Summary: Sometimes when things change there's no changing back. And sometimes that's okay. It's one year after the battle at Hogwarts. The school is rebuilt. Harry is returning after living alone in a haze of depression at Grimmauld Place. He finds solace in unexpected places. 8th year fic. MOD Harry.
Characters: Harry Potter. Regulus Black. The Gryffindors. Draco Malfoy.
Warnings: Some bashing. Some Dark!Harry. Necromancy. Slash.
AN: The plot picks up a bit from this point.
ANx2: I've not forgotten my other stories. They will be getting some affection here soon.
Ever Yours, Pseu
"Don't you dare say I'm gonna make it, cause I don't believe a word you say
There's a sickness living inside me, you can spare me all your sympathy
Take a second of your time, realize you're wasting mine
In the night I lie awake, why rebuild a heart that breaks?
...I'm sitting waiting on the sun to rise, I know it never will it comes as no surprise
So won't you stare into my hallow eyes, they look so hungry now, it comes as no surprise."
-Too Close To Touch
He allowed Hermione to lead him into a corner of the Gryffindor common room.
The world within the tower tinted gold from the firelight in the hearth and the shades of orange and red that covered everything. It was loud. The colours, the voices, the way people moved taking up space. Not as loud and full as it once was, but loud enough it brought on the beginnings of a headache behind his eyes. After spending time within the cool and muted tones of Grimmauld the transition into the world of Gryffindor Tower was jarring.
Once upon a time walking into the common room felt like coming home. Now Harry couldn't wait for Hermione to say whatever she had to say so he could escape to the darkness behind the curtains of his bed. All Harry could see was the empty spaces and missing faces.
Fog crept in along the corners of his mind and Harry dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands, using the brief pain to force back the blurry apathy. Now if only the hallow felling inside his chest would go away...
He jerked to the left. Hermione was standing there with her arms crossed and her shoulders hunched. Dissaproing and vulnerable.
"I know you've had a lot to process," She began. Harry rather thought that was an understaement. "We all have and everyone deals with it in their own way. I just want you to know I'm worried about you. It isn't healthy to shut yourself away. No one can help you if you don't let them."
A hand pushed some of her bushy hair behind an ear and then dropped to her side.
The dizzy feeling in Harry's head swirled around and pounded against his mind like he was underwater. Took all of his focus to keep his eyes on Hermione and pay attention.
Resentment and understanding played tug-of-war with apathy inside of his heart. One side of him wanting to take a step back and let the fog take over so he didn't have to deal with it. She was only trying to support him. He knew that. All she wanted, all any of them wanted, was for Harry to be okay.
He wasn't though. He didn't know if ever would be. Not the way they needed him to be. This answer for all its honesty would not satisfy his friend. In fact it was more likely to set her off and make her more determined to make him okay. With the fog licking aolong his senses and the dizzy waves in his mind Harry couldn't risk staying in this conversation longer than necessary.
He needed to be alone. Just for a little while. Just long enough to get his equilibrium back.
"Thank you." He murmured.
Hermione blinked. "Is that all?"
"What more were you expecting?" Harry asked.
Her cheeks flushed. "Well, an argument. Denial that anything was wrong."
"Wouldn't do any good." He shuffeled back closer to the wall as a group of enthusiastic third years ran by. They were young and careless. Would he ever feel that way again? He wasn't sure.
Hermione let out a puff of air, shoulders sagging. "Are you okay, Harry? Just tell me that."
Without a word, and only swaying a little, Harry started walking toward the stairs. There was no answer he could give that would reasurre her without lying.
There was an extra floor at the top of the stairs. A recent addition made to accommodate the older students returning for a do-over of their seventh year. If he remembered correctly some of the fifth years had been given the option to redo their fifth year as well, if they were worried about their OWL scores. He didn't know if they had a similar set up or if not enough had chosen to redo the year that it wasn't eccersary. Along the walls of the hallway were doors that lead to small dorms. He imagined the witches side of the stairs would be much the same.
Harry found the one with his name on one of the tiny bronze plaques and darted inside.
