A/N: This one-shot is part of the FlowerPot Anniversary Collection. The theme of this story is a bit of a twist on the song by Art Garfunkle. I hope you enjoy it!

Shoutouts: Thanks to x102reddragon and the FlowerPot Discord Mod team for putting this event together (Discord link in my profile).

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I also do not own the song 'A Bridge Over Troubled Water' as originally sung by Art Garfunkle.

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

By Darkened Void

Part 1
When you're down and out, when you're on the street...


"Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way."

The off-pitch tune warbled through the sticky, stagnant air of the dark Auror Office. Bleary-eyed aurors, muttering complaints about working on a Saturday, trudged through the maze of cubicles they'd dubbed "The Farm".

Some of them glanced his way, but he paid them no mind and continued his singing. Black hair tinged with the first signs of grey swayed over a pile of parchmentwork. His quill scratched over the thick sheets without thought as words blurred together.

His calloused hand rose to swipe at his crusty eyes.

"See how they shine." The tune escaped his lips without thought, unaware of his coworkers' amused glances. "Oh, if you need a friend. I'm sailing right behind."

"Hey, Boss," an auror called. Harry looked up, eyes drooping. "As much as we love you, we could all do without your singing."

Harry frowned and opened his mouth. The other aurors nodded, hiding their laughter behind their hands.

"Yeah, I'm with Jenkins, Harry." Neville's shimmering brown eyes poked out over a cubicle. "You can defeat dark wizards better than anyone, but you can't carry a tune in a bucket."

"Shut it, Longbottom." Harry's lips twitched. "Or else I'll let Hannah know what you were up to on our mission."

Jenkins's booming laugh shot through the office as the other auror paled. The smirk he'd fought against bloomed across his face. Harry's right hand man shrunk under the other aurors' quiet ribbing.

"You're evil, you know that, Harry?" Neville's eyes lost their glimmer. "You get that paperwork I put in after I got back?"

His lips drooped and the laughter in the office died. Sighing, he looked back at his long-time friend. Deep lines etched themselves beside Neville's mouth.

The laughter in the office died down as a cloud settled over them all. A sudden urge to tear the parchment to pieces clawed in Harry's chest and he shut his eyes.

"Yeah," Harry mumbled, tossing the parchment on top of the pile littering his desk. "I'll file it when I come in on Monday. You sure about this, Nev?"

Jenkins squinted his blue eyes, making him appear rather constipated. Harry would've laughed had the circumstances been different.

"Yeah, it's time for me to hang up the robes." Neville walked around the cubicle, his fingers plucking at his scarlet robes. "Me and Hannah are expecting our third. I'm not home enough and McGonagall's offer's too good to refuse."

A lump formed in his throat as he stared at the request lying haphazardly atop the stack. Harry swallowed hard, squeezing the quill until it gave an ominous creak. He signed the parchment with a jerking flourish, his shoulders sagging under an unseen weight.

'It's been a long time coming,' he thought. 'Sprout's been wanting to retire for years now.'

"You'll have to stay on as the Deputy Head for the next fortnight." Harry looked up, unable to bear seeing the words any longer. "I'm happy for you Nev, but I hate losing such a damn good auror."

"Look at the boss, getting all sappy." Jenkins wilted under Harry's glare and slunk back to his cubicle.

Neville walked up to him and set a bundle of parchment on his desk. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder, a small smile on his face. It did little to alleviate the gloom that had settled over him.

"It's been good serving with you, Harry." Neville's grip tightened. "We've done a lot of good for Britain these last fourteen years, but I've got my family to think about."

Harry nodded and Neville let his hand drop back to his side, swinging as if he didn't quite know what to do with it as he walked back to his cubicle.

Neville stopped and looked at Harry over his shoulder. "You should think of doing the same, Harry. I know Fleur would welcome it and McGonagall would take you in a heartbeat."

Eyes narrow, Harry waved his hand in dismissal and looked down at his desk. It was a report from their mission. They'd just gotten back from it early that morning. Harry snorted.

'Efficient as ever.' He thumbed through the thick sheaf. 'How the hell am I supposed to replace him?'

Well-wishes for Neville floated around The Farm, a jagged stone settling deep in Harry's belly. It cut swaths through his innards, but Harry ignored it all in favour of Neville's report.

Case 36B.12/08
Suspect: Mr Adrian Greengrass (younger brother of Lord Tywin Greengrass, Lord of the Ancient House of Greengrass)
Time of Investigation: 23/07/2012 - 04/08/2012
Reporting Auror: Deputy Head Auror Neville Longbottom

Summary of Events:

Head Auror Potter, Deputy Head Auror Longbottom and Senior Auror Jenkins followed an anonymous lead provided to the Auror Office on the afternoon of 02/08/2012, which was given after eleven days of investigation. It led the team, Team Hammer, to an abandoned warehouse in Sheffield.

