Chapter 22 : Light
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AN: This chapter is dedicated to Portuguesita. Because I'm a girl of my word. :)
Green met gray.
Her laugh was like music as it rang out and mixed with the sound of the warm breeze rustling the leaves above them. The boy smiled and grabbed the girl’s waist, hauling her into his lap. She laughed again, a bright, happy sound. A strand of dark hair blew into her eyes, and he reached up to gently brush it away.
It was a perfect moment. One that seemed too good to be true. Too wonderful to be anything other than a dream.
“Love you, Evie,” the boy said.
The girl smiled, and it was like the sun.
“Love you too, Harry.”
He pulled her closer and held her soft cheek in his hand. His eyes closed as his lips lowered to meet hers. Lower…lower…and then…
The space before him was empty. The only thing that remained was the echo of her laughter growing fainter and fainter, carried off by the wind.
She was gone.
Harry woke with a start, chest heaving in and out. It took him a moment to realize where he was and what had happened. The hospital wing was dim with the early morning light. He’d dozed off again.
Cursing softly, he lifted himself to a straighter sitting position in the stiff chair beside the bed, trying to ignore the way his muscles ached in protest. His eyes lit upon Evie immediately and something of a relieved sigh escaped his lips. He’d half expected to find the bed empty after his dream…
But she was there. She hadn’t moved and nothing had changed. Harry clenched his jaw as another wave of sadness and remorse rushed through him.
The voice cut through the silence of the room. Harry glanced up and saw Hermione rushing towards him with Ron close at her heels. Her face was alight, shining with something torn between relief and sadness. Harry didn’t have much time to stand before her arms surrounded him, pulling him close as something wet dampened his shoulder.
“Don’t cry,” he told her softly. But his own eyes glistened and filled even as he spoke the quiet plea.
“Oh Harry,” she breathed, pulling away and not bothering to hide the sorrow and pity in her gaze now. Harry said nothing. His eyes found Ron, but the other boy was staring at Evie, his features pulling down into an expression of muted disbelief.
“I’m so sorry, mate,” he said finally, choking the words out and never once shifting his gaze from the hospital bed and the pale and broken girl upon it. “Is she…will she…”
But Ron couldn’t seem to form the words. Harry turned his face away and stared unseeingly out the sunlit window.
“They don’t know.”
“Dumbledore told us what happened,” Hermione said, breaking the stiff silence that had fallen with her soft and careful voice. “Those wretched people…their own daughter,” she stopped, overcome with some emotion.
“Yeah, well, now they’re off to Azkaban where they belong,” Ron said gruffly. “Still cant believe Dung is dead though. Who knew he’d get it into his head to do something like that? I mean, I always knew he was barmy, but he really went off the deep end didn’t he?”
Hermione sent him a reproachful glance.
“What?” Ron asked, unabashed. “It’s true…”
“I thought Malfoy’s involvement was more surprising, to be honest,” Hermione countered.
“What, him? Malfoy’s always been a slimy git!” Ron said, disbelief coloring his tone. “Only a matter of time before he followed in Daddy’s footsteps.”
Harry stiffened and turned. “What?”
“Slimy git or not, I still can’t believe he did it,” Hermione said. Neither she nor Ron seemed to have heard Harry.
“Well I can. Just wish I could have seen the look on his face when Dung blasted him. Best thing the ol’ codger ever did if you ask me.”
“Stop!” Harry yelled. Both Ron and Hermione turned away from each other to stare at him in surprise. “What are you talking about?” he asked once he knew he had their attention. His posture was tense and his face hard.
Hermione’s brow furrowed. “You…Harry, you don’t know?”
He bit back a growl of frustration. “Obviously I don’t.”
“Dumbledore didn’t tell you?” Ron asked.
Harry shook his head curtly. “We talked about…other things.” He swallowed and pushed those memories aside for now. It wasn’t something he wanted to discuss at the moment. Instead, he fixed his hard gaze on his two best friends. “Just tell me about Malfoy. What does he have to do with this?”
“He was the one who used the Polyjuice, Harry,” Hermione told him gently.
