Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me. The concept is taken from Patricia C. Wrede's "Roses by Moonlight", a short story from Book of Enchantments
. But it's not necessary to have read it to understand what's going on here. The roses and the mysterious woman are hers, and not mine.
Summary: Companion piece to Roses: Harry gets a visit from the rose vendor from the plant convention, and gets the opportunity of a lifetime.
Harry stood outside watching. He was feeling caged, couldn’t stand being inside walls, so tonight, this night, he stood outside, letting the crisp November air wash over him.
Professor Dumbledore came from the shadows and stood thoughtfully next to Harry.
“Today is a special day, Mr. Potter. Do you know why?”
“Someone is coming today.”
“Someone I want you to meet. You see, sixteen years ago, just after you had been born, your father received a visitor. And she is here to see you now. Be careful. And be wise, don’t be hasty. James wasn’t careful. He behaved rashly. Perhaps if he had not, he would be telling you this himself.”
But he was walking away, quite lost in his own murmurings.
“I don’t understand!” Harry called to his retreating back. “I hate you.” He murmured, more to himself than to anyone else. He turned his gaze towards Hogwarts. It was only midnight, he could imagine the students inside milling about, going about their lives, living
. And then he frowned. There, by the nearest oak tree, stood a woman.
She was tall and slim, with long straight dark hair. She wore a long dress, and when she spoke, Harry found himself startled. Her voice was quiet and musical, yet strong and powerful. As she moved closer, Harry studied her face, hoping to remember it from a photograph or something.
“You are Harry, and you are an only child.”
It was a statement, and not a question, but Harry found himself nodding. “Professor Dumbledore said you would come.”
She didn’t smile.
“You knew my father?
“He was young.” She smiled bitterly, “and hot-headed. He did not listen to me, so I did not know him long. But you are the only son in a line of only sons, and you too are strong of heart, and so you, like your father, and his father, and many others, are worthy.”
“Who are you?”
“Such courage in a man deserves something more. Come, walk with me.”
Harry was reluctant to do so, but Dumbledore’s words rung in his ears. Perhaps if he had not, he would be telling you this himself.
Wordlessly, he started to follow the woman. At first she walked slowly, in the direction of the forbidden forest, and then she moved faster and faster until Harry found himself running after her, and yet, never seeming to catch up.
His heartbeat pounded in his ears louder and louder until he thought he would pass out from the noise and then seamlessly the thumping in his ears thump-thumped into drum beats that sounded far in the distance and right next to him at the same time.
The woman stopped at the edge of the forest and Harry nearly collapsed with exhaustion. Except, the forest didn’t look like he remembered. Instead of the dark that should have stretched for miles, he saw trees and bushes and shrubs. She beckoned, and he walked closer. The trees were not trees at all, they were also bushes. Everything was bushes, tall and wide. The drums were getting fainter now, and Harry vaguely thought that this was all wrong; the forbidden forest was trees and grass and dark and spiders, nothing like the lush garden he was in.
The woman brushed aside one branch, and suddenly Harry stood in front of a rose garden. The moon shone directly on her, and she was surrounded by roses of every color, shape and size. The garden seemed infinite, and the perfume infiltrated his senses and washed through his body.
“Ask them.” She gestured at the roses.
“This is impossible.”
She smiled pleasantly, “as is said by everyone fortunate enough to enter here. You will understand shortly.”
Harry looked around at all of the roses. To his right was a large, fully bloomed black rose. It was the biggest rose on that bush, and jutted out slightly from the others.
“You may take just one rose from my garden. But only one. Be careful with them. Touch them, smell them, but do not break the stems. This choice is yours, do not let the choice accidentally be made for you. Come.”
Harry just stared at her. At the gaze in her eyes, he stepped forward slightly towards the black rose.I really hope she’s not going to kill me.
But then, Dumbledore had known she was coming to see him, and he had not warned him of any danger, and so he was inclined to trust the strange woman.