Mr Greengrass had employed a small team of six former hitwizards (see Exhibit A, Employment Records). The group was unaware of Team Hammer's presence when they arrived at 2251 hours on 03/08/2012. Senior Auror Jenkins dismantled the wards covering the warehouse, alerting them to auror presence.

Mr Greengrass and his group engaged Team Hammer, using multiple dark curses in the exchange (see Exhibit B, Memory of Events). All seven witches and wizards were apprehended with minimal injuries to their persons and no injuries of note to Team Hammer. All seven were provided medical attention after their admittance to Ministry holding cells.

It was found during the subsequent investigation of the warehouse that Mr Greegrass and Co had allegedly been operating an illegal human trafficking ring. Records indicate they had conducted business with several foreign countries (see Exhibit C, Trafficking Records). All records were signed by Mr Greengrass.

The Head of the DMLE, Head Gawain Robards, was notified of the charges brought against all seven individuals at 0013 hours on 04/08/2012. Head Robards informed the British Representative of the ICW of Team Hammer's findings in accordance with ICW Law 1420.31-6.14B.

What follows is a detailed accounting of actions taken and findings at Sheffield.

Harry rubbed his eyes with a fist. Opening his bleary eyes, Harry scowled when the words in front of him immediately began to swirl into one another again.

"The Prophet's going to have a field day with this," he mumbled. "Best start drafting up a statement for Gawain."

The quill laid heavily against his fingers, seemingly made of stone. Harry suppressed a yawn as he started scratching out notes. He jerked upright in his seat as though shocked when his head dipped for the fifth time.

"Hey, Harry?" He looked up and frowned at Neville's grin. "Isn't something important happening today?"

Harry squinted at his watch. The numbers jumped from its shining face, twisting into runes.

'I should've taken runes.' Harry shook his wrist and looked back at the watch with uncomprehending eyes. 'Maybe Hermione'd help if I called her.'

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Neville raised one brow and Harry looked at is friend, begging him with his eyes to help him understand.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The blonde wizard snorted, his eyes darting to a crooked calendar hung behind Harry. Turning, he stared at it, abscently wondering if it held the secrets to life's greatest mysteries.

His bloodshot eyes widened.

"Shit!" Paper exploded from the desk as he shot to his feet. "Our anniversary! Nev, do me a favour and draft a statement for Robards. I need to get something for Fleur and go to Andromeda's to see the kids."

"Got it, Boss!" Neville saluted, his eyes shimmering as he watched Harry scramble around the office.

Harry grabbed his cloak, toppling the rack with a heavy clatter, and returned Neville's salute with his own two-fingered one before sprinting out the door of The Farm. Laughter nipped at his heels down the dim, abandoned halls.

Part 2
When evening falls so hard...

Diagon Alley was a swarming hive when he arrived. Witches and wizards jostled him from all sides, revelling in the peace Britain had enjoyed the past decade. Laughing children danced around their parents, pointing at various displays in shop windows.

He frowned. 'I'd rather be with them. I've missed them the past two weeks.'

Busting Greengrass's ring had left yet another stain on his soul. Harry needed to bask in the love of his family. He'd become addicted to it over the past decade. His body would nearly fall into fits of convulsions after too long, so great was his physical need.

Dreams of marriage and love had been bittersweet, fleeting things during his years locked in the dark cupboard under the stairs. He never believed he'd attain it.

Now, though? It was so much more than he'd ever imagined. Glittering blue eyes flashed through his mind and his heart thumped in his chest. Giddy vibrations fluttered through his skin and stomach. His cheeks hurt from the smile that bloomed on his face.

'I've been married ten years.' His gold wedding band glimmered against his pale finger. 'And to the woman of my dreams, too. Part of me still can't believe it.'

It'd been difficult, yet fulfilling. Fleur, as much as he loved her, wasn't always easy to live with. They'd argued, especially over their two children, but they'd loved one another with just as much passion.

Harry smiled like a loon as he looked into shop windows, nothing particularly standing out. They'd made a wonderful life together, something he'd fretted over when they'd first started dating.

'Broken' hardly sufficed to describe him. His years with the Dursleys and fighting Voldemort had seen to that, but she'd been adamant, unyielding, and had fixed him piece by piece. Fleur had the patience of a saint and it wasn't something he could ever repay.

She'd put up with a lot over their years together. His job, his often taciturn nature, the stress of new love, sleepless nights with children, and so much more. They'd pushed through it all, but, naturally, strain was still there. The life of the Head Auror was taxing.

Harry thought back to Neville's words and his decision to leave the aurors.

'Could I just up and leave?' Harry stopped to take in a miniature unicorn. He moved on. 'I know the Defence position is opening up this year. I could talk to McGonagall about it. It'd give me more time with Fleur and the kids.'

Harry squinted when a particularly excited teenager jostled him to get into Quality Quidditch Supplies. A smile bloomed on his face.