It looked just like the others. Smaller. Only three beds. Ron was unpacking, having claimed the first bed to the left just inside the door. His redheaded friend disappeared shortly after Hermione cornered Harry in the common room. Wanting to avoid getting in a conflict between his girlfriend and best mate. Or maybe he just didn't know what to say. Harry claimed the bed directly across from Ron and collapsed on it, one arm over his eyes.
The fog swarmed him and let it.
"Is the girls' dorm the same?" He heard Ron ask.
There was a rustling noise. "I wouldn't know. I was speaking with Harry."
"Still...on that then?" Ron asked.
"I'm right here," Harry called out. He made no move to sit up.
Their voices went softer and Harry couldn't quite make them out anymore. He didn't know if there were talking about him or couple things or something else entirely. He couldn't hear anything but the pounding in his head, see anything but a blur of white.
The next day was a Saturday which gave Harry the weekend to acclimate to being back among people. Perhaps he should have made voyages outside before returning. Eased himself into it a bit. As it was he found himself up early, strolling along the halls toward the great hall. He was hungry for one, and if he went to the kitchens instead of the great hall he might decide not to come back out. House Elfs counted as socializing...right?
So instead he pushed open the doors and took a seat at the empty Gryffindor table. He could at least rely on old habits. No self-respecting Gryffindor was up before they needed to be. Even Hermione would wait for Ron before she came down.
"Good morning, Harry Potter."
He looked up. A pale witch with long wispy hair and large doe eyes slid into the seat across from him. Harry waited for images of her dirty and hungry in a dungeon to flash in his head. Instead, they just sat there looking at one another, the delicious smell of breakfast floating around them, and the low murmur of early rising students whispering to one another. The ever-present fog licking along the edges of his mind didn't move to consume him. Nothing at all happened.
"You need healing hands." Said Luna. "And a dash of self-forgiveness. I can't do either of those things, so I'm going to steal your muffin instead." Then she reached across the table and did exactly that.
"Welcome back, Luna."
Harry managed to slip out before the great hall became crowded.
Once he caught the fifth person staring at him he knew it was time to leave. Just he thought of being caught on a crowd of people demanding his aention made unpleasant electric prickles up and down his arms. Best to leave while he ha the chance.
There was supposed to be a meeting for the '8th years' this morning. Giving them a better run down of how the classes were going to work and what rules apply to them as adults, he assumed. It was early to be headed to the meeting yet and he only remembered it was somewhere in the right half of the third floor. With nothing else to do and no desire to go back to the common room, Harry set out to wander the third floor.
There were no three-headed dogs or magical obstacle courses this time. At least, none that Harry found. He took the next bench he saw as a sign and sat down to spend the rest of the morning studying and practising his new skills.
Harry closed his eyes and ran through the basics which came easily now. Relaxing his muscles and taking inventory of the way his body felt. The temperature of the room which was cool but not cold and apart from himself. The pressure of the stone floor against the sole of his shoes and the hardness of the bench he sat upon.
Occasionally a low hum from the murmur of students on the way to breakfast came reverberating down the hallway breaking the quiet but not silent atmosphere. Breathing in, breathing out.
Next he took a step back, a step lower, and focus on his magic at his core. There in his centre, swirling lazily like water. Harry felt it move outward and drape over him, running along every curve of his body. He pushed it a bit farther, a few inches away in every direction and held it there. His magic continued its creeping, circular movement around him.
Feeling the clearest he had since he arrived at the train station yesterday, Harry opened his eyes. He didn't know for certain how much time had passed, he rarely did these days, but he thought it safe to say it wasn't quite time for the meeting yet. He hadn't seen anyone else come down the corridor looking for the room and no one had tried to disturb him while he meditated. Not that he really thought anyone would be upset with him if skipped out on the meeting.
Except for Hermione maybe.
Harry brought out Regulus' diary to pass the time.
"...no matter what mother says, Sirius isn't as Gryffindor as he pretends to be. His impulsiveness comes more from a certainty in his choices than in ill-conceived spontaneity. Mother has lost faith in him but I can still see him in there. Biding his time until... I am not privy to my brother's future goals. But I do know he doesn't base his decisions on external influences, however much James Potter would like to think otherwise. It was Sirius who taught me to think independently of my environment. To be aware of but not restricted by the category life has placed me in. For all of his faults, and there are many, I will be thankful for the lesson..."
