Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the 'Harry Potter' stories. I own nothing of this except the plot and whatever characters you don't find in any of the books.
A/N: Set on the train ride home after Dumbledore's funeral. This is my first novel-length HP based fic. Just to let you know up-front, this will be a H/Hr ship, as you will soon see. Many thanks to my fine Beta readers, Angelfly and adamolupin, both of whom did a fantastic job in making sure I don't sound like a moron while writing this. I have about 10 chapters written already, and I'll add a chapter here each time I finish a new one. As always, reviews are very much appreciated, so good or bad, let me know what you think!
Chapter 1. Terror on the Hogwarts Express
A red steam engine, pulling a line of smoothly swaying cars, rambled its way Southward through the English countryside, puffing its billowing clouds of smoke and steam. The landscape gradually changed from wild green forests, past wide, sparse fields and into the scattered farmlands that indicated the first signs of civilization. The train was bound for King's Cross Station in London, carrying the students from their boarding school to their anxiously waiting families.
The train cars would normally be crowded with excited, happy, talkative children, who would be planning their summer holiday or bemoaning the homework that was due at the summer's end, while snacking on the treats that were sold by a kindly lady pushing a cart down the usually busy aisle. This year, the students were abnormally quiet. Only occasional, subdued murmurs were heard from the mostly empty compartments. Most of the students had been collected the week before by their families who felt the school was no longer safe after the murder of the Headmaster. Nobody left their seats, except for the few prefects that wandered through the train keeping order, not that there was any disorder to be found, but the patrolling did give them something to do besides sitting and exchanging nervous glances.
A young man sat alone in a compartment, his forehead resting on the cool glass that separated the changing scenery beyond the window from the stifling atmosphere inside. He was a thin, but sturdy boy of sixteen years with round, wire-rimmed spectacles over his emerald green eyes and messy black hair that nearly hid the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. He was returning from his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, for this young man was, indeed, a wizard.
This boy's name was Harry Potter... The "Boy-Who Lived"... The "Chosen One"... Chosen because of a prophesy that was made before he was even born. Chosen by a man who most people referred to as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," or simply "You Know Who," but was called by Harry, and very few others, Lord Voldemort.
Harry sat staring blankly through the dirty glass, not really focusing on any of the rapidly changing scenery. His eyes, normally so full of life, seemed dull... unfocused... hopeless... His face gave no indication of emotion, just an unwavering, neutral stare. His thoughts dwelled on images of cups and lockets, rings and bracelets... vague and abstract locations... forests... castles... crypts... The faces of Sirius and of Dumbledore, Cedric and his parents... Snape and Malfoy... Dumbledore...
"What am I supposed to do Professor?" Harry whispered, "How am I supposed to do this? Where am I to go?"
Unnoticed by Harry, the compartment door silently slid open behind him. The air in the compartment swirled for a moment from a small draft that came in from the corridor, bringing with it a barely noticeable, flowery scent to his nostrils. He could only see a fall of fire-red hair behind the reflection of his own face on the glass. Immediately, a small lump formed in his throat, the space around his chest seemed to constrict, his blood began to pound in his ears, but the expression on his face remained unchanged.
"H- Harry?" said Ginny with a small, unsure waver in her voice.
"Ginny, please go away." said Harry in almost a whisper.
Ginny stood motionless, her hand holding the sliding door open, her blue eyes directed at someplace on the floor.
"Please, Harry..." said Ginny, with a quiet plea in the tone of her voice, "I'd like to talk with you, just for a few..."
"Get out." said Harry, his voice slightly clearer, but still just above a whisper.
Ginny glanced up at the back of Harry's head for a moment, and then returned her gaze to the same spot on the floor. "Please... I know that you..."
"GET OUT!" yelled Harry in a hoarse, but firm voice, still with his eyes fixed at some distant point outside the window, his forehead still pressed against the glass. His expression, which Ginny could not see, had changed this time into a pained, desperate glare.
Ginny jumped slightly, bringing her hand to cover her mouth and raising her head up with shocked, scared eyes. She made to back out of the compartment, and jumped again when she bumped into someone standing in the aisle behind her. She turned around to see a tall, grim-faced man in black auror robes pulling an invisibility cloak off of himself with one hand, his wand raised in the other.
"Any problem, Mister Potter?" asked the auror in an even voice.
"No," replied Harry, again, just above a whisper, "Ginny, just please leave... leave me alone."
