“But I don't want to go back to Hogwarts if it means leaving you,” Lily whispered, clutching at her father's hand. He smiled gently back at her, reaching out his other hand to stroke her hair tenderly.
“I'll still last awhile yet, Lily. I promise,” he whispered, his voice coming out in a rasp.
Lily clung to him for a moment longer, then stepped back and away from him, coming to stand between James and Albus, both of whom were watching with solemness.
“We'll miss the train if we don't leave now,” Ginny warned softly.
Reluctantly, all three children left their father's sickbed and went to gather the last of their things so they could leave. Ginny moved to sit on the edge of her husband's bed. “Will you be okay while I'm gone?” she asked, taking his hand in her own.
“I'm not that far gone, yet,” he told her. “I should be fine. Besides, Teddy should show up any time now.”
“Harry, the Healers gave you five months to live. You've exceeded that by two weeks already,” Ginny reminded.
“Yes, but I don't seem to be able to die. If a basilisk, Aragog, several dragons, Fluffy, a troll, and most importantly, Voldemort, didn't manage to kill me, a little illness can't do much harm,” Harry told her with a light smile.
Ginny stroked his face in reply, not able to smile. Finally, she whispered, “I'll be right back. Wait for me,”
Ginny studied his sallow face for another long moment, then abruptly stood and swept out of the room, leaving Harry Potter alone. He stared after her, then let out a long sigh. Despite his best effort to keep his family and friends cheerful, he was failing miserably. Then again, why should they be cheerful when the Boy Who Lived was finally dying? This time, his death was for sure. He would not be able to escape illness' grip, not for much longer. Closing his eyes, he coughed weakly, his mind on his family as he drifted off into a restless slumber.
look. Isn't that your mum?”
Lily looked up from her untouched breakfast and found, sure enough, that her mum had just entered the Great Hall with her Aunt Hermione at her side. Immediately, Lily's heart clenched with worry. There was only one reason they would both be there.
Lily sought out Albus and James, both of whom sat at the Gryffindor table instead of the Ravenclaw table like herself. They both had caught sight of their mother as well and met Lily's eyes. As one, the three of them rose from their seats and made their way over to their mum. She didn't say a word as they approached, just pulled Lily into her arms. Hermione wrapped an arm around Albus.
“Come. Let's get out of here before the Prophet is delivered,” Hermione said, guiding them out. The group of five left. Moments after they exited, Rose, Hugo, and Professor Longbottom joined them.
All stared at Ginny with worry, but she simply gestured them to follow her to an empty classroom.
“What happened?” James asked. “Is dad...?”
Ginny's silence was ominous, but finally, she nodded. “He passed last night,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes.
Lily gasped, though she had been expecting the news. They had all been on edge ever since arriving at Hogwarts two weeks before. The fact that he had lasted this long itself was a miracle.
Professor Longbottom reached out and put a comforting hand on Ginny's shoulder. Hermione pulled Albus closer into her arms. She had always been his favourite aunt. James stood stiffly, but his face clearly showed his despair. Tears had filled his eyes at the news. Rose and Hugo looked downtrodden, and silent tears crept down Rose's face.
“No,” Lily whispered, pulling away from her mum.
“Lily?” Hermione asked softly.
“No! He can't have died. I need him!”
“Lily...” Ginny murmured consolingly, but didn't know what else to say.
Lily stared at all of them as they stared at her in shock of her reaction. Without another word, she turned and fled. They didn't try to stop her, and she knew they wouldn't come after her. They were all too busy mourning him themselves to try and comfort her.
Outside, Lily almost ran directly into a group of students.
“Potter, is it true?” one of them asked.
“Obviously, just look at her face,” a second student commented.
Lily shoved through them, desperate to get away. They allowed it, easily sensing her distress. The hall was full of people. The news of her father's death had come with the Daily Prophet. They all knew as much as she did and they all stared at her, some with pity, others with just plain curiosity.
She shrugged all of their shouts off and went to the entrance hall. Pushing her way outside, she found that it was sunny and bright. In high contrast to her mood, she felt the weather was mocking her agony. She started running, heading for the darkest place she knew - the Forbidden Forest. There, at least, the setting would match her mood and allow her to mourn in peace.
True to memory, the dark trees lent themselves to her and she slowed to a walk. It was only then that she realized the tears falling from her eyes. She didn't bother to wipe them away; they would only be replaced by others.
Lily wandered further in than she had ever been into the forest before, lost deep in her thoughts. It was very unfair, in her opinion, that her father should have to go through so much, then die from illness, of all things. He was a hero! He had saved the magical community! Yet he still died a long, drawn out death from illness.
Suddenly, weakness came over Lily and she slumped down onto the ground, leaning against a tree. She didn't care that she was probably in a great lot of danger out here in the forest. If the centaurs were anywhere near, they would protect her. They had, no doubt, heard the news already. They knew her as Harry Potter's daughter, and as they respected him, they respected her in turn.
Sobbing with grief, Lily stared at the ground. It was blurry through her tears, but she was hardly focused on that. A glint of light caught her attention and she paused. It blurred again and she wiped her eyes. Moving closer, she found the source of the glint of light. It was a ring with a cracked stone on it.
Her father's voice filled her mind, repeating one part of a story she had heard many times. It was of the time he had gone into the forest with the intent to die. He had a ring with a stone then, but had dropped it. To this day, it had been lost somewhere in the forest still.
