Chapter 1 : Nothing Lasts Forever
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The smallest bedroom in Number Four, Privet Drive, looked a mess. Paperwork was spread across the desk and half the floor, all the drawers were open with clothes hanging out, a large suitcase was open on the bed with a pile of underwear in and a trunk was by the pushed-to door, its lid off and a cloak draped across the top. Harry was going backwards and forwards, trying to sort out finances at the same time as packing everything he owned.
Two consecutive pages from a calendar were pinned on the wall, the last day of July and the fourth of August ringed with crosses through every day up to August 2nd. Two days left until Harry left Privet Drive for good. He was in a strangely happy mood, humming a tune he’d heard on a wizarding wireless as he tried to fold up Dudley’s old t-shirts. He paused, changed his mind, and instead threw them on a pile next to his trunk – to be burnt. Or given to a charity shop. Somewhere he wouldn’t see them again.
Harry’s current school uniform went into the suitcase, as did all his books and some of the ones that had come with the bedroom. The rest he put with the t-shirts. His treasures, including his Invisibility Cloak and photo albums, went into the suitcase without a second thought. When his trunk was empty he piled into it the items he wanted rid of. It took a few minutes for him to remember he could do magic now: he shrunk the trunk and put it in the suitcase too.
He couldn’t recall a time he had been happier. Voldemort’s defeat only a few weeks ago – goodness, was it really that long? – had come close, but not enough. Harry was on top of the world. He was seventeen, in love, leaving the Dursleys for good, Voldemort’s victims were no longer dead and even his injuries had cleared up (more or less). Before, especially in the last few years, Harry had never experienced joy without something coming along to ruin it. But that wouldn’t happen this time. How could it? Voldemort was gone, gone forever, and his remaining supporters were in an Azkaban with much tighter security. And with Amelia Bones as Minister, he didn’t even have to worry about being harassed by the Ministry or the media any more (the first act in her new position was to ban reporters from trying to interview Harry without his prior consent).
So it was with enthusiasm he was looking forward to his new, bright future. A smile crossed his face as he recalled the moment it had been set down for him. It had started as a joke, really. Ron’s parents had been in the dark about their relationship – in fact, apart from Hermione, everyone had – and they’d been playfully discussing how and when to come out. Not being sure how his parents would react, Ron wasn’t up for telling them any time soon, whereas Harry insisted it would be better sooner rather than later. The idea was immediately dismissed at first, but they both found themselves giving it serious thought. Then when Hermione, at the last minute, backed out of Harry’s birthday celebration on grounds of spending time with her family, it was set in stone. On the night of his seventeenth, Harry had gone to bed no longer a bachelor.
He and Ron had got together during the summer after fifth year, when Harry had been nothing but depressed and angry and felt Ron was the only one who really understood. (This wasn’t true, but it was what he thought.) Their relationship had got closer and by the time sixth year had ended, Harry had finally found the strength in himself he needed to face – and vanquish – Voldemort. And he had. And not only had he lived, but a legend that no-one had ever proved to be true or false, had turned out to be correct: that if a wizard (or witch) was killed by their own wand’s brother, any lives that their own wand had taken directly in the last seven years would be restored.
The doorbell rang. Harry ignored it.
Bertha Jorkins (back to normal), Cedric, a very confused Muggle called Frank and a short list of Voldemort’s victims in that last year had been awoken, alive. Harry was still experiencing that giddy happiness that washed over him when he saw all the live figures. Hermione had been a victim, killed by Voldemort himself. All of them refused to talk about what came after death, but Harry knew there must be *something*, seeing as during the six weeks Hermione had been dead she seemed to have fallen for Cedric Diggory, and vice versa. Well, they made a sweet couple. Even Ron agreed.
Harry snapped back to the present as a knock on the door jerked him back to his senses. Vernon and Dudley were both out, so he figured it was his aunt. “Come in.”
The door made a small thud as it was pushed back onto Harry’s trunk. There was a small pause, before a male voice said, “Going somewhere, Harry?”
Dumbledore’s eyes were back to their usual twinkling state, Harry noticed as he whirled round in surprise. As the list of the dead – mostly Muggles and Ministry workers – had grown longer, they had faded, but now they were back in his eyes, where they belonged. They twinkled more as Dumbledore registered the surprise on Harry’s face.
