Summary: HP/DM slash with a side of SB/RL, RW/HG A story about music that touches the soul, friends that refuse to go away, enemies that refuse to let you starve yourself, and lovers that never wanted to love and never want to let go now that they do.
Disclaimer: I do not own or remotely have any relation to Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling, though I do have the HP books. I do not have any permission to write this, and I do so solely for my own pleasure and am not making any profit from it.
Pairings: HP/DM, SB/RL, RW/HG and others
Timeline: Fourth book onwards and the fifth never existed in my happy imaginary world.
"We're finally going to Hogsmeade!" cheered Ronald Weasley, his freckled face stretched wide with a grin, clear blue eyes gleaming with anticipation, and bright red hair waving happily in the breeze. His slightly faded Hogwarts robes were rumpled and carelessly thrown on, and a bit too short for his long, gangly frame. He walked with a bounce in his step, often throwing impatient glances at his two companions who walked at a more leisurely pace, forcing him to keep stopping to wait for them to catch up.
"Ron, slow down! The place isn't going to run away, you know," protested the only female in the trio, her tone admonishing. Hermione Granger was a slim teenager with once-bushy, now softly curling brown hair, intelligent brown eyes, and a sweet smile. She walked with her back comfortably straight, and her school robes were neatly arranged.
"He just wants to get to Zonko's and see if Fred and George managed to sell their inventions like they threatened to," smiled the last person in their group in his rich, light tenor. Harry Potter grinned back at Ron, brilliant green eyes glittering with amusement, white teeth flashing in his tanned face. His messy jet black hair had refused to be tamed, as always. With his recent growth spurt and lean, Quidditch-toned body, his fame had only increased in recent years (mostly in teen witch magazines), much to his chagrin.
"Well, yeah, that's true," admitted Ron, grinning. "They wouldn't tell me if they really did sell anything, though."
"They just told you to 'haul your lazy ass off to Zonko's and look'," Harry laughed.
"Very good advice, I might add," Hermione cut in. "It's nice to see you boys do some exercise that doesn't involve Quidditch."
"How can you say that?" demanded Ron in mock horror. "Quidditch is the best exercise anyone can have!"
Laughing, the trio continued their walk down the wide path, feeling the breeze ruffle their hair and the warmth from the sun. Sounds of bustling town life could be heard from the near distance, but other than the crunch of their footsteps and the rustling of the animals, there was no other sound to spoil their peaceful trek.
"It's so nice and calm," Hermione observed placidly. "That's the nice thing about the wizarding world – no noisy clanking machines to pollute the air."
"Yeah, that's the good bit," Harry said darkly. "You just forgot to mention the evil wizard who wants to take over the world." He looked away, lost in thought. "It's too peaceful. Like the calm before the storm. Voldemort's been lying low ever since the end of fourth year, and it's now in the middle of fifth year. He's going to do something soon, I know it."
"Harry, don't say the name," hissed Ron, exchanging nervous looks with Hermione.
"Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself," retorted Harry. "I'm not trying to be pessimistic, Ron, just practical. Fudge refuses to admit Voldemort's return, all the more reason why we should be alert, since no one else is." He fell back into the moody silence that Ron and Hermione had become so familiar with now, ever since Cedric's death.
Hermione cast a concerned glance at the Boy-Who-Lived, trudging next to her, lost in thought. Ever since fifth year started, Hermione noticed that Harry had been withdrawn, quieter, with an air of weariness around him, unlike the awkward adolescent she had come to love like the brother she never had. Without looking, she knew that his green eyes were veiled with sadness and grief, and deeper down inside, with guilt. It hurt Hermione, and she knew it hurt Ron, too, that Harry didn't laugh as often or as lightly as before, and no matter how they tried they couldn't help him.
She knew she shouldn't pry, and didn't, but it was hard sometimes. They did their best to be quietly supportive, and it seemed that they were succeeding at the times when he would laugh and joke with them, but then he would revert back to his moody self, and it was at these times when Hermione and Ron felt most helpless of all. Harry would look at them with heavy sorrow in his eyes, and he seemed to think that pushing himself away from everyone was the best way to show his concern for them, and nothing anyone said changed his opinion. But Ron and Hermione never gave up trying, and never would until they had got the old Harry back.
