The light flickered overhead, the dull, dying bulb threatening to blink out to its end. Harry leaned backwards, staring at the bulb in a mildly threatening manner, just daring it to blink out of existence. Beside his sprawled leg, the wispy connection of a battery operated television cackled away, voicing itself loudly and dully through the gloomy cellar.
Water stains ran down the concrete walls, expanding at the top, and narrowing at the bottom. They glinted a dull, brown color that stood out disgustingly in the grayness of the cellar, but Harry didn't mind. He wasn't being picky at the moment—anywhere to escape to from the brutal light of reality. The loneliness he was feeling, the emptiness that had taken over his stomach, the heart ache that gripped his chest every time Hedwig returned home without a parcel, a letter, hell not even a scrap of paper attached to her leg.
He wouldn't mind just a scrap, not then anyway. That's all he really wanted was just a scrap, something to show that he had friends that cared, concerned, something to give him an idea that the Wizarding World hadn't been destroyed while he slept. Yet he knew that last assumption was irrational—seeing as he had Order members stalking his every move like they longed to be his second, if not first, shadow.
They still didn't talk to him though. Shadows don't talk, and they only run astray if they're Peter Pan's.
Sighing, Harry turned his threatening glare from the flickering light, back onto the television. By his hand their rested a pile of trashed, torn, and worn muggle books that once use to occupy his closest, because Dudley was too good to read books. While stacked next to the pile of rusty books, were his school books.
Yes, he thought, he'd make Hermione proud. Studying and reading books, both magically based and non-magically based. Ron would more then likely have a heart-attack though, while Snape would, might, inwardly if anything, blink in surprise.
But what did it matter? They weren't talking to him—they weren't listening, they weren't writing, they had just left him in the darkness. At least last year he had gotten letters, despite the lack of information in them, but this was horrible—no letters whatsoever.
He was almost taken to thinking that Dobby had jumped the gun again and was trying to 'save' his life by cutting off contact—for only a house elf's logic could find a life saving scheme in that—except that when Harry took the idea to heart and sent a letter to Dobby, he found that he had been sorely mistaken. Not to mention he rather regretted setting the pour little fellow off into bouts of tears.
He was so alone feeling, and numb.
The escape he had into the abandoned house was nothing like he wanted it to be. It was like his self-imposed exile from everyone, a wholly backward scheme seeing as he wanted people around him. Yet, maybe he didn't.
If they didn't care enough to send him letters…
A rerun of the Simpsons blurred onto view across the static screen, causing a wiry grin to break Harry face—but it really wasn't a grin that one would find appealing on a boy's face, on anyone's face for that matter. It was strained, pulled, no warmth, no malice though, it didn't reach the eyes, barely reached his lips. But yet it was a grin all the same—possibly it was what a grin was to a boy in such a state.
He liked the show though; something about Bart was alluring to him. Muggles had such interesting tastes at times. Fishing in his pocket, he withdrew a pack of cigarettes, and shook one out. The thought of the all his friend's faces at such an act was morbidly appealing to the boy.
Hermione's gaping mouth, her tongue set on a brisk scolding about his health and stupidity, while Ron flushed red, gathering what the cigarette was, but his curiosity to such an object nearly overtaking his foreboding of it. He didn't really care about anyone else's reaction though—however, Dumbledore's tended to be humorously played out in his head.
The savior of the Wizarding world, the effing Boy-Who-Lived, the one meant to destroy the Dark Lord—killing himself from the inside by a muggle contraption. Something not even the old man could've predicted.
Sighing slightly, he flicked a match into life, letting is briefly cackle with life as it absorbed the stuffy oxygen of the mildew cellar, his emerald eyes absorbing the licking flame with a pyromaniac's lust. Then he moved it, setting alight the tip of the cigarette, before swishing out the match, the flame nearly at his fingertips. Breathing in the haggard, lung killing smoke with a sigh of relief, the stress the whole reality fell briefly from his shoulders.
He should've taken up smoking a while ago—Dudley wasn't as foolish as some might've thought. Then again he definitely wasn't as smart as his parents pretended he was, 'pretend' being the key word.
