"Avada Kedavra!" The voice hissed with venom.
As the green beam rushed to its target, time seemed to slow allowing for a moment of clarity. All the tiny pieces of scattered memories seemed to coalesce into one. Instead of fear in his eyes, there was a brief flash of surprise and then a softening in understanding. As the green light struck, his final thought was of her and a simple acceptance, I love her. I love Hermione. A soft knowing smile graced his lips as he began the next great adventure.
He opened his eyes and found himself in a waiting room, seated in a comfortable chair. Around him the quiet murmur of voices. None loud enough to understand. The room was a relaxing white color, wainscoted in a light spring green. Light tan wood columns and accents further enhanced the area. Medium brown flooring with seating in the same spring green and light blue colors brought a calming effect to anyone within the area. A fireplace against one wall with a beautiful painting of a field and forest above it. Inlaid bookcases flanked the fireplace, tastefully decorated with various knickknacks and books. At the opposite wall was the reception station, made of the same light tan wood with glass running around it. This was topped by a light beige marble shelf. A set of four lights hung from the ceiling to light the area. Sitting behind the desk were two females. One of them was busily typing away at a computer, while the other looked up at him.
"Harry Potter?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Yes. I'm Harry Potter." He replied., rising to speak with her.
"Oh my, Sylvia is going to be a bit put out with your arrival." She gave a small shudder.
"Who is Sylvia? Where am I?" He asked.
"These are the offices of GRIPS, a subsidiary of Afterlife, Inc." the woman responded in a business-like manner.
"GRIPS?" Harry questioned.
"Grim Reapers Interjectional Personnel Services."
Grim Reapers Inter...oh bugger! Harry realized he had died, and felt somewhat sad. He looked at the woman and asked, "What happens now?"
"Well, shortly you will meet with your own GRIPS mentor. Your GRIPS mentor is Sylvia Rodgers. Please have a seat, and we will call for you when it is your time."
Harry nodded and proceeded to sit in one of the chairs nearby. There were no magazines to peruse, so he began to think about things. He reflected on his final thoughts prior to arriving here. I love her. I love Hermione. He gave further thought to this realization. I was blinded by my own ignorance, and my inability to recognize what I've really felt all along. I could gain the entire world, yet without Hermione it would be for naught. He really had no regrets other than his failure to understand how he felt about his very best friend. Through everything, from age eleven to now, she was there. Even the disastrous sixth year. His parents, Sirius, Remus, Tonks and Dumbledore all left him. Ron had deserted him more times than he cared to remember. There is one, however, who never left his side. He gave a small loving smile and said one word, "Hermione."
Harry began to see how his other relationships all revolved around the one with her. A soft smile formed on his lips as he remembered all the wonderful times they spent with one another. His smile saddens some in recognition that he will never have a chance to act on his feelings. Hopefully Ron will pull his finger out and see Hermione for the amazing person she is, and will take care of her. It is all Harry can hope for in this place he now found himself.
"Mr Potter?" Looking up Harry saw the reception woman gesturing to him. Rising and walking over she continued, "Your GRIPS mentor will see you now. Go through the door there, and look for room 617. Good luck Mr Potter."
"Thank you." He opened the door and walked down a hallway with several doors. As he walked past them, he could hear muted conversations. He is unable to discern any coherent words. After traversing for a distance, he came across a door with SUITE 617 – SYLVIA RODGERS on it. Knocking lightly he waits.
"Come in Harry." a voice on the other side called out.
Opening the door, Harry saw a well-appointed office. Seating for clients was in front of an executive desk. A high-backed leather chair is behind it. There are several piles of parchment and paper along with folders on the desk.
Standing by a bay window off to the right, is a petite woman with auburn hair in a black business suit. She stared out the window with a contemplative look. Harry waited for her to speak, becoming a bit fidgety as time drug on.
With a deep sigh, she spoke, "When I heard you were here today, I rather lost my temper. 'Not again' I shouted. What the devil happened this time? How hard is it to just allow your destiny to direct you? All you had to do was take out the bad guy, marry the woman who is best suited for you…some Granger girl, have some kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. With her by your side, bring about the changes needed to make Wizarding Britain the envy of the world. After a century or two you would be welcomed into your reward."