He leaned forward and put his nose close to the large black rose. People were screaming outside. There were fires behind the window and the dark mark burned in the sky. He sat on the floor of the shrieking shack as pieces of the building itself crumpled around him. “I’m done Ron. I’m too tired.” “Harry.” “No. It’s over. Voldemort wins.” “Harry, you can’t give up. This is what we’ve been fighting for.” He turned towards Ron. His best friend sat across from him, bleeding from his arm. The scars on his face mirrored his own, slashes that burned into their skin. “Fuck you.” He lifted his left arm and aimed the gun to his own head. “Fuck you all –”
Harry jolted backwards and stumbled into thorns. A cold hand on his shoulder steadied him.
“I did not think you would want that one.”
“What was that?”
“My roses show you possibilities. They show you what they show you. Try another.”
“Will that happen?”
“They show what may happen. In the future.”
“I don’t want that.” Harry murmured. He turned his attention to a much stouter bush, with only a few roses on it. He brushed imaginary dirt from a small yellow rose and breathed in deeply.Ginny was crying. All he was focused on was that Ginny was crying. He wanted to touch her, to hold her, but he wasn’t strong enough. He walked slowly to her side. “Ginny I—” And then she slapped him. Hard. “You. You killed him! You! He trusted you. He loved you. This is your fault! This is all your fault! You did this to us!” She screamed at him through her tears, landing blow after blow to his body, blows that he didn’t bother to fight off. And then Bill Weasley was there, grabbing Ginny, dragging her quivering body away from him. “Ginny, I tried. I tried to keep him safe.” He called after her. After all, he did try. He told him not to go on the mission, but he didn’t listen. He never listened. He was always so desperate to prove himself that he never listened to reason. “Why are you so stupid?” He asked the grave. He laid a hand on Ron’s tombstone and-
“No?” The woman asked.
“Why are you showing me this?”
“I am not.” She bowed her head. “What my roses show you are yours to see. I cannot tell you what to expect. I do not know what they hold for you.”
“I don’t want to die. I don’t want Ron to die.”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t want that
“My roses show you what may happen. If they show you death, then that is what is on your mind. Perhaps, at a different time, you would see other things. I assume you have not made a decision?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Ask them. Ask the roses. And remember, you may take one.”
“I don’t want one.” He said hotly.
“You are like your father. He saw one rose and he left. My roses offer a world of possibilities. Do not be so hasty, this is a difficult choice.”
Harry hesitated, before nodding curtly. He spent what felt like hours among the roses, pricking himself numerous times. He saw Hermione marrying Ron, he saw the deaths of Ginny, Dumbledore, Snape, Draco, and Hagrid. He saw his allegiance to Voldemort. Some were happy, some were grim, and some betrayed no emotion. That one.
He neared it. A tiny pink bud, barely the size of his thumb. ”What do you think it’s like out there now?” He asked Sirius, who shrugged. “Honestly, I can’t remember.” “I bet the world ended.” “Nah, if it ended, we’d know. You did kill him, I’m pretty sure. We felt a pretty big surge in power up here.” “But he killed me too.” “So? You did it Harry, you saved the world and I’ve never been prouder.”
Harry let the scent of that one linger a little longer.
“You have made a decision?”
He hesitated again. “I—I think, not. Not yet.” The woman smiled mysteriously. “Perhaps you are indeed wise.”
He lost himself in the flowers again. He was alone, he was married, he was crippled, he was dead. He killed Voldemort, killed Hermione, and killed Dumbledore. He killed Draco, killed Lucius, killed the Weasley twins. He burned down Hogwarts, bombed London, bombed America. He was in Egypt, Scotland, Ireland.
