Praeparet Bellum (Prepare for War): Years I-III
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
In time of peace, prepare for war.
-Publius Flavius Vegitus Renatus
All rights and privileges, (except for original content and characters) belong to J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise.
Chapter One: Boy to Man
"That wand's more trouble than it's worth," said Harry. "And quite honestly," he turned away from the painted portraits, thinking now only of the fourposter bead lying waiting for him in Gryffindor Tower and wondering whether Kreacher might bring him a sandwich there, "I've had enough trouble for a lifetime."
Night soon fell on the eve of the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry Potter lie in his fourposter bed, staring up at the ceiling listlessly. He pensively stroked the handle of his newly-fixed wand, the familiar thrum of power vibrating through his finger tips. He considered casting a silencing charm around his bed, as Seamus' snores were no better than they were since first year, and he could hear Dean softly sobbing, head buried in his pillow. Dean's good friend, Lavender, died during battle that day.
Harry remembered the girl's bushy blonde hair and wide eyes, and resisted a snicker as he thought of their 6th year, and her strange attachment to his best friend. Turning on his side- the recently transfigured set of silk pajamas rubbing against his raw skin- he sighed, eyes fluttering shut. Who else had died for this war? Harry wondered.
Colin Creevey, Harry remembered, with his shock of golden hair and his insipid camera, the light flashing wildly during Harry's second year. He recalled training with the child in the Room of Requirement, watching Colin flip back through the room, Stupified, only to pop up with a wide grin on his face.
Crabbe- or was it Goyle?- fell from the pile of furniture years later, in that very same room. Into the burning inferno of Fiendfyre, Crabbe had descended, and Malfoy's pointed face grew stricken as he watched his faithful minion fall to his painful death. Were they ever really friends? Harry thought. And with Crabbe's father in jail, who will mourn the beefy lad? Malfoy? Goyle?
Did Draco Malfoy even make it? Harry recalled the moment Draco approached Voldemort in the outdoor quad, dirt and tears streaking down his cheeks as he joined his mother and father, shoulders trembling. A hundred pairs of eyes glared into the boy's back, and Harry couldn't help but feel pity for the poor mama's boy.
Narcissa. Harry felt a surge of something close to gratitude when he remembered her bold lie; 'Dead', she had told her lord, when she could have so easily given Harry away. While he was glad mother and son finally reunited, Harry felt absolutely nothing for the young Slytherin. Draco had been as big of a rival to Harry as Snape was to James Potter, there was no love loss between the two. The flaxen-haired boy had been so annoyingly inconsistent in his loyalties, and although Malfoy had tried to help Harry, in his manor, Harry still doubted the 'sneaky snake', in Ron's words.
Draco had showed the same, quiet courage as his mother had that day- but then, in the Room of Requirement, Harry had come this close to hexing the boy into oblivion.
Despite his irritation for the blonde, Harry saved Malfoy's bloody life, the ungrateful bastard. Behind closed lids, Harry rolled his eyes, exasperated with himself. Whether or not Draco was a git or not didn't matter anymore, although Harry wondered if Draco had always been that way, or had gotten worse with age. If Harry had shaken Draco's hand, on that day six years ago, what would have happened? Would Harry have fallen to Darkness, or would Harry have been able to pull Draco into the Light?
'If we die for them, I'm going to kill you!' Ron had yelled to Harry only twelve hours before, as they glided through the Room of Requirement on worn broomsticks. Harry suddenly remembered his years of Quidditch, tossing a Quaffle back and forth with Oliver Wood and the Weasleys, Fred and George coming to mind. You never saw one without the other, it seemed, thick as thieves they were.
He recalled the two boys' playful smiles and their shop full of pranks; Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
They drove Umbridge insane with their swamps, their toys, and their fireworks last year. Harry remembered the times that they had Apparated madly in and around Grimmauld Place, startling their already high-strung mother half to death. Sharing countless dinners with the Weasleys as their father bombarded Harry with questions about electricity, rubber ducks, cars was a very fond memory for Harry.
In his first year, the twins had teased Percy the Prefect mercilessly, and called Ron 'ickle'...but they were good brothers, and treated Harry with more respect that he deserved. In their own, odd way, they had protected Harry from the stares and accusations during the Triwizard Tournament, and Harry remember a day, the year prior to that, when they gave him the Map. Their wands had pressed into the worn parchment, simply stating 'I solemnly swear I am up to no good'. The ink would eventually reveal the truth of Peter Pettigrew's death. Peter did die, Harry grimaced, at Peter's own hand. Literally.
With a pang, Harry remembered Remus- Moony- and Tonks, and their tired corpses lying hand in hand in the Great Hall. Harry thought of their newborn son, Teddy Lupin. Harry's godson.
Tonks' really shouldn't have left the baby, who was now an orphan just as Harry was.
Harry always knew that for a Hufflepuff, Tonks was immensely courageous and reckless, especially towards those she loved. Her son would be just the same, if not better, with Remus's genes. If Teddy was anything like his parents, he would absolutely be alright.
Tonks' hair had morphed into a dull brown in death, her Metamorphmagus abilities dying away with her. Harry remembered in flashes, her yellow duck-bill disguise and bright pink hair, her clumsy feet and the strange outfits.
Harry saw Remus's white, puckered scars nearly blending in with his pale corpse, but Harry couldn't help but think of his old Professor's cheeks flushed with color, a child-like energy in his eyes as he patiently led Harry through the Patronus Charm. The scent of dark chocolate that seemed to waft off the werewolf had always made Harry feel safe.