Sylvia rubbed her temples, and then the bridge of her nose. Harry is a bit curious about the 'not again' statement. She continued, "It would do no good, other than ease my frustration levels, to yell and scream at you Harry. As it is, you would not remember the other 'visits' you have had here. When someone has such an important part to play in the grand scheme of things, failure can be mighty off-putting."
"Um, just how many times have I been here?" Harry asked with a bit of hesitancy.
"This is your sixth visit. It would seem that although you get further in your path, you have a nasty habit of being a bit too noble, a bit too self-sacrificing."
"Sixth. I have died six times." Harry's temper began to rise. "I would think that after two or three some preventative measures would be taken. SIX TIMES!? Why in blue blazes was nothing ever done to guide me away from getting offed? If I am supposed to be the catalyst in building a better Britain, why in the name of all that is holy am I not given any guidance?" His exasperation evident as he raged on, "What do you do, just berate me for being dead, obliviate my memories, pat me on the head like some hapless puppy, then send me off again? Why? How can I fix things if I have no clue as to what I did wrong?"
"Well, the rules state…"
"Rules? I thought you guys made the rules? This is the best you could come up with? Don't you have a room somewhere that has people thinking this stuff up? You're the afterlife people. If you are going to fix something, you should have some kind of plan!"
"Now see here Mr Potter, where do you get off yelling at me? Questioning our plan?"
Now his anger is ignited as he stormed, "Plan? What plan? I AM THE ONE DYING HERE! You know full well how my life has been. Since I was shown no love growing up how the heck was I supposed to recognize my love for Hermione? When do I finally figure it out? When the killing curse smacks me in the face? How can I have a long fruitful life with her if I'm dead?"
Getting into his stride Harry began pacing, he gestured and waved his arms around. "I have Headmasters that withhold valuable information, send kids, you hear me KIDS, to scour the land for the way to beat the dark wizard, AND his forces. There are so called 'friends' who abandoned me time and again. A ministry that can't wipe their arse without someone waving a wand or gold to see it gets done. How in the name of Merlin am I supposed to get all that done, and then accomplish the most important task of all?!"
"Ridding the world of Voldemort may be the most important…" Sylvia began.
Harry angrily interrupted, "Voldemort? That Dark Tosser is nothing compared to the task of getting off my thick arse and making the attempt to getting closer to Hermione. She is infinitely more important to me than killing off some bozo of a dark wizard. That's what the adults are supposed to be doing! We are just KIDS!"
Harry huffed and panted following his rant. His placing Hermione above all else caused Sylvia to pause before replying.
"Harry, um…it's like this…"
"Well you see, actually, no you don't. Rather, well, no one has ever actually said anything like that before. It's the whole time-line needs to remain the same for things to work out like they should..." Sylvia tried several times to get going only to pause again in deep thought. Harry waited, getting his temper under control.
"That really doesn't make much sense. In this case, the horcruxes will still be there, in the same places. If we were to place hints…" A plan began to form in her mind. "I need to have a chat with the bosses. Harry, have a seat, some tea and biscuits (the coconut macaroons are divine) and I will be back shortly."
Looking a bit perplexed, a calmer Harry Potter sat, poured some tea, and by Sylvia's prompting, tried the macaroons. Yes they were divine! He sat waiting, sipping his tea and trying to get a grasp on what was going on. Why was he here, again? Shouldn't he be moving on? Would their world be any different now that Voldemort was gone? As he thought about it he began to realize that things would likely not change. Nothing had changed since his parents had been murdered. What could Harry do? He was just one person.
As he pondered his fate he wondered why he should care. What did the world do for him? One minute his was their savior, the next a deranged nutter. If sending him back without any help was the only option, he might as well stay here. Staying here meant he would see his parents, Sirius, Remus, Tonks and Dumbledore. That thought had him smiling, then his face began to cloud over. Every one of them had left him.
