Warnings: Vagueness, slash, angst, EWE, discussion of/reaction to canon character deaths, etc.
Word Count: ~9,000 (COMPLETE)
Pairings: Scott Summers/Harry Potter
Summary: Some souls are made broken, and the pieces have to find each other before they can be whole. Other souls break in the process of living, and must find another who is similarly broken. Then there are the rare souls who are not born to complement another, but just happen to break in the exact way that complements someone else perfectly, as though they were born for each other from the very beginning.
Disclaimer: I don't hold the copyrights, I didn't create them, and I make no profit from this.
Notes: This one…eh. I'm mostly sticking it back up for nostalgia's sake, so brace yourself. It's gooey. Also COMPLETE, and really, I've gotten quite a few morons already who apparently can't read the author's notes and have demanded sequels, which pisses me off.
So, to put it clearly: If I get hounded for sequels/more HP/X-Men crossovers/follow-ups, I will take these fics down again. Please, restrain yourselves. If you want to adopt a story, write your own continuation, or play around in the different universes I've created, do so. I just ask that you drop a byline or an "inspired by" somewhere in the work. Otherwise, please don't bug me.
Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose?
~Enya, Only Time
Harry has been wandering for so long that he no longer remembers what it is not to wander. He takes comfort in the constant motion, the eternal drifting from one place to another, which lets him focus only on the present, and push all other matters back into the past where they belong. It had been hard, at first, very hard, but Harry hadn't been able to stay in the Wizarding World any longer. There had been too many deaths, too many losses. Even the Weasley family, with Fred's death and Bill's scarring, haven't lost as much as Harry personally.
That thought, in itself, is incredibly selfish, but Harry can no longer bring himself to care. Not now, when he is entirely done being selfless, after he has killed the Dark Lord, after he has spent so much of his life facing Voldemort and scraping by just barely alive. Voldemort's madness was something overwhelming, enveloping, devouring, and Harry only barely escaped being completely consumed by it.
Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you, Nietzsche had written. When Hermione had said that to him, soon after the end of the war, Harry had laughed until he was nearly sick.
There had been a period, a few months after Voldemort's defeat, when Harry had truly thought that he would fall into madness and not be able to claw his way back out of the morass. His sanity is still on somewhat shaky ground, uncertain in the face of large crowds, or loud noises, or fast movements. A mild case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, someone who knew about such things had called it. The name doesn't matter much, though, in the end. Harry is dealing with it, and that's all there is to do, and nothing else can be done. The Wizarding World has a dearth of psychiatrists, and even the Boy-Who-Lived can't break the Statute of Secrecy for something as small and unimportant as the occasional nightmare or panic attack and a bit of twitchiness. Hell, Moody would have laughed him out of the office, probably, and then cast a few extra spells at him for good measure. Constant vigilance doesn't include jumping at shadows and flinching whenever someone passes too close.
There are too many reminders back in England, too many things that reflect the ravages of a madman's twisted vision of the future. Too many graves, and too much weeping, and far, far too much mourning for Harry to be able to recover in peace. He flees, just as soon as he is able to pry himself out of the grasp of well-wishers and would-be family—and on the list of Worst Mistakes Harry Ever Made, promising Ginny that he would come back to her is probably in the top ten somewhere—leaving England, leaving everyone he knew. Ron and Hermione accept it, even if they don't understand, and after two years they've finally stopped asking him when he's planning to come back.
He isn't, but he's never told them that explicitly.
So he travels. France, Germany, Russia, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, America, all the way up to the most deserted, unwelcoming areas of North America.
It's cold there, and empty, and lonely, and all he had thought he needed.
Except that it isn't, that it can't be, and that just about breaks his damned heart.
Britain is hardly alone in its study of magic, and Harry loves the distinctions he sees in the different part of the world. It's eye-opening, too. What is Dark in England is normal, or vice versa, and there are so many variants, so many tiny shifts that change everything. Harry's never been a scholar, never been a bookworm like Hermione, and never thought of himself as particularly gifted in anything except attracting the very worst kinds of trouble, but even he can appreciate the huge range of magic there is to learn in the rest of the world. And why not learn it, if he's there and has the time and nothing else to do?
