Author notes: This story depicts male/male homosexual relationships (Harry/Draco, more specifically), along with some talk of mental illness and minimal violence. The original idea for this story was based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode 'Normal Again'. This is not a crossover. The title of the fic and all chapter titles come from songs by The Smiths.
Epilogue: Harry wraps things up, as do I. Then, I sit around and wait for the hate mail to roll in. Er, don't hurt me too much, please.
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"I know it's over, and it never really began, but in my heart it was so real."
- The Smiths
Epilogue - I Know It's Over
Harry, Ron and Hermione sat in the Hogwarts courtyard, enjoying an unseasonably warm late November day. Typically, the grounds might already be covered by an inch or two of snow and the temperature might have already dropped below freezing. Today, though, they survived with only their cloaks draped casually over their shoulders.
The three sat on the ground, Harry picking absently at the dying grass. Hermione was currently berating Ron for falling behind on his homework. "What do you mean you can get it all done over Christmas hols?" she shouted indignantly. Upon hearing Hermione's shrill voice, several other students scattered across the courtyard glanced over at them and started to stare.
Ron winced and stuck a finger in his ear, wiggling it around. "Woman, you'll need to speak up. I think there are a couple people in London that couldn't quite make that out."
Looking around and noticing their audience, Hermione's cheeks flushed. "I'm just concerned for your academic career," she huffed. "The N.E.W.T.s are only..." She stopped, doing some quick calculations on her fingers. "Eighteen months away! You have two fewer classes than me and one less than Harry and you're still behind!"
"Oh no," chuckled Harry. "I'm not getting involved in this. If Ron wants to fail, that's his own business."
"Quite right it is!" Ron shouted triumphantly, puncturing the air with his fist. "Wait a minute! Fail? Who said anything about failing? I'll get you for that, Potter." He punched Harry in the arm; Harry, only too happy to play along, dramatically toppled over to his side.
"You wound me, Ron," he cried, clutching at his heart. After a moment, he pulled himself upright again and rubbed his arm, muttering, "Ouch. That really did hurt, you know." Harry's admission started a fresh wave of laughter from Ron and Hermione.
Then Hermione switched gears, this time swinging around on Harry. "And what of you, Mr. Potter?" she spat, in her best Snape imitation. Harry was impressed. She even had the eyebrow down. "I trust you've completed your Potions assignments? All of the reading? The six-feet of parchment, hmm?"
"If I say yes, do you promise not to yell?"
"Only if you're not lying."
Harry held his hands up in front of his face to protect himself. "In that case, I choose not to answer because I hold a vested interest in my personal well-being." For that, he got swatted in the other arm. "Owww!" Harry complained. "At the rate you two are going, I'll have no working arms left!"
"Yes, that's unfair, Hermione," said Ron, a solemn expression on his face. Both Harry and Hermione looked at him in some surprise. "We all know Harry requires at least one hand for his late night activities." That solemn expression was instantly wiped off his face when Harry's fist connected with his upper arm. "Oof. Oi, Harry, that wasn't your right hand, was it? I mean, that is your... wand... arm, right?"
"I hate you so much," Harry grinned.
Just then, Hagrid and Fang appeared in the courtyard, conveniently crossing the path of Harry and his friends. Hagrid loomed over them, more or less blocking out the sun. "'Ello there!" he boomed, which sent Fang cowering behind his legs. "How are ya doin', 'Arry? All right, there?"
"Much better than the last time we spoke, Hagrid. Thanks for asking."
"Aye. I spoke with P'ffessor Dumbledore and he told me your whole tale, he did. I came ter see ya a bunch of times in the infirmary whiles yeh were asleep, but I'm glad to have yer with us again!" A giant hand came down and patted Harry on the back a few times. Despite having all of the air forced from his lungs, Harry managed a wave as Hagrid and Fang continued their way to the school.
Wheezing, he told Hermione and Ron, "At this rate, I'm not going to have any functioning body parts left."
Ron laughed, but Hermione suddenly grew concerned. "Were you telling Hagrid the truth, Harry? No more strange dreams or anything? Has your scar been bothering you at all?"
