Chapter SixteenAnger, Tears, and Fear
"You bastard!" She raged. "You selfish bastard!"
The slap rang out sharply in the quiet of the room. Harry closed his eyes at the intense flash of pain across his face, but he did not move or say anything. He deserved worse. Again pain flared across his face, his head snapping at the force of it. The hot taste of iron filling his mouth.
"Ginny!" Hermione cried, grabbing the other woman.
Harry used the back of his hand to wipe at his lip, seeing it stained with crimson. How much blood had been spilled today? How much more would be shed before the day was over? He looked to Ginny and she stared back defiantly, her face streaming tears and a wild look of fear and anger in her eyes.
"I'm sorry." Harry said quietly. "I'm sorry Ginny." He didn't know what else to say.
"You didn't have to take him. You could have just left him." She sobbed, Hermione clutched her in an embrace and the red haired woman grabbed at her, her shoulders shaking and tears falling. "He could have been killed."
Harry hung his head. How many had died because of him? The count was always rising, it would never stop. They were all in danger, no matter how much he thought they were protected. Harry looked up again to see Hermione looking at him. There was pity in her eyes.
Ginny suddenly pulled away from Hermione. wiping at her eyes and taking deep shuddering breaths. She stared down at Harry, this time the fear and the anger were gone. There remained instead a strange look that Harry did not recognize.
"You've done great things, Harry." She said, her voice calm. "But you bring death everywhere you go. Please. Leave my family alone." There was pleading in her voice.
Harry watched her, his eyes stinging and expression barely held together.
"Please.. Harry." Ginny whispered.
"Thank you." Ginny turned and left the room.
"Harry?" Hermione asked.
Harry looked up at her and then turned away. The look of sadness and worry that she gave him was too much. He wanted there to be hate in her expression, pain, anger, anything to show him that what he had done had been a horrible thing. To show him that he was nothing more than a killer.
"I have to go." Harry said rising to his feet. He pulled his tattered coat upon his shoulders, wondering briefly who had stitched it back together.
"You're still hurt." Hermione said immediately, she took a step forward as it to stop him. "The healers need to look over you. You need to rest." She added, her voice becoming stern.
Harry smiled briefly. "I need to get back to Angelica." He said, his voice beginning to crack. "I'm all she has."
The sudden pain almost staggered him, rushing up and making it hard to breath, hard to think, a thunderous roar in his ear. Harry clenched his fists until his knuckles cracked and held back the wave of emotion.
Hermione stared at him for a moment and then her hand rose to her mouth, that look of sadness once again flooding her face. " Oh, Harry." She whispered, already tears were beginning to fall. "Oh, Harry."
She stepped forward, but Harry moved faster, gently grabbing her by the shoulders.
"No. Hermione. Not now." He whispered, his voice hoarse. "I can't. Not now."
She nodded silently and looked up at him, the tears still running down her face. Harry looked away and then released her, heading out the door. Behind him her heard Hermione begin to sob.
"How is he?" Harry asked, confronting a Healer who was looking in on Neville.
The Healer, a stout woman with iron gray hair tied into a bun, looked at him briefly, noting the barely healed cuts and bruises covering his exposed skin. She did not comment on them. Instead she looked down at the clipboard in her hand.
"He's unconscious at the moment. Running a fever. What physical damage that had been done has been repaired those of the magical variety will have to wait until we can run a full set of tests upon him." She flipped through the clip board she was carrying and scribbled upon it. "He was lucky." She added. "He would have died from the physical wounds alone. Is he a friend of yours, Mr. Potter?"
Harry nodded, not surprised that the woman knew his name. 'I'm not sure after this.' He said.
The woman glanced at Neville, his face peaceful, yet Harry could still see the imprint of Asedemon's hand upon his neck. A red mark upon his gray pale skin.
"His wife was displeased with what happened to him." She suddenly said.