The Chinese conjure with herbs and diagrams. The Australian Aborigines use chanting and rituals. The Indians gravitate towards Buddhism in their magic, which is interesting, because Harry has never thought of the why of using magic before, and Buddhism is good for thinking. In the Middle East it's wind and sand magic, hot against his skin and by turns scorching and freezing, just like the deserts. African wizards summon human and animal spirits—necromancy, of a sort, but fascinating in its differences.
The rest of Europe is depressing similar to Britain, though Harry knows he should have expected that after his encounters with Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. They're all divided between Light and Dark, and that's just…horrible. It's the makings of another war, and since Harry is already being selfish, he's decided that he simply won't fight in the next one. And there will be another one, of that he's certain. In a world where prejudices are so deeply ingrained that a half-blood could use the purebloods to all but start a genocide, there will always be another war. This one Harry will stay out of. In this one, the Wizarding World is going to be on its own.
So he doesn't go back to Britain as he had originally planned. Instead, he starts at Cape Horn and works his way up through South America, through places where blood magic is as common as a Summoning Charm in England and the Old Gods are still fed on the hearts and blood of enemies. Then up through the highlands, where the famous ruins of Machu Picchu take his breath away and hide a thriving world that Muggles will never see, high among the Andes. He almost stays, because he's never been anywhere so empty and lonely and free and cultured, all at once, but it's still too much.
So he goes on, through Mexico and then across the border, through the Great Plains where Native American shamans take on the forms of animals as easily as breathing—not Animagi, but something different, something more. He finds that he respects them more than he has any others he's visited, because they can see their culture fading and falling away around them, but keep on nevertheless, strong and steady. And they welcome him with only a small amount of mistrust, but teach him their secrets, and when Harry leaves, it is on the wings of a crow, then the paws of a coyote, and then the swift hooves of a deer.
But Harry is still fleeing, is still helpless in the face of sudden noises or unexpected touches, sees the faces of those who died every time he closes his eyes and tries to sleep. They drag at him, pull him down like the Inferi would have done in that cold, dark cave, and hold him in the darkness of his own mind as he drowns, drowns, drowns, and cannot wake.
He pushes it aside. He jokes and laughs. He only drowns quietly, when no one else is watching.
Alaska is empty, though—very empty, less than one person per square mile, statistically, and in reality most of those are concentrated in the cities and towns—and Harry doesn't have to worry about staying in the towns, not when he can become a fox and hunt rabbits, or a stag and eat bark, or a bear and eat fish. He can't keep any form for too long or he risks losing himself, everything that makes him Harry, but sometimes…
Sometimes, he thinks that he wouldn't mind losing Harry very much at all.
Still, he's responsible. He walks as a human more than he runs as an animal, and uses Heating Charms to ward off the bitter cold, and revels in mile after mile of empty quiet, with just him to break it.
And then there isn't, and he watches a man with red sunglasses walk towards a lake where he will die.
Harry is stupid. Harry has a saving-people thing that borders on ritualistically suicidal. Harry also needs to stop thinking about himself in third person, because it convinces no one of his sanity—least of all himself.
But, because he's Harry bloody Potter, he has to do something.
He knows about mutants. It's hard not to, with all of the ruckus the Muggles are kicking up about it. America seems to be the hottest area, figuratively speaking, but then, America has always had a thing for big, visible civil rights battles done in bloody, terrible ways. It's a little heartening, though, to know that mutants can be even somewhat accepted, because it gives Harry hope for wizards someday coming forward. Not that that will happen any time soon, but it's a possibility for the future.
