Title: A Song In Time of Revolution
Summary: AU of HBP, HPDM slash. Revolution is never an easy choice—and worse when you're trying to respect the free will of everyone, wizard and magical creature alike. Prophecy and politics and the Ministry…Harry doesn't need any more complications.
Notes: This is the sixth story in what I call the Sacrifices Arc, following Wind That Shakes the Seas and Stars. By now, it's its own full-blown alternate universe, with Slytherin!Harry, Harry and Draco in an established relationship, and Voldemort temporarily so badly wounded that he can't fight, and you're probably not going to understand the story if you try to start reading here.
Also, this is an extremely long story. The current outline is 99 numbered chapters, with 25 unnumbered ones (Intermissions and Interludes). I do update every day most of the time, but it's going to take three months to complete even so. Be warned if you don't like long serials.
Warnings: Language, violence, gore, torture, sex, discussion of past rape and child abuse, slash and het and saffic (femmeslash) in varying degrees of explicitness, tons of politics, multiple character deaths. Also, there are spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in this story. I've been using background information from the book in the other stories, but this is the one where it really takes center stage. If you haven't read HBP and don't want to be spoiled for it, then please don't read this.
Archiving: I archive at Fanfiction, Skyehawke, and on my LiveJournal, and send update notices through my Yahoo!Group (links for all of these, as well as a site with .doc and .PDF files of the stories, can be found in my Fanfiction profile). The easiest way to get in touch with me is my e-mail or my LJ.
And here we go. Thanks for coming all this way with me.
A Song In Time of Revolution
Chapter One: Haunted, Helped, Dreaming
"And how does it taste?"
Harry kept his gaze resolutely on the pear, to keep his face from burning. When he wasn't thinking about how food tasted to him, he thought, it felt much more natural. He could enjoy sweetness, saltiness, and bitterness without pause. But now Vera was encouraging him to overcome the training his mother had given him to resist and even be uncomfortable with things that felt good, and, well, it included things like this.
Harry bit into the pear, and nodded. The fruit was incredibly cold and sweet, as was almost all the fruit in the Sanctuary. "Good," he said.
"I don't know," Harry snapped before he could stop himself. "I don't have a lot of experience measuring this, you know."
He tried to apologize after that, but Vera waved off the words and leaned back in her chair, looking pleased. She was a small, round woman with quiet brown eyes that saw too much. Harry usually felt more comfortable with her than he did now. He had never yet seen Vera lose her temper for more than a moment, though, no matter what he did.
They were sitting in the usual room where he came to speak with Vera, a high place with open windows which the light and the wind were free to wander through. Vera sat with her back to the light, outlining her in a thick gold-white halo. Harry had to squint to watch her nod. "It is good that you no longer put such a guard on your tongue and think about what you say before you say it," she told him. "You are becoming less conscious and more spontaneous."
"And that's a good thing?" Harry raised his eyebrows. His magic brewed and buzzed around him when he did it, and he calmed it with a touch. The time spent in the Sanctuary was about lowering barriers he didn't even know he had, seemingly, and some of those had included barriers on his magic. Harry still wasn't sure how he felt about that. "I do have to keep an eye on how I use my power, whether or not I'm respecting the free choices of my allies, what I do with Draco—"
Vera chuckled, interrupting him. "And if your whole life is a stiff dance," she said, "then you will lose yourself to it in the end. Many different paces, walk and waltz and pavane, are better for living."
Harry nodded, and then glared at the pear in his hand again. Most of what Vera said seemed obvious. Hell, most of what Draco and Snape said seemed obvious. But until they said it, formed it in words and presented it to him, he seemed unable to think of those points for himself.
He wished ferociously for a moment that he was normal, and looked up to find Vera staring at him.
"Do you wish to stop for today, Harry?" Vera's voice was perfectly understanding, perfectly gentle—the kind of tone that usually just goaded Harry into trying harder. "I understand that you still think of the taste of food as a small thing, and indeed, I have seen you enjoying it on your own. There are other things we could talk about, regarding this kind of training."
All of which would make me blush, Harry thought, and none of which I'm comfortable talking about with you. He shook his head and laid the pear on a table. "Can we talk about something else altogether?" he asked.
"Of course," said Vera. She hesitated, one of the few times Harry had seen her do so. That put him on edge even before she said, "The deepest wound in your soul at the moment concerns the twelve children you had to kill out of mercy. You have not yet spoken about it, and you have been here for a week. Will you talk with me about that?"