"Look, there's Hogsmeade!" exclaimed Ron in an effort to break the oppressive silence. Hermione shook herself from her thoughts and looked up. The quaint wizarding settlement was in front of them, filled with all sorts of people hurrying or strolling from place to place. Harry looked up as well, and flinched a little, seeing so many unknown people. He was used to the students at Hogwarts, who basically respected his wishes and mostly left him alone, but here were a whole lot of strangers who would whisper and point when they saw his scar.
"Harry, come on," urged Hermione, a comforting hand on his arm. Harry smiled weakly at her, then at Ron, who had settled himself at Harry's other side. The warm smiles his friends returned him encouraged Harry, and gave him the determination to see this day through – his apprehension was understandable, since it was the first day of the year that he had ventured outside of Hogwarts or the Muggle world into the Wizarding world.
Flanked by his friends, Harry walked into Hogsmeade. This isn't as bad as I thought it would be, Harry admitted to himself, waving at Dean and Seamus chatting animatedly with some Ravenclaws. The boys waved back. No buildings are collapsing, nobody's staring at me –
The fountain in the center of the newly-erected Hogsmeade Square exploded.
There was a stunned silence. Then the screaming began, as black hooded figures appeared where the fountain had once been, wands out and casting spells with deadly precision. The geyser of water was the dramatic centerpiece amidst the methodically exploding buildings as the Death Eaters steadily expanded their circle, destroying wall after wall of age-old stone. Chaos erupted as people poured out of buildings; screaming, pushing, shoving – anything to get out of the way, anything to escape. They were all out of their minds with terror; they weren't expecting this – You-Know-Who was supposed to be dead! Terrified witches and wizards had only one thing on their minds: to escape and to survive. The uglier side of human nature showed itself as they trampled over anything and anybody in their terrified haste.
Harry stood stunned, watching with a shocked detachment as the Death Eaters continued their systematic destruction of buildings, not caring if people were inside... and then, half of them lowered their wands to chest-height, aiming at the running populace, and amidst the many colours of light was green…
"No." whispered Harry, "No, no, no…
The Boy-Who-Lived charged forward, wand suddenly in his hand – he didn't even remember pulling it out – his friends a step behind. "Stupefy!" he screamed, again and again, and the red beams of the Stunning Spell cut across the mess of curses and felled a few black figures. Harry's mind was mercifully blank as he dueled with the Death Eaters who had just noticed him and were concentrating on capturing – or killing – the hated enemy of their Lord; but even the famous hero couldn't avoid the numerous beams all at once, and even as he yelled out another Stupefy he was aware that a purple beam of light was heading his way, and he couldn't avoid it. He braced himself.
Suddenly a white light flared briefly at his side, and the purple beam was deflected. Relief filled him, and he knew without looking that the other witches and wizards had finally started to fight back, gathering into clumps for safety in numbers. The controlled destruction of the Death Eaters was halted as they were forced to break up to deal with the sudden threat.
No, wait – they weren't breaking up, they were gathering into a clump, a circle… and then there was a blue glow and somehow, somehow none of the spells cast could hit the Death Eaters. Instead, they were absorbed into the blue light, but the Dark spells were still coming strong – and there were three Killing Curses headed straight for Harry, and he couldn't dodge them all. He was frozen to the spot, seeing the green light lance straight towards him, hearing his mother's screams, seeing her body collapse to the ground –
And a hand grabbed his arm with a grip tight enough to bruise, and there was a loud crack and he felt his body being unpleasantly squeezed to the point of suffocation and then – nothing. The sounds suddenly lessened, and he was dropped unceremoniously on the dusty ground. Blinking to clear his head, he looked around. He was in the remains of a room, covered in dust from the destroyed building, and hidden from the battle going on outside.
And there was a black shadowy figure looming over him.
Harry yelled and thrust himself away from the mysterious person, scrabbling for his wand, before realizing that that piece of wood the person was twirling was the exact thing he was looking for. I'll be damned if I'm going to go down lying in the dirt, Harry thought furiously, and pushed himself up to a standing position, swaying dangerously before righting himself. As an afterthought, he put up his fists. A little silly, considering that he could be knocked out with a simple Stupefy, but what the hell. He would go down fighting.
"Fight me like a man, you cowering dog of a Death Eater," he spat, the memories from Cedric's death still fresh in his mind.
