Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
Author's note: Long time no see! I apologise this has been the case during my studies. I simply felt there were far more important things to write than fanfiction (like the endless amount of essays) and many social events that were more tempting than the essays. Nevertheless, I stand by my promise of finishing this story – especially since there's so little left! I'm sure you'll be glad to know I'm done with my studies now and have much more time and opportunities to write. I hope you'll enjoy this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it, as well as its additional length. Finally, I hope that you have an exceedingly good memory and have not forgotten everything.
Ch47: ANNIE'S PREDICAMENT
Akin might still be OK…
Hermione's words echoed through Harry's head, but they did nothing to ease his mind. Before he knew it, his feet had carried him to the portrait of the Fat Lady who, for the first time Harry could remember, did not ask for a password, merely swung open. Striding in, Harry made sure to let everyone know he was serious.
"Anyone care to tell me what happened to my snake?" he hissed furiously, adrenalin pumping through his veins. He gave Seamus and Dean a hard stare, and they did a double take before giving each other a nervous glance. The rest of the Gryffindor common room was deadly quiet; all Harry could hear was Ron and Hermione's heavy breathing behind him as they were still out of breath. "Well?"
"It was a snake, mate," muttered Seamus meekly. "Snakes are a Slytherin thing…"
"Says who?" Harry snapped, his voice raising.
"Says … everyone."
"Everyone, eh?" Harry looked around angrily, glaring at all of his housemates in turn. "DO YOU?"
"Harry…" whispered Hermione, laying her hand on his arm so he would lower his wand. Harry hadn't even been aware of raising it.
"Is he dead?" Harry asked, struggling to keep control of his temper. Nobody answered, which infuriated him more. "Is he dead?"
Dean was the one who finally dared to speak up. "You were never around to take care of him. When you finally did come back you left almost immediately. We thought you'd be gone for ages again, if you'd return at all! Plus, we were afraid he'd end up eating our pets when he was big enough, he kept looking at them funny … so yes, we made sure that could never happen. He's dead."
Harry felt ice cold and he stood completely still. Not only was Akin dead, but on top of that he was accused for not taking good care of his pets! It wasn't like it was his fault.
Hermione still held her hand around his wrist, and that was probably the only thing that kept him from exploding in that very moment, cursing the whole common room apart. He was sure that she could feel how strongly his blood pulsated against her skin.
Abruptly fed up by having everyone's eyes at him, Harry tore himself free of Hermione and tramped across the room and up the staircase leading to his dormitory. He was sick and tired of all the pressure upon him. The pressure from Dumbledore, the Dark Lord, Ron, Hermione, the wizarding world in general and even the pressure he had within himself, that had been heating up like a kettle and was now about to reach its top boiling stage … he needed to be alone. He needed an out.
Harry could sense that the Dark Lord was excited.
Worried and still furious, Harry burst into his room. Fortunately the only one who was there was Hedwig and she was not a company he minded. Hedwig was perched beside his bed, cleaning her left wing with her beak. When she heard Harry she looked up with her amber eyes, hooting softly. She was holding a letter between her competent claws and Harry felt a much needed relief wash through him; it had to be from Annie.
Annie was one of the very few remaining people Harry felt he had surplus for. She had been a good friend to him when he had needed someone the most, when she didn't have to be. More importantly; she never judged him.
"What have you got there, Hedwig," he asked softly, walking over to his owl so he could pet her head. With a pang of regret Harry remembered how easily he could've killed his own by a mistake when he didn't remember anything of his past, and had that tendency to kill birds to ease some of his cravings to perform the dark arts. "It's OK, I remember now," he murmured reassuringly. Hedwig didn't seem upset at him. She stood completely still so he could continue petting her, gazing at him with her deep, amber eyes. "Fuck Dean and Seamus!" he growled suddenly. "They are worse than me, going on about it like that." In afterthought he wasn't sure if that last bit was true, but it felt good to say it.
Sighing in annoyance, Harry took the letter between Hedwig's claws and turned the envelope around so he could see the writing in the front. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. It was the exact same letter he had sent Annie – unopened!
Harry's heart sped up again with worry. Why wouldn't Annie open a letter from him? Thinking fast, the first option that came to his mind was that she was afraid of owls and didn't know that's how the wizarding world corresponded. However, as soon as Harry thought that he eliminated that option. Annie loved birds and all kinds of animals. She would've greeted Hedwig with delight and open arms. That meant, the only reason why she wouldn't open a letter from him, had to be that she couldn't. And if she couldn't, it had to be because she was hurt somehow or physically unable to. Hedwig would've been able to track her down if she had moved away or had gone on a vacation…
"Accio firebolt!" Harry cried, performing a whipping motion with his wand. He had to do something. He couldn't lose Annie too, whatever difficulty she might be in.