Moreover, being in America all but guarantees crossing paths with at least one mutant, and Harry's crossed paths with several. First there was the dark-eyed gambler in New Orleans, and then a young man with wings who was in a bad way, and then a shapeshifter woman with blue skin and golden eyes who Harry caught mid-change in a men's bathroom (which was awkward, but still interesting, especially after Harry made it clear that he had no interest in her, uh, bouncy bits). So he's learned to recognize them by the way that they feel—one step away from wizards, which is even more interesting, or would be if he had an interest in genetics and/or the wherewithal to study it.
But he doesn't, and he never will, and it's enough that mutants each feel a bit like kinetic energy thrumming under his skin, or the brush of feathers, or the ripple of scales sliding into a new form. He can see them, sense them, just the slightest bit and only if he's close enough, but it lets him look at this man—with his red glasses and brown hair and handsome face—and feel the burn of power like red kisses over his skin.
It also lets him feel the presence by the lake, like a Dementor—but this one emits unhappiness, instead of drawing it out. It's also…hungry.
And the man—the mutant—has all the makings of a five-star meal.
Harry has no compunctions about letting the man think that he himself is a mutant—the American Magical Congress (their version of the British Ministry) actually encourages that, if at all possible. Also, the man might be more inclined to believe one of his kind than an unrelated stranger popping out of the bushes to tell him "Oh, that way lies madness."
Maybe without the King Lear reference, though (even if Shakespeare is good in all situations, sometimes it's just overkill).
And he's right. He only nearly gets fried when the sunglasses turn out not to be sunglasses at all, but a device for controlling a rather wicked mutation that lets the man shoot lasers from his eyes.
In retrospect, perhaps darting out of the bushes and changing from a fox into a human was a bit startling, even for a mutant.
Harry refocuses his attention on the feelings of death and doom coming from the lake that lies out of sight, thanks Merlin and Morgana that he's not having a bad day in PTSD terms, and picks himself up off the ground with a mildly affronted glare.
"You treat everyone who's trying to save your life like that?" he asks, because he's been wandering alone in the wilderness for a few months now, and his manners have been a casualty of the isolation—not that they were ever perfect to begin with, either.
The brown-haired man surveys him for a moment, and Harry can just see one eyebrow rise behind the visor. "Only when they pop out from behind bushes like demented monkeys," he returns, and there's an equal amount of mild affront in his voice.
"Too cold for monkeys," Harry points out, shaking his head. "I tried it, nearly lost my tail to frostbite within an hour. Alaska's too damned cold." He offers his hand, because he can and he hasn't lost all of his manners, just most of them. "Harry. Now why are you walking to your death?"
Seeming slightly dazed, the man accepts the proffered hand and shakes it. "Scott. Cyclops. Death? What are you talking about?"
It takes Harry a second to sort out what's what in that—the mutants make it a tad confusing, what with their double names, and some only answer to one, and some answer to both, and some don't answer at all. But he's fairly certain that "death" pertained to his question, and wasn't a name. And if the man offered his human name first, it should be safe to use it. Or so Harry hopes. Scott is a nice name. It suits him.
"Yes, death," he affirms. "There's something there, and it feels rather cannibalistic. And I would know—I nearly ended up as a meal for cannibals once, they're never good news, so you might want to avoid that lake for the next hundred years or so. Just 'til the thing moves on."
Something suspiciously close to hope flickers across Scott's face, but Harry can't read him enough to be sure—he's never realized just how much a person's eyes convey, and how odd it is not to see that. But Scott doesn't pause to let him read much at all. Instead, he turns as though he is about to flee to the lake. "There's someone there? She's alive?"
Harry tightens his grip, dragging the man back a step as he tries to stride forward. "Hey there! Stop! I just told you there is, and I don't know who 'she' is but unless you're prepared to perform an exorcism on a being from a higher plane of existence, you can't go there. Whatever it is that's set up a nest there, it will kill you. It would likely kill anyone at this point. It's mad. There's nothing you can do."
Since Harry was just gearing himself up for a long argument, it's rather surprising when Scott stops and seems to crumple in on himself, just a little bit. He sighs and steps back again. "From a higher plane of existence?" he asks. "It isn't human?"