The Alley would've been drastically different just over a decade ago. Harry was glad for the change he'd helped to bring.

'No,' he thought, dismissing the teen's apologising parents. 'I can't just give it… this up. Maybe in a few more years.'

Heated words drew his attention. A middle-aged couple stood in the centre of curious onlookers and were arguing about the husband spending money he oughtn't have.

Flashes of arguments passed through his mind and a shadow fell over his face.

Not all had been well in the past few months. He'd forgotten their uptick in arguments recently in his excitement of returning home. It was common among married aurors, even him.

Fleur had been distant, prone to piques of anger and explosive arguments. Guilt churned in his gut as he reconsidered Neville's offer. 'It's because of my job, she's made that more than clear.'

But each time they argued there was always something there. Harry hadn't been able to recognise what was happening with her. He'd dismissed it at first, assuming she was just stressed with their girls. They were a handful, after all.

It was getting harder to keep pushing his doubt aside.

He'd actually confronted Fleur about it before he'd left, but she'd allayed his worries with a smile on her face. Part of him had been relieved at her understanding, but another part felt as if she'd been in a hurry to see him leave.

He shook his head. 'Today's our anniversary. I'll talk to her about it tomorrow.'

Hands in his trouser pockets, Harry turned from the arguing couple and continued down the Alley. The sounds of laughter and conversation dulled, losing their previous glister. Diamonds marred by time.

Harry searched, frustration bubbling in his stomach and was about to go into muggle London when he caught sight of a store off the beaten path. The white paint on the stone walls was peeling, beaten by the British sun's rays.

Its wooden sign hung from one short chain and it swayed in the breeze. He'd never noticed the establishment before. Harry wondered how it'd even stayed in business. He tilted his head to take in the dust-covered, fading words.

Old Gaffer's Grand Gallery
Family owned since 1876

Harry shrugged and forced his way through the crowd. He'd little to lose by perusing the shop's offerings for a few moments..

Dust and browned metal flakes rained on his head from the rusted bell above the door. It fell to the chipped wood floor beside him with a loud clang. Harry looked around the dusty, dim shop as the door creaked shut.

"Not a great first impression," Harry mumbled as he combed a hand through his hair. The dust disappeared into the thick layer that coated the floor..

"Yer gonna pay for tha' damned bell if'n yeh broke it," a weathered, cracking voice called from the back room. "Damn kids. They've no respect."

A stooped man covered in grizzly white hair stumped to the front desk. His weathered and beaten cane looked nearly as old as him. His scowling brown eyes were clouded over with advanced cataracts. He almost reminded Harry of old Ollivander, who had finally passed a few years back.

"Old Gaffer, I assume?" A smile twitched on his lips.

Few had dared speak to Harry in such a way for many years. It was refreshing.

The man nodded, squinting in Harry's direction. Old Gaffer seized, a dry, wheezing cough forcing its way out his mouth. The old wizard wiped his lips with his sleeve and tapped his cane on the floor.

"Yer no kid," he wheezed. "Com'ere, son. My eyes ain't wha' they used teh be."

"Definitely not a kid," Harry laughed. "I was hoping you could help me with something."

Old Gaffer peered up at Harry from thinned eyes. His breath reeked of stale tobacco and firewhiskey, stinging his nostrils. Harry's smile dropped from his face when Old Gaffer's eyes widened.

"And wha' could tha Head Auror be needin' from me?" His cane struck the floor thrice. "I've been selling nothin' illegal, as yeh can see."

Harry's shoulders relaxed. "I'm not here on official business. Today's my ten year anniversary and I'm in need of a gift."

A coughing chuckle wracked Old Gaffer, his spittle wetting Harry's cheeks. "If mem'ry serves, yeh married a French bird round tha' time. Tha Triwizard Champion, some said. Tell me, son, did she go teh tha' French School?"

"Beauxbatons, yes," he replied. "We actually met there when I was a junior auror. Started dating not long after."

Old Gaffer hawked a glob of brown phlegm on the floor. "Back in my day we courted witches, as was proper. But you didn' come 'ere to 'ear an ol' man ramble. Come wit' me, I've got just tha thing."

They walked through the shop, dust jumping through the air with each step. All the items on display were coated in a thick layer of dust, many of them broken, wobbling dangerously on the shelves' edges. Their strange clicks and colourful sparks betrayed their age and fading enchantments.

'Somehow, I doubt I'll find anything worthwhile here.' He poked a dancing tea set they passed, jumping to catch it as it yelled a half-audible curse before plunging to the floor. 'Fleur would immolate me if I brought any of this junk home.'

Old Gaffer opened the back door, its metallic squeals raking his eardrums. Dust swam in the air, coating his nostrils and forcing Harry to stifle a sneeze. The old wizard pointed to a darkened corner of the room.