Ginny glanced up at the auror, then to Harry. "I just... I... alright, Harry, I'm so sorry." coughed Ginny as she brushed past the auror with a barely stifled sob. She ran down the aisle and disappeared into the next car.
Harry glanced up at the reflection of the man in the doorway, who was eyeing Harry cautiously. The man nodded, slid the door closed, turned and walked back to his post, covering himself under the cloak once again. Harry's unfocused gaze returned to the landscape beyond the window.
Before Ginny arrived, Harry's thoughts were rushed and anxious. Now he could not remember what his thoughts exactly were. The lump in his throat seemed to swell, aching, restricting his breathing. He tried to swallow, but his throat clenched around the lump and sent a wave of pain down his chest. A single tear fell across his cheek and landed on his arm, which was resting along the bottom of the window.
Harry closed his eyes tightly and tried to relax himself. He finally managed to draw in a deep breath and let out a shuddering sigh. He shook his head slightly, willing his eyes to dry, relaxed his face into the neutral, stony expression and once again returned his gaze to the world outside of the train.
Time seemed to slow. It was as if the scenery that was flashing by the window suddenly became eerily clear. He could see every leaf on every bush along the tracks as they meandered by. He could count the stones on the ground just outside the window. A copse of trees wandered into his view, it was almost as if he was standing in a small clearing amongst the trees looking down at something on the ground. It was curious the way he just rolled the something over with his foot, curious the way a bare arm, rigid with rigor mortis, just angled out of bloodstained robes as the something turned. Curious the way the bushy, brown hair didn't bounce like he remembered; it was caked with dirt, leaves and blood and clung to the pale, blue face, framing vacant brown eyes. Curious the way he just turned and walked away.
In the distance, he saw a small, neglected graveyard enclosed by a rusting wrought-iron fence. Clumps of tall weeds stuck up from the carpet of dead leaves that blanketed the entire cemetery. He then noticed what appeared to be a small girl wandering aimlessly among the headstones. She wore a dirty grey cloak and robes, with the hood of the cloak draped low over her head.
"Who is that little girl?" he thought to himself, "She looks sad… lost…"
The girl stopped in front of a pure white, softly glowing headstone. She appeared to be studying the flowers that were planted on the mound of earth in front of the stone.
Suddenly, the girl spun around and looked in his direction. He heard a strangely accented, echoing voice in his head, "Why am I here? Why did you call me? Please to leave me alone."
He found himself still staring at the rapidly changing scenery outside of the window, noting that the landscape had evolved from sparse rural villages to a more populated, suburban sprawl. Harry figured there was less than an hour to go before reaching London when Ron slid the door open and stepped in, followed by Hermione. They had already finished their patrols and changed out of their school robes in the prefect's car. They sat across from Harry, glanced at him for a moment, and then looked at each other when they saw he was still wearing his dress robes from the funeral earlier in the day. Harry didn't move.
"Harry, are you ok, mate? Why haven't you changed yet?" asked Ron.
Harry nodded. "I'm fi... I... I'm..." For the first time since he sat down in the compartment and looked out through the window at Hogsmeade station, he pulled his head from the glass. He looked at both of his friends with the same stony expression on his face, his eyes blank and emotionless.
Harry stared at them for a long moment, and then his breath suddenly started to pant. He gasped a few times for air and his eyes widened in panic.
"Oh my... Harry…?" Hermione barely got the words out of her mouth, "Harry!" She leaned towards Harry, looked into his eyes and let out gasp. They were not the eyes of her best friend that she had known since she was eleven. Not the usual, shining, emerald green she had seen when he was happy, not the sparkling, fierce eyes she had seen when he was angry, not the clear, intense eyes that she had seen when he was worried. These eyes were hollow... lost... frightened.
"I'm scared." whispered Harry. His hands were trembling in his lap, his fingers intertwined and fidgeting. "I... I don't know what I'm going to do. I know what I am supposed to do, but... but... I think I know what I'm supposed..." his eyes didn't focus on either of his friends, they just darted to the door, the floor, out the window. "I can't think... How am I going to do this? I... I can't see... I can't... I can't think..." Harry's whisper trailed off as his head sank to his chest, his shoulders slumped to his sides.
Ron just stared at Harry, his mouth hung open... speechless.
Hermione rushed to the seat next to Harry and threw her arms around him in a hug. Harry's head fell onto her shoulder as she softly rubbed his back, trying to calm him. "It's going to be ok, Harry." she whispered to him while tears started forming in her eyes. "We're right here." She could feel him trembling in her arms, as if he were freezing.