An hour or so later Harry was startled from his reading by a stampede of students bolting down his hallway.
"Heads up, you're gonna be late Potter!" Seamus Finnegan shouted in his general direction as he passed.
Harry stood to his feet and followed after them more out of curiosity than any desire to be punctual. Seamus jogged at the back of the pack, the students in the front, in contrast, ran like they had hellhounds at their feet. Harry didn't think it was that serious. Too many things had been put in place to bring them all back, they wouldn't get kicked out for being late to one meeting that wasn't even vital to their studies.
The ones in the front did seem like they knew where they were going so that was fortuitous. Harry hadn't bothered checking the notice board before he left the common room and the last thing he wanted was to have to ask someone and get drawn into a conversation.
Eventually, the group came to a stop. Harry watched Seamus skid to a halt and narrowly avoid running into their classmates. Harry walked up to them where they congregated. They were in a part of the castle Harry recognized if only in passing. Litteral passing, he supposed, from being on the way to somewhere else.
There was a large tapestry of someone from history who probably did something important on the wall to the right, along with a window. On the other side was a door.
Anthony Goldstein knocked on the door expectantly. A few minutes passed and no one answered.
"Honestly!" Complained a witch standing near Anthony. She pushed forward and pulled on the door. It was locked. A muttered alohomora from the witch also did nothing. She twirled around and crossed her arms as if she blamed the rest of them for the door not budging. There was something vaguely familiar about her.
Harry couldn't quite place what it was.
Two more people came running down the hall. Ron came to a stop, Hermione right behind him. The bushy-haired witch looked flustered. She wasn't normally late. Perhaps they'd been looking for him before they headed to the meeting. A fleeting attempt at guilt flickered in and out of his heart. Harry lacked the ambition to feel anything so time-consuming as guilt.
"Is this is the place, then?" Ron asked.
Padma slung off her beaded shoulder bag and dug through it for a slip of parchment. "This is where it's supposed to be," She looked up frowning. "Maybe we're early?"
Seamus grabbed Ron's wrist to look at his watch. "This says we're late." His eyes slid to Ron and Hermione, a mischievous smile growing on his face "And you two are really late."
Ron snatched his wrist back and Hermione flushed at the implication. Harry doubted that was why they were late. Still, it was quite satisfactory to see the bushy-haired witch speechless.
Slow footsteps came from the other end of the hall. Harry turned his head to see Malfoy ambling toward them carrying a piece of pie on a small plate. He looked up and raised a pale brow, fork halfway tp his mouth, when he saw everyone standing in the hallway.
"The Ravenclaws got us lost." Said a tall girl with very short dark hair. A Slytherin, Harry thought.
The witch who tried to spell the door open earlier whirled toward Padma and snatched the parchment out of her hands. She held it up and glared at them all as if personally offended. "We are not lost! This is where we're supposed to be." She narrowed her eyes. "Unless one of you thought it funny to give us the wrong directions."
A hint of purple peeked out of her hair. That was where Harry knew her. She was one of the Ravenclaws from the carriage yesterday.
The tall Slytherin girl looked down her nose at the Ravenclaw witch with a dry expression. "Yes, MacDougal. I woke up before the sun rose this morning and thought, why not spend my entire morning jogging all over the castle like a twit instead of sleeping in on a Saturday like a normal human being? And then set about breaking into everyone's common rooms and posting fake notices."
MacDougal started to say something back and Mafloy interrupted with a long-suffering sigh. He rolled his silver eyes and walked over to the tapestry, pulling it aside to a reveal another door. He turned back to them with only a slightly smug expression. Several people groaned.
Seamus strode forward to open the door when it appeared Malfoy was more inclined to finish his less-than-healthy breakfast than go inside. The door didn't open.
"Is this a conspiracy?" Hermione demanded. She looked close to having an aneurysm.
Ron patted her shoulder. "They can't give us all detention."