"I'd like to, but sadly, I can't, even though I'm more of a man than you are. Because one, I'm not working for Voldemort, two, I'm certainly not a dog, and three, there are much more important things to do right now than engage in some pointless fight with the heroic Boy-Who-Lived, like, oh, I don't know, saving the world?" The smooth, sarcastic tenor was disturbingly familiar, and Harry blinked for a moment. Then, unexpectedly, the wand was carelessly tossed back to Harry – his Seeker reflexes let him catch it automatically – and his rescuer stepped out into a better-lighted part of the room.
"Malfoy?" Harry hissed disbelievingly, taking a good look at the person who had just saved his life. He pointed an accusing finger at the Slytherin, as if it was Malfoy's fault for being, well, Malfoy and saving him to boot.
"Ten points to the boy for finally using his brain," drawled Malfoy. His silvery hair caught even the faint sunlight trickling in, shimmering like threads of woven silver, and his silvery-gray eyes were cold as usual. His finely sculptured face was emotionless, with only a faint sneer on his mouth; his tall frame radiated arrogant strength. The pose he stuck, folding his arms into his black Hogwarts robes, gave him an air of superiority and impatience, like he had much better things to do than stand there and watch Harry Potter Boy-Who-Lived make a fool of himself.
It also made him look like a smaller, paler version of Snape. With less oil.
"Malfoy!" he said again, having nothing else to say coming to mind.
"Yes, I think we have long established that fact, Potter. We are wasting time –"
"Did you just Apparate? How? We haven't learned it yet! You're underage!"
Malfoy shot him a scathing look. "Is that the most pressing question on your sadly lacking mind right now, Potter?"
He has a very good point, the little voice in his head told him reasonably while sitting on the impulse to punch Malfoy's lights out just on principle. Harry was about to say something to Malfoy when –
"Harry Potter! Come out and play, little boy! No? Well then. This boy here will do nicely – are you watching, Potter? Is he your friend? I hope he is. Crucio!" came the taunting voice from outside the room, sounding muffled through the wall. Harry's eyes widened in horror as someone began screaming. "They have my friends and they're torturing them," he said disbelievingly.
"Yes, so come up with a plan," snapped Malfoy. "No, forget it, what am I saying? You can't think. If we have to rely on you to get us out alive, I'd rather jump off a cliff first."
"Then why don't you? I don't need your help!" Harry snarled in return, ducking around Malfoy, who was between him and the nearest exit.
Malfoy grabbed his arm and yanked him back. "Might I remind you that I wasn't the one standing straight in the path of a Dark Curse! Honestly, Potter, a simple ducking action would have sufficed."
Harry opened his mouth to insult Malfoy straight back, but then closed it again. Malfoy was right, what had he been doing, frozen to the spot like that? There had been a chance that he could have avoided the curses. And Harry was indebted to him, after all. Maybe Malfoy wasn't as bad as he seemed, if he actually did something as noble as saving someone. Harry had always thought him the Death Eater type, what with his father and all, killing and torturing mercilessly.
Malfoy looked faintly surprised that Harry had not replied, but then shrugged it off. He beckoned to the green-eyed boy, pulling him down to a crouch in front of a half-collapse wall of rubble. "Look," he ordered in a commanding whisper (how did he do that?), shoving Harry's face into the wall.
Harry looked, setting his questions aside for now. He could see all that was happening outside, through the cracks in the wall, and what he saw made him go cold. The Death Eaters had the Hogwarts students Stupefied, kept in a glowing blue barrier – the one that absorbed all magic. There were bodies all over the square, motionless; others were alive but unmoving in terror. Harry prayed fervently that most of the people had escaped. The Death Eaters themselves were inside the barrier, facing outwards in a circle, so that not a single movement would escape their notice.
Malfoy pulled Harry back. "See, no one can cast a spell past the barrier, but the barrier itself is physically non-existent. So what you have to do is to get inside that barrier and cast a spell to get rid of them. I'll distract them for you, but you have to be quick," he whispered, voice barely audible even though he was centimeters away from Harry.
Harry nodded, frantically recalling the spells he'd learnt, and quickly settled on a plan. He watched as Malfoy melded with the shadows and slipped away; he himself quietly made his way to a gap in the wall where he could dash outside quickly. Precious second ticked past as Harry waited, cold sweat beading on his forehead and palms. His friends' lives were in danger out there, because of him, and if they died - Harry didn't even want to think about that.
