Chapter 1 : After Death
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I'd been waiting for death for some time. Like I had once told Harry death was but the next adventure. He looked at me as if I were mad. I suppose I've always been eccentric, so I wasn't terribly surprised. Besides I was more than willing to pay for the mistakes I had made, I thought fleetingly, looking for a moment at the withered black hand I had obtained. The mistake I made with everything - Aberforth and the way I handled things after mother's death and even before, Ariana's death, Sirius' death, the death of James and Lily Potter. Not to mention that foolhardy attempt with Gaunt's ring and the Hallows which had resulted in that blackened hand. As selfish as it sounds, I welcomed death with open arms. As an old man with infinite wisdowm sometimes it got tiring to be expected to know the answer to everything. I knew they expected me to destroy Voldemort. But that was a job for Harry, not for me. He may have been a mere boy, but I knew he was the Chosen One. It was a lot to ask of him, and I was sorry for it, but there was no other way. As much as Minerva may have wheedled and tried to get me to see reason — he was a mere young boy. But I was not senile, no, there was a method for my madness and I knew that while a lofty and dreary road hung before Harry, that he was very much Lily and James' son. He could do this. I knew he could and he had always hated being treated like a child.
Harry was likely indignant that he couldn't move or be seen. But I knew it had to be this way. Draco looked fretful and nervous rather than truimphant of his glory. He feared me, I knew, as much as Tom did. Looking into those grey eyes, those shaking palms, I knew that he couldn't do it. That he wouldn't. Be we weren't alone for long, and though others joined and urged Draco to do what must be done, he hadn't the nerve.
Then Severus came. We had discussed this before, he knew what must be done, even if he didn't like it. It was a necessary evil.
"Severus, please," I pleaded, knowing all along what was coming.
He looked as severe as ever.
It almost was like music to my ears. I saw the green light, and it was over. Like some terrible dream that I had yet to awaken from. I was dead, but I was not going back. I did not fear death and Harry had to go on, without me. He had to be strong.
"He will be okay," said a soft voice.
I half-expected it to be Lily. Instead, it was Ariana, looking every bit as innocent as the day she had left us. It was too much. I felt tears in my eyes. "I'm so sorry, Ariana." Though, I knew sorry would never be enough. That would never take away the foolishness that Gellert and I took up so fondly in the days of our foolish youth.
"Everyone makes mistakes, Albus."
She was always so quick to forgive. If she had any fault, it was that."
"I should've taken better care of you and Aberforth."
"It's in the past now," she soothed. "And you shouldn't feel so guilty," she insisted. "It was Grindlewald," she whispered in response to my unspoken question.
It was a question that plagued my mind since Aberforth had broken my nose and Ariana had died. Whose fault was this? I guess I'd always known it was mine, even if Gellert had been the one to kill her. I didn't think I'd forgive myself for what had happened to her. She had been my responsibility and I had failed her. Herself and Aberforth both. I had been stubborn, foolish, and selfish. I couldn't deny that I had a bit of self-loathing. How could I not? I had been the reason so many terrible things had happened.
"Come on, Albus," she suggested, grabbing my hand in her own. "Let's go see the others."
I allowed her to steer me toward the others, though, she was the only person that I wanted to see. I had so many things that I wanted to tell her or to ask, but apparently that would have to wait. Soon enough she had brought me to the others. Fabian and Gideon Prewett, Lily and James Potter, Auralia Lovegood, Cedric Diggory, and Sirius Black among others. I was reluctant to let go of Ariana's hand, but she gave me a reassuring smile and assured me that I'd see her later. But I didn't want her to go.
But she'd be back. I'd have to wait for her. I surmised the questions could wait. Before I have it much more thought, Lily was hugging me. I smiled at her warmly. I don't think I realized how much I missed her, until then. More than Gellert, even though I knew I wouldn't see him here.
"Thank you," Lily said.
"For what, Lily?"
"Having faith in our son," she answered. "Do you really think he's the one to destroy Voldemort? Aside form Sybil's prophecy?"
"Yes, Lily," I answered, "I do."
"Always more than a bit senile," came another familiar voice. James. Followed by a bark of a laugh which I knew was Sirius.
"You're just jealous because he's more brilliant than you are," Lily joked.
"Me, jealous? I am the great James Potter, after all," James smirked.
"And people say I had an ego?" Sirius retorted.
"You did," Lily assured him. "In fact, you both do."
"That's not very nice, Lily," Sirius frowned. But then he sighed, looking at me seriously. "Do you think it wise to trust a sixteen year old boy with such a burden?"
"Harry knows what he's in for, I warned him," I said gently. "I know it's hardly appropriate to ask those things of a boy, but he's always detested being treated like a child, he's always assumed responsibility when it came to defending Hogwarts and his friend. How old does one have to be to be a hero, Sirius? It is his responsibility, and I'm not sending him alone."
"Whom with?" James asked.
"Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley."
Sirius swore. "They're all kids."
"And they will do swimmingly," I insisted firmly. I then walked away from those three. I had been questioned enough in life, I didn't want to answer any more questions as of the moment. I wanted to talk to Ariana. I knew that Sirius and James were worried, but so was I. I couldn't tell them that, though, they'd just have to trust me.
Ariana returtned. She smiled at me, and I gave her a half-smile in return. She grabbed my hand and we started walking.
"Do you resent me for what happened, Ariana?"
"No, Albus," she answered warmly. "I know it was hard for you to try to look after Aberforth and I. Especially what with all my unchecked magic. Stop blaming yourself, Albus. It's hardly your fault."
"On the contrary, Ariana, I accept full responsibility."
"Stubborn old man," Ariana grinned. "But you wouldn't be Alby if you weren't more than a bit stubborn."
I smiled. Perhaps, she was right, I could be a bit stubborn at times. I looked at, truly seeing her for the first time and noted there were flowers in her blonde hair. They were her favorite daises interfused with larkspur. "Being the fairy queen again?" I asked kindly of her. She nodded. It was something that she used to do as a girl. Before those muggle boys had frightened her into not wanting to use magic again. It brought back bittersweet memroies. I could hear her singing, and I saw myself at my desk reading and writing correspondence to th greatest magical minds of the day. After she died, it brought me back to my senses. Though, I didn't know if Aberforth would agree with this notion, likely not.
"Albus, sing with me."
I didn't want to, I'd never sang well, and besides it brought memories swimming back that I was loathe to remember. "Ariana, I can't sing." But we both knew that wasn't the true reason I'd refused.
"Please, Alby," she implored of me, like she did, as a child.
"All right," I answered, a response I'd never given her before, an answer long past due. She beamed.
When the song was over she grasped my hand firmly. "You know what, Albus?"
"I'm proud of you."
And it meant more to me than when anyone else had ever said that. It made all the difference in the world because she had said it.