out for Remus's hand.
Together, the finally married couple set out for their new life together, leaving Harry and Sirius under the tree.
"She'll be pregnant within the hour," commented Sirius.
Harry laughed awkwardly. After all, Remus had been his teacher.
"Well, I've got to go," said Sirius, after a moment.
"Where?" Harry had been hoping that his godfather would stay around at least for a little while.
"Just...somewhere," muttered Sirius, turning and heading in the opposite direction.
Harry stood watching the retreating figure of his godfather, until a tap on his shoulder caused him to turn around.
It was Ginny.
"Hey," he said, wearily.
"Hey, yourself," she said, plopping down on the grass.
Harry slowly sat down next to her, leaning against the tree. He turned to look at Ginny. The sun was beginning to set behind her and the fire in the sky seemed to match her hair. Ginny met his gaze and smiled. "So," she said. "Now that you've saved the world, what are you going to do next?"
"We," said Harry. "It took all of us." He paused for a moment. "I don't know."
"Well, I'm glad you've learned your lesson," said Ginny, smirking. "But I'm afraid the second is a wrong answer."
"Oh, really?" said Harry, raising an eyebrows at her. "And what's the right answer?"
"You're going to marry me."
"I thought you wanted to train to be an Auror," said Harry, frowning slightly. As much as he loved her suggestion, he didn't want to ruin her dreams.
"I did," corrected Ginny. "But I think that I've had enough adventures for one lifetime." She smiled to herself. "Besides, Ron will castrate you if you don't."
"Because I'm pregnant."
Harry's jaw dropped and he was struck dumb for a moment. "What?" he said, when he regained his voice. "How?"
"You forgot to use a Protection Charm, you prat," said Ginny, rolling her eyes.
Harry stared at her. "Why are you being so calm about this?"
"Because I've known for a week."
"And you weren't nervous to tell me?"
"Why not?" asked Harry curiously.
"Because I know you love me," she said simply.
"What're you looking at?" asked Agnes, coming up behind Fred, who was gazing off in the distance.
"Watching two people's lives change," he answered, pointing. "Look over there."
Agnes recognized the two figures that Fred was observing to be Ron and Hermione. They were too far away for Agnes to make out specific words but when she saw the tall, gangly boy get down on one knee, she knew it could only mean one thing. She grinned, and a girlish sound escaped her lips, causing Fred to laugh.
"Oh, Ickle Ronnikens," he muttered, shaking his head.
"Nothing," said Fred. "Just knew that was coming."
"Oh, so you know everything, do you?" said Agnes playfully.
"Yup," said Fred, grinning at her. "Bet you that Harry and Ginny are next."
"What makes you so sure?" asked Agnes suspiciously. After all, the couple had just gotten back together.
"Well, one, they have been in love with each other for ages," said Fred, looking very smug. "And two, Harry will have five Weasley brothers cursing him into oblivion because Ginny got knocked up." He shuddered at the last bit, as if his sister's habits were something he did not want to think about.
"What?" said Agnes, her mouth hanging open. "She's still got a year at school."
"So have you," said Fred pointedly. "Speaking of which-" he paused for a moment, as if to gather his courage.
Finally, he spat it out, "I really do love you."
Agnes could scarcely believe her ears. "Is that a future proposition?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah, I guess it is," he replied, laughing nervously and trying, and failing, to regain his normally carefree demeanor.
"Well, then this a future 'yes'," said Agnes happily.
And with that, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
Brigid Mary Mullins.
Sirius gently traced the words with his fingers.
She was free now. Even though it meant that they were parted once again, the spirit of Brigid was free.
Next to Brigid's grave were two other headstones, both bearing the name Potter.
Some part of Sirius felt that Peter's body should be brought, too, to this small cemetery near. I'd have a hell of a time trying, he thought gloomily.
He knew that it was the Ministry's plan to bury the bodies of the Death Eaters in the graveyard at Azkaban. In separate graves even. It's more than they deserve, he thought bitterly, remembering of all the lives those maniacs had ruined.
It was then that a twig snapped, making him whirl around, whipping out his wand as he went.
Remus and Elle had changed into traveling clothes and were now standing solemnly behind Sirius. "We can to say goodbye," said Elle quietly, kneeling next to Sirius, followed by Remus.
The three friends were silent for a moment, as the sun completely set, throwing them into darkness.
"It was all for them, wasn't it?" said Sirius finally. "Everything we did."
Remus nodded. "All the trials," he muttered. "All the evil."
Just as Elle was about to speak, she gasped. There was no question why. The others saw it, too.
As if in a vision, Brigid, Lily, and James had appeared, almost entirely transparent, smiling down at their three friends. Then, just before the apparitions disappeared, there was a whisper of three familiar voices, saying, "Life goes on."