Dying is Easy, Living is Harder
Dying is easy, Living is harder by Pseudonymous Entity
Summary: What if Harry saw coming to Hogwarts less as an escape and more as an opportunity to change his life? What if he chose Greatness over Friendship?
Characters: Harry Potter [Main POV]
Warnings: I laugh in the face of canon
AN: My, I have some clever readers. Here's a bit of an information chapter before we hit Halloween next chapter. It'll be an extra-long one so there's that to look forward to. Until then, enjoy this chapter.
Ever Yours, Pseu
"I still fall on my face sometimes and I can't colour inside the lines
Cause I'm perfectly incomplete – I'm still working on my masterpiece
And I wanna hand with the greatest, gotta way to go but it's worth the wait
No, you haven't seen the best of me
I'm still working on my masterpiece…"
Saturday, less than a week from Halloween, found Harry in a corner of the library.
He was alone for once. No cryptic bantering from Davis and Nott, no quidditch talk or teasing from Seamus. Harry was seated at what he come to think of as his table. It was tucked in a corner away from the windows and halfway in distance between the back wall where the reference books were locates and the front entrance of the library. The books on the shelves closest to his table were thick wordy tomes on obscure magical theory. A side effect of this was that very few people, and almost no one under sixth year, bothered to come anywhere near this section.
Harry only ever sat here when he was alone. Hey, everyone needed a place to be by themselves outside of the occasional bathroom break, didn't they? He set up his table according to the organization he found suited him best. A relevant terminology or reference book in the middle of the table within easy reach. His parchment to the left along with his quill and ink. The book he was currently looking in to his right, and a stack of books relating to the subject on the seat of the chair to his right. His bookbag as always was pushed under his chair, out of habit more than any actual affect of convenience or necessity.
Harry smiled wryly to himself.
He'd imagined when he was younger that he'd delight in being messy and unorganized when he finally owned enough belongings to enable him to do so. He currently had a great many more than he had before a letter addressed to him made an appearance at number 4 Privet Drive.
Somehow though the lack of material possessions created within him an appreciation for the things he did have. He never tossed his quills into his bag or threw away a sheet of parchment just for a smudge or a tear. He folded his uniform, hung up his robes and wiped down his shoes every night. It is true they weren't as fine as Draco's or other Slytherins were. But they were his and just the pure novelty of having items that were his first and foremost, things he purchased with his own money no less, required him to treat them well and respect them.
Turning a page of the book he currently had -one about important wizarding families and their affiliations within the last generation- Harry mused that this was most likely the cause of his learning spells so quickly. Or so it seemed to his peers.
Harry was a child who grew in a magic-less, joyless environment. He appreciated magic for all of its worth and potential no matter how trivial or superfluous the spell or charm might be, how useless or silly. He saw all of it like a five-year-old at their first magician's show in one of the huge auditoriums with doves and water escapes. It was still magic to him, not just a tool he was learning to use. Because of this distinction Harry was quite able and willing to endure staying up late into the night to research the spells and theory they were learning in class. He was willing to strain his wrists and his shoulders repeating the necessary wand movements. To strain his eyes reading on the runes and sigils whose movements were based off of and how they helped shape the wizard's intentions in a physical way outside of their will.
He didn't believe he was any clever than anyone else. The children around him who grew up in magic households -nearly all of them- knew plenty of things he did not know. They knew how to make their hair grow longer or shine their shoes with a negligent flick. They knew why things were done the way they were and who had made it that way. Harry himself stumbled and struggled after them pretending he was just as knowledgeable when in reality he was sort of learning in reverse.
Harry shut the book with a frown. What should he do next?
He had already finished his weekly study plan for the unofficial charms study group he had with Davis and Nott. Mostly just summarizations of the theories and terminology they would be addressing in class the following week, along with easier example charms to show them to demonstrate similar wand movements or affects. He even had a small sheet of parchment outlined with the various questions he thought Nott might ask and vague or general answers to the ones he didn't know for sure with a note to look them up if the boy's questions did seem to be going in that direction.
There was no getting out of it now of course. It was decided that he was good at charms and now he must perform so. He had found that as long as he gave off the correct appearance and responses people would see things exactly as they expected to. They believed he was good at charms thus if he bluffed his way through an answer using information he does know and then brushed it off with a promise to tell them more later when he had more time to spend on the one question rather than a limited amount of time to explain the lesson for the week, they believed him. And when he showed up later in the evening with a full explanation and some references for Nott, the boy and their peers in hearing distance accepted it as him keeping his word.