It's complicated, Harry wants to say. Whatever is haunting the lake might have been human at one point, but now it's more pure energy than anything else. He can feel the grief and anger and power coming from the creature, knows that something real—like an interaction with a human—will unleash her on the world, and knows that he can't allow that. But it's complicated is one of the worst brush-offs it's possible to give, and he won't do that to this tired, grieving man in front of him.
"Not anymore," he says. "Maybe once. Now it's not."
Scott presses one hand over his face, drawing in a ragged breath, and then straightens. His smile, when it comes, is barely there and slightly sardonic. "So she's really gone?"
Harry still doesn't know who 'she' is, but he knows loss when he sees it—and he's seen it far too often. Scott probably loved her, probably worshiped her and planned to spend the rest of his life with her, and how he's standing in the wreckage of all of those dreams, trying to move on when he doesn't have any reason to.
"Yes," he says softly, "I'm sorry."
He remembers the Resurrection Stone, lost to the Forbidden Forest, and his mind repeats, "Oh, that way lies madness."
Scott looks at him, and for a moment, all Harry knows is a strong, blinding empathy that all but subsumes him. This man is a fighter, a survivor, and if there was ever been anything Harry is good at, it's surviving. They're the same, that way, and for the first time since that kiss with Ginny by the Black Lake (lifetimes ago, and worlds away, and still among the Top Fifteen Worst Mistakes Harry Ever Made), he feels the faintest stirrings of attraction.
Ah, Harry thinks with wry amusement. Guess that means I'm bent, too.
It should probably be a surprise, but it's not.
He thinks Scott feels it, too, with the way he doesn't pull out of Harry's grip, but nearly leans against him, heavy like grief but unwilling to show it—not because he's a man, and men don't cry, but because tears are for when you finally let go, and he hasn't quite managed it yet.
Then he sighs and straightens up, sliding out of Harry's grasp, and turns to face him. "Then apparently I came all this way for nothing. Do you need a ride to somewhere, Harry? There's a haven for mutants back in New York, if you're interested."
Harry is interested, but he can't face civilization yet. He smiles and shakes his head, stepping back, away, retreating towards the cover of the trees once more. He'll ward this place, he decides, hide it from ever being found again. Plots and diagrams and symbols are already spinning through his head, slipping into longer chains and complex combinations that will hold the creature in check forever.
"Sorry," he says, "but I'm not ready yet. Maybe in a few months, or a year? I just…need some time."
On a whim, he stops. It's a mad idea, but Scott is here, and vivid, and very handsome, and Harry can feel the sense of loss clinging to him like a second skin. He draws in a breath and then darts closer, takes Scott's face between his hands, and kisses him. Once. Lightly. Gently.
"Stop grieving," he tells him with a smile, and this one is real. "Whoever 'she' is, if she really did love you, there's nothing she would want more than to see you happy. Trust that, and trust yourself to know when you've mourned enough."
Scott stares at him, startled, but then nods slowly, lifting one hand to press it over Harry's along the line of his cheek. "And you?" he asks. "When will it be enough with you?"
That's a painful question, but Harry accepts it, because it isn't right to ask someone else to do what he himself won't. And he will do it, at some point. He just…hasn't yet.
"Maybe in a few months, or a year?" Harry repeats, and this time his smile is self-deprecating. "I just need a little while longer to put them all to rest. Give me time?"
He doesn't know why he's asking, why this man's answer means so much to him, but there's a connection between them that he can't shake off. Both marked, in their own way. Both wounded. Both waiting for something they haven't found yet. But maybe, just maybe, this encounter will give them what they're looking for.
Scott watches him for a few more moments, then nods once, slowly. "Time," he acknowledges, and Harry thinks that his eyes are smiling, even hidden as they are. "As much as you need, as long as it's not too much."
It's a promise, then.
And what is there for Harry to do but smile back at him? So he does just that, holds it for a brief moment, and then turns and lets the shape of a sleek grey wolf overtake his body as he hurtles back into the trees.
For the first time in a long while, "I need time," doesn't have the ring of "forever."