His parents. Admittedly his parents had died to protect him. He barely remembered them. Just snatches of memories. The scene in the graveyard and again in the forest were the most vivid. He loved them in a way. He really did not know them.
Sirius. As much as he longed for a closer relationship with his godfather, it really never came to pass. The bloody war stopped any real in-depth feelings from developing. Then he went and got himself killed. Harry thought his mourning of Sirius was really more to do with losing yet another person in his life.
Remus. Have to include Tonks in with this one. Remus never really got that close. His stupid 'lone wolf' mentality just kept blocking any close relationships. Tonks never gave up and eventually snagged her man. Now their son would suffer as Harry had, with no parents to watch over him. At least he had a grandmother. He liked Tonks, just really did not know her as well as he would have liked.
Dumbledore. Boy, where to begin. At first he was in awe of the man. Kind, powerful, all-knowing, the person who saved him from the Dursleys. He was there to dole out platitudes and tidbits of wisdom. He seemed to want you to figure things out on your own. Very much the teacher. Then by fourth year Harry began to see a side of the venerable Headmaster he was not too fond of. Manipulative and uncaring. He kept saying he cared too much, but never really showed it. Allowing the Triwizard fiasco to keep going. Using Harry as bait. As Harry thought more about Dumbledore, his ire rose then dissipated. Dumbledore was a big picture person. The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. How appropriate an epitaph for Dumbledore. Though this thought line was not horrible, it was too impersonal. The few and the one were just as important as the many. Dumbledore was not a bad person, just could not see the forest for the trees.
Giving all of this some thought, Harry realized that he really did not want to pass on either. His reflection of things had brought him back to his final thoughts. I love her. I love Hermione. This realization and coalescence of his inner most thoughts and feelings trumped it all. He would move mountains for her. Swim the deepest ocean to get to her. Fight a thousand dementors to save her. He had to convince these afterlife folk to allow one more try. For her. There just had to be a way for him to get it right.
As he ruminated, Sylvia returned. She looked at Harry. She could see he was deep in thought, only absentmindedly sipping his tea. He frowned for a bit, then began to softly smile. She could guess at where his thoughts had gone. When a steely determination came upon his face, she deemed it time to announce her return.
"Harry. I have just come from a meeting with the bosses."
Harry's emerald gaze looked into her obsidian ones. Asking in that one glance for news. Hope was there as well. "And?"
"You impressed them, but more importantly you impressed the Creator. No one has ever given as good as they got. Most just accept their fate and move on. You intrigue the Creator. In the grand scheme it is imperative that all sentient creatures be allowed free will. That is the number one reason no one is ever returned with their memories. By giving you your memories, you can begin manipulating people and events to fit your interpretation of things." Holding up her hand to forestall any interruptions, she continued, "However, the Creator finds your thoughts about 'hints' are good. As you can tell, the desire to return you to the past is there."
Looking at him with sincerity, "Harry, only you can make the decision to go. You have done your bit for Queen and country, and unfortunately the job is not done. You will be provided with 'nudges' along the way. Something like that voice in your head hinting at a proper course of action or decision. You still may ignore it. Free will is essential."
Harry asked "Can I request one thing? Just one. A reminder that I act on my feelings for Hermione sooner rather than later? I can accomplish so much more with her by my side than anyone else."
Cocking her head to the side, Sylvia appeared to be talking with someone. A slow nod, and thin smile are the only indicators of something happening.
"The Creator has considered your request, Harry. Unlike some, you ask for something that will not only assist you, it will also allow for Hermione to grow as well. From the smallest seed, a tree can grow. The Creator is pleased, and gladly grants you your wish." Sylvia broke into a large smile.
Harry, more than happy with that inquired "When do we do this, and when in time do I return?"
"We will send you back in a few minutes. As to when, well it will be at a time that is the most beneficial for the path of destiny. Harry, I truly wish you the very best. Hold onto Hermione. She will be your rock when things get stormy, as you will be for her."
Sylvia led Harry to a door. Opening the door, she gestured for Harry to step through "As you step through this door, your journey begins anew. The Creator granted your thoughts that will be the end and the beginning: I love her. I love Hermione."