Harry shook his head. "Not a twinge since you did that spell and I took the potion. I expect that Voldemort is just regrouping after I escaped. Again. Dumbledore is right. My luck isn't going to last forever and I need to be more prepared the next time he decides to attack. Though it's something of a relief to know he won't be able to manipulate my dreams anymore."
Shuddering, Ron nodded. "I don't want to think about what it's like to have You-Know... Voldemort walking around your head, deciding what you should and shouldn't see."
"Yeah, now I just have to worry about him and his minions plotting my demise from their secret evil lair." He gazed across the courtyard, spotting Draco Malfoy haughtily ordering Crabbe and Goyle about; Hermione followed his line of sight.
Jerking her head in Draco's direction, Hermione asked, "What happens to him?"
Harry sighed heavily and lowered his voice to a whisper. "It's not that good," he admitted. "Once I told Professor Dumbledore about Dra... Malfoy warning me about Voldemort's attack, he thought Malfoy would be a good way of infiltrating the Death Eaters. And now since we know Voldemort has discovered that Snape's a spy, it's even more important that Malfoy keep up appearances."
"I don't trust him," sniffed Ron.
"I don't know, Ron," said Harry. "I think he might actually be sincere this time. There's something to be said about avenging the lives of family members." Harry definitely knew something about that.
Draco glanced up at that moment, searching all around him as though he were confused about something. The expression of worry faded when he noticed the trio looking in his direction. That used to mean Draco would barrel over for a barrage of insults and, possibly, a physical fight, Crabbe and Goyle in tow. This time, though, he nervously checked to see if his two cronies were watching him. When he was satisfied they weren't (as they were currently embroiled in a heated battle over a Cockroach Cluster), Draco chanced throwing a small smile in Harry's direction.
Using all effort available to not display the leap his heart made at the smile in his face, Harry returned an equally small smile. He'd be lying if he said being around Draco didn't hurt. He kept thinking of tracing a pale boy's faded pink and white scars with his fingers, his tongue, even knowing firsthand that this Draco wasn't marked in that way. When his thoughts turned to running his fingers through fine strands of blond hair, a shiver ran the length of Harry's spine and he shuddered, forcing himself to look down at his lap. It wouldn't help to think about that. For all intents and purposes, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy were the bitterest of enemies.
Outwardly, Draco was a junior Death Eater. He had the mark and only a handful of people knew he was a spy. Whatever had happened between them had ended pretty much the moment it had started, because Harry refused to do anything that might put Draco in further danger. He didn't need another person's blood on his hands and it was bad enough that it was at least partially Harry's fault that Draco was a spy.
But those were Draco's choices, he reminded himself forcefully
Sneaking around was also out of the question. The risk was too high, especially since Harry was already aware of any number of people who wandered the castle seemingly unseen. All the two of them had were sneaky smiles across classrooms and courtyards.
"Harry? Harry." A hand on his forearm shook him out of his trance.
"Hm?" Harry focussed on the owner of the hand. "What is it Ron?"
"If you'd been paying attention, you'd know I was just saying that you'd better be prepared in this match against Ravenclaw. You know, it's damned lucky Ginny was able to step in as Seeker for the Hufflepuff match, and we were able to get a reserve Chaser. I know that we won, but we would have been in better shape for the Quidditch cup with everyone playing their rightful positions." Ron's stern Quidditch Captain face could easily rival Hermione's best have-you-done-your-homework look. "Are you looking forward to getting back on your broom again?"
Harry thought of the freedom of flying and knew that Quidditch would keep him sane. Anyhow, without the risk that he'd faint and plummet to his death, he was feeling much better about the idea of getting onto his Firebolt again. He smiled and said, "We're going to kick Ravenclaw's collective arse."
"Damned right we are!" whooped Ron. Again, several students glanced their way. Ron's face turned bright red at the unwanted attention. "What are you looking at, anyway? Don't you all have lives to lead?"
As the students hurried to return to whatever activity they'd previously been doing,
Hermione smirked. "I believe you were saying something about someone in London not being able to hear something...?"
"Oh, I'm going to kill you." Ron lunged and began tickling Hermione around her middle. "Harry, get in on this! This is the most effective method of shutting her up I've found." Hermione laughed helplessly.