It never occurred to them that he was simply going to the library and pouring through the stacks until he could piece together a reasonable explanation.
That was one of the only things about this new world and culture that Harry had going for him. People were so used to everyone around them knowing the game that they saw everything he did as a part of it, rather than the mistakes or bluffs they were. They weren't looking for a pretender, they were looking for a player. So, a player they did see.
Thank merlin Harry had always been a fast learner.
Harry tapped his fingers on the desk. Harry already restocked his potions kit. He already helped Professor Sprout down in the greenhouses this morning. His assistant duties had turned out quite enjoyable actually. It didn't hurt that the extra information that came with it helped him tremendously in positions class. Know the ingredients well enough and you can easily fix most mistakes without having to restart your potion, this saved your kit ingredients as well as the student ingredient closet, and almost always resulted with a passable elixir. Which, really, was sort of the point.
Harry pushed back from the desk and stood up, reaching out his arms to stretch. Honestly, he thought. It wasn't nearly as hard to pass a class as everyone seemed determined to make it out to be. Essays were the easiest form of homework known to mankind. That and filling in diagrams. It never took very long to write them out if you kept up on the information. What did everyone else even do with their free time?
Unsure what to do with himself and unwilling to search anyone out Harry wandered the stacks his table lay hidden within. Green eyes glanced over the titles of the various books. An alarming amount of them weren't even in any English. He'd be much over his head with anyone of them but guessing what they were about was momentarily entertaining and that was all he was aiming for.
Just as Harry finished the row he was on and rounded it to begin down the next side he nearly stumbled over another student. Harry skidded to a halt and reached out for the book shelf to study himself. Down at his feet sat a Ravenclaw student. Displayed on the floor around the student were parchments covered in mathematical equations and charts. Why they didn't just sit at a table was beyond Harry.
To his dismay his appearance did not go unnoticed. The boy, who must be a year or two older than Harry, turned his dark blue eyes onto Harry.
"Er…" Harry fumbled. "I'm sorry I didn't see you there. I will be more careful in the future." And he made to go around the Ravenclaw.
"Do you often find yourself moving through this section of the library at such a spirited pace?" A voice asked, startling Harry who hadn't been expecting a response. He stopped his motions and turned to the boy. He had tan skin sprinkled with faint golden freckles a shade or two lighter than the rest of his skin, and hair that was longer on the top than the sides. While Harry's hair was messy naturally he thought these curls were untidy on purpose. Realizing he was staring Harry snapped his eyes back to the Ravenclaw's blue ones. The boy looked amused. "Do you have an uncommon fondness for dry texts in foreign languages or are you hiding from someone?"
Taking a hopefully unnoticed breath Harry straightened into proper posture. "Perhaps I'm taking a stroll."
The Ravenclaw boy gave Harry a wry smile. "Ah of course. The time honoured tradition of eleven-year-olds traipsing through NEWT level literature. How silly of me not to realize."
The slight edge to the boys smile and the way his eyes danced gave Harry pause. If this boy were a first or a second year in Slytherin he would simply tilt his head and widen his eyes, affecting naivete and innocence as if he couldn't imagine why anyone would find that curious. But what to do with a Ravenclaw? He'd only ever met one to his knowledge and he hadn't seen nor spoken to her since she showed him the way to library. Deciding to go for it Harry widened his eyes.
"Is it such a strange thing to like to read and learn new things at this age?"
The Ravenclaw snorted. "Nice try kid. You ought to lower your chin and look up through your bangs when you do that. Like you're just a bit insecure."
Harry blinked. When the other boy continued to look at him expectantly Harry cautiously tilted his chin and down and peered at the Ravenclaw through his messy bangs, keeping his eyes wide. "Like this?"
A nod. "Much better Potter."
Harry blinked. If someone he didn't remember meeting was calling him by his name without asking for confirmation first than it was, as he had come to learn, someone who expected Harry to know who they were without a proper introduction. But Harry didn't have a clue who this other boy was. Something of his unease and embarrassment must have shown for the Ravenclaw boy let out a low laugh.
"Pretending will only get you so far Potter. Just because no one else has called you out on it doesn't mean they haven't noticed. Let's hope you prove to be a fast learner."
His cheeks flushed and his fingers tightened into fixed. Harry never liked to be laughed at. Feeling spiteful Harry turned the conversation back on the Ravenclaw. "It is too bad isn't? That you can't pretend your way to a passing grade." Harry knelt down and tapped one of the sheets of parchment in front of the other boy. "The answer there ought to have been seven. You'll have to redo the equation. It isn't the only mistake I've seen either." Harry allowed faux concern to colour his voice. "I do hope you'll be able to figure it out."