Meanwhile, Malfoy finished his pie and set the plate aside on the floor, ignoring the scandalized looks some of the students sent him. "We're missing something."
"Have we tried a key?" Harry snarked. Hermione frowned at him.
Malfoy glanced at him with an unreadable expression. "That would be handy. Unfortunately, I don't think a key is required. More likely some specific requirement hasn't been met. An incantation, time of day, maybe a professor needs to be present..."
"I hope it's not time of day, seeing as we're already late." Said Seamus.
"I'm coming!" Neville was bounding down the hall like it was third year and he was late to potions. He stumbled to a stop when he reached them, hands on his knees, panting. "Got...lost..." He wheezed.
The door clicked and swung open.
Malfoy shrugged and nodded at Neville. "I didn't plan that but there you go."
One by one they filed inside.
The room was a bit larger than a common room, and sort of looked like one too. It had a stone floor. In the centre was a large carpet an in the middle of it several chairs and benches all pointed toward the right side of the room. There is a large fireplace and a single door on that side. To the left is a bookshelf, a calendar and notice board on the wall, and three small desks with chairs. Directly across was a set of double doors.
By unspoken agreement, they each took a seat or bench in the middle of the carpet.
The door beside the fire opened. A witch and wizard walked out. The witch had cornsilk yellow hair. The wizard was shorter than her by a few inches but looked nearly the same, and surveyed them all with dark eyes.
"I'm pleased to see you all made it." Said the witch. She clasped her hands together and cleared her throat. "We have brought you here today to explain how things will work for you this year. You're getting a wonderful opportunity. As older, more experienced wizards and witches, the ministry and board of directors thought you should be treated in a way to match the circumstances. As such you will be provided career and family planning counselling, extra classes and the opportunity to earn apprenticeships. Surprise!"
Whispers broke out.
"Some of the brightest minds in the magical world have volunteered their time to teach you some of what they know, help you understand and improve your talents-"
"-and even offer an apprenticeship, should you prove worthy." Interrupted the wizard.
The witch ignored him. "I am Mancer Kristen Moore, this is my cousin and associate Atticus Fowler. We are two of the scholars and instructors asked to be here and we are excited to get to work with you."
"Isn't she the cheerful one." Murmured someone off to Harry's right.
"You will be given a few weeks to explore the options open to you and open your eyes to alternative avenues of magic outside of a charms mastery or quidditch. This is a space for all of you regardless of house affiliation to mingle and work on your projects without distraction in the form of younger students."
Atticus spoke next, "It has been decided that one specific tutor outside of their own classes to teach, will be assigned to you as a group as a sort of mentor. To introduce you to the different classes and be a-go-between. Their job is to help you in any way they can."
Hermione's hand shot into the air. "Who will that be?"
Moore gave a small frown. "She ought to have been here this morning-"
"So we're off to a great start." Said Atticus.
A few people laughed.
"Perhaps if they'd chosen a more appropriate candidate as a mentor..." Moore said under her breath. "But let's try to stay positive!"
Atticus leaned against the wall. "I'm positive this will be a disaster."
Moore whirled toward Atticus. "I said to stay positive."
The students whispered to one another. Who on earth had been chosen to be their mentor? After the war and the abrupt shift in the political climate, he couldn't see the board of governors and the ministry not conducting a thorough check on any and all submitted candidates. It couldn't be anyone that bad. Maybe it was just someone Moore disapproved of? Or didn't like for a personal reason?
Harry scooted back in his chair to get comfortable. It wouldn't be a Death Eater in disguise trying to kill him and that was all that mattered to him.
Let the others gossip.
The fire in the hearth flared and someone new stepped out. It was a witch much younger than the other two, with a half apron tied around her waist. It had tiny vials and little pouches fastened to it along with small metal tools Harry didn't recognize. The witch dusted off her hands, ridding them of some unknown sparkling dust.
Both Moore and Atticus straightened up.
"Alright infants," She said by way of greeting. "Here we go."
She snapped her fingers and a chair materialized beneath her. She spun it around, sat on it, and rested her arms across the top of the back of the chair.