Harry continued to look at Neville, his chest rising and falling slowly. "He wanted to go." He said, closing his eyes. "He wanted to fight, a brave man."
The Healer nodded. "He is a brave one. One of the few good Aurors left."
"Bravery is overrated." Harry said. "It just leads to dying quicker. I've seen too many young men and women who were brave die. At least the cowards flee from the fight. At least they live a long life."
"Many called you brave. For what you've done." The healer said quietly.
Harry bared his teeth. "And what's that?" He asked.
"You have done great things, Mr. Potter. You have saved the lives of people, you destroyed a great evil. You are a hero." The healer said, there was a brightness to her eyes and a small smile upon her lips. She believed the words she had said. Harry turned away, unable to face it.
"It's not heroism that pushed me. It was fear." He said.
"During the darkest time of the War, people took courage from your bravery. They looked to you to show them not to be afraid and to fight the evil that was corrupting out land." The Healer said, once again the brightness shown in her eyes. "You showed them that if they wanted peace, then they would have to fight for it. Evil men and women crowd the world, but it is good men like you who put a stop to them. You inspired everyone to fight for that dream of peace and happiness."
"Tell it to all those that died because of that." Harry snapped, turning and walking away.
"My sons died for that dream." The healer said softly, watching as Harry stalked away.
Ron sat up. Feeling a wave of dizziness wash over him. He put his hand to his head and felt the thick layers of bandages covering it. He sighed, and rubbed his weary eyes. There was pain and there was soreness, but nothing seemed irreparably damaged.
He smelled the overpoweringly smell of disinfectant and could almost hear his heart beat in tomb like quiet. He must be in a hospital. Ron looked about and saw that the room he was in was empty. The hall outside it was quiet.
Nobody was waiting for him.
"Surprising." Ron muttered sarcastically, pulling on his robes. He felt his muscles twinge, but he tried to ignore the pain. Afterward he felt breathless, his knees felt weak and the room continued to tilt to one side, but he knew it would fade, sooner or later. Anything was better than sitting in a hospital room.
A Healer was walking down the corridor and Ron stopped him.
"Where are they keeping Emily Granger?" he asked.
The healer looked him up and down, a frown forming upon his lined face. "Down the hall, room seven." He replied. "You should be in bed." He added.
Ron ignored him and continued down the hall. He heard laughing as he neared the door. A child's laughter and that of a man, for a moment he stiffened and frowned. He felt his anger begin to rise. What was he doing here? What right did he have to see her when he had brought all manner of danger down upon her and Hermione?
Angrily he pushed open the door, only to stop in his tracks.
"Headmaster." He said in surprise.
Dumbledore looked up at Ron's entrance, unsurprised. His blue eyes taking in the bandages upon Ron and his flushed expression. Headmaster Dumbledore sat upon the only chair in the room, his wand out and causing glowing balls to bounce and spin. Emily was upon a white bed, sheets tossed aside as she was sitting upon the edge of her bed, playing with the glowing balls.
"It is good to see you up, Ronald." Dumbledore said.
Emily turned to him and smiled hugely. "Look, Uncle Ronny." She cried, pointing at the glowing balls. She looked at him for a moment. "What happened to your head?" she asked.
Ron touched the bandages and smiled briefly. "Nothing, Emily. Nothing.' He smiled and sat down upon the bed, Emily immediately sliding up to him. Ron was grateful that there seemed to be nothing wrong with her. She was unharmed, a great weight seemed to lift from his shoulders as he pulled her into a tight embrace, Emily quickly hugged him back, saying nothing.
"Where's your mother?" Ron asked.
"She went to see Harry Potter." Emily said. "He's hurt."
Ron set Emily back down and looked toward the door. The anger he had been feeling returned. What was she doing seeing him? The unwanted thought that she had gone to check on Harry and not him crossed his mind. He tried pushing it away, but it settled in.