Harry left the Ravenclaw boy blinking behind him.
As time rolled on Harry noticed some interesting deviations in his classmate's behavior. Along with the changes in the castle marking the coming of Halloween (Dried herbs hung at entrances, carved out gourds with little candles lining the windowsills, and bats spells to randomly fly out of suits of armor….) the denizens of the castle had changes following suit. It wasn't the children wearing pumpkin pins on their scarves or the packs of girls sporting pointy boots and stuffed black familiars that drew his attention. Some of his classmates wore small pouches on strings around their necks, drew odd symbols on their inner wrists or the sides of their hands, whispered softly before eating their evening meals, and in his own dorm along the bench beside their enchanted window both Nott and Draco had placed pictures of family members, and candles.
He knew of course that it was some sort of tradition. Harry did his best not to let his gaze linger on these things for too long. Some of his classmates had other traditions, in Gryffindor Neville Longbottom took to wearing two golden rings around his neck and pinned two sprigs of dried rosemary to his cloak. Ronald Weasley and his brothers all wore pins with their family crest on them, one for Weasley and one for Prewett, their mother's house.
Everyone seemed to be doing something even if it was only carrying about a black plush feline, or smugly petting a real one. If anyone wondered why Harry did none of these things they didn't seem to think it necessary to ask him about it to his face.
But they did watch him.
He noticed it first from Nott and Davis who always watched him, but did so recently with a more direct and nearly expectant air. Even students like Bletchly (a third year who pinned the schedules to the bulletin board in the common room each week) or Zabini, who never spoke to Harry or even acknowledged him, were watching him from the corners of their eyes while they pretended to read. Waiting for something. Daphne Greengrass, who was wearing cat ear headbands instead of her beret, looked almost disappointed when she saw him.
It was during another individual study session in the library that Harry finally gained some insight to this phenomenon.
Harry was sitting in his usual place, cheek resting in his hand. He had of course tried looking up the various things his classmates were doing but his research was for once failing him utterly. Oh there were vague references but he'd come to the conclusion that the traditions were somewhat personal and learned. Things passed down and all very private. He knew it had to do with Halloween.
Feeling annoyed Harry took in a settling breath, pushed back his seat and made his way toward the nearest aisle. Over the last week he had run across the mysterious Ravenclaw twice more. The older boy would make a comment on Harry's presence and then correct something he felt Harry was doing wrong in some obvious way. Harry would retaliate by pointing out mathematical mistakes in the boy's work. As Harry approached the boy looked up, dark blue eyes roaming over Harry.
"So determined." The boy murmured. "What have I done to earn such focus my wandering first year?"
Harry briefly considered changing him mind. But he'd never know if he didn't ask and he certainly couldn't ask another Slytherin, and Seamus had already gone back to his common room. Nothing for it. "Can you explain to me, please, the traditions for Halloween?"
Annoying Ravenclaw Boy stared. His mouth started to move then abruptly he fell silent again, his eyes becoming serious. "Oh." He said simply. Wish a swish of his wand the books beside him pushed themselves back where they belonged. The boy motioned at the now empty space beside him. "Have a seat Potter."
And so Harry did.
Harry blinked several times. "Um…?"
His lips quirked. "My name Potter. Louis Rosier."
"Oh." Harry flushed.
Rosier's blue eyes studied him. "I suppose that would make sense. A shame though." Harry wasn't altogether certain those comments were meant for him to respond to. "It is actually Trinouxtion Samonii or Samhain. Not Halloween. We are, those of us who keep to the older traditions, honouring our heritage and our ancestors. Those who bore magic and blood before us and in turn blessed us with it. It is a time to remember and a time to grieve. Even celebrate." He paused and waited for Harry to nod to show he was following him so far.
"The things you've been seeing around reflect which traditions the families represented around you follow. There are things done to pay homage to our magic. 'Sacrificing' a small portion of a meal or a desert by setting it aside rather than eating it. Leaving out a dish of wine or moon water. Candle magics and blessings. And remembering those who have left us, whether in spirit or in a more permanent sense."
They spent the rest of the evening discussing the ways this was done and where the traditions came from. By the end of it, when the torches were burning dimly and most everyone else had left the library, Harry felt he understood the wizards around him in a more intimate way then he had before. Even Rosier was more of a person to him than just a face with a superior attitude. Each of the children around him had their stories. Their family histories and memories and close ones they had lost. It made them all…people….instead of potential obstacles. He felt a bit guilty for viewing them all through a lens that focused on what they could do for him or what they could make harder for him. Even Draco who was always just a bit arrogant had set a picture on the bench beside the window in their dorm and lit a candle.