Harry’s breath hitched. He stared at her as though he didn’t really comprehend what she’d just told him.
“Yeah, they found him unconscious near the Great Hall. Dung did it,” Ron added.
All was silent in the room for one suspended moment. And then Harry snapped.
“I’m going to kill him!” he surged towards the door, stopped only when Ron grabbed him. “Let go!” He struggled in his friend’s grip, breathing hard and seeing red.
“Harry!” Hermione said, wide-eyed and alarmed.
“Mate, stop,” Ron managed to say, though he was having a hell of a time trying to keep Harry still. “For Merlin’s sake, would you cut it…ow!” He winced when an elbow jabbed into his ribs, but Ron miraculously kept his hold strong. Hermione moved into action, placing herself between Harry and the door.
“Harry, listen, what Malfoy did was awful—“
“Awful?” Harry cut in incredulously. “She wouldn’t be half dead if it wasn’t for him!”
“Worse than awful,” Hermione corrected. “And believe me, he’s going to get what’s coming to him. But there’s nothing you can do now. I know you’re angry, but you can’t go rushing off and getting yourself thrown into Azkaban on murder charges. Do you really think Evie would want that?”
The question was what finally halted Harry’s struggles. He stilled, breathing heavily and looking towards the ground as his anger slowly ebbed away, barely noticing when Ron released him and Hermione let out a barely audible sigh of relief. All he could do was turn away from them both and head back to the chair beside Evie’s bed, sinking into it and looking half dead himself.
“You’re right,” he said finally. Lifelessly. If he had been capable of paying attention, he would have seen the worried glance his friends exchanged. The silence that fell was tense, and Harry was the one who finally broke it.
“I can’t lose her,” he said, in a voice that was just barely a whisper. “If I lose her it means I really am cursed. Everything I love will always be taken away from me. Always.” His hands turned to fists on the arms of the chair. “What’s the point of being good. Noble. Brave. None of those things helped me save her.” His tone was bitter now. Disgusted. “Maybe the Sorting Hat was right. Maybe I should have been in Slytherin. All this time.”
“Harry, how can you say that?” Hermione breathed, taking an involuntary step forward.
“You know that isn’t true,” Ron added, though he looked distinctly uncomfortable as he looked at Harry’s emotionless face. “You didn’t fire that curse at her.”
Harry said nothing. But his green eyes flickered with pain.
I might as well have.
It was hard, sitting beside her, to remember Dumbledore’s words of wisdom. He was dangerously close to slipping into that darkness he’d been warned of. How easy it would have been. It overwhelmed the light. The light was almost not there at all. A tiny golden flicker in a ocean of black. Harry could keep it in sight for now, but what would happen when she faded?
The light would fade too. And nothing would matter anymore. He could drown in the darkness for all he cared. It would receive no resistance from him. No thrashing to remain surfaced. Just a dead weight. Sinking deeper, deeper, deeper until he forgot what light even was. Until he forgot who he was. Until he stopped breathing too.
Evie’s chest lifted and fell. No change. No other movement. Still pale as a corpse.
The light dimmed in the sea of black.
Harry barely noticed when his friends retreated and the sun made its slow descent on the distant horizon.
Motionless, he waited.
The fight towards the surface raged on.
Evie was no longer in the dark, but the place she found herself in now was just as terrible. Perhaps more so. The darkness held nothing. No images, no pain, no feelings. But here…here she was trapped in her dreams. Ones that forced her to relive every fear she’d ever had over and over and over again.
At first it was only flickers. Faces flashing past her vision with relentless rapidity, lingering only long enough for her to feel terror at the sight of them. Her parents were prominent in these images, smiling with sinister satisfaction. With victory. Triumph. But worse…far, far worse than those would ever be…were the glimpses she’d caught of Harry’s face. Pale. Blood-streaked. Lifeless.
Dead. Harry was dead. And she knew somehow that it was her fault. Why couldn’t she remember? How had this happened? This couldn’t happen.