Harry gave a short, shuddering gasp, and hid face in Hermione's bushy hair, a loud sob escaping his throat.
Ron, breaking out of his initial shock, pulled out his wand and cast a silencing charm at the door then rushed to draw the shades down over glass.
"Hermione," said Ron, "what's the matter with him? I've never seen him like this!"
She turned her face up to Ron with a desperate look, tears running down her face. "I don't know... Harry, did anything happen here?" She pulled Harry's face from her shoulder and his glasses fell into her lap, exposing his wet, still wide open eyes. "What happened?"
"It's like the boggart... only I see... I see..." Harry whispered, barely loud enough for them to hear, still with that frightened, lost look on his face. "I see you dead... all the time... I see you on the ground... not moving... not- not breathing... I see like your mother sees, Ron... all the time, but... but..." His voice trailed off again. He looked pleadingly at them both, "but when I see, I- I... I don't care, but... but how can I not care? I know I care, but I don't. I can't stand it…" Panic stricken, Harry looked directly into Hermione's eyes, "I see you broken… covered in blood… dead… but I don't care!" He could barely get the words past his choked throat, "But… but why don't I?"
Harry tried to stand, but only succeeded in falling forward onto Hermione's shoulder.
Harry's voice, now barely a breath in her ear, "But... but I have to care because I... I... lo... I love…"
Hermione's eyes widened and she let out a squeak.
"Ron!" Hermione screamed, "Go! Get help!"
Harry fell unconscious and slumped off of her shoulder onto the seat, silent and trembling.
Harry was standing in Diagon Alley. There was nobody there. No sound, no breeze, no movement at all... deserted.
He walked along the shops. Everything was dark. All the windows boarded up, shutters closed. He stopped in front of Ollivander's and approached the front window. Peering into the shop between the planks, he saw the strange wand on a pillow in the display case, just as he remembered it when he bought his own wand. It seemed to glow, casting a soft illumination around the pillow on which it rested.
He turned and saw a small park across the road from the wand shop. It looked a pleasant place, with neatly trimmed grass, broad shade trees and quaint little gardens surrounded with white stones. A wide path lined by short columns stretched out to what looked like a dazzling, white and gold fountain.
"Strange..." he thought, "I don't remember there being a park in Diagon Alley."
He walked along the wide path in the park, passing by lifelike busts of famous wizards and witches that were perched upon richly embellished marble columns. Between each column were small, neatly tended patches of multi-colored flowers. Many of the faces he recognized from the chocolate frog cards he had been collecting since his first Hogwarts train ride. He noticed the busts of Merlin, Agatha Cornwallow, Xerxia the Shallow, Warbun Boarflanke. Judging by the styles of their hair and dress, he could tell some of the busts were quite ancient. Some appeared to be American Indian medicine men, Egyptian priests, African shamen and Asian kitoushi, among many others that he could not quite fathom what their origins might have been.
The stone heads turned and watched Harry as he passed. All of the faces had strange, sad expressions. A few shook their heads slowly, as if they pitied the man who was walking past. Some averted their mournful eyes, and some even looked as though they were softly crying.
Harry drew nearer to the end of the long line of marble figures. He stopped when his gaze met a familiar face. A figure with long hair and beard, half-moon spectacles perched on a crooked nose, and eyes that Harry would be sure would twinkle at him, if they hadn't been filled with cold, stony tears.
Dumbledore looked expectantly at Harry, and then turned his gaze to the next bust, the last bust along the path towards the fountain.
Harry stepped closer to the last bust. It was the bust of a young wizard, wearing round, wire-rimmed spectacles with messy hair that nearly covered a strange, lightning-shaped scar. Its shoulders heaved in heavy sobs. Its mouth silently screamed in agony and pain. The statue's tear glazed face was contorted in anguish and despair. Its eyes, puffy, nearly closed and obviously wracked in helplessness and grief, stared at the fountain. It looked as if the bust was trying to pull free from the marble column and throw itself into the water.
Harry watched the bust writhe and struggle for a few minutes, wondering what on Earth got this poor wizard so upset. He noticed a large pile of glistening white marble tears at the base of this wizard's column. He watched and listened as more clattered onto the pile.
"He must have been crying for a very long time." thought Harry.
Harry followed the statue's eyes to the large fountain. A single geyser supplied the water into the top marble basin, which had small, golden angels dancing around its rim. The water spilled over the rim and ran down through golden, ribbon-like channels and splashed into the wide base. He was mildly surprised to see that the water in the base was dark, dirty... bloody.