"Since I'm the youngest of the lot I get stuck on babysitting duty. They'll say it's due to my skill set and work ethic. It's because I'm the youngest and they thought you'd relate to me more. As you can tell, I'm thrilled."
"She doesn't sound thrilled." Whispered Ron.
"Right you are, ginger. That's because I'm not." She sent him a blinding smile that was blatantly facetious.
"It's Weasley...actually." Said Ron.
"You say that as if it matters."
Seamus snickered and elbowed Dean. Dean shot him a grin and leaned forward, eyes trailing down the witch. Harry didn't think that was wise. But then she didn't seem much older than they were so it wasn't as inappropriate as it could have been.
The witch clapped her hands together, causing yet more sparkling dust to flake off. Little sparks flickered up from the dust. Harry wondered if whatever she taught involved it.
"I'm Quinn Sadagares and I'm your mentor and boss if you hadn't noticed." Her left hand pointed at Dean and Seamus who had the grace to sit up and look contrite. "Questions? No? Excellent. You'll spend the weekend getting used to being back in school. I don't know how since you don't attend classes on the weekend but I don't control the minds of the ones who thought it made sense. So here we are. All of us. Whether we like it or not."
Moore looked like it was taking every ounce of her self-control not to shake some positivity into the younger witch.
"You'll address her as Smythe Sadagares," Atticus interjected. "Let us try to remember propriety."
"Feel free not to." Said Quinn. She turned just enough to make eye contact with Atticus who seemed torn between insisting on proper etiquette and disappearing into the floor to escape her glare.
Moore cleared her throat. "Why ever not?"
"Because, Mancer Moore, alliteration is stupid." Said Quinn.
Hermione raised her hand before Moore could say anything else. "What's a Smythe? Or a Mancer?"
"I don't know." Said Quinn. "What's the point of raising your hand to be called on and then just saying whatever the Hell you want anyway?"
"Oh! Language." Said Moore.
Quin rolled her eyes.
"Smythe, Mancer, Warlock, Animator. You'll be learning all of this in the following weeks. I suggest you pay attention and be certain to show up on time to anything you think you've got a genuine interest in. Some of the tutors and scholars brought to show off to you will be lenient. And some of them," She paused, making certain she had their attention. "Won't be. Take care to remember I have my own research and classes outside of helping you so if you could keep any emergencies to decent hours or at least have some of them at the same time, that'd be swell."
"Is she kidding?" Asked Padma.
Anthony Goldstein shrugged. "I can't tell."
Quinn snapped her fingers. The chairs and benches underneath them quite suddenly melted away, falling to pieces like sandcastles. Lisa Turpin let out an understandable squeal when it seem as if they were all to fall to the ground. Sparkling dust pushed them to their feet and around them, sofas and comfortable chairs rearranged the carpet area to into a proper sitting room. Moore and Atticus, exchanging a much-harassed look, left through the door they entered from.
Quinn walked toward a corner near the double doors, a desk, a bookcase and two squashy chairs materializing as she arrived. "You have from now until Monday morning to do whatever you like with no responsibility outside of getting to the great hall to eat on time. I suggest you use that time wisely and cherish it while it lasts." Quinn sat in a chair and kicked her feet up on the desk.
The group looked at one another.
"Ominous." Whispered Neville.
Harry really tried.
He just wasn't prepared. In a flashback to his first year in school, Harry couldn't go anywhere without being stared at. Students went out of their way to run into him in the halls, to ask him questions, touch him on the arm, and otherwise demand his attention.
With every too loud laugh, every unwelcome grip on his arm, his heart thumped erratically against his chest. In small flashes smiling faces were replaced with screams.
He dug his nails into the palms of his hands hard enough he had to bite his lip to keep from making a sound. The fog was back.
Overwhelmed Harry pushed through the crowd and darted down the next hall he saw. Faster and faster until the now-familiar white blur covered his eyes and he was forced to slow down out of fear of toppling over a bannister.
Eventually, something outside of himself brought him partially out of his cloudy haze. Harry was in control enough to notice he was somewhere far from where he started and, according to the window to his right, it was hours later. The sky outside was very dark. Hermione wouldn't be pleased he'd been off alone for so long.
