A/N: This is a tiny, miniscule hint of a feeling that demanded to be translated into English, and submitted into the land of Harry Potter fanfiction. And, as I am a slave to my muse – and not the other way 'round – I have given in. It's from Harry's POV, and though it starts out without giving a lot of detail as to what happened, I promise, there is a reason for all the depression. And, of course, you know the drill – r & r, or prepare to see a grown girl cry!
Disclaimer: No, I don't own anything. 'Cause if I did, I wouldn't be this broke.
Do you know how it feels to have your heart broken? I don't mean it romantically; it's too . . . complicated, too immense, for that. It's not the kind of pain contained in the softly spoken words of a woman: "I don't love you anymore." It is more a disease of the soul than of the heart . . . hearts mend. Souls simply shatter like the most fragile glass upon the cold stone of a dungeon floor, and no matter how many years you spend on your hands and knees, searching, you cannot put it back together, because some of those pieces are gone forever. It is possible to live without a soul – the dementors have proven that. And it is possible to fall back into some semblance of life, eventually. But every now and then, the realization hits again, that there is no reason to take that next breath, to take another step. And each time, you pause as the revelation comes anew, until forgiving apathy descends again and you forget to wonder why your heart still beats, when everything around you lies dead and decaying.
This was home . . . the first place I ever felt welcome in. But even here, I am a burden to them, and very soon, I think, the monster will come for me. "Voldemort." I say the name aloud, and the sound of my voice comes oddly to my ears . . . husky with disuse, and oddly hesitant, as if in the short span of time since the attack, since I ceased to speak, I've forgotten how the word sounds. The Ministry officials who tread so lightly around me don't use it, relying instead upon the softly hissed, "You-Know-Who." Though how such common men believe such common words an epithet worthy of his loathsome Lordship, I do not know.
Today is Tuesday – or so I've been told – and it is with a slight shock that I realize they've been gone all of a week . . . the best friends I had, the only people in the world I would have lived for. An odd statement, perhaps, but I've discovered somewhat recently that is a great, great deal harder to survive than I imagine it is to die. Hermione lies now in a grave a thousand miles away, in a magic-less world I no longer need inhabit, for this battle between myself and the Lord of Darkness will end too soon to make my return to the Dursleys an issue. Ron is dying as we speak, Snape's potions bolstering his failing body. But even Snape's miracle concoctions work for only so long, and the very potions that have kept my best friend breathing have also been slowly poisoning him. Remus told me, only an hour ago, that the potions have ceased to be effective, that Ron will take his last breath tonight. It concerned him, my lack of response to his news. But what he doesn't know is that I have survived this long only because even in this state of mind, I realize there is something else that must be done. But, I think, the monster will come tonight, and when he goes so will my reason to live. I do not grieve now for the friends I lost – and I lost so, so many – because I will be with them soon.
Dumbledore doesn't believe me capable of defeating our mutual enemy so soon after the attack . . . my physical injuries are newly healed, and my fragile psyche must be preserved at all costs – even if it means the loss of other innocent lives.
When the Death Eaters attacked the Hogwarts Express, they came for me. Hermione fell, as did Ron, almost immediately. I dueled the killers, matched them – and when I realized that one of my 'attackers' was none other than Professor Snape, I knew I was safe enough. But the Ministry and Dumbledore were more concerned with rescuing their savior than with saving the rest of the children on the train from the dementors who arrived on the heels of Voldemort's human minions. Snape had already healed the worst of my wounds by the time help arrived, and I brushed them aside to send my stag Patronus sprinting after Snape's silver falcon. But the worst of the damage had been done. Dozens of students sat quietly on the floor, looking up at me with blank eyes as I wept. For the first time, my Patronus took on a not only corporeal form, but a solidity that brought cries of surprise from the aurors. I stood at the end of it in the last compartment, surrounded by the dead and dying and soulless with my arms wrapped around my Patronus's neck, my face buried in the soft fur, and cried until I quite literally made myself sick. And when I had no more tears to cry and my silver stag gradually faded away, it was Severus Snape who sat beside me until dawn.
I remember the last words I spoke with the clarity that comes only of utter tragedy. And I remember the look in Dumbledore's eyes as I asked him why.
"You all but killed them, and you chose to. Why did you come for me, and let them die? Why me?"
"Because you are . . . special, Harry. You are our only hope."
