Bindings of Love and Pain
By Bil!

PG - Angst - Char Death - HP, PD - Complete
Everything that has a beginning has an end: Harry has to deal with an unexpected loss.
Disclaimer: HP is JKR's. But then you already knew that.

A/N: Many thanks to those of you who have reviewed my other HP fics; I seldom reply, but I always appreciate it. Particular thanks to LesserKnown, who has been very supportive; this one's for you.

His aunt was dying. And it was funny, because it hurt. It hurt so much and he didn't understand why, because she had never cared about him or loved him. She was supposed to take the place of his mother, to hug him and care for him and kiss away all his hurts, but instead she had thrown him in a cupboard and berated him and made him do all the chores and tried to hit him with the frying pan. If it had been him dying, she wouldn't have shed a single tear - but it still hurt.

When he got the letter he just sat there, his friends eating and laughing and talking around him, and he stared at it. If he had been alone he might have cried, and he didn't understand why, because he hated her and shouldn't he be glad she was dying, glad she was finally going to be out of his life forever? But he couldn't be glad, he could only stare at the harsh words on the white, crisp, muggle paper. She was dying.

His friends stole the letter from his unresisting hand, teasing him, and then they read it and they stared at him. Their eyes were wide, their mouths forming foolish 'o's of surprise, and they stared at him.

You're not going? one demanded. Not after all they've done to you? They don't care about you, why should you care about them?

Of course he's going, the other said. She's his aunt!

And he ignored them, staring at his empty hand and feeling the emotions welling up inside him, and they took him from the table, away to where it was quiet, and he just sat there and-

She wasn't supposed to die! She wasn't a part of his world, she wasn't a part of his war, she wasn't supposed to die, she had always been there, she would always be there-

And she was dying and it hurt. And he didn't know why.

He went to her, to the bed in the hospital where she lay pale and frail on the white pillows with the white sheets tucked around her

(and he wondered why they chose white, always white, when it made the patients look so sick, when it was so hard to clean of food and vomit and blood)

and he sat beside her and he stared at her sleeping face and wondered at the pain he felt (always pain, so much pain).

And his uncle glared at him, silently threatening dire consequences should he do anything (freakish, unnatural, abnormal) magical, silently fuming that his wife had asked for (that brat) him to come. How could the man worry about that when his wife lay-

And his cousin looked up at him with tears, and there was no hatred, no fear, just (surely you can do something, surely you can save her) hope. But even magic couldn't help, even magic had its limits. He wanted to cry, because he had all this (it's up to you to save the world) power, all this magic, and it wasn't any use, it couldn't do this one thing, it couldn't save her. He was supposed to save a world, and he couldn't save just one person, he couldn't save her and why did he care, why did he care?

She opened her eyes, stared at him, so pale and frail on the white pillow, and he had tears in his eyes and she looked (why would you cry for me?) surprised. She told her husband to leave, ignored his horrified look, just told him to leave. She paid no attention to her son, who sat huddled by her bed, just stared at him, the unwanted burden.

She wanted to explain, she told him. Wanted him to know why he was (nothing but a good-for-nothing freak) hated. And she spoke, in a soft, hoarse (dying, she was dying) voice. Of her childhood and two sisters who had done everything together. Of the letter from (that freak school) Hogwarts and the irreparable rift that had grown. Of not being (you're just worthless) good enough to have magic of her own. Of hearing of her sister's death and knowing it was his fault, his, just a baby and somehow causing the death of her (still beloved) sister. Of being forced to take in a (freakish brat) baby who had killed her sister and had the gall to wear his mother's eyes.

She couldn't care for him, not with those (his mother's) eyes. She wouldn't let her son befriend him, not when she knew the rift that would later form; she wouldn't put her son through that, she wouldn't let history repeat itself. She could only hate (that worthless brat) him.

And he had tears in his eyes, for the girl she had been, for the woman she had become, for her pain, for his mother's death, for his cousin who would so soon lose his mother. And she (why would you cry for me?) stared at him, as he babbled apologies for something that wasn't (but it was, wasn't it, it always was) his fault, and he was sorry, he was so sorry, why did he always hurt everyone around him?

She reached out and touched his hand, and for the first time she touched him out of (however small) affection instead of duty or anger. For a brief moment they locked gazes, and he thought that for once she saw him without his mother's spectre hanging over him.

And as his uncle burst impatiently back into the room and they all returned to their (abnormal, not a normal family at all) normal masks, he understood why it (she was dying) hurt. Because as maladjusted and heartless a family as they were, they were still family. Bound by a love for a dead woman and a shared wound inflicted by Voldemort.

When she died, he cried.