"Take a gander at tha'." He poked his cane into Harry's back. "I reckon it'll be wha' yer lookin' fer. Haven' been able teh sell it. Been 'ere since me father's time."

Harry absently rubbed his back, his eyes widening and a smile pushing at his cheeks.

The room's dim light glistered off its clear surface, an array of swirling colours beyond imagination splashing over his face. The colours danced and fused, splitting off in random patterns in bursts of splendour akin to the best fireworks.

Resplendent beams of light pierced the veil of dust covering them, making Harry feel as if he'd just seen the splendour of a sunrise for the first time. The crystallised replica of Beauxbatons was a marvel of unknowable magic made manifest.

Two people, a man and a woman, stood embracing one another in the centre of the diorama. Doves flew over their heads with flutters of diamond wings and small animals scuttled, twinkling about their feet.

"It's perfect. How much?" Harry turned to Old Gaffer, whose pinky was buried in his hairy ear.

"A hunnerd galleons." Old Gaffer pulled out his pinky with a small grimace and flicked the dark wax to the floor.

"Done." Harry was certain it was worth far more than that. "Give this ledger to the goblins. They'll get you the gold."

The man nodded and Harry swiped the display, leaving what was likely the only clean space in the building. Beaming, he shrunk the gift and secured it in his robes.

Harry's chest swelled, patting his pocket as he marched through the store with jaunty steps.

'It's perfect.'

Part 3
I will comfort you, I'll take your part…

Harry patted his pocket for the hundredth time as he opened the door to Twelve Grimmauld Place. He'd given the house to Andromeda after Ted died in the war as she'd been unable to bear living in their old home.

The shadows cast by the war had spread too far for too long.

It'd taken much work on their part. Gone were the dark, depressing decorations that'd littered Black Manor. It was finally a true home after so long of being little more than a dungeon. Sirius would've been overjoyed, had he been alive to see it.

Fleur had been opposed to their daughters entering the abode, remembering it from her time in the Order. She'd capitulated only after she'd visited again.

Since then, it'd become a tradition of sorts for the girls to stay with Andromeda and Teddy on Saturdays. They adored their adopted aunt and older cousin, possibly more than him.

Their family was small, but cherished, something he'd charge through the fires of hell for without a second thought.

"Harry, dear?" Andromeda's voice floated down the stairs. Girlish giggles echoed behind her. "Is that you?"

"Yeah, it's me," he called as he ascended the stairs. "I wanted to see the girls before I went to see Fleur."

Andromeda rounded the corner, childish laughter trailing her. She'd finally begun to show her age. Raven black hair streaked with grey shimmered in the torchlight. Crows' feet cut deep ridges at the corners of her eyes.

'At least she's finally happy.' He smiled at his pseudo-aunt. 'The years after Ted's death were hard on her. On all of us.'

"You didn't forget your anniversary did you?" Disapproval dripped from her tone just as water dripped from the fists planted on her hips. "You should have gone straight to Fleur."

Harry shrugged. "It was a close thing, actually, but I wanted to see Esmée and Lille. Just missed bath time?"

She let out a long suffering sigh and shook her head as if she were dealing with a particularly forgetful child. It wasn't far from the truth.

"You did. And don't change the subject. You could've seen the girls tomorrow. This is your ten year anniversary, after all. I wouldn't be surprised if Fleur forced you to sleep on the couch, charred."

"I'm sure I'd have more reason to worry if you were my wife, Dromeda," Harry laughed. "It'll be fine."

Andromeda rolled her eyes, somehow making the expression seem regal, and wiped her hands on a towel secured in the belt around her waist. "Be it on your head then."

"Papa! Tu es à la maison! Tu es à la maison!"

Harry peered around her and two blonde missiles slammed into his midsection. A warm smile painted his features as he stumbled back.

'My joys.' He rubbed his hands over their heads, love burstin in his breast. 'My life'

Blue eyes sparkled as Esmée and Lille jabbered at him in rapid French. His cheeks strained and protested above his smile, and he didn't care.

'Two weeks is far too long to be away.' Harry wrapped his arms around his daughters, marvelling at the thought that these small people were here because of his wife and him.

Esmée, the oldest at eight years, and a carbon copy of Fleur, pushed away from Harry and scowled at her five-year-old sister. The younger girl, who took more after her paternal grandmother, was still babbling up at him.

"Lille," Esmée chided with her hands on her hips. "Tu sais maman dit qu'on ne devrait pas parler Français à papa. Elle dit qu'il n'est pas assez cultivé pour nous comprendre quand nous le faisons."

His eyes narrowed. "I understood enough of what you said, young lady, and I'll have to have a talk with your mother about what she says about me behind my back."

Esmée smirked and looked away. She knew as well as he that she wouldn't be in trouble.

"Have you been good for Aunt Andromeda?" Harry knelt down and looked both girls in the eye, his face stern.