I learned when I was very young not to be special. Learned that beating Dudley in school or performing little feats of magic earned me nothing but pain in the end. But here, in the world I loved, I suppose I'd forgotten. In the last five years I'd begun to believe that perhaps all the things the Dursleys believed were wrong with me made me, in this place, someone important. But I'm not special. Not unique, not a savior, none of those things I once wished to be. I am merely a catalyst . . . my birth the harbinger of a war that has been brewing since the beginning of time. I did not begin it. I see that now. But I can stop it, and perhaps in the sacrifice, I can find salvation.
I feel him now, my balance, the evil to my good. Tom Marvolo Riddle, once a boy very much like me, with a past nearly identical to mine, and whose choice put us at odds from the very moment I took my first breath. He bound us together when he tried to kill me, and instead marked me as his equal, in all things. He reinforced that bond when he used my blood to form his new body. And that bond will be the end of us both. Neither can live while the other survives. I do not count merely existing as living, and so I have not truly lived since his rebirth, nor will I ever. And as I suspect I must die to destroy him forever, I will see it done.
I can sense his presence . . . his evil. He's close; I wouldn't be surprised if he was just standing outside my very door. I glance at Severus, who sits upon the couch across from me, and I regret the torment I see in his face. I did not wish to ask this of him, but I have faith in his ability to see this through, to obey my final wishes. I look at him, and he nods, though I see the doubt in his eyes. I know that if he does this, and it fails, I will have damned another man to a fate worse than death. But it will succeed, I am certain. My powers have grown, bolstered by grief and fury, and for the first time, I know my magic exceeds his own.
The door all but comes off the hinges as Voldemort shoves it open; the slam of it against the wall echoes through the castle. I know the aurors are already running downstairs to protect me. I know they will be too late to save either of us. Voldemort draws up short as Severus rises gracefully to his feet and points his wand, not at the Dark Lord, but at me. Snape's hand is steady as he readies himself to say the words that may set us all free. I can tell he doesn't quite believe this will work, that if it doesn't, he will be better off dead, and even if it does, his future is uncertain. He doesn't know that at this moment Hedwig is carrying the letter that proclaims his reluctance, and my insistance upon the scheme that I have concocted. She will deliver it to Dumbledore, should things go the way I hope; lacking that, she has orders to bear her burden to Kingsley Shacklebolt, along with a more personal letter for Remus Lupin.
So, you see, I have covered all my bases quite neatly.
Snape closes his eyes only briefly before he raises his wand yet again, and as the sleeve of his robe falls back I can see the Dark Mark burning blatantly black upon his pale skin. How ironic, I muse, that our world will find another 'Boy-Who-Lived' in a man who so despised my fame and the arrogance he believed it afforded me.
"Avada Kedavra," Severus whispers, and for a moment, I see the gorgeous green light, the color of my eyes.
"Beautiful," I murmur, almost inaudibly, as my world fades to black.
"There had to have been another way." Remus Lupin said the words in a tone of disbelieving horror. "I . . . I understand why you felt obligated to do this, I guess. But, Severus, I still have to ask. How could you?"
Snape didn't move, didn't shift from his position by the window. Two days after he had murdered Harry Potter and caused Voldemort's demise, and he still half expected the impertinent brat to come walking through the doors. "Because he wanted it. Because even if it hadn't killed Voldemort, I thought he'd suffered enough. This shouldn't have been his fight, Lupin. He was only a child. But it was, and he knew that. Even if there had been another way, I don't know if he would have wanted to live without them . . . Granger and Weasley, the other students. I think it would have more wrong, more inhumane, to make him stay."
"A more . . . philisophical outlook than I would have expected from you, Severus."
"Voldemort transferred a great deal of his power, his soul, to Potter, when his body was destroyed the first time." Snape looked at Lupin with a new intensity, oddly reminiscent of Harry's focused gaze. "Potter did the same to me. I thought you knew. Though I don't know why."
"I did know, Severus. And why he chose to give those powers to you, neither of us will ever know for sure. But I do know this – Harry understood, better than most of us, how great power so easily corrupts the weak. If nothing else, Severus, know that he trusted you. That he believed in you."
"You don't know how disconcerting a thought that is, Moony."
Lupin's head came up in surprise at hearing the old nickname from Snape, but the Potions master was already heading out the castle doors, and Remus didn't go after him. He knew well enough where Snape was headed, and he felt that of them all, Severus had the most right to grieve, and so little privacy to do it in.
Severus knelt beside Harry Potter's gravestone, and stroked his fingers over the stag engraven into the stone. "You saved us. And despite the differences in what we believed, we had a common goal." Severus paused, could barely swallow past the lump in his throat. "I didn't believe I would ever live to see the end of this war. You gave me that. And I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can, Potter . . . thank you. A perfect O."