There appeared to be a body dressed in torn black robes drifting just beneath the surface. He looked down at the unfortunate witch, alone and broken in the murky water. Her head lay at an odd angle, as though she were looking back over her shoulder. Her vacant, brown eyes were barely visible through the floating brown hair that all but covered her scarred, bloated face.
"Poor Hermione." thought Harry.
He heard a faint, oddly accented voice echo through his mind, "Why have you called me?"
Looking up from the body, he noticed a small child, standing a short distance away. She was wearing some sort of school robes, but she looked much too young to go to any wizardry school, maybe five, six years old? The robes looked tattered, threadbare and filthy, with worn patches on the front and on the sleeves near her elbows. The cloak that she wore also appeared to be dirty and frayed. She had her hood pulled over her head, and her collar was turned up to cover most of her face. As Harry drew near to her, all he could see of her face were her eyes. Her sad, but beautiful violet, almond-shaped eyes were silently shedding tears.
She was crying? Why? Curious... he felt very sad for this poor little girl. Had she no parents? Was there nobody to care for her? No money? No home? Nobody to love her? His heart felt like it was going to break just looking at her. He knew how she felt. He knew what it was like to be sad... and lonely... and neglected...
Harry felt tears sliding down his own face. Yes, he knew exactly how she felt.
Harry kneeled in front of the girl. He reached his arms out to hug her, to let her know that someone cared. He needed to let her know that she was not alone, that somebody understood. She backed up a few steps as he reached out to her. She seemed to be afraid of him. "She has no reason to be afraid.," he thought. He slowly dropped his hands to his sides and lowered his head. He understood. He knew what it was like to be afraid, too.
"I won't hurt you," said Harry quietly. "I won't let anyone hurt you."
Her misty violet eyes slowly made their way to Harry's shadowed face. They widened as she saw the scar on his forehead. She moved closer. Her small, white hand slowly reached out towards his face. She extended her finger to touch his scar, eyes soft with concern, with sympathy. He could see in her eyes that she might have been smiling under her upturned collar.
The faint, strangely accented voice in his head, "I see your pain… I feel your pain… Even if you do not… Let me help you. It is almost too late."
Harry smiled back at her and nodded.
The tip of her finger gently touched his scar.
Harry's eyes flew wide open. He felt his lungs seize, his body go rigid, his heart stop. The little girl turned and walked away from him. Before the darkness enveloped him, he saw the girl drop something on the ground. A crushed flower lay in the dirt, its petals scattered like broken shards of red porcelain.
Harry could feel the darkness around him. He could feel the chill of the surrounding nothingness. He could hear something, though. He heard faint, ethereal music. It was barely audible. It was a calming tune emanating as if from some distant mountain. It reminded him of phoenix song. He also heard a soft, distant sobbing that seemed to echo toward him. He then heard a harsh, firm voice, much closer than the gentle crying in the distance. This harsh voice sounded like it was also singing, it was like a slow mournful chant in a language he did not recognize. Then the chanting stopped.
"HARRY!" Hermione gasped and jumped from her seat on the other side of the compartment when she saw Harry's eyes flutter open. Ron and one of the aurors held her back as she tried to reach him.
Harry found himself lying across the bench in his compartment. The grim-faced auror that he had seen earlier was standing over him with his wand in his hand. He was a tall, stocky man with dark brown hair and a bushy goatee that looked to have more grey in it than the hair on his head. Ron was seated on the other side of the compartment, holding Hermione's left arm and a second auror, who was still mostly covered in his invisibility cloak, was standing silently holding her right arm.
"What… what happened?" asked Harry as he tried to sit up, only to be gently pushed back by the auror.
"We were hoping you could tell us," said Ron, "we came in here and you started going on about seeing us dead!"
Harry just looked blankly at him.
"Yes," added Hermione, "and you mentioned something about you 'seeing like Ron's mum sees.' You passed out, I think… I sent Ron for help… You were shaking very badly, and then you mumbled something like not letting anyone hurt us, and then… and then..." Hermione's voice cracked.
"You died." finished Ron. "Right when I made it back with the aurors. Your eyes opened and got real wide, you gasped… then you died."
"I died?" asked Harry incredulously, "From what?"
