I'm not J.K. Rowling and none of the characters in this little story belong to me.
There comes a point in every war when you look around the battlefield and you know that it's over. Know that all that's left to do is gather up the bodies of the deceased and return them to their families. Know that you can go home now.
Even those among us, who had never seen a war with their own eyes before, let alone fought it with their own wands, knew that point had come when the larger than life, eerie green Dark Mark in the sky, that had lit Hogwarts' grounds until only moments before, disappeared - leaving us bathed in pale moonlight that felt equally eerie somehow.
The Dark Lord was dead at last.
Too numb to feel triumphant, I stumbled over the bodies of teachers, students and villagers; trying hard not to count the dead ones, but instead concentrating on the ones who had made it. When I found the first fledgling, a small second-year Hufflepuff whose name I didn't know, looking ruffled but distinctly alive, I gave up all pretense of not having a heart behind that thick Slytherin shell of mine. I pulled the girl into a rough, awkward, one-armed hug and quickly wiped my face before I continued my quest across the battlefield.
When I spotted an evident bulk of green cloth, I braced myself for the worst. But against all odds most of my students had made it through alive. There was Crabbe, cradling Blaise in his arms. Pansy Parkinson was crouching next to them, rocking back and forth in shock, staring blankly at Zabini's lifeless form. Others were nursing their wounds, helping each other up, casting spells with a flick of their wands, ripping robes in two and turning them into bandages and slings for wounds and broken bones that magic wouldn't mend. The only words spoken were healing charms and soft words of comfort. Pride welled up inside of me, momentarily replacing the sorrow, and I didn't care that tears spilled down my face openly now for everyone to see.
I helped wherever children's magic wasn't strong enough to work properly - all the while continuing the search that I hadn't had the strength to acknowledge I was doing - when out of nowhere a boy flung himself into my arms. He buried his face inside my robes and sobbed desperately. I looked down and saw dirty red streaks staining silver-blonde hair. Blood that wasn't his.
I closed my eyes.
For a while we held each other tight, gently swaying left and right on our feet in what seemed to be the universal gesture of "Hush now, it's all right. Everything will be okay."
And maybe it would be.
I let go of Draco after one last assuring squeeze and left him with the Gryffindor twins, who wrapped a blanket around the blonde's trembling shoulders and slowly let him towards the castle, while I continued to search the battlefield for survivors.
At last I approached a small group of students, who were all crouching on the dirty ground, forming a circle around a fragile body that lay still and unmoving. I recognized the Granger girl. I recognized two youngest Weasley siblings. I recognized Longbottom and Lovegood … and I knew whom the body they were shielding from my view belonged to.
I knew my search was over.
'It's beyond me how anyone can see you as the savior of the Wizarding World, Potter! You need to … CONCENTRATE!'
I barked out the last word in frustration, but Harry Potter had long stopped flinching at my outbursts.
'I made it through this far,' he said calmly. 'I will make it through next time.'
'You made it this far with the help of sheer luck and sheer luck alone!' I spat.
Then I decided to change my tactic.
'Potter …' I managed to sound reasonable with an effort. 'I'm not saying that Occlumency is the key to success in a face-to-face battle with the Dark Lord, but at least it may help you to survive.'
Potter's jaw was set and the lines on his face spoke of a bitterness that should not exist in the heart of any sixteen year old teenager, as annoying and obnoxious he may be. 'Why do you care?' he asked without looking at me.
Did I care?
I didn't know and I told him so.
Harry finally looked at me. And after a while, instead of being as irritable as usual, he simply said: 'I appreciate your honesty, sir.'
A small smile showed me he meant it.
'But I do care about The Dark Lord being gone, Potter! For good, too. And since everyone is so set on believing that YOU are the only one who can make that happen, I'll be damned if I won't train you the best way I know how to.'
Harry nodded. Maybe I would get the words through that thick Gryffindor skull of his this time?
I pulled up a chair and sat down in front of him. 'Potter … it's all good and well to learn how to cast a non-verbal spell and I dare say your efforts haven't been entirely useless so far. But non-verbal spells will get you nowhere with the Dark Lord if you haven't learned how to close your mind while casting them.'
Of course none of my words came as news to Potter, but this time he relented. Maybe it was the apparent lack of volume in my voice. Maybe it was the lack of malice.
'Okay, okay,' sighed Harry and defeated he got up from his chair.
We assumed our usual positions in the middle of the classroom and stood only a few feet apart, facing each other. I watched as he braced himself for a renewed attack on his mind and, cutting him some slack this time, I waited until he seemed prepared enough.
'Ready?' I then asked and Potter nodded gravely – his jaw set, his eyes determined.
I raised my wand.
'Do you think I have a chance at all?' he suddenly asked.
He wasn't talking about our lessons.
I lowered my wand again.