Lily picked up the ring and examined it, her sobs subsiding as her mind was distracted from her grief. Hope filled her once again as she murmured the name of the stone she had found. “The Resurrection Stone,”
It was rumoured to bring back the dead. Her father had testified of the truth of that, but warned that it wasn't the same as having them there, alive. Lily had once had long conversations with her father and brothers of who they would bring back if they had the ring. Their choices were just fantasies. Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Rowena Ravenclaw, Uncle Fred Weasley, and various others that they thought would be interesting to talk to.
None of those names filled her mind this time. There was only one name on her mind. “Harry Potter,” she whispered, fingering the stone. It would be so easy to bring him back. She could talk to him one last time and say goodbye. She wouldn't have to remember him as laying in a bed weakly, as he had been the last time she had seen him.
Eagerly, Lily stood up, gripping the ring tightly. She was going to do it. Did she have any other choice, really? Then, she paused, thinking of her family. Didn't they deserve the chance to see him again too?
Opening her fingers, Lily peered down at the ring and stone. It would be so easy to simply turn it over right now and speak to him. Still, she knew she had to wait.
Carefully, Lily slipped the ring into her pocket, then kept her hand there, gripping it. She didn't want to risk losing it. Right now, it held all of her hope. She turned and started back toward the castle. It seemed far longer to get out of the forest than it had to get in and Lily rushed, tripping over roots and undergrowth as she went along.
Finally, she made it out and back to the castle. She had no idea where to find her family, but she suspected they were still there. They wouldn't have left without her, that she knew.
Lily turned. It was Professor Longbottom. He had probably been waiting for her to make a reappearance.
“They went to the Room of Requirement, for privacy,” he told her softly, studying her. He seemed a bit puzzled at her calm outward appearance, but shrugged it off.
“Thank you,” Lily murmured, then hurried off.
The Room of Requirement wasn't quite so much of a secret as it had once been. Granted, its location was still relatively unknown, but most people had heard of it. The Room of Requirement had played a large part in the battle of Hogwarts, after all.
It was breathlessly that Lily finally pulled the doors to the Room of Requirement open and rushed in. The room was decorated simply, in black, mostly, with a large fireplace and lots of places to sit. Only her mum and brothers were in the room, however, and they all stared at her in shock as she entered so suddenly.
“Lily?” James asked in confusion, seeing her hopeful expression.
“I've found it!”
“Found what?” Albus asked, concerned.
“The Resurrection Stone!” Lily declared.
There was silence in the room, then Ginny stood up and stepped toward her daughter, “Oh, Lily...”
“No. I really have,” Lily told them, then dug into her pocket. Moments later, she pulled her hand out again, clutching the room. She held it out on her palm, allowing them all to see it.
All three moved a bit closer, examining the ring cautiously, almost looking at it as if it might bite.
“Lily, even if it is the genuine ring, we can't just bring him back,” her mum told her in a soft tone. She choked halfway through.
“Why not?” Albus asked, reaching out as if to touch the ring. He hesitated after a moment and pulled away again.
“Please? Just for a few minutes?” Lily begged, looking up at her mum with wide eyes. “Don't you want to speak to him just one more time?”
Her mum couldn't deny that and Lily could see it clearly written in her eyes.
“Do it, Lily,” James prompted. Albus gave a short nod of agreement. Their mum didn't protest in the slightest.
Taking a deep breath, Lily closed her eyes, envisioning her father, then turned the ring over three times. A gasp from her mum made her eyes fly open.
Standing in the middle of their circle was Harry Potter. He looked perfectly content and was smiling lightly at them. His face glowed with a healthiness that none of them had seen on him in what seemed ages. Even his trademark scar was missing.
“Harry,” their mum breathed. She reached out a hand to him and he reached back, but he wasn't solid and their hands couldn't meet. She let out a sob of despair.
“No, don't cry for my sake,” Harry told her, watching her tenderly. “I've lived a full life.”
Lily shook her head, fully aware of the tears streaming down her own face. “I'm not ready for you to be gone, yet,” she told him.
Her father's gaze turned to her and their eyes met. He smiled lightly. “Lily, I'll never truly be gone as long as you remember me and keep me in your heart,”
“That's not the same,” Lily insisted stubbornly and Harry chuckled ever so softly.
“Perhaps not, but Merlin knows that I lost a lot of people in my life and their legacy lives on by their stories. Just remember me,”
“Always,” Lily whispered.
Harry nodded and turned to Albus. Their eyes met for a long moment and Albus nodded slightly, seemingly not even having to be told anything.
Then it was James' turn and Harry gave him a stern look. “Take care of them, James,”
“Of course,” James replied, sounding a bit choked.
Harry glanced back at Ginny and she stepped closer. “Are you happy?” she asked, barely above a whisper.
Harry's return smile clearly gave his answer, but he nodded anyway. “I can promise you'll see me again. I'll be waiting for you. All of you,”
They all fell silent, then Harry whispered, “I love you, all of you,”
Lily closed her eyes in despair. The words, fond as they were, were painful, knowing that it was the last time she would hear them. When she opened her eyes again, her father was gone.
Her hand, clutched around the stone, loosened and the stone clattered to the ground noisily. All four of them stared at it.
“I'll miss you, Daddy,” Lily whispered.
Ginny stepped closer and pulled Lily into her arms. A moment later, they were joined by James and Albus. Together, they wept for Harry Potter and silently vowed that they would keep his memory alive. Not the memory of him being their saviour or of being a brilliant Auror. No, they would tell of how he was the perfect father. He would be dearly missed.