He watched with horror as a Death Eater levitated a third-year Hufflepuff and another one aim his wand at the student. "Harry Potter! We will kill this boy now, if you don't come out!" one of them yelled.
Come on, Malfoy, where are you! Harry thought frantically, scanning the grounds for any sign of movement. Then, Wait, what am I doing? I'm trusting a Slytherin! The leader of the Slytherins at that! Should I just make a run for it and pray for the best –
He never got to finish his mental sentence, for the next moment, he had to duck to avoid his head being sliced off by a piece of flying metal. Harry immediately straightened and stared out at the Square. It appeared that yet another building had exploded, but not from the Death Eaters' doing; the aforementioned Death Eaters were in fact pointing their wands in that direction, yelling out curses – and most importantly, facing away from Harry.
Harry ducked out from behind the wall he was crouching behind, and with lightning speed was inside the barrier before he even knew it. As if in slow motion, he saw the Death Eaters turn around as he held out his wand at chest-height and yelled, "Dilato Stupefy!"
A red disc of light expanded from the point of Harry's wand, slicing outwards; the Death Eaters did not have the time to duck, and all within the ten-metre range of his spell were knocked unconscious, the spell automatically bypassing the caster. Those who were outside Harry's range whipped around to aim curses at Harry, but were promptly knocked out with a few well-aimed spells by, Harry presumed, Malfoy, the people on the ground not having enough time to react. The barrier dissolved into the air and disappeared.
Harry looked around him and blinked a few times. It was over? Just like that? It seemed too… simple, somehow. Too easy. Surely Voldemort wouldn't let so many of his precious few Death Eaters fall into the hands of the enemy in a matter of minutes. But it looked like it. They had won.
He kept his wand out, though – just in case.
"Mention I helped you, Potter, and your worshippers will bury an empty coffin," drawled a voice behind him. Harry whirled around and stared at Malfoy. His sleek black robes, which were never out of place and always perfectly creased, were now dusty and had a couple of tears in the fabric. His slicked back hair was caked with dust, too, making him look much older, and more worn; the gel that usually held it in place was gone, leaving his hair to ripple softly in the tiny breeze. He had kept his wand in his hand, like Harry had.
"If you don't want people knowing you helped me then why did you?" challenged Harry, too tired to be subtle.
Something in Malfoy's eyes flickered, before the wall of impenetrable silvery-gray glass was back up in his eyes. "I just felt like it, other than that, it's None. Of. Your. Business. It was not done for you, it was not done out of kindness, it wasn't a change of heart; it was a rash impulse that I am decidedly starting to regret. So do not think I have changed and become a soft cuddly teddy bear that you can befriend. I am as likely to kill you now as I was before. Understand, Potter?
Harry remained silent, disagreement in his eyes.
"Potter. I don't want to argue with you and waste time. I'm dead tired from all that running and I need to get out of here before anyone sees me in this appalling state. If you do not swear you will shut that mouth of yours, I will Obliviate you."
"I didn't think Malfoys used the word teddy," remarked Harry at last.
Malfoy's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Potter," he hissed, "You have five seconds. Five. Four. Three. Two. One –"
"I swear I won't tell anyone about you helping me," Harry said coolly, fingers discreetly crossed behind his back. It wasn't very nice to lie, really, but this was Malfoy. He had to tell Ron and Hermione, it was just too big news. Other than that, he would keep this secret. It wasn't any day that an enemy saved you, and it had to mean something. He was determined to find out what it was, and to do so he had to make Malfoy trust him – or at least, have a semblance of trust in him. And to do that he wouldn't tell anyone else.
Malfoy sneered at Harry before turning on his heel in a dramatic swirl of black robe (sort of like Snape again, Harry noted amusedly), his brisk stride taking him out of sight quickly. Really, he looked quite impressive like that, Harry somehow couldn't take his eyes off –
Battle in Hogsmeade! Dead and dying! Tortured classmates! Any of these ring a bell? the voice in his head said waspishly. Harry's eyes flew wide open in shock – how could he have forgotten? Attributing it to temporary insanity, he hurriedly dashed towards the square that was slowly coming to life, people tentatively standing and looking around for friends; some were viciously kicking and pummeling the still black figures; some were trying to tug the black masks off the Death Eaters' faces but somehow the masks seemed to be stuck.