His daughters, of course, saw through his ruse. "Oui, Papa," they chorused with smirks on their faces.

Andromeda huffed behind them and Harry's mien broke.

"I missed you, Papa." Lille launched herself back into his arms, sniffling into his neck. She'd always been the more emotional of the two.

"And I missed both of you so much, little bird." Harry rubbed her back, swallowing back the guilt lumping in his throat.

It was an occurrence that'd been repeated too often of late. 'How many more times could I handle this? It hurts more every time.'

"Well I missed Papa more!" Esmée placed her hands on her hip, her head held high under Harry's light glare. "And he missed me the most!"

Lille pulled back, her watering eyes narrowed at Esmée. "Nuh uh! I missed him the mostest!"

Esmée rolled her eyes. "It's most, not mostest, dummy."

"And with that attitude it's off to bed for the both of you!" Andromeda pulled Lille into her arms, settling the girl on her hip. "Honestly, Harry, you're too soft on them."

Harry shrugged, a wry grin on his face. It was an argument they'd had many times and would likely have many times yet. Even Fleur had told him the same, but he wouldn't change it for anything.

Rolling her eyes to hide her amusement, Andromeda grabbed Esmée's hand and led them to one of the guest bedrooms. It was the room Harry and Ron had slept in so many years ago.

"Where's Teddy?" Harry peeked down the hall at the boy's room. Its door was ajar. "I'd hoped to see him, too."

Disappointment twinged in his chest. It'd been nearly a month since he'd last seen his godson.

"He's at a friend's house for the evening." Andromeda eyed him over her shoulder. Her eyes lost their amused shimmer, shadowed in the low light. "Go to Fleur, Harry."

He jutted his lower lip out. "But I want to put them to bed."

"Yeah," Esmée yelled. "We want Papa to put us to bed!"

Andromeda shook her head. She stepped into the room and Harry followed.

"I've been gone for two weeks, Dromeda." Harry put his hand on her shoulder. "I need to do this. Fleur'll understand."

"Harry." Her shoulder tensed under his palm. Lille rubbed her watery eyes and gave a small whine. "I think it's best you go now."

Her tone gave him pause and his heart dropped in his chest. Harry eyed the side of her face, his face stony. Andromeda bit her lip and looked away from him.

Squeezing her shoulder only saw her step away, her back to him. His hand twitched and fell to his side. Cold washed over him, freezing him in place.

Harry nodded mechanically, his limbs jerking as if he were a puppet on strings. Giving his daughters kisses on their foreheads, Harry swept from Grimmauld Place.

London's sticky evening heat beat against him, sweat beading down his back in tickling streams. Harry squinted as street lamps flickered to life against the backdrop of the dark orange sun.

A young couple walked in front of him, unaware of his presence. Their hands clasped and smiles adorning their faces, their eyes glimmered as they looked at one another as if nothing else existed. Nothing else mattered.

"Just like us," he whispered, ice spreading through his gut despite the heat, "not so long ago."

The man whispered in the woman's ear. She laughed, letting go of his hand and sprinting down the street, her yellow sundress flapping playfully behind her. The man gave chase, his amused laughter spurring the woman to run quicker.

Harry twisted, the world blurring and the man's laughter ringing hollow in his ears.

Part 4
Oh, when darkness comes and pain is all around…

An owl hooted, unseen from a shadowed tree in the distance. Crickets chirped and the last vestiges of light left the area. The moon, barely visible over the trees, broke through the dark, throwing his normally bright and warm home into darkness.

It was cold, devoid of life and cheer.

His hand, slicked with sweat, trembled as he reached for his home's doorknob. The diorama was heavy as lead, leaving his left arm begging for relief.

'I'm home,' he thought. 'Everything's fine.'

A flimsy lie, weak platitudes that he willed to be true. A breeze hit his back and he shivered. Harry looked up, his brow wrinkled.

All lights in their home had been extinguished. Harry stared at the dark windows for several moments, his heart hammering in his chest. He shook his head and plunged forward, the metal knob scorching his clammy hand.

The sitting room was devoid of anything except Fleur's travelling cloak hanging on a rack. Harry ran his hand over it. The cloak cooled his skin as the front door closed with a soft click.

"It's not been used for a while," he mumbled, "But Fleur's not here."

His eyes flicked to a tome lying open against its yellowed pages on the loveseat. Fleur never left her books lying around, even when it had only been them in the house.

Harry's skin crawled as he walked to the loveseat. The tome cracked in his hand. It, too, was cool. The old book fell to the loveseat with a soft thump. His heart sank with it.

'She's almost always in here reading when the girls are asleep.'

Air filled his lungs and his nose wrinkled.

The smell of his home and something… other flooded his nostrils as he stepped further into the sitting room. Harry eyed the stairs, his hair standing on end as he allowed his eyes time to better adjust to the gloom.