"Events are in motion." Dumbledore suddenly said. He tapped the glowing balls with his wand and they turned into small figures, which began to run around upon Emily's bed. She watched with fascination as they did cartwheels and hopped about. Crookshanks, who Ron hadn't noticed, hissed as one of the figures drew close to him and lazily swatted at it with his paw.
Ron turned to the headmaster. "Aren't they always?" He asked shortly. "Events are always in motion around Potter, and everyone dies because of it." He stopped looking at Emily who was still engaged with the figures, letting one of them run around upon the palm of her hand.
"He does what he can so-"
"Spare me." Ron snapped rising to his feet. Emily stopped playing with the figures and stared at him. "He has no right to involve Emily or Hermione in his doings. He left them. He abandoned them. Now he's back and look what's happening." Ron paced angrily in the small room, Dumbledore watched him with clam eyes. Emily only stared; Crookshanks nudged her with his head and purred, trying to get her attention.
"What's going on here?" Hermione asked, walking into the room. Ron immediately stopped pacing. He suddenly felt a great relief to see her standing there.
"How are you?" He asked, stepping forward.
"I'm fine." Hermione said. She looked incredibly sad.
Ron stopped, noticing something different. "You've been crying." He stated.
"I-" Hermione began.
"What has he done?" Ron demanded, closing his eyes. "What more has he done?" He pulled away from Hermione, folding his arms across his chest. His head was pounding, the weakness in his legs was worsening.
She had gone to see him first. The though suddenly bubbled up again. She had went to see him and he caused something that had brought pain to her. Ron was tired of the anger, but it continued to burn in him. Everything he did caused anger. Everything he did hurt everyone around him. Why couldn't he just stay away? Ron said those words and Hermione looked at him, the sad and hurt look gone now. Instead it was replaced with a hardening stare and a stiff posture that Ron easily recognized.
"You don't know all the facts. Hermione said.
"I know what I see. I see him coming back. I see a man die before my eyes. My own sister's husband nearly killed. You hurt. Emily put into danger. You home turned to ruins. For what?" He began pacing again. He could feel it burning in him. The anger. "This is all his doing. All this death. All this destruction. He's nothing more than a murderer!"
silence descended upon the room as everyone stared at Ron. Suddenly there was a loud crack and Ron felt his head spin. Pain flared across his cheek and he staggered back to see Hermione staring at him, anger burning in her eyes.
"Get out.' She said.
Ron stared at her, touched his still stinging cheek, and left, without saying anything.
Hermione stood her ground until Ron had disappeared and his footsteps stopped echoing down the corridor. The room was deathly silence.
Shakily Hermione sat upon the edge of the bed and dropped her head into her hands, her shoulders shaking and tears running down her face and into her hands.
"What is it, child?" Dumbledore asked, suddenly at her side. His comforting arm draped across her shoulder. "What has happened?"
"The Dursleys." Hermione choked out. "They're all dead." The tears kept coming.
Dumbledore said nothing, instead he held her in a tight embrace and Hermione cried. She felt Emily clutching at her side, not knowing what was going on, but crying because her mother was.
The three sat there, tears falling.
It was heading toward dusk when he came back. The sun turning a deep orange as it headed toward the western horizon, shadows growing long, and the east turning a dark shade of violet. There had been things to take care of , the house, the damage… the bodies. Harry sighed, entering the House. The bundle in his coat began squirming and Harry set it upon the floor.
The small puppy had been hiding in the house. How it got back, Harry didn't know. But there it had been sitting, howling forlornly in the shattered empty place that had once been a home.
"Kathryn." Harry called out. It was dark inside. No lights. "Kathryn?"
"Kathryn." Harry pulled out his wand. It glowed, filling the area with light. The puppy Harry began barking, it's cries resounding sharply in the quiet house. Harry made his way cautiously toward the sound, extinguishing his wand and readying a curse on his lips.
He found her on the floor. A dark stain spreading out beneath her.
The cold hand of fear seized him.