Halfway there, he crashed into someone that materialized out of thin air. "Ow! Dammit, watch where you Apparate! I'm trying to save lives here!" groused Harry as he pushed himself from the ground – only to stare open-mouthed at the Headmaster of Hogwarts, who was trying to hide a smile behind his bushy white beard.
"Pro – Professor – Professor Dumbledore!" Harry squeaked, going red. "I – I was just –"
"Did you hear anything?" the Professor asked innocently.
"Er – no, sir. But I do apologise for what we both didn't hear."
"Unnecessary apology accepted, Harry. I apologise too, for not being here sooner. Unfortunately, we were held up by another attack on a village not too far from here, and we did not find out about this simultaneous attack until just now, when we hurried here as quickly as possible," Dumbledore informed Harry gravely. "I am sorry for the delay."
Harry looked around him. The Hogwarts teachers, it seemed, had also Apparated along with Dumbledore, and were now in the process of Ennervating all the unconscious victims. Madame Pomfrey was there, busy healing patients with Professor Sprout helping; Professor Snape was forcing a potion down someone's throat; the other teachers were helping in their own way. "It's okay, Professor Dumbledore. You came just in time."
People were coming back to the Square, looking for loved ones and friends, and to some people's relief, they found them safe and unharmed. But others… Harry could see people cradling unmoving bodies in their arms, sobbing, and he grieved for them, because he should have been able to do something. Malfoy was right – freezing like that was unacceptable; he should have thought of something better, something that would help more than a mere silly basic Stupefy, so easily countered. He was suffocating under the immense guilt, seeing all those cold, frozen faces around him, dying while the Boy-Who-Lived had lived once again – even with all those curses coming for him, just for him – like Cedric, dying beside him, for no good reason. A boy, a friend with such a bright future in front of him, who excelled in everything, while Harry was just a boy with a stupid scar…
"Harry." Dumbledore's firm voice made him look up. "You're hyperventilating, my boy. Calm down; you did very well. In a war, there are always casualties, for we cannot save every single person." Seeing that Harry still wasn't convinced, the Headmaster sighed. "Think about what I said, Harry. It is not your fault that people died. The world already places too much on your young shoulders. Now, toddle off to check on your friends. I will have a talk with you later to find out what happened."
Harry nodded, and scanned the crowd for Ron and Hermione. He saw them, staggering to their feet, looking disoriented, and he dashed off towards them and threw his arms around them in a tight hug. Ron and Hermione were equally emotional, and the three remained in a group hug for a few moments, before reluctantly letting go. Hermione wiped a few tears from her eyes. "Harry, I was so worried! Those curses were aimed right at you, and then someone grabbed you and you disappeared somewhere and I thought you were dead! Oh, Harry, I'm so glad you're okay!"
Ron was not as articulate, but he managed to put in as much emotion into his one sentence as Hermione did in her tearful speech. He punched Harry weakly in the arm and grinned, "Good job you did there, mate."
Harry smiled back at the two of them, fighting tears. "I'm so glad you both are fine," he told them, voice shaking, a world of relief and gratefulness in his words.
Hermione opened her mouth to speak again, when there was a loud crack and shocked yells filled the air. Harry whipped around, fear returning in full force, a bad feeling in his gut. And sure enough...
"No way!" he gasped, scanning the battlefield. There was not a single black-masked black-robed body amongst all the figures. Adult wizards, with their wands out at the ready, looked furiously bewildered. Harry chanced a glance at Dumbledore and stared. Livid fury was radiating from the Headmaster, just like it had at the end of fourth year when he had blasted the door to Moody's office into fragments, except that this time, Dumbledore was keeping his rage suppressed, though that only served to make him look even more forbidding.
Harry averted his gaze and instead looked around him, leaving the adults, who were already gathering around Dumbledore, to argue and debate. It was no use thinking about it, since Harry wasn't very good at magical theories, anyway. Looking around, he saw a majority of people hurt, and other people hard at work levitating the larger pieces of rubble to search for any trapped victims. Mediwitches and Mediwizards were Apparating in all over the place, checking wounds and prone bodies. Harry's heart ached, and his fists clenched, when he saw one of them shake her head after checking an unmoving witch, and the wizard holding the certified dead body cradled it all the tighter and cried, his body shaking.