Harry steeled himself. "Yes, I will," he said. Every step on this path is an uphill one, isn't it? But he was sick of just covering up the wounds and hoping nothing ripped them wide open before time had a chance to soften the memory of how he'd earned them. He was part of a war, and a prophecy, and a political alliance, and that meant there would always be something to rip open the wounds before they healed. He'd come here of his own free will, he reminded himself for the thousandth time, and he was going to heal, and fuck everything that got in his way.
Vera blinked at his agreement, but then leaned back, sheening her face with the sunlight again. "Good," she said. "I understand that you still feel you could have done something else. What else could you have done?"
Harry closed his eyes. "I don't know."
That truly bothered him, far more than Vera's insistence on concentrating on the taste of food or having him sit in warm baths so that he could endure pleasant feelings without squirming. He had revived the memory in his dreams and while wandering the terraces and rooms of the Sanctuary. The main factor that had doomed him while Voldemort held a dozen Hogwarts students under a Life-Web, able to torture or kill them at will, and challenged Harry to come down and surrender his life to save them, was, Harry had thought, time. He had known the students before him were suffering, and the students behind him had been suffering, too. If he had had more time, he could have done something, found some other solution than stopping those children's hearts with a spell before Voldemort could notice.
But no other solution would occur to him, except yielding himself, and that would have lost them the war, at least according to people whom Harry trusted. And Harry piled more worry on top of that. What if there was something simple and obvious he was missing, something anyone else would have done, and he kept ignoring the option because that would mean blaming himself? He just didn't want to be guilty, in that case. He had to keep track of what he did, what self-justifications he made to himself. Part of it was the vates path he trod, trying to respect the free will of everyone in existence, but an even larger part of it was his own fear of ending up like Dumbledore and Voldemort. Let him once excuse his own guilt, and what else would he excuse, what sacrifices would he say were necessary, what corruption would he let into his soul? He had to distrust himself.
Harry blinked his eyes open in startlement. Vera had leaned forward and put one hand on his knee.
"Your thoughts coil on each other like serpents," she said, "and this guilt is twined with so many others in your soul that I cannot See it clearly. Will you explain it in words for me?"
Haltingly, Harry licked his lips, tried to dismiss thoughts of sounding stupid or guilty or self-obsessed, and said, "I—ma'am—"
"Call me Vera, Harry." She smiled, and if Harry had ever met one of his grandmothers, he assumed she would have looked like this. "You retreat into formality when you're upset. I would rather that you be as honest with me as possible."
Harry inclined his head, and then had to reflect that that was a formal movement, too, not just a nod. He swallowed and said, "I thought, once I had time and peace, that I would know exactly what I should have done instead of the mercy killing." Vera nodded encouragingly when he paused, and Harry plunged forward. "But I still can't see anything else I could have done. What am I ignoring? Am I so afraid of facing up to my crime that I'm unconsciously exonerating myself? And what does it mean if I am? Is the British wizarding world going to have to face another Dark Lord before I'm done, because I'm sliding down the path to self-justification and I don't even realize it?"
Vera observed him in intense silence for a moment. Harry waited, his nerves humming. His right hand smoothed over and over the scarred stump of his left wrist.
And that was a problem, too. He had decided that, perhaps, it was worthwhile researching the Dark curses Bellatrix had used to keep him from getting another hand. Maybe. But his newborn conviction had provoked a too-pleased reaction from Draco, as well as questions about why Harry wasn't sure, and Harry had had to shrug and shake his head.
He hated being uncertain. It was the thing he missed the most about the days when he'd just been able to exist under his training and think of his brother as the center of his universe. Everything was so simple. There were so many things Harry knew how to do, and if something unexpected did happen, like his Sorting into Slytherin, then he had other vows and promises and certainties to fall back on.
Now, half the time, it seemed he stood on the edge of a abyss and looked down into it, and every choice he made could have devastating consequences for other people, and he didn't know which would be less devastating, to leap or stand.
"You have not blamed the war," said Vera.
Harry blinked. Usually, he was better about tracing the course of the Seer's thoughts, but he had missed the connection she made this time. "What?"
"You have not said that you had no other choice to do this, because it was war." Vera curled so that her legs were beneath her in the chair, her head bobbing up and down like a wren's pecking at seed. Her eyes never moved from Harry's face.
Harry blinked again. "Of course not. Why would I? Other people manage to get through wars without mercy-killing a dozen children." He shuddered a bit, shaken by his own deep bitterness, and the grief underneath, like black water beneath a layer of ice. Now that he'd started on this, though, he couldn't seem to stop. "Even Dumbledore didn't have to do that. The worst he did was set children free who'd been crucified and suffering for days. And he was forced into that. It was Voldemort's doing."
"And this was not?" Vera tilted her head to fix him with one bright, bird-like eye.
Harry hissed under his breath and shuffled one foot back and forth. "I—well, it was Voldemort who set the Life-Web, obviously."
