Chapter 2: True Friends
|Chapter 1||Chapter Index||Chapter 3|
Harry slowly entered the large drawing room of their home. It was warmly furnished with sofa, love seat with end tables, and a rocking chair. In front of the sofa, a low table held a tea set with steaming kettle. An immense picture window provided a breathtaking view of the trees and hills to the north. The dark-toned hardwood trim of the room contained bookcases reaching high into the vaulted ceiling. There was a large glass cabinet filled with many special mementos and family heirlooms. Among the contents were James and Lily's wands; each with a golden wedding ring slipped onto it. There were two small figurines of a phoenix and a music box resting atop a diary. Beside the music box was a pair of round-framed glasses. On another shelf, two Order of Merlin first class medals, each with golden star points randomly sparkling, floated between two framed commendations signed by Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic.
A large grandfather clock, with runes carved into the wood, ticked slowly and authoritatively. The central wall of the room contained a large fireplace framed with an oak mantle. Two plush reclining chairs were set facing the fireplace opening on each side. Many different sized pictures adorned the wall above the mantle. There were magical family pictures of James and Lily, Dan and Emma, and one of Harry and Hermione kissing at sunset on their bonding day. Pictures of James and Rose growing up and pictures of Harry and Hermione's grandchildren took up most of the remaining wall space. There were also pictures of Harry and Hermione with their friends during travels to distant places, quidditch games, and holiday and birthday celebrations.
He saw Hermione leaning on her cane and standing before an ornately carved dark wooden shelf in a special corner of the room. The shelf held a crystal cloche bell jar with a polished dark green marble base. A large bouquet of enchanted red roses in full bloom floated within the crystal dome. Countless sparkling star-like points of light filled the spaces in and around the bouquet. However, two of the roses were bent over and drooping. Though still brightly colored, each had wilted petals and leaves. A few of the petals lay on the marble base under the bouquet. The star-like points of light from the drooping roses slowly trickled down onto the fallen petals.
Harry walked over, put his arm around her, and looked at the bouquet. Then he gave her a gentle squeeze. "Whenever I look at this, I feel so awed and humbled by your magical abilities. We made this for your parents sixty years ago and the magic is still strong as ever."
She put her arm around him and squeezed back. "It was our love that made all the roses appear. I remember when there were just those first two. Mum and Dad told me that they would both check every day waiting for another rose bud to appear." She smiled. "I think they knew before me when James and then Rose were on their way into the world."
In a quiet voice she said, "Those two roses are looking old and tired. Soon, they'll fall onto the base and disappear. It gives me a warm contented feeling to see that the rest of the bouquet, and the family love that keeps it alive, will be okay. I still miss seeing Teddy's rose in there."
From behind them, there was a flash of green light. They turned and moved arm in arm slowly toward the fireplace. An instant later an old man, with long gray hair sticking out from under a shabby turned down brim hat, stepped from the fireplace into the room. He wore silver frame glasses and his gray beard was full and tangled. He wore an old, tattered, and stained pale green overcoat that reached down almost to his knees. The legs of his blue jeans were threadbare and frayed. On his feet were hiking boots that were scuffed and worn.
"Neville!" said Hermione as she reached out to hug him.
"Hermione," said Neville as he gave her a warm hug. "Harry! It's good to see you!"
"Great to see you too Neville," said Harry giving him a quick embrace. "Let me take your hat and coat."
"Come sit down and have some tea," said Hermione.
Neville seated himself on the end of the sofa. Hermione sat on the loveseat and began serving the tea. A moment later, Harry sat down beside her.
"So Neville," said Harry, "How are you?"
"I'm good, just got back into the country. Health is good, though I think I need to have my hearing aide checked." He smiled. "Have you notice how quiet and fast young people talk these days? Did we ever talk like that?"
Harry and Hermione smiled. She said, "Why no Neville, we always spoke slow and proper."
Neville laughed. "I've been enjoying my retirement from headmaster duties at Hogwarts. Can you imagine? It's been four years now. I've been doing some field herbology work, mostly just to travel and visit with old friends."