But her dreams were only too willing to provide her with the gaps between the pictures. It wasn’t long before they became more fluid. Words accompanied them now. Voices. Laughter that held no pleasantness. Laughter that made her spine tingle.
“What a fool you are, Evie…”
“A sorry death, just like his parents…”
“Always were such a disappointment…”
“You cannot win…”
No. No, no, no! She wanted to scream the word. She wanted to fight. To claw her way into the scene and prevent it from occurring. But she couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. All she could do was watch as the voices and images clashed together to form a moving picture so utterly horrifying it nearly sent her reeling back into the dark again.
They were hurting him. Laughing as they tortured the one she loved, telling him over and over again that she was the reason he suffered. She’d so very kindly brought him straight to them. And now he would die. He would die and they would win.
Light burned her vision. Flash after flash of relentless attacks, streaks of life-taking power surging from two outstretched hands.
She fought. She fought harder than she ever had for anything. She fought for him. If she could break through her bonds she knew…she knew she could save him. She knew what the darkness felt like. She could keep him from going there too. They could fight together. Together was always how they were meant to be.
Pressure that burned. He was fading. She was screaming. It built up and up and up until the sound drowned out the laughter and the voices sick with glee and the dead silence from the raven-haired boy she loved, and loved, and loved.
She surfaced, breathing hard, surging upward into the light, her body propelling her off of something soft—
And straight into someone’s arms.
“Evie,” a voice said, severe with a mixture relief and shock.
Her vision was blurry with tears, but she could make out the dark outlines of the Hospital Wing around her. The arms that were engulfing her felt familiar, and they were what ultimately, finally, brought her back. In body, mind, and spirit.
“Harry,” she breathed, her voice weak. “Harry.”
“Oh god,” he choked. She couldn’t see his face. He held her so closely she could feel him shaking. “Oh god, you’re awake. You’re okay. You’re okay.”
And though the pain of being awake burned her, she smiled, using every ounce of strength she had to bring her arms around him too. She could feel the silent tears on her back where they escaped from him. But he was alive. She was awake and he was alive. Never had she felt such an overwhelming surge of happiness. Never.
“I thought…Merlin, Evie, I thought you were…”
“I’m okay,” she whispered, breathing in his scent, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt and barely feeling the pain at all through her crushing relief. Gently, he was pulling back, just enough to be able to see her face, his movements careful as though terrified she’d break at any moment. “I’m okay,” she said again, hating the pain so very clear in his eyes.
“You were dead,” he said brokenly, lifting both hands to cup her face. He stared at her every feature, and she did the same to him. Both trying to convince themselves that this wasn’t somehow a cruel dream. That they were there, together, alive and okay. “You wouldn’t wake up. Even after Pomfrey stopped the bleeding…you wouldn’t come back. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t do anything, and you were…you…”
His voice cracked and he stopped, unable to go on. Evie lifted her hands to cup his face as well and felt the tears pour from her closed eyes as she rested her forehead against his. Neither could speak. The moment was much larger than the both of them…and far too heavy with aching hearts. But the hearts were still beating. That was the only thing either of them needed to know.
Evie was the first to break the silence, though they had let it linger for a time that was interminable. Her eyes opened and she pulled away slowly, taking in Harry’s features that were illuminated in the soft glow of moonlight streaming through her bedside window.
“Are you alright?” she asked shakily, studying him as though expecting to find him injured somehow. “In the clearing when I…I can’t remember what happened. I thought they…I’ve had such terrible dreams…”
He looked at her nearly aghast. “Am I alright? You nearly died and you’re asking if I’m alright?” Suddenly she was pulled against him again and she felt his lips touching her hair. “You’re alive, you barmy girl. I’ve never been more alright in my entire life,” he nearly laughed. Evie laughed too, but stopped it short when a shooting pain shot through her.
“Evie?” he said, his voice laced with alarm now. He quickly pulled away and swept his eyes over her features. “Oh, I’m such an idiot. I should have gotten Pomfrey the second I heard you talking!” He scoffed in disgust at himself and made to rise off the bed, but Evie grabbed at him with almost a whimper.