"And?" Vera prompted, voice low.
"But it was me who made the decision," said Harry. "It's not as though Voldemort told me that I had to kill those children myself or he would torture them. He promised that they would live if I went down to him."
"Did you trust him?"
"Of course not," said Harry, mind calling up images of Snape lying with his right leg unwound into pieces on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets, of helpless Muggles lured into the water by sirens, of Voldemort, still looking like a deformed child, biting a piece of flesh out of his chest for the resurrection ritual. "But that didn't matter, did it? I wasn't backed into a corner. I still didn't make the choice he gave me."
He stopped, with those words ringing in his ears, and blinked.
"Yes," said Vera softly. "And that, I believe, is the difference between you and Dumbledore, Harry, and certainly between you and You-Know-Who. If you were already seeking some way to free yourself from guilt, by saying it was entirely the war's fault and people make horrible decisions in war, or by claiming that it was Voldemort who forced you into that precise choice, I would worry more. But you acknowledge your own role in the decision. You acknowledge that you do not believe Voldemort would have freed them, or that your giving your own life up to him would have made the slightest bit of difference. You chose a path he did not dictate. And you know it. That is a strength, Harry, not a weakness."
Harry blinked some more. He could feel a weight on his shoulders and his heart easing, a bit. He just wasn't sure if he believed in it yet. "Oh," he said softly.
"Now," said Vera, "perhaps you will, someday, think of another path you could have taken. And you will preserve that path into the future, and if you ever find yourself in such a situation again—"
"Which I will, knowing Voldemort," Harry muttered. He'd cut a hole in the Dark Lord's magical core, so he constantly lost his power whenever he tried to use it, but Harry expected Voldemort to find some way to get around that eventually. At least it had won him a summer.
Vera continued undaunted. "Then you will know what to do." She clasped her hands and beamed at Harry. "And I think that's enough for today. You look as if someone's hit you on the head with a rock." She chuckled. "Go find your Malfoy. I think Nina is done with him for the day, as well."
Harry nodded, murmured, "Thank you," and left the room. Just outside the door was a broad, shallow stone step filled with sunlight. Argutus was basking there, fully six feet of shimmering, mirror-colored snake. Harry shaded his eyes against the reflection of the sun from his scales and shook his head.
"I can smell your doubt." Argutus's voice was bright, and his tongue flickered out as he lifted his head to look at Harry. "What is it this time? Can you not believe how beautiful I am, or how lucky you are that I chose you to be my friend, instead of someone else?"
"Neither," said Harry in Parseltongue, stooping to offer his left arm to Argutus. The Omen snake wound up his arm, around his shoulders, neck, and waist, and stopped when his head was tucked into the crook of Harry's collarbone. Harry stroked his scales as he walked up towards the small house where Draco usually stayed. "Sometimes, I am stunned that you're here with me at all, or that I'm here. I wake up and expect to find myself in Hogwarts, or a dungeon where Voldemort keeps his prisoners, and that the Sanctuary is a dream."
"If we were in dungeons," Argutus disagreed, "I would have found a way out by now, reflecting hidden doors in my scales." His body writhed and shifted, nearly blinding Harry for a moment. Harry stumbled on the next step down and reoriented himself to which direction was blue sky and which sprawling roofs of every conceivable color and design.
"I'm sure you would have," he said. "Just don't try to demonstrate it to me while we're walking."
"Why do humans walk?" Argutus demanded abruptly. "Why did you grow legs?"
"We didn't grow legs," Harry said patiently, as he rounded a corner and jogged into the cool darkness of the antechamber to Draco's room. "You lost them."
A startled pause, and Argutus said, "That's not what the room says."
"What room?" Harry knocked on Draco's door, and Nina, Draco's Seer, opened it a moment later, giving him a delighted smile.
"Draco was just about to send me to fetch you, Harry," she said. "If you'll come in?"
Harry nodded, and listened to Argutus's reply as he shifted past the slender woman. "There is a room that speaks of snake magic, which must still exist somewhere in the world, or there would not be a room that talks about it. It says that snakes were the original creatures in the world. Everyone else comes from us. You grew legs, and you grew skins that you never shed. Why?"
"Ask your room, as I'm sure I don't know," Harry muttered, and then looked up at Draco. He was startled to find him out of bed, and dressed in formal wizarding robes for the first time since he'd possessed Voldemort during the final battle.
"Draco?" he asked tentatively.
Draco had not expected to hear such concern in Harry's voice, and some of his pride melted into annoyance.