"Where have you been?" said Harry. "We haven't seen you in ages."
"I've been on a research project with a herbology team in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. Just above the Katun River, the team found a site with a plant that hasn't been catalogued. One of their members is an old friend and colleague, Elena. She sent word and asked me to come and help with the identification."
"My word," said Hermione. "Can you tell us what they found?"
"They're not completely sure yet but it seems similar to Eleuthero, a Siberian Ginseng. They are still trying to isolate all of its properties. They were using a magical herb identification process I created about fifteen years ago and wanted to know if it could be better adapted to their needs. The team is very innovative and had already made some interesting changes. We got it fine-tuned just a few days ago and completed testing yesterday. They just need to analyze the results."
"Very impressive Neville," said Harry. "You seem to be doing really well and continuing your life studies."
"Overall, life has been good to me and I'm happy with my accomplishments. I still have a textbook to finish writing and commitments to the International Herbology Committee. It all keeps me busy. But enough about me, how are you two doing?"
Hermione said, "We're aging as gracefully as possible. We both have good days and not-so-good days. There are limits to what the doctors, healers, and magic can do."
Harry smiled. "Yeah, and thoughts don't come as quickly as they use to."
Neville grinned. "Ah yes. I'm also afflicted by that part of the golden years."
"Neville," said Hermione, "you never married. Any regrets?"
He smiled. "I think I married my work and career. No regrets. I was able to do things I would not have been able to do otherwise. The years I spent on expeditions studying herbs led to some significant breakthrough remedies. Those remedies helped a lot of people and that gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction."
He looked intently at them. "I've never really said this to anyone, but what really changed my life was when they told me my mum and dad had woken from their madness. At first, I didn't believe it. When I got to St Mungo's and opened the door of their room, I saw them sitting next to each other on the bed. They were holding hands and talking. They looked up at me and smiled. I was so overjoyed that I cried. They knew that I had been regularly visiting them. They told me it was like being in a prison; separated from everything by a barrier. They knew and understood what was going on around them but they couldn't respond.
For that first year, I spent all of my time helping them and being with them. Some of their memories of what happened were lost. They said the important memories about me and their activities in the Order were still there. It was during that first year with them that I decided to specialize in healing herbology."
Neville looked into his teacup. "To this day, it's still a mystery how they were healed. I spoke with the healers, nurses, and therapists at the time. No one could definitively say what pulled my mum and dad back into reality." He looked up at them. "But there are no words that will ever truly express my gratitude in getting my parents back."
Harry and Hermione's eyes exchanged an implicating glance toward each other. Then Hermione said, "Sometimes, it's not important to know how a good thing in our life comes about. What's more important is how it changes us and how we move forward from it."
Neville smiled knowingly. From the glance of their eyes, he had learned the true answer to his question. He took a sip of tea. "You know, the two of you have been such an inspiration to me. The way you've seamlessly lived your lives together. You have each accomplished so much in your individual careers and still managed to have a happy marriage and raise kids that are outstanding."
"Thank you Neville," said Hermione. She looked at Harry. "Harry and I each found the right person to spend a lifetime with." She looked back at Neville. "We also had very good friends like you who helped us through the tough times along the way."
Harry said, "What did your mum and dad do after they left St Mungo's?"
"Mum and Dad slowly got involved at the Ministry again. They were restless just sitting at home. It was administrative work but it gave them back a part of the life that had been taken. They renewed old friendships and I took them traveling with me. They lived another fifteen years. The last year, I could see they were aging very quickly and getting weak and forgetful. One day, they told me they were ready to leave this life."
"That must have been very hard for you to hear," said Hermione.
He looked down into his teacup again. "At first it was quite a shock, they seemed happy. Why did they want to leave? When I asked, they told me they didn't want to be imprisoned in their own bodies again. I saw a particular look in their eyes. They were ready to move on."
Neville looked intently at Harry and Hermione. "It was a very special and unique look and I've never forgotten it. It's when I really understood that their good and loving spirits needed to be free."