A few seconds later Harry heard a huge crash, and suddenly hundreds of glass shards were flying everywhere. He had put way too much effort into the spell and the firebolt had gone straight through the double glazed window.
"Ops," mumbled Harry to himself. From downstairs he heard people asking what had happened in surprise. Harry hastily searched Hedwigs' feathers for cuts. Seeing none, he didn't bother checking himself and mounted his broom. He could hear someone running up the stairs to his dormitory and he knew he had to be quick otherwise Hermione would try to stop him. He kicked up from the floor and hovered in the middle of the room. The door to his dormitory sprung open and his eyes landed on Hermione's shocked face.
"I'll be right back," he promised.
"No, WAIT!" cried Hermione, but Harry had already flown out of the window and into the dark.
Harry only rode his firebolt as far as the apparition boarders around Hogwarts went. Once there, he hid his broom in a bush and apparated.
He reappeared in the middle of a street in London and was immediately blinded by two brilliant moving flashlights that burnt his eyes. Throwing himself to the side, he only just avoided being hit by a big, double decker bus. Shocked and disorientated, Harry had to give himself a moment to simply lie still on the pavement to recover from the shock of nearly being killed.
He snorted to himself. The great Harry Potter; who conquered the Dark Lord as a baby … killed by a muggle bus in his teenage years. It seemed incredibly funny to him all of the sudden and he had to laugh, until he reminded himself of why he was there in the first place. In the future, however, he better avoid apparating into the middle of a street.
Harry pushed himself up from the wet asphalt, the palm of his hands stinging in complaint. He brushed off his jeans and glanced across the street to where he knew Annie lived. He figured it was best to go for the normal, muggle approach and knock the door … just in case. Seeing no cars or buses coming, Harry quickly went to her door and knocked.
No one answered. Harry knocked again, more urgently. He could hear soft footsteps from inside the house, so he knew someone had to be in there.
"Annie? It's Harry. Open up."
The door opened slightly, hesitantly, but not more than five inches. A chain from inside the house was stopping the door in opening fully. Harry's mouth opened in shock. From inside the crack he could see Annie, but her face was nearly unrecognizable. Her left eye was swollen shut; the surrounding area bruised in a deep, purple colour. Her hair was unwashed and tangled. Her usually smiling lips were pale and cracked. Searching her eyes, Harry was unable to find the sparkle and the life force he had always associated her with. Seeing her this way made him feel awful, and it drained all the words he was planning to say straight out of his mouth.
"Harry?" asked Annie suspiciously. "I don't know any Harry."
The part of Annie's face that could move, scowled. "Now go away before my boyfriend gets back."
"Boyfriend? Do you mean Luke? You broke up!" cried Harry, unable to keep the slight accusation out of his voice. It was also to keep her holding the door open, as he could tell she was about to shut it. Harry's stomach clenched with worry. Something was very wrong.
Annie's facial expression, however, revealed nothing more about her feelings towards that subject. "Not that I know of. You know him, then? Did he send you?"
"No, I…" Harry stopped himself as a thought struck him. "He did this to you, didn't he?" He nodded stiffly towards her face, the rage that followed him like a shadow these days flaring up instantly. Annie's jaw clenched.
"No. Mind your own business!"
"But-!" Harry started, but Annie flung the door shut, using way more force than what had been necessary for the little opening she had allowed it in the first place. Harry found himself staring at painted wood, but not for long. He had no patience for games.
The security chain slid off easily and the door swung open. Annie, who had been walking towards the kitchen, spun around to look at him, her expression first incredulous then frightened.
"What are you doing?" she gasped. "Get out!"
"You don't have to be afraid of me!" cried Harry. "I'm just – me!"
"I DON'T KNOW YOU!" she screamed, waving her arms in exasperation. Her eyes moved around frantically until they landed on a plate. She picked it up and threw it at Harry, but missed by miles. It stung Harry to see her so genuinely afraid of him and he had to admit to himself that she must have been speaking the truth when she said she didn't recognise him. Someone must've tampered with her memories, like what had happened to him.