'No, I don't think you do, Potter!' I answered quietly. I wasn't trying to provoke him. I wasn't trying to hurt. I was never one to sugarcoat things and for some reason Harry Potter - out of all people - seemed to respect me for it. He merely nodded, his face void of emotions.
"But I'll happily eat my words if you should prove me wrong,' I added with a sincerity that probably startled us both and was about to raise my wand again, when his words stopped me once more.
'Want to bet on it?'
I blinked. 'Excuse me?'
Potter smiled. 'A bet. If I'm the one who survives Riddle … you will allow me to ask you for three seconds of your time to do something I ask of you. Anything.'
I raised my eyebrows suspiciously and he added: 'It won't be illegal and it won't hurt.'
'What's in it for me?'
'If Voldemort kills me, I will allow you to dance on my grave and sing "I told you so! I told you so!" for as long as you like.'
For a moment I considered the options presented. Then I smirked. "Three seconds?"
Harry nodded in confirmation. "Three seconds."
"It's a deal." I nodded back curtly and raised my wand at last.
END OF FLASHBACK
The teenagers looked at me warily as I approached, but nevertheless they made room for me and I sank down besides the limp, lifeless form that was Harry Potter.
He looked like a broken and worn-out porcelain doll that a careless child, once upon a time, had left lying in their backyard and then forgotten all about, moving on to bigger and better toys. His hair was covered in mud and there were ugly streaks of blood drying on his face and it was hard to tell if it was his own or that of an unlucky opponent. His green eyes stared dully through shattered spectacles. Something that looked vaguely like the imprint of a shoe sole was stamped across his right cheek. Dancing on Harry Potter's grave while chanting "I told you so! I told you so!" seemed to have lost all its appeal.
I could only stare when a ragged breath unexpectedly escaped the youth's lips. I could only watch as he blinked repeatedly, clearing his vision, and I snapped out of my trance only when the words 'You owe me three seconds, Professor.' had registered in my brain.
So the blasted kid had survived once more.
The rasping laugh that escaped my mouth sounded so alien to all the children around me that they flinched. Only Potter grinned back expectantly. I rolled my eyes. 'Oh alright, Potter! You will get your three seconds. Whatever you want. But first we need to get you fixed up.'
I attempted to gather him up but he put a hand on my arm to stop me.
'I want them now,' he said firmly. 'You promised.'
I muttered something under my breath, making sure the words insufferable and horror child were distinguishable, but I obediently sank back down on my knees. Harry smiled gratefully. Then he looked around at his friends and an unspoken message seemed to pass between them before my Legilimency could pick it up. They nodded at him hesitatingly and, one by one, they stood up and, after one last look down at Harry, they all walked away until Potter and I were the only ones left. After a long, awkward moment in which neither of us spoke, I barked at him: 'So what is it I can do for you, Potter?'
The boy grinned lopsidedly and pulled himself into an upright position. A pained expression twisted his features as he did so, but he didn't make a sound. And I didn't help.
Potter got on his knees and placed himself right in front of me. Our knees were all but touching. I suddenly realized that he was still holding his wand in a death grip, that he probably hadn't loosened ever since he had cast that fatal curse on Voldemort. With the wand in hand, he took off his glasses and dropped them in his lap. He gazed down at the shattered remains of his spectacles for a while and then he looked back up at me. I had never seen Harry Potter without his glasses and it was strangely unnerving.
'What now, Potter?' I asked quietly.
He didn't answer right away and for moments all he did was watch me with an unreadable expression on his young face. I was about to repeat my question, when he spoke.
'I want three seconds of your time, Professor. Three seconds in which you will do exactly what I tell you.'
'And what is it that you want me to do?'
'I want you to close your eyes,' he replied calmly.
'So you can cast an Unforgivable on me.'
Potter smiled. 'I told you it will be nothing illegal and it won't hurt.'
I rolled my eyes towards the heavens above before closing them firmly. 'Are you counting, Potter?'
'Wait, that's not all yet.'
I opened one eye to look at him suspiciously. 'I knew there was a catch.'
Harry grinned rather ruefully. 'Well … you're not allowed to move either. Whatever happens, you are not allowed to move a single muscle.'
'And I'm not allowed to look?'
'And you're not allowed to look. Whatever happens.'
'For three seconds?'
'For three seconds. I'm counting.'
I sighed in defeat. 'Fine. Can we get this over with?'
His smile was the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes.
'One!' Harry counted and I tensed as I felt him pressing his lips onto mine in a rushed, desperate kiss.
But true to my word I did not move and my eyes stayed shut.
'Two!' Harry said and I registered the light noise of a wand, his wand, tapping against the spectacles that were still lying in his lap.
I knew then. But I still didn't move and my eyes stayed shut.
Three. I thought.
'Portus.' whispered Harry.
And when I opened my eyes a second later, he was gone.
I haven't seen him ever since.
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