If he wasn't so dizzy and smothered by mist he'd be concerned about her reaction.
"...the hell, Potter?"
Harry squinted his eyes. White Blonde hair came into focus.
The Slytherin stepped closer looking at something to Harry's right. "What did you do?" He grasped Harry's wrist and brought his hand up. Harry's mouth fell open and the fog receded a little more.
"Why is there blood?"
Silver eyes snapped to him. "That's my question."
Harry studied his hand then realized he must have been digging his nails into his hand this entire time. How long had he been standing there? How much time had passed? Hermione was going to yell at him.
He should probably do something about the blood. And he would have, if his head wasn't full of water and mist.
"...ter. Potter. Potter!"
"Merlin, how much blood have you lost?"
Harry shrugged already losing his focus. "Why?"
Cold fingers were on his chin forcing him to look into Malfoy's face. "Did you hit your head?"
"Not recently." Harry murmured. His thoughts keep slipping through his grasp.
After a minute or two, Harry was vaguely aware of Malfoy pulling him by his arm and leading him...somewhere. It was cooler here. He managed to fight back the blurriness to realize they were down in the dungeon. Malfoy waved his wand with the hand not clasped to Harry's wrist and unlocked the door. They stepped in.
Some small lab, Harry noted.
Malfoy let him go and began rummaging in a shelf.
Fingers snapping in front of his face had Harry focusing on the present. Malfoy stared at him for a moment then decided Harry was aware enough. He was applying some sort of paste to Harry's hand.
"Where are we?"
Malfoys eyes flicked up to him. "My lab. A newt in potions in required for the healing tract. his is the one that was assigned to me...before. It hasn't been reset."
"You're in the healing night class." Harry realized.
Malfoy wrapped some type of linen around Harry's palm. He looked up, puzzled. "I didn't think you were interested in other classes?"
"Neither did anyone else." Said Harry, trailing off. It was fuzzy again.
There was a sudden freezing cold against his forehead. Harry gasped, the fog left quick enough to give him mental whiplash. Malfoy stood there with his palm pressed to harry's forehead. His eyes were wide, mouth frowning. "What is wrong Potter-"
Then it happened. All the things the fog was helping Harry keep away. His parents' ghosts. The trembling in his hands and fash of green as Voldemort stood across from him. How his very soul seemed to vibrate in terror. Lupin's body lying next to Tonks in the great hall. Sirius falling through the veil...
Harry's knees hit the floor. He thought he heard Malfy cursing but his throat was closing up and everything was burning and shaking. Trapped in his mind replaying every moment of regret and loss. A part deep inside of him ached fierce and hot, calling out for something. Something missing. He felt hollow and empty, and too full and too much at the same time.
When he came back to himself there was an empty potions vial in his hand. Harry brought it up and sniffed it. A Calming Draught. On the other side of the small lab at a work station, Malfoy appeared to be going through some note. Harry put the vial on the floor beside him. Taking a deep breath Harry pulled his knees up to chest and wrapped his arms around them. For the first time in a very long time, there was no fog in his mind. Just a soft humming from the potion that settled his emotions.
Embarrassed and grateful Harry lifted his head. "Thank you."
Malfoy stiffened. After a moment he began going through his notes once more. "You're welcome." Malfoy turned around rested his back against the table. He took a breath, suddenly very serious, and straightened his shoulders. "Do you...want to talk?"
"Not at all." Said Harry.
Malfoy's breath left him in a rush and he sunk down to the floor across from Harry. "Thank Salazar."
Harry laughed weakly.
They sat silently for a little while. Harry felt a nudge against his shoe. He looked forward to see Malfoy had stretched out one of his long legs to get his attention. The atmosphere had changed to something more serious. Harry couldn't put a finger on why. Malfoy looked away from Harry for a moment then back at him. "Don't die, okay?"
"I won't." He promised.
Comments, Questions, Theories and Limericks always welcomed.
AN: We were introduced to some new characters this chapter. Harry is reading more of Regulus' diary. Classes and other things coming up.