As soon as he thought that, Harry also realised why. It had to be the Ministry of Magic. They must've detected that he had used magic in front of Annie the last night he had been with her; he had used no magic in her presence before then. The Ministry of Magic must've waited for her when she had gotten back after saying goodbye to him, and erased him out of her memory along with the memory of her breaking up with Luke. The Ministry took no chances when it came to the wizarding world being exposed to the public, never mind that Annie had sworn to never breathe a word about it out loud…
Harry could have cursed himself from being stupid enough to leave her alone, even for the few hours he had intended it to be. He had protected neither Hermione nor Annie that day, which he should've done. Now it was no use to try to convince Annie of everything that had happened, nor did he know how to reverse what the Ministry had done. He would end up doing more damage than good. "Don't you remember?" he invented instead, trying not to show how upset he was. "We were old classmates, from primary school-"
"As if!" Annie snapped. "How stupid do you think I am? Please, just go, before Luke comes home … he's not very forgiving when it comes to me spending time with other men, even less when they're in my home. Please..." Her eyes filled with tears and she blinked them back angrily, not wanting to show weakness in front of a stranger. She had given up trying to chase him out, however. Instead she walked backwards until her back hit the wall behind her. She crossed her arms protectively around her chest, staring at the floor, waiting for whatever it was Harry would do.
Harry stood still and helplessly, shock still corroding through his system. He had never seen Annie like this. She had expressed anxiety over Luke before, but she had always been tough about it. After she had broken up with Luke and realised he was leaving her alone, she had flourished. But then, he, Harry, had to destroy everything by leaving her. Luke must've approached her at some point, and seen that Annie had no memories of actually breaking up with him. Luke must've thought her weak for not sticking with her words and then taken advantage of the situation. Harry felt his blood rush through his veins and he could barely restrain himself for crying out in rage: at himself, but most of all at Luke. Luke was responsible for breaking Annie into an unrecognisable version of herself and he would pay.
With that promise in mind, Harry lifted his hands in surrender. "OK, I'll go. Do you know where Luke is?"
Annie sniffed, still suspicious of him, but calmer now that he had promised to leave. "He said he was going to a pub near 'Partner at Hand.' You probably don't even know where it is if you're not from here, so I wouldn't bother-"
"I know where it is," said Harry softly and offered a thin smile. Funny how he kept returning to that place … but at least he knew where to look.
Taking a deep breath to force himself to appear calm, Harry walked over to where Annie stood. With a heavy heart he knew this would be the last time he saw her; their lives did no longer correspond. He could not keep her in his and the law would keep him out of hers. All he could do now was to make sure she was protected when he left her.
Annie moved sideways along the wall to avoid Harry getting too close to her, but Harry followed her movements and blocked her easily. He put one hand on her shoulder to keep her in place and the other he placed carefully underneath her chin to force her to look at him. He knew it was selfish of him to demand this goodbye of her, but it was something he needed for himself.
"It's going to be OK," he told her softly. "You won't have to worry about Luke ever again. You'll be better off without him. Go and do what you really want with your life and have no regrets." He let his promise linger in the air just as long as his fingers were lingering underneath her chin. He leaned forwards and kissed her forehead. Annie stood completely still, hardly breathing.
Harry took a small step back and allowed himself to study her uncertain face for a few more seconds. It was not the face he remembered, but he wanted to remember it nevertheless. He tried to offer her a smile, but his lips couldn't quite manage the job and instead turned into a bitter grimace. He really would miss her. Now another person with importance to him would be lost.
Turning around, Harry walked out of Annie's house for the last time.
Harry knew it was no good to let his anger build up the way it was doing. What he'd do to Luke he had yet to decide, but he hoped he could find a manageable solution somehow. The desire to use the dark arts was a constant presence to him; a constant burning in his wand. He just wasn't sure he could afford doing that anymore.
'The Partner at Hand' neon sign – which would go through many different colours – glowed red when he arrived to the site. It highlighted the fence where he had kissed Hermione for the first time. It was also the place where Kingsley had died. Harry had been a different person back then. Now he didn't know who he was.
You belong to me, an arcane voice whispered in Harry's mind, but the voice was easily drowned out by everything else Harry had to think about.
"I should stop thinking what the Lord would say, for starters," Harry muttered to himself.
Harry continued along the pebbled path a bit further until he reached the pub where he expected to find Luke. He hoped Luke was still there – if he wasn't that would mean Harry had to guard Annie's house all night.
The pub itself seemed friendly; it was made of dark wood that looked like it had been there for centuries. By the entrance there was a rose bush with a couple of benches in front; people would sit there on a fair day. From the building itself Harry could hear extravagant laughter and beer bottles clinking against each other in some kind of celebration. It seemed unfair to Harry that these people – presumably also Luke – were celebrating whereas Annie and most of the wizarding world were in turmoil.