"Well," said the auror with the harsh voice, "you nearly did die, and I must say it was rather close." The auror continued speaking while waving his wand in strange patterns around Harry, assessing his health. "It was very lucky for you that I was assigned to this train, Mister Potter. Before I became an auror, I was training to be a healer at St. Mungo's for a few years after I left Hogwarts." The auror looked appraisingly at Harry, having finished his diagnosis. "Can you tell me what happened to you?"
"No," Harry replied, "last I can recall, I was looking at the scenery out of the window. I must have fallen asleep. I had a strange dream about a forest somewhere… I don't think I've seen it before, and then a park in Diagon Alley… I know there's no park there… and something about a little girl. Then I heard a strange singing, and then I'm lying here."
"But Harry, you were awake when we got here." said Ron.
Hermione cleared her throat while drying the remainder of her tears on her sleeve, "Sir, what was that spell you performed on Harry? It doesn't sound familiar to me."
The auror looked at Hermione, "Well, I don't expect you would have heard of it, it's very complex, and quite advanced." he said smiling, "It's the Ahmatari Charm, it's…"
Hermione gasped and then finished his sentence, "a charm to subdue an extreme, a crippling emotional shock! How could you tell…? Oh no… Oh Harry!" Tears were welling in her eyes, threatening to spill again.
The auror was surprised, "I didn't know they taught such advanced magic at Hogwarts, miss?"
"Granger," she sniffed and wiped her eyes, "Hermione Granger."
"Oh," the auror appeared to recognize the name, "Granger… yes, quite. Well, that's magic usually taught in specialty schools, but yes, you are quite right, Miss Granger. In any case, it seems our Mister Potter here has recently experienced something that caused him to lose his… well…" he looked Harry in the eye, "will to live. Or more so, his mind was willing his body to shut down, to die."
"Harry is this about Dumbledore?" asked Ron, "I mean we all took it hard, mate, but…"
"No," interrupted the auror, "this is something that has happed more recently, I'd say within the last few hours."
"Could it have been the dream that caused the trauma?" asked Hermione.
"I don't think so," he replied, "I wouldn't expect that just a nightmare could generate that much of a shock."
"Then again, you haven't had Voldemort poking around in your head at night, have you?" retorted Harry grumpily.
As expected, everyone in the compartment, aside from Hermione, winced at the mention of Voldemort's name.
The auror recovered quickly, "Yes, quite… forgive me, Mister Potter…"
"And my name is Harry, please."
"Yes, well do you remember anything else of this 'dream' you had, Harry?"
"No, sir, I don't."
"Well, how do you feel now?"
Harry sat up. "Fine, I suppose… a little tired. I feel like I've had a good cry, actually, but I don't remember crying." He said while feeling the puffiness around his eyes and cheeks.
Ron and Hermione exchanged looks. They both saw that he was nearly hysterical when they arrived.
"Stand up, Harry, feel dizzy at all?" asked the auror.
"No, I feel fine."
"Still, I feel I should advise you to go to St. Mungo's to get a once over." The auror said, "Truthfully, I didn't expect you'd recover so quickly. You seem to be somewhat weakened, but I cannot find anything terribly wrong with you physically, but I am not really equipped here to give you a good diagnostic, you understand. I cannot force you, but if you choose not to, I would suggest you get as much rest as you can for a few days and you should not be left alone. I daresay, if you're not going to St. Mungo's, then you're going straight home from King's Cross, aren't you?"
"Yes, my… um, family should be picking me up."
"Quite right." Said the auror and turned to Ron and Hermione, "We'll be outside at our stations. Keep an eye on him, and make sure he tells his family what happened once we get to the station, which should be in a few minutes."
The second auror removed the silencing charm and slid the compartment door open. A small crowd of students had gathered outside of the doorway and was craning their necks to see inside the compartment.
The grim-faced auror scattered the small crowd, "Off with you! Nothing in here to concern you… back to your booths, all of you! We'll be arriving at the station momentarily, so best get prepared." He looked back at the trio, nodded, closed the door and with a swish, disappeared under his cloak.
Ron turned to Harry, "Do you think it was… You-Know-Who…poking around behind your scar?
Harry tentatively felt his scar, which wasn't tingling in the least, "No, I don't think so."
Ron and Hermione sat quietly, watching Harry as he pulled his school robes off and stored them in his trunk.
As Hermione watched Harry close his trunk, his words returned to her. The words she knew were about her alone… Words he apparently did not remember saying… Words that sent thousands of screaming butterflies dancing in her stomach… "But... but I have to care because I... I... lo... I love…"
"Was he really about to say he loved me?"
A/N: Please review!