Rooted to the spot, Harry stared at the stairs as if they'd reach out and attack at any moment. He raised a foot, freezing in place, before placing it back onto the carpeted floor.

'Fleur's normally up later than me.' Harry peeked around the corner into the kitchen. 'Maybe Andromeda told her I was coming and she's waiting to surprise me.'

But there was no noise, no clanging of utensils in the kitchen as Fleur dashed around to prepare him a welcome home meal. Her soft sighs as she read in the sitting room was starkly absent.

No humming as she cleaned.

No crackling flames and tinkling laughter as she made her weekly floo call to Gabrielle.

No sultry whispers as she sprawled across the rug in the sitting room, her molten eyes devouring him in place. Her favourite place to make love.

Not even a trail of clothes, tantalising him, leading him to their bedroom.


Harry scowled at the steps and placed his foot on the first one. Carpet gave a static sigh beneath his foot.

'You're being foolish, Harry.' He took another step, his heart thrashing in his chest. 'The mission. Andromeda. You've worked yourself into a tizzy over nothing. Perhaps she's just asleep after all.'

He smiled, though it immediately felt out of place. Her cloak, the book on the sitting room called out to him with palpable voices.

Black hair fell into his eyes as he shook his head. 'I'd best just surprise her.'

But, despite his internal monologue, his justifications for the oddities, Harry couldn't shake the feeling that something was off.

Creeping, he made his way up the staircase. His hair stood on end, the weight of the diorama unbearable. The stairs creaked under his feet. Harry paused, his well-honed instincts screaming at him.

High pitched squealing run in his ears. He waited for several seconds, his breath trapped in his lungs, and heard nothing.

Harry skipped the next step, finally recalling the lessons he'd learned while sneaking about the Dursley's home. He breathed deep through his nose in an attempt to calm himself.

His nose crinkled. The odd, familiar scent got stronger the closer he got to the stairs. His eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared.

Coconut and chocolate filled his nose. Familiar scents. But something foreign, something musky accompanied them. And something else.

His brows shot into his hairline and his heart stopped beating.

'She should've heard me by now.' Harry vaulted the last steps quiet as a mouse.

Muffled, hurried movements met his ears.

"No," he breathed as he shot down the dusky hall. Pictures of his family smiled down on him, but Harry ignored the captured moments.

The noises grew louder, more distinct. Ice pumped sluggishly through his veins, piercing muscle and sinew. He stopped in front of the door to their bedroom, his skin tingling.

Warm wood brushed up against his ear. Goosebumps prickled his skin against its surface.

Fire scorched beneath his skin and his jaw clenched, teeth groaning beneath the strain.

A sigh, one he'd heard many times over the years, pierced the wood. His stomach lurched, protesting his movement as he reached for the doorknob.

Harry flung the door open and his jaw dropped, breath leaving his lungs. He stood mute for a moment, his mind and body ceasing all function.

He gawped, and realisation jump started his body.

Blood thundered in his ears. A beast, long since forgotten, stirred in the depths. It peered at him through iron bars, its eyes malicious as it thumped with the first signs of life.

A blade, bitingly cold and sharp, settled against his neck.

Soft blue sheets flew through the air like a raging storm and a hard thump echoed in his ears. The beast thrashed against its cage, demanding immediate release.

He nearly relented, but love stayed his hand, forcing the monster inside to remain caged.

Fleur's eyes widened as they shot toward him. Everything she felt was communicated in an instant. Fear, anger, embarrassment… dread.

Crystal slipped from numb fingers, shattering at his feet. Crystalline dust sprinkled like snow to the wood floor. The enchantment failed, the shimmering, embracing couple split apart only to roll across the floor, forever separated.

Magic hissed a warning. Harry cocked his head, a red spell streaking past his shoulder from the other side of the bed. Years of instinct took over and his wand was in his hand in an instant, hot against his palm.

It longed to be used, whispering seductively in his mind.

The beast bayed in its trappings.

Shouts broke the once still air. Spells flashed through the dark room, making it look like an old muggle movie taken from still shots. He moved as if in a dream, roaring over the din.

With a final yell and another thump, the trespasser was disarmed and bound atop the wood floor. Fleur shot to her feet, wand in hand and a white sheet held over her form.

She opened her mouth. Harry shot her a heated glare, his chest heaving and she closed it. He stared at her for a few moments, the look in his eye forcing her to back away from him.

Fire raged in his veins, his ragged breaths like a flurry of wind roaring in his ears.

Harry's eyes flicked down to the trespasser, his eyes widening. Red hair spilled across the floor amidst torn and broken decorations and a dragon tooth earring glinted in the pale moonlight.

Air was driven from his lungs, stirring the hanging dust particles in the air into a frenzy. "B-Bill?"

His eyes sought out Fleur, hoping against everything that this was just some sort of sick, twisted joke. The look in her eyes, the guilt laid out so openly, tore his heart from his chest.