Unlike the nightclub around the corner where Annie had taken him no one seemed to care about asking him for an ID when he stepped into the pub's lounge, warm and damp air hitting his face. Harry's eyes scanned the room and he could see lots of old looking furniture, a juke box and a pool table. As for the pub customers the majority of them were unattractive and middle aged. In one of the corners, however, Harry triumphantly spotted Luke amongst a group of drunken twenty-year olds. As if he could sense Harry's eyes on him, Luke turned his head and stared right back, unblinkingly. Harry did not avert his gaze and continued to glare at him, making his intention clear. The lighting in the pub flickered sympathetically. Luke's stare turned into an annoyed scowl.
Harry knew he had Luke's attention now. Smirking, Harry turned on his heel and walked out of the pub, rightly assuming Luke would take the hint and follow him.
Luke caught up with him a moment later.
"I've seen you before! You're the guy who caused all that trouble down at the club, aren't you?"
"Might have been me, yes," agreed Harry, wondering how much Luke remembered from that night. He expected the Ministry to have erased the last bit of the night at the very least.
"You're the guy who came with my woman as well, aren't you?" Luke continued, rolling up his sleeve as his pace matched Harry's. "Just who do you think you are coming back here, eh?"
"I told you to stay away from her!" Harry growled back, not slowing his brisk walk until he reached a parking lot he trusted to be enough of a deserted area. He span around to meet his opponent.
Luke was older, taller and looked a lot stronger than Harry. For Harry, Luke seemed to be the exact same type as the guys who had bullied him back in Primary school before he had gone to Hogwarts. The type who would hang with Dudley; picking on those who could not stand up for themselves. Guys like Luke would never change - they'd just invent new methods of power playing. Harry, however, was now more than capable of protecting himself.
Luke's eyes travelled up and down Harry's physically inferior shape. "You really think I will listen to anything you have to say?"
Luke threw his head back and laughed. Harry continued to glower at him. After a while Luke finally sobered up and adapted a more serious expression. "Look, it's really none of your business. Annie's mine and she'll stay that way. She chose me, not you. You better stay away from her or there'll be consequences!"
"Annie is my friend. What you are doing to her is unacceptable." Although Harry managed to keep his voice down and body still, Harry could feel his figure burn with anger. Especially his wand arm. "From tonight you will no longer approach her or contact her in any way. You and your friends will leave her alone. And no funny business! Believe me, I will know. You have no idea of what I am capable of."
Luke scowled and came closer to Harry so that he could use his body build to intimidate. When he spoke Harry could feel drops of spit hit his face. "Listen, mongrel. You don't get to come here like you are somebody and tell me what to do. I've no patience for this kind of shit. Especially not from a nobody like you!"
Harry raised his eyebrows defiantly, liking the irony. "I am somebody, as a matter of fact."
"Where, in la-la land?" Luke mocked. "Do you want me to send you back there, little boy? Won't take me long."
Harry gave him a murderous look. "I am fine where I am, thanks."
"Oh yeah? You sure?" spat Luke, pushing his index finger into Harry's torso.
"Leave Annie alone, get out of my sight, and FUCK OFF!" snarled Harry, swapping Luke's hand away furiously.
"Alright… fine…" said Luke in surrender and turned his back on Harry. However, a second later he span back around. Harry barely had time to register the movement before Luke's fist connected with his jaw. Surprise flooded Harry's mind – he had half expected this possibility, but he was unused to muggle combat – then adrenalin kicked in completely. He was on the ground tasting the asphalt for the second time that night and then he was not. He was back on his feet, dodging another bruising blow from Luke's shoe. Harry jumped sideways so he would be momentarily out of reach from Luke's limbs and then he charged, achieving instant momentum for greater force. Luke's eyes widened in surprise, unused to anybody fighting back. He had time to do nothing else before Harry's body crashed into him, making them both lose their balance and fall over. Tumbling on top of each other they were soon wresting; hands trying to close around each other's throats.
This would've been perfect for Harry. The fighting allowed him to get some of that spent up energy out of his system and he was not using any magic that would risk him performing the dark arts. However, it was not the most ideal situation as Harry had a hard time resisting Luke's strength. Soon he was defending himself from Luke's iron grip rather than attacking. Things were getting out of control.