Harry shook his head and pulled himself to his feet. "No thanks. I'd rather not get involved in whatever sordid sex games you two have been playing." Both Ron and Hermione froze instantly and stared at him. Harry cracked up. "God, you're both far too sensitive."
"Look who's talking!" Ron retorted.
"Can't dispute that." Harry smiled sheepishly. "I've got something I want to do, though."
"Do you want us to come with you?" Hermione peered up at him.
Harry shook his head. "Nah. This is something I need to do by myself. See you at dinner, all right?"
They agreed and Harry walked off.
As Harry wound his way through the castle's corridors, he used the time it took to walk back to Gryffindor Tower for some reflection. It had been two weeks since his ordeal had finally ended. He had to admit that since he'd accepted that the alternate reality had really been a fabrication based on Voldemort's mind manipulations, his resolve to fulfil his destiny had strengthened. A prophecy had foretold that he would kill Voldemort or be killed himself and Harry hadn't come this far to let an evil megalomaniac win.
That wasn't to say he never thought of his time in St. George's. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Though he'd been enjoying his renewed friendship with Ron and Hermione, when he was in bed late at night, he couldn't help but think about what might have been. He knew that what he saw was merely a reflection of what he'd seen in the Mirror of Erised in his first year; these were things he'd wanted for as long as he could remember, and he didn't think that would change in the near future. Voldemort had merely seen that wish and exploited it. Tainted it. He still wanted a home, a family and love. The only new bit of information he'd gleaned was his apparent attraction to men, and he figured he would have eventually worked that out, given enough time.
But still, Harry couldn't help thinking about meeting his parents and finally, speaking with and getting to throw his arms around them. Having them both around had been far better than he could have imagined. He thought about seeing Sirius again and how the closest thing to a father he'd ever known was really and truly gone. Harry smiled slightly when he thought of his friendly grandparents, whom he'd never met, nor would he ever see again. Not unless he'd meet up with his loved ones in the afterlife. Harry very much hoped that were possible, but it made him ill thinking about death. Now, all that mattered was that wherever his family was, he knew they were proud of him and loved him.
Convincing himself for the millionth time that it had all been fake, he walked along, head bent, with his hands stuffed inside his robes. As he approached Gryffindor tower, he willed himself not to cry. In a neutral tone, the Fat Lady droned, "Password?" but her face held an expression of concern. Harry wondered how Hermione would take it if he told her that the Fat Lady had reminded him of her when they both looked like that.
Probably best not to mention it.
Struggling to smile, or at least, look happier, Harry gave her the password and stepped through the open portal.
He trudged up the stairs to the Sixth Year Boys' dormitory. He was a bit dismayed to find Neville already there, reading a thick book that wasn't any of their schoolbooks.
"Hi, Neville," greeted Harry, purposefully keeping the glum edge out of his voice.
Neville shut his book and looked up. "Hullo, Harry," he said cheerfully, his face instantly falling when he spied Harry's expression. "Are you feeling all right?"
"Oh, I'm all right. I just came up here to think, but I don't want to bother you. Maybe I'll go to the library; it's bound to be quiet on a day like this. Even Hermione is outside." He offered Neville a wobbly grin.
Neville hauled himself off his bed. "Don't be silly, Harry. You're not bothering me. Besides, I was about to go outside, anyway." He held up the book he'd been reading and said, "Advanced horticulture is fascinating, but not exactly designed for pleasure reading. I should enjoy the day before it's over, too." Throwing the book onto his bed, Neville tactfully made his exit before Harry even had time to protest.
Harry walked over to his trunk and started sorting through the contents before finding what he'd been searching for. He settled onto his bed and closed the curtains, desiring as much privacy as was possible in a room shared by five boys.
Slowly, he paged through the photo album Hagrid had given him at the end of his first year. As he stared at his parents' smiling faces, he slowly ran his fingers over the each photograph's surface. A photo of James when he was about Harry's age beamed up at him, skirting out of the way of the path Harry's fingers made.