“No!” she said, clearly distressed. Harry halted immediately when he felt her hand tug at his. “Please,” Evie said quietly. “Please don’t leave me. Not yet.”
Harry features softened, and he sank slowly beside her once more, squeezing the hand in his. “I’m not going to leave you, Evie,” he whispered, reaching out to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. “Trust me, you’ll be lucky if I let you out of my sight ever again.”
She closed her eyes with a slight, soft laugh and leaned against his palm. She lifted her free hand and took his wrist, turning to place a kiss against the skin there. The look in Harry’s eyes when she finally opened her own was so filled with love it nearly broke her heart.
“I was talking?” she asked in another whisper and only half-interest. Even now, weak and broken, he could still make her heart flutter and cheeks flush. Harry’s eyes kept their intensity for a moment, and then he nodded.
“You said my name,” he replied, his tone holding a lingering tinge of disbelief as though he was reliving the memory over again. “I thought I was imagining things. You’ve been so still. You’ve barely even moved, let alone talked.” The pressure on her hand tightened. She watched as his features contorted briefly in pain.
“You kept saying it. It looked like you were dreaming. I tried to wake you, and then you started thrashing. I had no idea what to do. I was about to go run for Pomfrey when you screamed,” he said, the words tumbling out of him. Suddenly the images were coming back to Evie. Everything was starting to come back. Like sun erasing fog, clearing her mind until things were sharper and more focused.
“I was fighting,” she said, almost to herself, looking off to the side as her mind showed her the past. “I was always fighting. I felt you.” Her eyes shot to Harry now. “I was fighting to get back to you.” Her brow furrowed and she turned away again, this time to the window looking out over the darkened grounds. “Dreams…so many awful dreams. They were hurting you. I was trying to stop them but I couldn’t. Oh, it was horrible…”
“Evie, shhh,” Harry reached out for her face again, turning it his way and wiping his thumb over her glistening cheek. “I’m fine. Nothing happened to me. Everything’s fine now.” He leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on her pale forehead. “Everything’s fine. They’re never going to hurt anyone again. They’re never going to hurt you again,” he said, his voice taking on a hard, determined edge.
“Are they…what happened?” she asked, almost afraid to know.
“The Order came right after you…after you were hurt,” he said, pained again. But when he went on, his voice was a bit steadier. “They took your parents. They’ll get a trial and then be placed in Azkaban. For good,” he finished, the same determination creeping back into his tone.
Evie took this information soberly. There was no remorse felt when she learned what her parents’ fate would be. Only acceptance. She nodded, her eyes turning downward.
“As long as they can’t hurt anyone anymore,” she said quietly. There was a short silence, and then something else occurred to her very suddenly. So suddenly she gasped.
“Evie?” Harry said quickly in concern.
“Malfoy,” she replied, meeting his worried eyes with her widened ones. “He was the one who—”
“Impersonated me,” Harry cut in darkly. His jaw clenched and he had to look away from her, almost as if he didn’t want her to see the murder in his eyes. “I know,” he went on. “They found him near the Great Hall. He’s being interrogated. I can only hope they got Kingsley to do it. Even though that slimy git deserves something far worse than a few punches.”
Evie didn’t like the way Harry’s face hardened, the light leaving his eyes. And so she gripped his hand tighter. It took a moment for him to respond, but when he turned to face her again he was her Harry once more.
“Harry,” she whispered. There was nothing to say. All she could do was keep her gaze locked with his. Harry swallowed hard and pulled her into his chest, careful not to jostle her but holding her with a desperate need.
“I’m so sorry,” he strangled out. “I’m so sorry, Evie.”
“Sorry?” she asked, bewildered. “For what?”
He let out a low grunt. Like a wounded animal. The sound surprised her, and she clung to him tighter.
“For letting this happen to you,” he said when he could control his voice. “I broke my promise. I said they’d never hurt you. In the clearing…I couldn’t stop him, and then you fell and there was so much blood and I…I couldn’t…”
“Harry,” she said quickly, alarmed now by his failure to continue speaking. Alarmed with the things he was saying. Feeling. Did he really think this was his fault?