When he mentioned this to Rosier the boy informed him on a whisper that it was probably Draco's grandfather, the head of his family. The man's health wasn't as it once though he was still young as far as wizards went really. Then Rosier told Harry it wasn't generally polite to speak about the health of a head of a family, though everyone knew about it.
"It is really a private thing for all we make a show of it." Rosier was saying. "How you honour the days of summer's end if personal. It is meant to be something meaningful." He gave a wry smile. "Not that that keeps us from wanting everyone else to know just how much we uphold our traditions. A lot of us with older houses and longer histories have family grimoires. They're passed down through the family. Father to son. You only ever get three entries. One at age ten just before school, one at thirteen after your magical core balances and you officially leave childhood, and again at seventeen when you take on the responsibilities of a full wizard. You can read memories and information shared and passed down from your father and your great-grandfather. Sort of as a way to get to know them beyond a portrait or a photograph or even their reputation. After all, the oldest houses all share the same core value. Family first. Always."
Harry poured over books Rosier suggested for him, adding in bits of information Harry would never have come by without him. All through it the older wizard gave Harry considering looks that Harry wasn't certain he meant to notice or react to. Like the boy had gotten an unexpected answer to a question. As they left the library Rosier walked Harry to the corridor leading down to the dungeons before breaking off to head up the stairs and make the long trek to the Ravenclaw tower. Neither one had spoken during the walk so Harry was surprised when he heared Rosier whisper his name. Harry paused at the steps leading down to Slytherin twrrirotry to turn back toward the other boy.
"Playing the part only works for so long Potter. You can't expect other people to accept you until you learn to accept yourself. This is a part of who you are. This is a part of your heritage and your history. You came from magic. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to stop pretending to be a wizard and start actually being one, and everything that entails." He turned his back to Harry and continued up the stairs. "Goodnight Potter." What was it with random older wizards giving Harry advice in empty hallways at night?
When Harry made it back to his dorm that night he realized Rosier hadn't insulted him even once. He wasn't certain how he felt about that development.
And then, lying in bed, it suddenly clicked. Everyone knew Harry's parents were dead. Not one person in the wizarding world didn't know that. They probably thought he was cold for not thinking to honour his parents or at least making a token gesture for it. What child wouldn't? Harry hadn't known it was a thing that was done before this year of course but that didn't stop the pangs in his heart at the realization, nor the guilt. Did they think he didn't care for his parents? That he didn't appreciate their sacrifice?
It was a long night for Harry.
He wrestled and rolled in his bed. Around two in the morning Harry sat up with a groan. There had to be something he could do. He pushed off his blanket and pulled up his knees, resting his chin on them. The problem was that he had no idea what the Potters traditions were or how to properly make a gesture to honour them. He supposed he could pseudo-copy his peers. Leaving a candle on the window perhaps. But that didn't feel right. He didn't think there was anything honourable simply imitating a tradition or a culture. What was the point if you didn't actually understand it?
Harry let out his breath in a lonely sigh. How odd. Alone in the dark of his bed with the curtains drawn, yet surrounded by magical children. He should have grown up in this world. He should have known to honour his parents every October, known that they died for him. That they died fighting. Harry's left hand slowly curled into a fist. Well, Harry could be a fighter too.
He sat up and reached out toward the foot of the bed until he felt the strap of his bookbag. His fingers closed around it and pulled it up to him. He didn't know how to do any of those other things but he could do one of them at least. He founds the book he was looking for and stilled, fingertips roaming over the worn cover. Harry sat back against his pillows and flipped the book open to the right page from muscle memory at this point. He would read those words with new eyes.
"Potter is the surname of an old wizarding family descended from Ignotus Peverell and Linfred of Stinchcombe. The Potters are Pureblooded yet they were intentionally excluded from the Sacred Twenty-Eight due to their then egalitarian stance on blood purity. The Potters have traditionally been sorted into Gryffindor House at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft…"
As always, Thoughts, Comments, Theories, and Limericks are welcomed.
AN: We've met a new character this chapter. Why do you think Rosier expected Harry to know who he was? And what do you think he was working on all hidden away in the library? Obviously the rest of Hogwarts is getting ready for the end of October in its own way. What do you think everyone was expecting from Harry?
Ever Yours, Pseu