“Sorry, did I make you jump?”
Harry grinned. “Just a bit. What are you doing here, Professor?”
“What, I’m not allowed to pay a visit to the biggest trouble-maker in the school?” Dumbledore’s twinkle grew brighter with each word. “I came to give you these -” he held out what looked like a huge mail sack “- and to see how you are. How’s your arm?”
Harry looked down at his left side. The skin still looked a bit sore, but it had improved so much he barely noticed the pain. “Better.”
“And your non-physical well-being?”
It was Harry’s turn to laugh at the surprised look on Dumbledore’s face as he smiled honestly. “Honestly, sir, I’ve never been better.”
The raised eyebrows look was truly comical. “Oh?”
Harry turned to Hedwig’s cage and began refilling her water. “I’m alive. All my friends are alive. Voldemort is *not* alive. The Ministry is in safe hands (for now, anyway). Two more days and I’m out of here. What’s not to be happy about?”
The way Dumbledore was looking at him made Harry wonder if he knew there was something else. As much as he liked – and admired, and fully trusted – Dumbledore, he didn’t want anyone to know about him and Ron until Ron’s family did. It just wasn’t fair otherwise. So he slipped off his ring and put it in his pocket.
Dumbledore looked thoughtful, apparently not having noticed the action. “I’m surprised. That you see it that way … I mean … well, we couldn’t bring back – well, everyone.”
Harry blinked. He *had* thought about this. But he understood – it was only Voldemort’s wand, and only in the last seven years. Which ruled out …
“My parents and Sirius?” Harry finished. “Look, Professor, I’ve lived without my parents all my life. And I’ve had a year to accept that wherever Sirius is now, he’s probably happier there than he would be if he was alive. As much as I miss all of them and would love to have them back, I’m not going to go into depression again because I can’t.”
Dumbledore smiled sadly. “That’s good to hear.”
“So, what’s in here?” Harry asked, gesturing to the mail sack.
“Fan mail. For you. And don’t change the subject. Where are you going?”
“I’ve got a flat in London. You want the address? Telephone number? Name of the person who sold us – me – the furniture?”
If Dumbledore noticed the slip-up, he didn’t comment on it. “Very funny, Harry.”
Harry grinned. “I try.”
“Actually as you’re still at Hogwarts I do need your address at the least for school records.”
“Oh.” Harry dug in his pocket, found a pen and scribbled the address quickly on a scrap piece of parchment. “Can you read that?”
Dumbledore squinted. “Not very well.”
Perhaps it was the brief flicker of pain in his eyes that made Harry ask, “Are you all right, sir?”
“I’m fine, thank you Harry,” Dumbledore said airily, taking the parchment and holding it up to the light. “Ah, that’s better.”
It was the use of Harry’s most-commonly-used phrase in answer to questions about his own health that made Harry frown, but he didn’t press it. Perhaps he should have done.
The conversation having dried up, Harry attempted to salvage it. “Do you want a cup of tea, Professor?”
Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose. “Why not?” he said cheerfully. “I’m sure you could do with a break from packing as well.”
Harry grinned, still a little uneasy, and gestured for Dumbledore to lead the way downstairs. As they reached the door, Dumbledore paused and turned round thoughtfully.
“Call me Albus.”
Harry was caught off guard. “Sir?”
Dumbledore chuckled. “I think we’ve known each other long enough to drop the formalities, Harry. At least outside the classroom.”
A smile grew on Harry’s face as they made their way into the kitchen. He busied himself with the kettle while Dumbledore nosed in the cupboards.
“No biscuits?” he enquired, sounding disappointed.
“Sorry,” Harry replied. “All out.”
“Shame.” Dumbledore shut the door and winced. “Ouch.”
Harry looked up sharply. “Professor?”
Dumbledore didn’t correct him, just stood still, clutching his arm with the other hand, his head bent forwards. Harry shakily put the mugs down on the bench. “Professor!”
No response. Harry grabbed his shoulders. As he did so, with a gasp of pain, Dumbledore’s knees buckled and he fell forwards, hitting his head on the bench and collapsing backwards. Harry knelt down beside him. “*Professor*!”
Dumbledore didn’t seem to be breathing.