“Harry, stop this,” she said, pulling away and forcing him to look at her. Her expression was as distraught as his was defeated. “How can you believe that any of this was your fault? How can you even say that? You saved me, Harry. Without you, I’d be dead. You’re what brought me back. You’re the one who risked his life for me. How can you think for one moment that this was your doing?” she said, rushing the words out heatedly, feeling something approaching anger begin to color her cheeks.
“If you’re so determined to feel guilty, then you should feel guilty about coming to the stupid clearing in the first place. I mean, honestly, barging in there by yourself? The fact you came at all is bad enough, and then you go and come alone? Against two Death Eaters who are more than capable of killing you, nonetheless. I’ve never been more frightened in my entire life, Harry, what if they had killed you? You’re Harry Potter, don’t you realize how important you are? Never mind how important you are to me. I never would have forgiven myself if you died trying to save me, never, and another thing—“
Suddenly lips were crushing her own. Her words were cut off with one swift motion from Harry as he kissed her, urgent and searching. Evie soon forgot what she’d been talking about in the first place. If this went on much longer, she would probably forget her own name, too. They molded against one another, together again and so very, very right.
“That’s completely unfair, you know,” she whispered, eyes still closed when he finally pulled away. She opened them and met his twinkling green gaze. “Taking advantage of an invalid. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
He laughed, looking decidedly unashamed, but it wasn’t long before Evie cracked a smile too. “Well I didn’t really see any other available options,” he replied. “You were being ridiculous. Adorably ridiculous, but still ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous?” Evie’s mouth opened in shock. “I was not—“
“Evie, what would you have done if it had been me in that clearing?” he asked, cutting her off with a look that was suddenly very serious. “If it had been me you couldn’t find, and had no idea if I was alive or dead or hurt or scared. What then?”
Evie stared at him mutely for a moment, about to open her mouth to argue. But then she stopped, and thought about what he’d just asked. The fight in her faded almost immediately.
“Okay, so you may have a point,” she mumbled, shoulders dropping slightly. “That doesn’t mean my getting hurt was your fault though,” she went on, more determinedly now. That was an argument she would not budge on. “Thinking so would be ridiculous.”
Harry chuckled again and pulled her into the crook of his arm, kissing her temple. “Alright, no more fighting about this. I concede. For now.”
Evie grimaced at those last two words but sighed and conceded as well. For now. “Thank you,” she said.
“What on Merlin’s grand green Earth is going on here?!”
The shrill voice startled the couple on the bed and both looked up to see a completely and undeniably irate Madam Pomfrey standing in the doorway to the Hospital Wing. Feelings of déjà vu struck Evie as she and Harry both did their best trying not to look guilty. The situation was eerily similar to the one they’d found themselves in months and months ago the day Evie had first arrived at Hogwarts. She’d woken then, too. Injured but alive, with a mysterious green-eyed boy at her side.
“Bugger,” Harry said under his breath. “She’s going to kill me.”
“How long has she been awake?” Pomfrey nearly yelled, storming over to Evie’s side. “Potter, so help me, if you don’t remove yourself from that bed in one instant—“
“Okay, okay! I’m gone,” he said, rising from the soft mattress and lifting his hands up in defense. He lingered a few steps away, but clearly even that wasn’t good enough for Pomfrey.
“No,” she said, finger pointed straight at him before sweeping it towards the door. “Out.”
“Madam Pomfrey, with all due respect, you can point that thing at me all you want, but I’m not leaving this room,” Harry replied steadily. Even without the edge in his voice it would have been all too clear by his level expression that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Pomfrey’s lips whitened and moved into thin line. “Then I suggest you find a corner and stand in it. Now.”
Realizing that was probably as good an offer as he was going to get, Harry sighed and stalked off to the bed that was the farthest away and sat down on it with very clear reluctance. Evie tried to angle her head around Pomfrey to see him but the woman was already pushing her back down onto the bed with practiced ease.