Harry bit back a sob. "Why?" he whispered.

His question pierced the room. Their silence tore the flimsy veil hanging over them.

Holly wood sparked at his side and he hissed, "Why, Fleur?"

Blue eyes looked to Bill, beggin for his release for this all to be a dream. Harry's stomach twisted and his hand fisted into his hair of its own accord.

The beast stilled, whispering seductive promises in his ears.

'Ten years,' he thought, 'and it all meant nothing. Everything we were, what we had… ruined.'

Harry's world crashed like tinkling china. Harry looked back to Bill. His narrow blue eyes mocked him and a rage he'd not felt in years scorched him.

"'Arry." Fleur touched his shoulder and he flinched away from her. "I can explain."

Narrowed eyes turned on her. "Explain? How can you explain the fact that I caught you fucking another man, a friend, on our anniversary, Fleur?!"

His words took a life of their own, thundering against the walls. Magic lashed out from his trembling body for the first in years, fully intent on breaking them the way they'd broken him.

Pictures dashed against the floor and broke as the house rumbled. Their home groaned and creaked beneath the onslaught. He forced it back with an iron will and the beast hissed at him from its cage.

His heart's agonised thumps struck his ribs. Harry's throat swollen, he raised a shaking finger at Bill.

"How could you?" Harry seethed. Fleur backed away from him. "Ten years… I gave you ten years… I was faithful and you repay me by fucking my friend?! Explain that, Fleur!"

"It...it's…" Her attempt at remaining composed was shattered by the sheet covering her. Fleur's mussed hair pooled over the pale blue fabric.

It was a sight he'd used to love seeing. Now the sight of it saw snakes writhing in his gut, constricting his lungs. Their whispers joined the trapped beast's, their words, their hunger, pure venom.

And he found himself nearly agreeing.

Harry's hand cut through the air. "I swear if you say 'It's complicated' I'm going to lose it. How long, Fleur?"

His wife shifted on her feet, biting her lip. Tears dotted the corners of her eyes and she looked away. "Seven months," she muttered.

Silence fell over the room and the snakes tightened their hold over his heart. They slithered up his throat, vying for release.

Bill struggled against his bonds.

Harry's booted foot surged to the ground. The snap of a wand under his heel stilled the older man. The serpents crooned but the beast raged, its hunger demanding satisfaction.

"Seven months?" He choked. "Seven months. So that's why… All this time. Was I not enough, Fleur? Has the last ten years meant nothing to you? DO OUR CHILDREN MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?!"

"You all mean everything to me." Blue eyes narrowed. "I love-"

"BULLSHIT!" Harry kicked the broken, its fragments scattering across the room. "People don't cheat on someone they love. All these months, your distance… I'd thought…"

He paused, his heavy breathing the only sound in the room. He pawed at his heaving chest, desperate to pull the dagger piercing his heart out. He yearned for relief, to forget.

But it wouldn't budge. He couldn't forget.

'Everything we've worked for, everything we were… dust on the wind.' Red painted his vision.

Crystal shards glimmered beneath him, taunting him with their dashed purity. His knuckles gave sharp cracks over his wand. His mind raced and the vipers sang, creating a muddled mire in his mind.

Electricity danced through his skin and his eyes flitted over the room. Wrinkled clothes covered the floor and the air was rank with sex. It singed his nostrils.

"Leave, now," Neville said in his mind, "Before you do something stupid. You're pissed. You've seen this a hundred times. You know how this ends."

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Even when he wasn't there, Neville still had his back.

"I should leave." His voice was weak even to his own ears, a man defeated. "I'm taking the girls. I don't know when I'll be back."

Turning, Harry marched to the open door. He focussed on Neville's words, imagined his daughter's hate-filled eyes if he were to do something stupid.

The beast and vipers bayed for blood. Harry shoved them down.

'I made the right choice,' he thought. A sob threatened to escape him. 'I have to leave. I have to set my mind straight before-'

"Go ahead, run like you always do!" Her yell stilled him in the door. "You always run, 'Arry. To work, to Andromeda, to Teddy. And the distance you created killed me. Bill was there when you weren't. It…"

Venomous whispers surged, gripping him in a silky web. "I'm leaving."

A masculine scoff stopped him, ignoring his mind's screams to keep walking. Neville's words battled against the dark whispers. His eyes narrowed at the red-head's bound form.

"That's just like you." Harry turned. The red-head's angry stare pierced through him. "You always run. You never deserved her in the first place. You didn't deserve Esmée or Lille. I would've been the father they deserved."

Harry slammed his eyes shut as the dagger pulled out only to ram him through once again. Neville's words faded into the ether. The cage withered.

Fire raged and consumed.

'Too much.' Pain pierced his chest and fire turned his heart to ash. 'It's too much.'