Harry turned away, he himself shaking a little. People were bound to talk after this, asking why hadn't the Boy-Who-Lived done more, why he was still alive when their loved ones were dead. And he'd be scorned, and hated, and there would be no one to grieve his death like the wizard had grieved for his lover, who was dead because Harry hadn't done anything to save her, because Harry had allowed Wormtail to escape and live to help Voldemort live again…
"Herm? Herm!" Ron's panicked voice brought him back to reality. Harry caught Hermione just in time, when she slumped, unconscious. He staggered under the sudden weight, then gently lowered her to the ground, kneeling beside her. Checking her pulse, he breathed a sigh of relief. "She's okay, just over-stretched her nerves, I guess," he told Ron, who was hovering anxiously over them both. "Shock, y'know?"
"Yeah," smiled Ron with relief. "Yeah. That's great. That's good."
"Yeah, it's great…" Harry trailed off, looking past Ron, then stood abruptly. Pushing past a bewildered Ron, he strode toward the only prone Hogwarts-robed figure that was not waking up amongst the other groaning students. Dropping down next to the figure, he rolled the body over, and his blood turned cold.
Dean Thomas's face, frozen in a look of surprise, stared unseeingly up at Harry.
"Dean?" Harry whispered shakily, disbelievingly. He pointed his wand at Dean and choked out, "Ennervate!" But Dean didn't move. Harry stared, tears blinding him, at his dorm-mate. Quiet but reliable, gentle and helpful, fun and energetic at times – Dean couldn't be dead. He couldn't! His muggle posters – they had planned to charm them to move, for his Christmas present; his endless patience in arguing for soccer had passed many a boring afternoon, and – no, Harry wouldn't allow it. Not Dean, too. Not after Cedric.
A detached part of Harry noted realized he was shaking Dean harshly, yelling at him to wake up; that his friends were surrounding him, some crying into shoulders, others just gaping in shock; that the teachers were pushing their way into the circle and stopping dead at the sight that greeted them; that his tears were splashing onto Dean's face, his cold, dead face. Harry felt his emotions ball themselves up, locking themselves away into a deep corner of his heart, as his body shuddered with sobs and anguish.
Finally he quieted. He stayed unmoving for a long while, taking in the reality before him, before gently closing Dean's wide staring eyes. Standing abruptly, the people around him shrinking away from him, he turned to face Dumbledore, whose face was solemn and grave, his eyes filled with worry. Before Dumbledore could say anything about how it wasn't Harry's fault, Harry spoke, his voice low and forceful.
"I don't want to hear anything about how deaths are inevitable in war. One of my good friends is dead and I need some time to think, some time to be alone, as does everyone else. So don't follow me where I'm going and don't disturb me if you find me." He shouldered his way out of the crowd, murmuring "Accio Firebolt" as he went. Once outside the press of people, none of whom made to stop him, he waited for his broomstick. In no time at all, the Firebolt sped into his hands and he gracefully got on before soaring into the sky and out of sight of the people on the ground.
Harry tilted his head to the sky, closing his eyes, letting the wind buffet him full-force, stinging his face. He urged his broomstick faster, feeling it respond eagerly under his hands; he turned the nose of the broom towards the sky, and spiraled up. Higher, and higher, until the air was thin and getting hard to breathe. "I'm sorry," Harry whispered to his friends somewhere down on the earth below him. "I'm sorry." Because the moment he had seen Dean's dead face, one of so many he knew he'd failed to protect, he'd known what he had to do. It would hurt, but he would do it.
And knowing that – even as he flew higher, he felt like he was falling.
To Be Continued.
Well! Here's the edited version, which I do hope is better than before. If you haven't read the previous ones, be glad.
Don't worry – I'll try to make the updates on this one quite regular… one every two weeks, maybe? I'll even try for every week.
Some chapters have been heavily edited, some left almost entirely intact, but important details have been changed here and there.
Although the whole guilty!Harry thing is so stupidly overused, I am guilty of using it in this story. Please do not get too irritated? It's for a good cause (coughHarryDracocough).
Oh well. Things get better.
"A simple ducking action would have sufficed."