“Honestly, the nerve of that boy, so selfish, won’t leave your side for a moment—“
“Actually, Madame Pomfrey, I was the one who—“
“To think, you’ve been unconscious ever since he brought you in here, I mean really, you easily couldn’t have woken up at all with all that blood you lost—does that hurt at all, dear?—and then he refused to be looked at himself even though he hasn’t slept at all and barely eaten—drink that up, love, all of it now.”
Evie was half dazed at all the prodding she was getting and the whirl of information being thrown at her. Pomfrey was already lifting a bottle with some unidentified liquid in it to her lips as though she wasn’t moving quite fast enough for the determined nurse. It tasted wretched, but it relieved some of the ache almost immediately.
“Is all of that really true?” Evie asked, once the bottle was drained, a lingering look of distaste on her face. But she turned to face Pomfrey, brows furrowing and expression falling into one of concern now. “About Harry?”
The nurse had her hand on Evie’s wrist, clearly concentrating on checking her heart rate. But she replied nonetheless, her voice still holding a faint trace of bitterness, as though taking Harry’s past actions as a personal affront to her duties.
“Oh yes,” she said, sighing and turning to mix what looked like yet another potion. “It’s true all right. Never seen such impudence in all my days here.” She shook her head, and then paused mid-pour to turn and meet Evie’s gaze for the first time.
“You know, I think that boy may be a little bit in love with you,” she said with quiet firmness. And then just like that she was back in nurse mode, shoving another bottle in Evie hand, missing completely the blush and private smile upon the young girl’s face.
“Well, that’s all I can do for now. You need to drink this at least four times a day. And count your lucky stars. Miracle. Absolute miracle,” the woman said, mostly to herself while she shook her head. “Well, I’ll need to inform the Headmaster immediately. Meanwhile, maybe you can get him to drink that,” Pomfrey said, pointing to yet another bottle on the bedside table. “Perhaps you’ll have more luck than I have. Merlin knows he’d do just about anything for you. Even if those things are incredibly moronic and detrimental to his health. Not that you’re not worth them, dear,” Pomfrey added with a motherly pat to Evie’s head. The girl barely had time to smile before the nurse turned and headed out of the room without so much as a glance in Harry’s direction.
“How do you feel?” he said, appearing at her side quicker than she would have thought possible. Evie looked up at his concerned gaze and grabbed his hand, pulling him down to lay beside her on the small bed with ease.
“Better,” she said, sinking into his arms and sighing, resting her head against his chest. “Now.”
She felt the vibrations of his soft laugh against her cheek as his arms wound more tightly around her.
“You’re in trouble though,” she murmured, eyes closing.
Evie smiled, listening to the sound of his hearbeat.
“Harry?” she asked softly.
“I’m a little bit in love with you too.”
“Only a little?” he asked, amusement lining his voice, clearly smiling though she couldn’t see him. It made her smile too.
“I’m willing to be persuaded into increasing it,” she replied easily, propping her chin on his chest and looking up at him now.
“Well then,” he said, lifting her chin up until his lips hovered above hers. “I suppose that means I’ll have to see what I can do to persuade you.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I suppose it does.”
The soft kiss that followed was enough persuasion to last her a lifetime.
And it was a lifetime she knew with every single beat of her living heart she was all too willing to give.
“Evie, you almost ready? It’s time to get going.”
Her hand reached a little farther beneath her bed, finding and grabbing onto her last book with a muffled cry of triumph.
“Got it,” she breathed, popping up from the floor with a sigh. Her hair was a mess, but it went unnoticed as she tucked the book under her arm with a bright smile. With her other hand she bent down to scoop Goldie up from her mewing position at her feet, surveying her dorm room with one final, lingering glance.
The last remaining month of classes had passed by with a speed that was startling, a blur of frenzied students and scattered papers. Evie had made a full recovery in that time, though much of it was admittedly spent in the Hospital Wing under Pomfrey’s constant care. Harry had been kind enough to bring her studies to her, and it wasn’t as though she lacked for time to study. It was all she had time for. But Harry kept her company, never leaving her side for longer than was absolutely necessary.