Pulling a drag on the cigarette, Harry suddenly let out a barking laugh at the antics of Bart with his Principal. He should try that sometime with Dumbledore, see how things played over. Then he laughed again, more bitterly this time at the thought.
The man probably wouldn't appreciate it; he wouldn't understand the simple and childish fun of pulling back the rubber of a sling-shot and letting it soar. The sound it made, the feel of the tug, the laughter of the hit—so childish, immature, boyish. Like Sirius.
Harry's heart cringed and he shifted uneasily on his bottom, pulling a longer smoke on his cigarette. No, he wouldn't think too much on Sirius. He couldn't—he wouldn't allow it. He hadn't cried over Sirius, and he wouldn't let himself. The grief was so much, the plague of nightmares at night, the brief memories of his face that flashed as Harry worked about.
No! It was too much. If he cried, well he couldn't cry. He had to be tough. He had to be so for Sirius.
Leaning back, pressing his head against the water stained wall, the cigarette resting on the edge of his lip, he briefly closed his eyes in anguish. Then he flipped them open, a flicker of a shadow on the staircase leading down to the basement. Was someone there?
Narrowing his emerald eyes, allowing Homer's 'dolt' to echoed around the cellar, Harry carefully examined the shadows of the stairway, but didn't see anything happen again. It was just a trick of the light. Nothing.
Wasn't like any Order member would come down to see him anyway, they just lurked about outside, keeping intruders from entering unwelcome. Hell, Harry thought bitterly as he looked around, he sure as hell wouldn't come down into a dump like this to see a sulking kid either.
He doubted Voldemort would come down there too, despite the fact that he lived in a rat-house anyway.
That's why he chose it. Smirking he turned his attention back onto the television, chuckling heavily and without much humor, at the sight of Bart slinging his sling-shot off again. Dudley had one, he remembered stealing it for a day, maybe he ought to steal it again.
Another movement. Again in the shadows. Frowning, Harry turned his head. Once was acceptable—twice was too suspicious.
"Get out here," he snapped into the shadows. "Show yourself or are you too dolled up in a drag to do so?" Oh, yeah, he just really scared the shit out that person. Sarcasm was a good feature—he'd have to sneer a thanks Snape for the lesson later. The lesson of five, hard years.
There was a rustling movement, along with an irritated growl, and Remus Lupin emerged. Instantly Harry's heart tightened at the sight of his old friend, and Sirius's old friend. He was worn looking, haggard with slightly frayed strands of hair, and his jaw was set crooked as he looked Harry over.
But the boy found his annoyance, his exile that he had received from the man over the last month too hard to bear to show any gratitude to his friend. Instead he lolled his head back over and stared at the screen.
"It's a shame—you'd be interesting in drag," he snarled and Remus grunted, his usually casual demeanor cracking.
"Harry," he said, his voice strained. "What are you doing? Rotting away in a cellar? And why the hell are you smoking?"
"Because it feels good," Harry snapped back. "What do you want? Surely not to check up on my well-being? You didn't seem to care this past MONTH!"
Remus flinched slightly as he walked forward, eyes silently scanning the junk of the cellar floor. The discarded packages of cigarettes, the candy bar wrappers, the soda cans, and then finally the books. He briefly smiled in relief at the sight of the books. At least he wasn't going completely to waste.
"Harry," he said quietly. "I know it hasn't been easy on you…not easy at all. I'm sorry, maybe I should've come earlier."
"Maybe?" Harry growled, eyes fixed only on the screen. He pulled a drag on the cigarette, ignoring Remus's irritated grunt at the action.
"Yes, maybe, but I had to deal with it too, see?" slowly he moved forward but Harry snapped a glare onto him that would've made Dumbledore stop in his tracks. "I couldn't handle it myself, and I surely couldn't handle…well, I just couldn't at the time. Please, Harry, forgive me."
"I didn't have to see you Lupin!" Harry finally grated out in a low, deadly whisper. "You could've sent me a letter or something. THAT WOULD'VE BEEN ENOUGH!"