Flipping forward a few pages, he made his way to his favourite picture: his mum, dad, and Sirius at his parents' wedding. The three – young and beautiful – grinned and waved. Harry needed to take another deep breath in order to stop the tears from falling.
"I'll never forget the time we had together," he whispered. "I know that I'm going to make you proud." His voice more sure, he continued, "I love all of you and I'll avenge your deaths. I know my mission now and nothing will distract me from it ever again. And even though I know it wasn't really you three... there, I know you were telling the truth when you said you'd always be there. Wherever you are, I know you're looking down on me."
Lily and James Potter looked down at the supine form of their son, their last traces of hope slowly trickling away. Dr. Mason, holding a clipboard, began checking Harry's vitals. The electrocardiogram showed standard outputs, and the machine monitoring Harry's brainwave patterns read normally. The doctor couldn't help feeling disappointed; there was no reason his patient should still be in a coma. For lack of a better way of expressing things, Harry had made the choice to trap himself in his own head.
"Is he ever going to wake up?" Lily asked for the thousandth time, a dangerous edge to her voice. It was obvious that the woman hadn't been sleeping, her normally vivid eyes now marred by the dark circles that she had underneath. She and her husband had been keeping vigil by their son's side for days now.
It took every ounce of will for Dr. Mason to look professional, but the corners of his mouth were turned down and no one could miss the worry lines that were creasing his forehead. "Mrs. Potter, I'm sorry, but you know Harry's no longer showing any signs of improvement. It's been the same every day for two weeks now, and nothing we're doing seems to have any effect." He paused, not wanting to believe the words himself. "When he said good-bye, I believe he meant it."
Dr. Mason flinched as James grabbed his arm and shouted, "What do you mean he meant it? This is our son. You told us he was improving! You promised we'd have him back." The doctor, jaw clenched, closed his eyes. It wouldn't do to have the parents of a patient slugging him, but Mason couldn't help but think he deserved it.
Sirius forced his way in between the doctor and his friend, pushing James away. "James. Calm down. Screaming this way isn't going to solve anything. It won't..." Sirius bit his lip, almost unable to say the words. "It won't bring Harry back. It's not Dr. Mason's fault."
"What do you mean it's not his fault? Whose is it, then? He promised us our son." James's voice was shaky, as though he was on the verge of tears.
"I'm sorry," Dr. Mason said again, wishing he could say something more to reassure the two distraught parents.
James collapsed in a nearby chair, laying his head on Harry's shin. Voice thick, he promised, "Dudley Dursley will pay for what he did to my son. You can count on that."
A few steps from all the commotion, one orderly nudged another as they struggled to change the bedclothes of the next bed over. Vincent screwed up his face, regarding the unmoving blond boy that he and Greg had to keep shifting in order to get any work done. Not wanting to disturb Dr. Mason, he kept his voice low as he asked, "Hey, Greg, do you... uh, think he's gonna start talking to anyone again?"
Draco stared up at the orderly. "I can talk. Just you remember," he said coldly, "never tickle a sleeping dragon." He sat up in bed and started rocking back and forth, laying his head atop arms that now were decorated with four fresh lines of red. "I want him back. IwanthimbackIwanthimbackIwanthimback. Bring him back." The orderlies exchanged glances and shrugged at one another.
There was more commotion in the next bed over.
"Harry?" said Lily expectantly. "Harry, are you there?"
The comatose patient's eyes fluttered open, exposing wide green eyes. Mason began shining a light in the boy's eyes, then snapped his fingers several times, hoping to get Harry's attention as his parents kept repeating his name over and over. Finally, the doctor sighed heavily. "Nothing. I'm sorry... you know that that happens from time-to-time. We've seen it happen before."
Lily was crying openly now, her face buried in James's shoulder. A protective arm around his wife, James looked about ready to break down himself. Harry stared, unblinkingly.
"God," Sirius said, looking at his godson. He felt sick to his stomach. "Just close them again. I can't stand to look at him like that. Don't do this to them."
Without another word, Dr. Mason ran his hand over Harry's face, closing the boy's eyes again. To an impartial observer, Harry Potter looked as though he were sound asleep.
"Harry," Lily sobbed, her voice muffled by James's shirt. "Why didn't you want us?"