Neville paused. For a brief moment, he looked at them and then his eyes widened slightly. He quickly looked down at his teacup and took a sip. There was an awkward moment of silence between them. He felt certain about what he had just seen.
Harry and Hermione exchanged an uneasy glance. Then Hermione said, "Can I warm your tea Neville?"
"Err ... yes ... thanks."
After another sip of tea Neville said, "I still think about the day they decided to drink that potion. There's still one question I've not been able to answer very well. How did Mum and Dad know it was time?"
Hermione said, "Maybe your mum and dad felt a sense of accomplishment. Their wants and needs, the ones that really mattered to them, were fulfilled. They knew their son and he really knew them."
Harry said, "They might have felt there were no remaining loose ends or lingering responsibilities. They knew you were safe, successful, and well-established in your career."
With a thoughtful expression she said, "Or maybe, they had a thirst and yearning for more than the experiences of this life could provide. They honestly felt that all they were meant to accomplish had been completed."
Harry said, "And acceptance that life for all living things is for a fixed time and that existence of their true being continues beyond this life's end."
Hermione added, "And in their heart of hearts, they truly no longer feared the unknown."
With a thoughtful expression and slight nod, Neville looked intently at them. "Or maybe a desire for some restful peace after all they'd done in their lives. I love them dearly but also know that they had to follow what their selfless hearts were saying to them."
After a moment Neville said, "How about either of you, any regrets?"
They looked thoughtfully at each other for a long moment. Then Hermione said, "I don't think either of us has any regrets. In spite of the turmoil we faced early on, and a few onerous life lessons along the way, it's been a happy wonder-filled time for us."
Neville smiled. "That's good to hear." He glanced at the grandfather clock and then put down his cup on the serving tray. "I think it's time that I be on my way. Thanks for the tea and heartfelt conversation. I have enjoyed your company very much."
Harry got up to get Neville's hat and coat. Neville walked toward the fireplace followed slowly by Hermione. Taking his hat and coat from Harry, he put them on and then turned back to them.
Hermione embraced him. "You are always such a good and understanding friend."
Harry also embraced him. "Thanks for all you've done for us. It would have been much different if you hadn't been there when we needed you."
Neville smiled. "I've been so incredibly fortunate to know both of you, my dear friends."
Harry put his arm around Hermione and they stepped back as Neville reached toward the fireplace and took a bit of floo powder into his hand. He paused, turned back, and looked at them for a moment.
With a wink of his eye, Neville smiled and said, "See you later."
Then he turned and tossed the floo powder ahead of him into the fireplace. He stepped forward and said, "Hogwarts!" and vanished in a burst of green flames.
They gazed silently into the fireplace as the green flames faded into wispy curls of smoke. Then they moved slowly back to the loveseat and sat down.
They blankly gazed at the silver tea set on the table for a long moment.
She said, "I have a feeling he knows what we're thinking about doing."
"Yeah. He also thinks we had something to do with his parents getting well."
"Yes. He's a true and special friend; honest, supportive, accepting. He knows us so well."
After a brief pause, she turned to him. "Harry, I think we should go and see Gin."
He looked at her. "Yes, I think so too."
He helped her stand and move to the fireplace. Placing a hand on the mantle to steady herself, she leaned very close. "Burrow! ... Gin, are you there?"
A moment later they heard, "Yes Hermione, I'm here."
"We'd like to come and see you today. Is that okay?"
"Yes of course. Why don't the two of you come for lunch in about an hour."
"That sounds great Gin. See you then."
In a flash of green flame, Harry and Hermione stepped from the fireplace into the kitchen of the Burrow. The kitchen had changed very little over all the years. It remained the familiar, warm, and cozy feeling place it had always been to them. When Arthur and Molly passed on, Nick and Ginny had taken up residence. The Burrow had remained the meeting place for the Weasley family holiday and special celebrations. A few new magical neighbors now lived scattered throughout the area. But from the backyard of the Burrow, it was still wide-open space for as far as the eye could see. All of the children and grandchildren enjoyed the special magic and open space freedom that was always there when they came to visit.