"I know," Remus sighed. "But please, Harry, please." He stared at the hard boy with imploring eyes but Harry never looked at him. Sighing, he straightened his back. "Well, we'll see to that little issue later I guess." He said in his professor voice. "Come along now. This is ridiculous for you to be sulking down here in this cellar and watching…a box."
"It's a television, Lupin," Harry snarled. "If you're going to help defend a race from annihilation by a Dark Lord, at least know something of their culture."
"Harry Potter!" Remus snapped, his voice taking on a sharp edge. Harry didn't flinch. "Get up now, do you understand this. Get up now, put out that cigarette—what are you trying to do? Kill yourself? And get your books. We're leaving his cellar. Now."
"Go away Lupin," Harry warned, his voice raspy from his fight for control. "I'm fine—why don't you just ignore me! Like you have for the past month!"
"My, my, my," Remus breathed, staring his friend's son up and down. His eyes were sad, but he was using the only edge he had over the boy at the moment. Anything to get him to come back. "You've certainly done it this time, Mr. Potter. Sulking now—what would Sirius say, hmmm?"
"Don't talk about Sirius!" Harry shouted as he leapt to his feet, emerald eyes ablaze. "YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT HIM!"
"I have every right—I knew him longer then you did!" Remus countered, his stomach boiling with stagnant grief.
"HE CARED FOR ME!" Harry hollered at him. "MORE THEN YOU! HE WAS ON THE RUN, RUNNING FROM THE MINISTRY, DEMENTORS, EVERYONE, AND YET HE STILL SENT ME LETTERS. YOU HAVEN'T SENT ME ONE—WHY? WHY? Because you couldn't handle it." Sneering his last sentence, Harry dropped against the wall, his eyes dry as he stared unseeingly at the far wall.
The grief that vibrated off the boy was tremendous, he reeked of it, he danced in it. There was so much, he might've as well taken a bath in it. Which was what Remus feared he had. That he had taken a bath in his brief and was just lying there, in it, stagnant, letting it fester over him. Doing nothing about it.
"Harry," Remus said softly, taking a step forward, toward the hollow boy. "Harry, please my boy, don't do this. Tell me what's the matter?"
"Figured it was pretty obvious," Harry breathed, looking up with sad, hollow green eyes. "You're interrupting my show." Remus sighed slightly—he was so stubborn, so like his mother.
"I'm sorry, Harry, I truly am." Remus continued, stepping forward, and ignoring the flinch Harry gave when he got right up to him. "There's a reason no one's been sending you letters, I would explain but Dumbledore requested that he could."
"A scrap of paper would've done," Harry sighed quietly, his voice beaten. He turned away from Remus, fished in his pocket desperately, and pulled out his pack of cigarettes. He needed another one.
Knocking one out, he was seconds from lightening it when suddenly a hand touched his elbow, gently and carefully. Startled by the contact, he looked over his shoulder, straight into Remus's worn, fallen face. The man shook his head slightly and pulled the cigarette from the boy's hand.
"What would your mother say?" he asked quietly, causing Harry's stomach to clench tightly. "Come on, let's go."
"I don't want to," Harry said in a quiet voice. "Just leave me be, alright? I like it here, in the cellar. Look around, Remus, not even Voldemort would step foot in this place." Remus glanced around and nodded in agreement.
"True," he said. "So, you've become lower then Voldemort then?"
Emerald eyes went wide, and Harry started to protest, his mouth jumbling up his words, when suddenly there was a loud, imploding noise that shook the very ground that they stood on. Rocked violently to the side, Harry started to lose his balance when suddenly Remus's tired arms caught him soundly.
"What was that?" Harry asked, startled.
"I don't know, cub," Remus shook his head as he helped the boy right himself. Then, through the sudden overcast of silence, there was a piercing scream. Long, terrified, haunting and everlasting.
As if calling to others—like a wolf howls to the moon and others join in across the landscape—more and more screams piled up. All echoing loudly, all scrambling in fear, everything turning into a simple, pure, and basic chaos.