Luke had an insane glint in his eyes and Harry knew this guy would stop at nothing. Luke's arms were like tree trunks in comparison to Harry's normal sized ones, and his fists were equally matching. Grunting, Harry forced his shaking arms to continue resisting Luke's aim for his throat. For the first time that night he was genuinely nervous. He needed both his arms to hold off Luke; he could not reach his wand now.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Suddenly, with strength he had not shown before, Luke threw himself on top of Harry from their sideways position on the ground. Luke pushed his entire body weight down on Harry, pressing out all air. Harry could not speak or tell him to stop. All his focus was on keeping Luke's hands away from his neck. Harry's hands were turning white from the static effort. Unexpectedly, Luke withdrew his hands with a swift motion, making Harry's hands and upper torso follow until he was halfway into a sitting position. Giving out a cry of outrage, Luke plummeted his hands back down, hitting Harry hard in the chest and consequentially Harry's head whipped back and crashed into the ground; it was enough to make Harry's head ring and black dots appear in front of his vision. Harry was unable to maintain his defensive grip, and felt sick with fear when he felt Luke's strong fingers wrap themselves around his neck and squeeze.
"Not so full of yourself now, are ya?" Luke laughed, not loosening his grip. "You regret trying to steal my bitch now! Maybe this will teach ya?"
Harry's one hand was still trying to pry Luke off, with the other he tried to pull his wand out his pocket. Problem was that it was trapped between his body and Luke's knee. Harry struggled and squirmed underneath Luke's weight, but the harder he tried the more desperate he became for oxygen. His lungs were burning for air. Harry could feel his strength evaporating. His attempts on pulling out his wand grew weaker.
Harry was starting to accept he would never be able to pull his wand out of its stuck position. He would have to somehow shoot through his trousers, hopefully hitting Luke and not himself.
Harry could barely see anymore, his vision being replaced by increasingly large, black dots. The sounds around him were muted like he was underwater. He knew he was running out of time. Where Luke really attempting to kill him? Would he not stop?
Harry pressed the handle of his wand into his leg to hopefully aim the tip away from himself. It was hard to stay focused.
What spell to use? Avada … no. STUPEFY! Harry shouted in his head.
The spell was weak and did not stun Luke – at least not on first glance. However, Harry could feel Luke's balance on him waver slightly, and Harry wriggled feebly to take advantage. Luke's iron grip around Harry's neck loosened momentarily a fraction as Luke suddenly seemed highly preoccupied by his left leg, and it was enough to allow a small amount of air inside Harry's lungs. Harry immediately gulped it down and his lungs exploded with pain. However, the rest of his body still felt too sedated to put up a fight and his allowance of air was soon cut off again.
To hell with it! Harry thought. It was his life or Luke's. Avada Kedavra!
Luke's body turned limp in top of Harry's. A moment later Luke's forehead had hit the ground beside him. The curse had worked; Luke was dead. Harry immediately took a dozen of very large gulps of air. His heart was beating furiously as though it was trying to catch up for lost time and he had a weird, metallic taste in his mouth. A blend between shock and relief was radiating through his system, immobilising him for a longer time.
Harry was unsure how long he stayed on the ground for, with Luke in this weird half-sitting position on top of him. It must have looked very strange from an unknowing point of view, had anyone walked by and seen. Harry freed his hands and massaged his neck carefully, continuing to take large breaths. He would never take the ability to breathe for granted again.
Harry grimaced as he tried to swallow. The adrenalin was finally leaving him and he also felt stinging pain on the left side of his jaw. The metallic taste in his mouth was blood, he realised.
Succeeding in finally retrieving his wand, Harry pointed it at Luke's dead shoulders; he had to pull his arm quite far back to manage it.
"Wingardium leviosa…" croaked Harry to levitate the corpse off his body. Harry continued to levitate him until he reached the side of the parking lot where there were some bushes. Harry hesitated. Thinking better of it, he instead brought Luke back towards the centre of the parking lot, between two parked cars. The killing curse made it seem like the heart of its victim had merely stopped and rarely caused suspicion. However, had Harry left the body in the bushes it would immediately become suspicious and the muggle police would open an investigation. Not that Harry cared that much, per say, but it was nevertheless good to avoid unnecessary headache.
Harry was more worried of having alerted the Ministry of his use of magic in front of a muggle. Especially since it was also dark magic. It was time to leave.
Harry struggled back up on his feet. His limbs felt incredibly heavy and he still had the sensation of being underneath a water's surface. Pointing his wand towards the sky Harry called forth the Death Eater skull. That's what the Ministry expected to find, and once they did they would think no more of the incident.
Harry also had to admit that a part of him felt it was right.
Harry took a good look at his surroundings. Satisfied he was alone, Harry span on the spot and apparated to the outskirts of Hogsmade.