Ginny stood at the kitchen counter placing the last of a freshly sliced melon into a serving bowl. Her hair was shoulder length and silvery red in color. Many of the extra pounds gained with each of her children were still with her but she no longer paid them any attention. Like her mother, she was strong willed. She could always be counted upon to speak her mind and make her opinion known. Her bright eyes and warm smile engendered comfort and a feeling of unquestioning trust.
"Hi guys," said Ginny over her shoulder.
"Hi Gin," said Hermione. "Is there anything we can do to help prepare lunch?"
"No, it's all ready. Have a seat. Sandwiches, potato salad, and drinks are on the table."
They sat down at the table and Ginny joined them. Setting down the bowl of melon, she gestured to the food on the table. "Help yourself."
They all began to serve themselves lunch. After a moment, Ginny said, "How are you feeling today Hermione?"
"Much better. I'm not sure the cause but I started having cramps yesterday during the party. I just needed to stretch out on the bed for a while."
With a concerned look Ginny said, "It seems the treatment has affected you more this time."
"She was weak for the first few days," said Harry in a concerned voice. "The doctor said it might happen as a result of the treatment and that she should rest in bed."
He glanced warily at Hermione. "But no surprise, I had a hard time keeping her in bed."
Hermione sighed and in a slightly annoyed voice said, "I'm strong enough to manage a little discomfort. You know how much I dislike being a useless lump. You're just the same way you know."
With a melancholy expression he said, "I was just concerned and wanted you to feel better. I don't like seeing you that way."
In a soft contrite voice she said, "I know ... it's hard for both of us."
Ginny looked at Hermione. "Is your health prognosis still the same?"
She nodded slowly and said in a quiet voice, "Yes. They can slow its rate of progress but they won't be able to stop it."
Ginny pressed her lips. She looked at Harry. "What about your prognosis?"
He looked at her. "Still the same. It's a neurological degeneration and getting progressively worse. I've come to accept it and the consequences. I really miss being able to do magic."
"What do you miss most?" said Ginny.
With a faraway look, he smiled. "Being able to get on a broom and just sail over the countryside. It always made me feel so free. We could leave all of our worldly cares below for a while and just be at peace. Do you remember what it was like Hermione?"
Her gaze became distant. "Yes, those were always such special times." Then she smiled. "You really enjoyed the aerial acrobatics we did together on that broom."
He looked at her with a grin. "As I seem to recall, you enjoyed them too and came up with a few interesting variations."
Hermione grinned. "That must be why James liked flying on a broom almost before he could walk."
Ginny grinned. "Nick and I did that a few times, it was great fun. Though, it wasn't very comfortable. Mum would have been shocked. But I bet Mum and Dad did the same when they were young."
Harry said, "I remember your Dad liked to collect ordinary muggle things. Wasn't one of them electrical plugs?"
"Yes, that was one of the many things he kept out of sight in his workshop. His favorite was a large collection of lug nuts." She held up her hand. "And no, I don't know what they are or why he collected them." She waved her hand away. "We sorted through his workshop after he passed away and found all kinds of muggle things that had fascinated him."
Hermione said, "Gin, tell us again about when your mum and dad passed away."
"It's been about twenty years now. Dad's health was poor and the healers knew it was only a matter of time. Mum did everything she could to make him comfortable. She didn't want to let go of him. She tried every folklore-based remedy she could find. One afternoon, he died peacefully in his sleep while taking a kip. She mourned him for months. It was as if the light in her life had been extinguished.
Then one day, you remember Hermione? ... We were talking with her over tea when she suddenly became very quiet and began looking around the room. She said she had just heard Arthur's voice calling out to her. But you and I didn't hear anything. In the evening two days later, she passed away quietly while knitting in front of the fire. One by one, over the years, my brothers joined them."
Hermione said, "And then Nick not long after."
