All That's Left Behind

Author's Note: Here it is – an entirely new beginning. Set post-OotP, this is my take on how Harry deals with his grief. Hopefully you like it. Thank you as always for reading my work, and a special thanks go to Nicky15 and Wishweaver for their input and good sense! Cheers!

Disclaimer: You have no idea how much I wish Harry Potter were mine. There are definitely some things I'd be changing! :-D But alas, he is not.

Chapter One - Dumbledore's Choice

There was a time when, if asked, Harry Potter might have confided his feelings. In the first few weeks back on Privet Drive his emotions fluctuated wildly - from rage to utter devastation to unbearable guilt.

My fault. All my fault. It was so inescapably true. The blame lay entirely on him; through lack of understanding and a desperate need to help - to be a part of the fight against Voldemort. The need to do something, to assuage his own sense of failure at the senselessness of Cedric's death and to ease the guilt at his own part in Voldemort's rebirth was exactly what Voldemort had exploited.

He'd sought out that which Harry had cared most about – Sirius – and used his love and protectiveness to lure Harry away from the supposed safety of Hogwarts to the Department of Mysteries. In a twisted way, his fear of losing Sirius became a self-fulfilled prophesy.

In those first days, when the Dursleys were as quiet as church mice and tip-toed around Harry, careful to craft their sentences in such a way as to pretend he wasn't even there, he'd relished his new 'invisible' status. He drifted from his room to the bathroom and back in a haze, frozen in time. An owl came once every three days to deliver a blank parchment for Harry to reply about his welfare to the Order.

The letters from his friends warned that his correspondence was not secure and spoke of everyday things. The ones he got from Remus Lupin were so stilted and formal that Harry couldn't bear to read them. He didn't know what to say or how to be anymore, and since his letters would be monitored anyway, didn't bother to pretend. I must not tell lies.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he'd awaken, hardly able to breathe, so overwhelmed with grief and loss that he tucked his body into the corner of the room, trying to fold in on himself as he sobbed quietly, rocking back and forth with his toes as he hugged his knees to his chest.

Now that the initial shock had worn off (how could it be over, just like that? He fell, that's all!) all he seemed to do was cry – no matter how hard he tried not to. He hadn't fallen to pieces at Hogwarts, but unfortunately his shocked numbness hadn't lasted. Not when he was here, the one place where he was most alone.

He thought to try to put his feelings into words at first, maybe in a journal, but he felt so alien, so different, and all he could envision was Tom Riddle's handwriting seeping into the pages of his journal in reply, which was enough to squash that idea. Instead he internalized the pain, letting it all absorb into a giant black hole within which his heart now seemed centered.

He had so many horrific nightmares, both of his own creation and thanks to Voldemort, that he hardly slept more than a few hours at a time. He didn't bother looking in the mirror – he couldn't stand to see himself, and not just because he looked a ghoulish sight, with his waxy, pale skin and bloodshot eyes set in a too thin face, pinched with pain. He knew what he'd done. Sometimes he tried so hard not to cry that his fingernails tore into his palms, and all save the tiniest whine of pain was swallowed.

He kept trying to understand it all, to get a sense of what he was supposed to do now, and try to move past the overwhelming need to just disappear. He didn't want to be Harry Potter anymore. In truth he hadn't for a long time. All he'd ever wanted was to be loved, and now he felt like he never could be.

Too late, he understood how heavy the guilt had weighed on Sirius' shoulders. Words meant nothing when it truly was your fault. Not that he'd blamed Sirius, but he knew how much his godfather had blamed himself.

Now it was Harry's turn, and all he could think of was all that time – wasted in prison. Time he could have had with his godfather. But there would be no more opportunities. His luck had dried up, and there were no more near misses.

Azkaban had left its mark on Sirius, and perhaps his sanity. But Harry had loved him, and for the first time in his life he'd felt wanted – needed. Sirius had needed him, and now he was gone.

He didn't know what to do with himself. He wanted to die, to disappear, to be anyone else. He daydreamed sometimes of trying to Obliviate himself, but knew he wouldn't. The prophesy was his burden, and as much as he wanted to follow Sirius through that Veil, he couldn't just run away. And more importantly – he wouldn't.

He tried to make sense of what was the next, the right course of action. Dumbledore's confession had left him feeling utterly alone. He'd known. He'd left Harry with the Dursleys knowing what his life was going to be like, and yet he did it anyway. He said he had done it for Harry's safety. He had chosen Harry's life over his happiness.

Well, Harry knew he'd choose differently, and he wasn't sure how to feel about all those years with the Dursleys. Dumbledore had been aware of what he was going through and had done nothing… Not even a warning when they'd gotten out of hand, which they had, more than once. The send-off Moody, Remus and the others had given at the station had been kind, but all Harry could think was Why didn't he do that before, if he knew?

He'd thought the Headmaster had cared, but no longer. By basically ignoring Harry, he'd sent that message this last year loud and clear – he was on his own. He'd tried to do what he thought was right. He'd wanted to help, and thought his dreams were something he could do.

If only he'd known about the prophesy: about the Department of Mysteries. The Headmaster's candor was too little too late, and all Harry could think was he knew, he'd always known about the Dursleys and couldn't help but wonder did he know about Sirius' innocence, too? What wouldn't Dumbledore do, for the right cause? Harry knew it wasn't fair to even think it, but he couldn't help it.

He'd said he'd loved Harry too much, and that Sirius had brought much of Kreacher's behavior on himself. There were too many secrets, things Harry felt he'd had a right to know – about his parents, about Sirius, even about Snape. Everyone had their limits. Wasn't he ever allowed to say enough? What about Sirius? How about expecting an escaped prisoner of Azkaban, wrongly imprisoned, reliving his worst memories for over a decade, to be calm and mature enough not to rise to Kreacher's bait? Snape was certainly never expected to act maturely!

Harry bit off that train of thought before the constant throbbing in his forehead turned into a full-fledged attack. There were few people in his life he truly hated, but Snape was officially among them. If only Dumbledore had explained to Harry about the importance of ignoring the dreams! If only

The Headmaster was playing games with information, and Harry had tried so very hard to continue to do the right thing. It had worked out okay at first – until Cedric. But now he knew the truth. He'd been hung out to dry long ago. He was on his own, and always would be. Albus Dumbledore wasn't any sort of grandfatherly presence in his life; he was a chess master and Harry his pawn. But he was tired and sad, and missed Sirius more than life. He was sick of games, and realized it was his choice whether to continue to play.

Everything Harry touched fell to pieces, and at some point he must have decided to stop trying to reach out. It wasn't hard. His tears turned into silence and his internalized pain begun to solidify into something more tangible – not emptiness, but resolve. His life didn't make sense anymore unless he allowed himself to think of the prophesy as finishing what his mother started.

He should have died with his parents. His life up until now certainly pointed to that. The prophesy pointed to that. Life… And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… He had no life until one or both of them were dead.

Which left him thinking of strategy – his own, this time. There was no way he could ever match Voldemort's magical repertoire, and he knew it. He had no idea what the power the Dark Lord knows not was, but he did know he had one key advantage… Voldemort had done, and continued to do everything in his power to become immortal. He was afraid of death. Harry wasn't. And as that realization settled over him, the part of him that still railed that it was all unfair stilled into defeated silence, and the pain in his soul for the loss of Sirius began to channel from introspection into determination. In a way, Sirius had chosen freedom over safety, and Harry agreed with the choice. In his own way, he would do the same.