Harry wasn’t the only one, though. There’d been a constant stream of visitors ever since Evie’s return had been announced. Hermione (who had quickly and profusely apologized for her past behavior) and Ron, Ginny and Dean, Professor Lupin, Dumbledore. Even Sirius had managed to sneak in one night with help from Dumbledore and Remus, much to Evie’s chagrin.
“You really shouldn’t have, Sirius,” she had said, expression torn between distress and gratitude. “If you got caught just because you tried to visit me—“
“Then it would be my own stupid, bloody fault, wouldn’t it?” he replied with a flashing grin.
“I already tried to talk him out of it,” Harry said from his place next to Evie, sending a disapproving look at his dark-haired godfather. “Wasn’t having it though.”
“Course I wasn’t,” Sirius frowned. “You’re not the only one who’s allowed to be concerned about her, you know,” he told Harry before sending a wink at Evie.
“Watch it,” Harry replied gruffly, though it went barely heard over the sound of Evie’s laughter.
Laughter. There’d certainly been a generous supply of that over the past month too. More than she would have ever thought possible. Despite all that had happened, she was able to smile and feel more content than she’d ever remembered feeling. Or perhaps it was because of all that had happened. She was alive. Harry was alive. Her parents had been put away for good. No one would ever feel pain at their hands again.
Through extraordinary struggle and sacrifice, Harry and Evie had emerged still standing. Together.
The sound of a sudden voice behind her snapped Evie from her musings. She turned in the now sparse dorm room to find Ginny smiling at her.
“So, Harry is about two seconds away from using his Firebolt to get up here. It’s kiiiiind of funny. I would tell you to wait another five minutes just to see if he’d actually do it, but then I’m pretty sure he’d kill me, so I’m supposed to ask if you’re okay and if you need help with your stuff.”
Evie rolled her eyes with a good-natured grin and turned to grab her last bag. “Honestly, such a baby. I guess I should be lucky he even let me up here this long and didn’t make you pack my bags or something.”
“Hah! Maybe for a few of those bajillion Galleons of his,” Ginny replied without missing a beat. Evie laughed and went to follow the ginger-haired girl out of the room, but paused just inside the doorway. It was empty now and silent. The wooden floor was golden where the sunshine streamed upon it from the window. A distant sound of laughter and chatter carried up from the grounds outside as students headed back to the train that would take them home for the summer, only to return once more for another year in the fall. Her heart swelled, as though it was saying goodbye.
But no. Not goodbye. She’d return, just like the others. Another year at Hogwarts. Her home.
“Home,” she sighed.
Goldie mewed again in Evie’s arms and she smiled down at the animal. “I’ll miss it too,” she said to her quietly, gazing around the room one last time. “We’ll be back though. You’ll see.”
And with that, Evie turned, heading down the hall and descending the stairs where Harry was waiting. Impatiently, of course. But he took Evie’s bag from her with a smile nonetheless.
“Ginny thinks I’m overbearing,” he said, the smile fading as he sent a not-so-surreptitious sour look at the youngest Weasley.
“You are,” Ginny replied in a sing-song voice, not even bothering to turn around as she followed Dean out of the portrait hole. Harry frowned after her, but then turned to Evie with worry in his green eyes.
“Am I really overbearing?” he asked quietly. “I was only joking about the broom thing. Sort of.”
Evie said nothing but reached out and grabbed the front of his shirt, pulling him in for a swift and highly unexpected kiss.
“How’s that for overbearing?” she grinned when she pulled away.
“Smashing. Do it again.”
“Harry!” she laughed, turning to gather up her only other bag. “You’re the one who kept rushing me in the first place. We have to go. And for the record, you’re not overbearing. Sort of.” She sent him a mocking smile and headed towards the exit. Harry groaned behind her but was quick to follow.
“I’m not in that big of a rush, you know,” he said as they stepped into the hall. “It’s not like we have a train to catch.”
“No, but Sirius has been waiting a long time for us to come back, and he’s probably pacing the kitchen at Grimmauld Place as we speak. It’s not nice to keep him in suspense.”