And then, he stood in the cemetery, bleeding, bloody, and covered in dirt. He was unsteady on his feet, but he was still standing. He had two wands in his hand, his own, and Voldemort’s. A cool wind blew across his face, scattering ashes that had once been Tom Riddle into the air. He breathed a heavy sigh and sagged slightly to his knees. The sounds around him were deafening. There were screams, shouts, cheering. Somewhere a bugle belted out Taps. He closed his eyes and let relief wash over him. And when he stood again, he felt himself falling into the strong arms of Ronald Weasley. And as he smiled into his best friend’s face, Hermione’s lips descended on his forehead and she smiled down at him. She righted him, and his two friends linked their arms in support around his back. He looked to the sky and let the tears run down his face, stinging the scars as they went. “I’m sorry it wasn’t sooner, professor.”
“And whatever I pick, that will happen?”
“What you see will come to pass, exactly the way you see it. But everything else, I cannot say.”
He cupped the rose in his hand. If he picked this rose, he would defeat Lord Voldemort. He would win, and Hermione and Ron would be alive. But Professor Dumbledore would be dead, and countless others. Was this a price that he was willing to live with?
He ran his fingers along the stem. He moved to break the rose off when a thought shot like an arrow through his brain. He wasn’t willing to live with it.
He drew back.
“No thank you.”
She raised her eyebrows. “One trip to this garden is more than most mortals could ever dream of. You do not wish for a rose?”
He licked his lips. “No. This is my destiny. I can’t –I want to be able to live my own life. I think I want to make the mistakes. I don’t want this.”
She regarded him carefully.
“Your headmaster spoke true of you. You are wise. And more than worthy of one my roses. You are Harry Potter, son of James Potter?”
Harry nodded, confused by her sudden change of subjects.
“One final rose, I have been waiting for you to make this decision.” She began to walk again. Harry followed her deeper into the garden until they entered a crypt. Entering, he realized that it was not a crypt for people, but one for roses. There were only about six roses in the room, each preserved under a glass cover.
“Only the strong and the worthy are allowed to enter this garden. And many choose to take with them a life they see here. But not these roses. These are the roses that visitors to my garden almost picked. These are the roses of champions. These are the ones their hearts desired, but their strength and courage did not allow them to choose. The bud you selected will be placed here as well.” She edged towards the corner of the room towards a deep pink rose that had barely bloomed. “This is the only rose that your father obliged to see. I will show it to you now.”
He saw the scene that he had seen so many times before in his nightmares. Lord Voldemort strode into the house, wand blazing, snarling, throwing curses about the room. “NO!” He heard the screams, saw the father leap in front of his child. He watched Voldemort’s delightful sneer as the man crumpled to the floor. And then “Silly girl.” The woman screamed again, “Not Neville!”
This rose rooted Harry to the spot. Had his father chosen this rose, it would be Neville Longbottom in his position. The fate of the world would be Neville's, and his parents would still be alive. But no one deserved to be in his position, ever.
“D-Do you know why my father left?”
“His exact words were, ‘No. I refuse to condemn an innocent child to death. Let fate decide, because I know that my son is strong enough to do this. No.’ And then he proceeded to insult me and then stormed out of my garden, rather angering the roses.” She mused.
“I look forward to watching your life unfold, Mr. Potter. You may return the way you came. When you get to the end of the path, turn right. There will be two much smaller rosebushes. Do not fear, they are my roses, from my own personal garden. Take one, for luck.”
“Thank you.” Harry surprised himself by saying. And he was thankful. This was his destiny, his life, and his prophecy. Whatever was going to happen was going to be his decision.
Wary of the two rosebushes, he leaned in close and braced himself. To his relief, he saw nothing but the back of his eyelids. As he breathed in their scent for the last time, he gingerly snapped off a lavender rose and wondered again if he had made the right choice.
Spoiler Note: In Wrede's short story, the protagonist gets the same opportunity as Harry does here, and also leaves empty-handed after learning that her mother did pick a rose and essentially wrote her life for her. The rose she didn't choose is implied to be preserved along with James'.