Then came the memory of a wolf, howling in the distance; the full, silver moon glowing in the darkness. There was the cool, spine-chilling depression that came with the Dementors- the bright image of what he thought was his father, James Potter, and the glowing white stag that had saved him countless times from his mother's screams and the spiraling darkness.
Harry thought of the Forest of Dean; Snape's silver doe, the frozen lake, and the ruby hilt of Gryffindor's sword glinting at the bottom. Snape's obsidian eyes in the boat house, glimmering with his final tears. The Pensieve, with it's swirling memories revealing the truth of Snape's love for Lily, and the vow of protection Snape had granted for the son of his enemy and his first- and only- love. ' Always', he had said.
Greasy black hair, a billowing cloak, the cool chill of the dungeons, a vile of Veritaserum glinting in the Potion Master's potion-stained hands... 'Legilimens!' flashed in Harry's mind. At that very thought, he mustered the strength and his weak Occlumency skills to push it all away.
Push away all the guilt, and the pain.
Countless deaths; wizards, witches, Muggles. Young and old- old being Dumbledore, Harry thought with a light grimace- rich and poor, Dark and Light. 'There is no good and evil. Only power, and those to weak to seek it'.
Harry was crying. Salty tears he hadn't shed since Sirius's death- and, before that, Cedric's- slid down his cheeks silently.
He had almost cried when Ron left him earlier that year, and when Harry danced with the distraught Hermione in the dull lantern light of their tent. He tried to cry at Dumbledore's death, but was in such a deep shock that he physically wasn't able too. It was horrible.
Sadness, grief, anger; all these large, overwhelming emotions came to mind, words that didn't truly give justice to what Harry was feeling. In the last six years of his life, Harry had felt fear, sadness, a painful happiness, and blinding courage. Anger had overcome him in the later years, up until he began Horcrux-hunting.
By that time, he had learned to control the emotion. He had used all those unwanted feelings to push him towards the end goal; finding the Horcruxes, ending the war, and killing Voldemort for the last time. Harry had wanted to break down for so long, to expel the emotions if only to feel free again- he had thought he'd cry for years, decades... but the tears tapered away after only an hour, although it felt like an eternity and only a second, all at once.
Holy shit. Harry had survived a war, he was still alive, after countless brushes with Death. He was free from Voldemort, free from the pressure of the prophecy- it was fulfilled, wasn't it? A slight relief blossomed in his stomach, although a feeling of uneasiness grew as well. A feeling of...uselessness.
'Enough trouble for a lifetime.' Or was it, really?
His bright emerald eyes popped open seconds later, shining something fierce.
The battle was won, but Harry wasn't done just yet.
Harry had to become an Auror, and get the last of Voldemort's followers. He had portraits to order of his family and his friends, all those who died for him. He had to plan for his life, and help to rebuild the Wizarding world- he had the sudden urge to do something. The guilt, anger and raw wild power from six years of hell bottled up inside him, and he didn't ever think it would leave. He needed to do something with it, didn't he?
This drove him to his feet, mindlessly sliding on a pair of worn shoes and creeping out of the dormitory. His invisibility cloak was draped over his shoulders, the Marauder's Map in his pocket, and his Holly wand in hand.
He considered consulting his friends. Ron was with his family, though, preparing for Fred's funeral, and Hermione was making plans with Professor McGonagall for the next school year, last Harry checked. They were most likely still awake, but he felt that this was something he had to do himself.
He crept slowly. It was past midnight, but he knew that few would sleep soundly tonight.
War ruined you, Harry brooded. War broke your heart, and broadened your mind. War made you do things you couldn't imagine; commit murders, witness Death, and fight battles that you'd rather not fight. War ingrained a deep paranoia, it shrunk your stomach, and forced you to become a blooming insomniac, despite the way your eyes begged to droop and your body yearned for a few hours of peace.
Your brain never shut up, thoughts and emotions coming unbidden in the darkness of night. You imagined shapes in the shadows, voices in the wind, a hand brushing against your shoulder, even when no one was there. Your own reflection startles you- this Harry learned earlier that evening when he had taken the time to have his first real shower. You stared into the face of a corpse, red-rimmed eyes, shoulders slumped, blood stained on your brow.
Scars had wracked Harry's body, a lightning bolt on his temple, 'I must not tell lies', etched into his hand, and dozens of unhealed scrapes and gashes all across his torso and limbs. The memories of all those battles were forever burned behind his eyes.
Some chose to cut off all empathy when the going got tough. Those people let war control them. They let the Darkness overtake them, and they went with the crowd rather than fight for their own cause, for their own sake. Others kept their heart, and still held tight to the smallest bits of hope, as fruitless as they were. Harry was still a Gryffindor, brave to the core- but war had made him sneaky, a quiet secret keeper. War had made him wise and yearning; even the smallest bit of information from the outside world- whether factual or biased- had meant the world to a man on the run. He had to work hard, harder than he had in his entire life, working with both Light and Dark.
War made him more than just the 'Golden Boy', the Light side's poster-boy.
He had become a warrior. A renegade. A hero...and, finally, a victor.
War changed the Boy-Who-Lived.
It made Harry Potter, the Chosen One, into a man.
And, as of midnight on May 2nd, disguised and determined, sneaking through the tarnished, battle-worn corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...Harry Potter was a man on a mission.