Shattering glass rang in his ears and the serpents roared. Fire burned in his eyes. Coherent thought vanished and his vision dimmed.

Harry took a step forward, glass shimmering beneath him in the pale moonlight. The crystal shard was smooth and cool against his heated hand.

Screams of agony, of anguish, pierced the once quiet night. He wasn't sure whose and he didn't care.

The veil fluttered to the ground, tarnished and coated with red.

Part 5
A bridge crumbles into troubled water and your life is gone.


He jerked awake, cold biting at their body. Hard, sharp stone dug into their back. Opening their eyes, they were greeted by one of their few friends: pure dark. A dark, manic smile cracked their lips.

They tittered, giggling their perverse delight amid the screams and quiet groans. The others were weak. They weren't like them.

'A dream.' They laughed, the shrill sound echoing off of wet stone. 'Listen! They're laughing with us.'

They sat up, eyes flicking over drab grey rock. Blood, leaking from their chin, dripped to the ground with soft pats. They ran their finger over it, bringing it up to their eyes, watching with rapt attention as it ran in a sluggish stream down to their palm.

Jerking, they ran to the window. Foam-capped waves slammed into jagged rocks below. They laughed. 'They can't reach us here. Never here. We're safe… Locked away with our friends.'

Dry warbled words flew from their mouth at a manic pace. They clapped and pranced, knowing their friends would appreciate their song. They always did.

"Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are gone and dead." Laughter broke their hoarse singing. "Like a bridge over troubled water."

A cloak flapping caught their attention. They pressed their face against metal, hands raking across the surface for purchase. Frost coated the door, breaking their skin. They groaned, the blood warm against their cheek.

"Our friends," they croaked. "Stay with us. Sing with us. Make us forget. Blood…So much death."

The flapping went away and they screamed, crawling back to their bundle on the floor. They sobbed, memories flooding their mind. They curled, rocking against the scratchy wool blankets.

Water splashed under their pounding fists. They tore the blanket away and sprinted for the door. The blanket protected them from the door's cold teeth. They tore at it, jerked it, but it would not budge.

Sobs wracked their body when they returned to their spot on the floor.

"They're not real," they cried. Their fingers scraped against the stone. Skin peeled and iron filled their nostrils. "They're not real. Please, friends. Please come back. Make them go away."

Steel groaned and their eyes strained against the light. They smiled, expecting to see their friends' black cloaks and grey skin. 'Our friends are here. Such good friends they are, to help us forget, to make us happy again.'

They sang from above, the screams they brought a balm to their tortured soul.

"They can't hurt us if they're dead," they reasoned. "No, our friends will protect us, make her go away."


They twitched at the quiet voice and fell still, huddling beneath the blanket. After all, if they couldn't see the intruder, the intruder couldn't see them.

The nasty person would be gone before long.

They flinched as footsteps neared them.

"You're not real," they sang. Silver hair and blue eyes filled their vision as she neared. She looked like her. "Sail on, silver girl. You can't hurt us. Our friends will take your soul, silver girl. Just like she did to us."

"Papa," she called again. They covered their ears and shook their head. It was too familiar, too close. "It's me, Esmée, your daughter."

They laughed and rocked on the cold ground. 'A dream,' they realised, 'just another dream.'

"You can't touch us, silver girl. You'd best leave before our friends come back." Their eyes widened. "They'll add you to their collection, they will. And we will be free from her… from him."

The silver apparition took a step toward them and they scrambled into a shadowed corner.

"Do you not recognize me?" A choked sob escaped her. "I just graduated from Hogwarts… I just… I wanted to see you… one last time."

"You're not real," they yelled. They scratched at the wall until blood ran down their hands and froze. "We don't know you! GO AWAY"

They wailed and she recoiled as if struck. A tear rolled down her cheek and something stirred within them. They longed to comfort her, just as they'd used to.

'Used to?' They shook their head, eyes narrow. 'Foolishness. We've always been here. We don't know her.'

"Where are our friends?!" They lunged at her, grabbing her arms. She smelt familiar, the perfume tickling their nose. They howled. "They'll come back and we'll keep you here. Yes, yes! And then you can be our friend too!"

Screams pierced their sanctuary and the bad men barged into the room pulling their sticks from their robes. They leapt away as the men yelled at him

They watched as the men pulled the girl back, tears rolling down her cheeks as she reached out to them. The fog cleared, but it was too slow.

He reached out to her, his bloodied gnarled fingers seeming altogether wrong. She was important. He struggled to his feet, shaking.


Harry's eyes widened.

He reached out. She was just there, so close yet so far. Just beyond his grasp. "NO!"

Esmée's eyes widened. She reached toward him, struggling to wrench herself from the aurors' grasp. Silver hair whipped around her face as she shook her head.

Esmée, his daughter, his very reason to live, sobbed as red light enveloped him and his world was consumed by black.