"Yes, we were intimately bonded, like the two of you. We shared our thoughts and feelings all the time. It was like being wrapped up with him in our first loving snog. When Nick passed away, I completely lost it. I felt so empty, alone, and abandoned. I was depressed and sometimes felt angry with Nick for leaving me."
With a slight look of shame on her face, Ginny quietly said, "One evening, I even thought about ending my life so I could be with him again. Fortunately, Nick stopped me."
"He stopped you?" exclaimed Harry. "How?"
Her gaze became distant. "I heard his voice. It was airy sounding and barely above a whisper. He told me it wasn't my time yet. I was the only one in the house. Hearing his soft gentle voice sent chills through my body that turned into soothing warmth. I dropped down onto the floor crying and begging him for forgiveness. Peace, such as I've never felt before, washed over me.
That's when I started to sort things out. I realized that Nick and my family have just moved on and are now in another place. They're waiting for me to join them. I came to understand that one day, when I've completed what I need to do here, I'll be with them again. And ever since that day, I get little reminders from Nick or my dearly departed brothers."
"How so?" said Harry.
"Some might call it spooky or being haunted when you hear unexplained noises or see strange things. You know how my brothers were always the ones for gags and having a laugh." She smiled. "Sometimes, things move by themselves. Or a door will slowly creak on its hinges for no reason, that was George's favorite. And every once in a while, I see a bird with red feathers somewhere on its body. My brothers are keeping an eye on me."
They were quiet for a moment. "Gin ..." said Hermione tentatively, "Harry and I both heard a voice this morning. It sounded like Ron."
Ginny looked intently at her. "What did he say?"
Hermione bit her lower lip. Then looking at her seriously, she quietly said, "Time to come home."
"Oh." Ginny looked away with a saddened look on her face. After a moment, looking down at her teacup, she said in a quiet voice, "Well ... based on my experiences ... and your ... declining health and quality of life ..." She looked up at them and said in a shaky voice, "I ... I would be inclined to take the voice ... seriously ... if there were other accompanying signs."
There was silence. After a moment, Harry looked softly into her eyes. "Gin ... there are other signs."
"I ... understand." The words caught in her throat. "W..what will you do?"
Hermione spoke tenderly. "We're not completely sure Gin. We're still thinking about it."
Harry took Ginny's hand in his own, unsuccessfully trying to control the shaking. He looked at Ginny. "Things are clearer to us now. Thank you for being honest with us."
Ginny held Harry's shaking hand. It spoke very clearly to her the shortness of time remaining in the lives of her two best friends. Nothing in the world could change that. A tear dropped onto her cheek as she looked at them. "You're two of my life-long best friends. I love you both so very much."
Hermione got up and moved beside Ginny. She put her arm around Ginny's shoulder. "We love you very much too Gin. You've been our dearest friend and companion throughout our life. It's part of what makes knowing what to do so hard."
After a long moment, Harry stood and looked at Hermione. "It's time for us to go. Thanks Gin, for everything."
Ginny stood and wrapped her arms around Harry and silently held him for a long moment. Then, she turned to Hermione. Tears fell from both of their eyes as they embraced each other. After a long moment, they separated. Ginny watched as Harry helped Hermione move to the fireplace. They stopped and looked back at her for a moment.
"Goodbye," said Ginny in a weak voice through her tears.
"Be with you later," said Hermione in tearful reply.
They stepped into the green flames of the floo and vanished from sight.
|Chapter 1||Chapter Index||Chapter 3|
Life Spirits Reborn is an original fanfiction story based on the seven book series 'Harry Potter' written by J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter, the characters, names and related characters are trademarks of Warner Bros., Inc. Harry Potter publishing rights © J.K.R. This is an unofficial, not for profit site and is in no way connected with J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Books, Bloomsbury Publishing or Warner Bros., Inc. This site is not endorsed by any of these aforementioned parties. Rights to characters and their images is neither claimed nor implied. This fanfiction story is owned by the author and subject to copyright law under transformative use.
Copyright © 2013-2019 Don Buczynski
San Diego, California
Last Updated: 9/04/19