“Guess you’re right. Wouldn’t be surprised if he broke out the Christmas decorations again,” he grinned. Evie’s laughter echoed down the hall, empty save for them. They were headed towards Dumbledore’s office. Harry’s things had already been sent through the Floo and so he had a free hand, which he used to grab Evie’s. She turned, smiling up at him with a light in her eyes meant only for them.
“You sure you’re not going to get sick of me all summer?” she asked, teasing mirth in her twinkling gaze.
“I’d say the chances are about 50/50,” he replied casually, keeping his own stare ahead but failing to stop his mouth from twitching upward.
Evie whacked him on the chest with a laugh. “You prat.”
Harry slowed them to a stop with a grin, turning her until she faced him. Behind them the windows showed the broad expanse of the grounds below, rolling gently towards the lake that shimmered with hues of gold and pink as the sun sank slowly beneath the distant hills. But Harry didn’t spare the breathtaking view the slightest of glances. His eyes were fixed on an entirely different view. One that was just as breathtaking.
“I could never get sick of you, Evie,” he told her softly. “Never.”
When she saw the true, shining sincerity in his eyes, Evie knew Harry wasn’t lying. Her heart swelled again. Not saying goodbye this time. But hello. Hello to life and love and all the adventures that came right along with it.
“I think I love you more than just a little now,” she replied, just as softly as her lips curved upward.
“Well that’s good,” Harry said, tugging her closer, “Cause I think I love you more than just a little too.”
He smiled, leaning down to capture her lips with his in a kiss that spoke of a love that went far beyond any sort of measurement.
And in that moment Evie knew she wasn’t leaving behind a home. Home was how she felt when he kissed her. Held her hand. Smiled. Laughed. Home was in his heart, and somehow, somehow, she’d been lucky enough to carve her own special place there. Just as he’d carved his own special place in hers. Home was this moment. Every moment. For now and forever.
No, she wasn’t leaving behind a home at all. Or even heading towards one. There was no need, after all.
She was already there.
AN: I'm trying not to cry. Forgive me for what will undoubtedly be one of the sappiest things I've ever written. This is just as much for me as it is for you:
Let me tell you all a story about a lonely girl who found comfort in worlds that were not her own. This girl had dreams that went beyond the piles of books she loved so dearly. This girl had stories of her own in her heart just begging to be told.
When I sat down to write Runaway all that time ago (years, actually), I had no idea that my life was quite literally about to change. All I knew was that I had an urge to write, strange in that it had never once struck me before. The words poured out of me. I was unskilled, lacking the practice to really be called skilled, but the words came and all I knew or cared about was how freeing and enjoyable it was.
Since then, this has been a journey that spanned far beyond the reaches of HPFF. I honed my skills. I'm still learning every day, but now I know that I won't be happy in a life that has no writing in it. I made friends here. This story has brought me so much more than just mere enjoyment. It's only a story. I know that. But writing it was one of the greatest things I have ever accomplished. Because what it has given me is much more important and meaningful than mere words on a page.
Please don't misunderstand. I love this story and its words with all my heart. Writing about Harry and Evie has been more fun than I ever could have imagined. There are problems, yes. Loads of them. But I don't care. This story is my baby, guys. My leap into the world of writing. And now that it's finished, I can smile and feel good about accomplishing something I started and tuck it away forever in my heart.
So. After that blabbering. I want to get to the real important stuff. And that's you.
'Thank you' seems like a laughable understatement somehow. I wish I had the words to fully describe how extraordinarily grateful I am to everyone who has read this story. Your comments have inspired me and touched my heart in the most gratifying ways possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know I probably lost hoards of my readers with my severe lack of updates and again I can't blame any of them at all. But if some of you are still out there, thanks to you too for sticking around. I will never, ever be able to describe how deeply I appreciate it.
So to my readers, to people who have their own stories to tell, and most of all to the people I've come to love and call my very dearest of friends (you know who you are), I want to thank you.
You're my home.
With best and very kindest regards to all,
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