"Harry?" he echoed the same way, his eyes wide and his mouth round, and saw Nina smile over Harry's shoulder as she shut the door behind her. Draco resisted the urge to smile in return, since Harry would think it was at him. Nina was learning him well in the last few days, especially since Draco could talk to her about Harry as he could no one else, and she would know Draco wanted to be alone with his boyfriend.
Harry frowned. "You were wounded badly," he said, tugging his hand through his hair. "And I didn't know how much progress you'd made in healing the taint." They hadn't seen each other at all yesterday; Draco had slept after an exhausting talk with Nina the day before, and Harry had apparently spent most of the time wandering the gardens with Vera, or sitting in a warm bath and attempting to adjust to the sensation.
"I no longer need to lie in a bed," said Draco. "And there's something we need to talk about, Harry."
Harry tilted his head. "Really."
The word wasn't the most inviting invitation ever extended, but Draco forged ahead. The Sanctuary's air tended to wear away at emotional barriers. That was part of the reason Harry's irritation and worry crackled just under the surface, and part of the reason Draco was surer of getting an honest answer when he asked his questions. "Yes. You froze when Voldemort threatened me in the Midsummer battle. You couldn't do anything about the sirens, even though you managed to kill those children he held under the Life-Web when his Death Eaters were killing other students—and I don't really think the sirens were less dangerous than the Death Eaters. I want to know what was so different about me."
"You just want me to gratify your vanity," Harry replied, relaxing. "And that's easy enough. I love you, Draco, and you are more important to me than most other people. Even masses of people." He rolled his eyes. "Happy?"
"Not at all," said Draco. He had thought this might happen. Harry was misunderstanding the point of his question. "What happens if someone else threatens me in battle like that?"
Ah-ha. He sees it now. Harry had tensed. Then he whirled away and went to look out Draco's window. Draco wondered if he had noticed yet that every mural and tapestry on the walls portrayed a wizard with white-blond hair achieving some triumph or receiving some honor. The Seers had chosen well when they gave Draco this room. Harry, of course, tended not to appreciate art until someone ordered him to appreciate it.
Draco didn't think he had any idea how beautiful he looked, either, staring down at the waterfall that cascaded away next to Draco's house, his green eyes narrowed against the sunlight, his arms folded and his back tense enough to break a wall.
"Then I'll freeze again, I suppose."
Draco shook his head and moved closer to Harry's back. "Not good enough, Harry. You're going to be a leader most of the time, if only because you'll be the most powerful wizard in almost any battle. And we can't afford to have our most powerful wizard freeze because Karkaroff grabs me—"
"Karkaroff is dead."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Or Walden Macnair—"
"He's dead, too." Harry glanced back at him over his shoulder. "You told me you possessed him and forced him to lead some of the other Death Eaters into a trap yourself."
Draco snarled. "Or Voldemort, Harry. If he grabs me, you can't freeze. And no, I am not going to stay behind while you go into battle," he added, when he saw Harry opening his mouth to suggest something.
Harry blinked. "I would never ask you to, Draco."
"Oh." Draco had to admit that he might have let his own freed emotions get the better of him there. "Sorry."
Harry nodded and turned, putting his back to the window and slouching so that his shoulders brushed the stone. Draco hid his delight. There was a point in his life when Harry would never have shown even this degree of relaxation. His gaze on Draco was pensive as he stroked his snake's head. "It's all right. I might feel better if you'd stay safe, but you wouldn't. And it's your choice to fight. And I have to admit," Harry went on, a faint smile appearing on his lips for the first time, "I like the idea of us fighting side by side like comrades, instead of a soldier out on the lines and a healer waiting behind them. I still stand by what I said after your possession of Voldemort. You were magnificent in that battle, Draco."
His gaze was deep and warm, and Draco wished he could bask in it without saying something to snap the mood. "Thank you," he murmured. "But what about if someone does threaten me, Harry? Can you learn to live with it, to do something besides freeze?"
Silence, and Harry took his hand away from Argutus and clenched it into a fist. Then he sighed.
"I'm a leader," he said, "and that's not going to change. And you'll be fighting beside me, and that's not going to change, either. I'll have to learn to live with it, won't I?"
Draco felt a burst of affection and pride and—he didn't know what other emotions were in there, just that they were there. He put out his hand, and Harry stepped across the room to clasp it. "Together, then," he said.
"In all things," said Harry, and held his eyes, and if he might still flinch away from him when he felt too good, his face showed nothing but sincerity now.
Draco grinned at him, and then Harry asked, "How did Nina help you remove Voldemort's taint on your mind?" and they were past the first obstacle that Draco had felt lying between them.
There were others, of course. He wondered, even as he talked about Nina telling him clearly what impulses she saw in Draco that were not his own, and what parts of his soul looked like his own to her and which weren't, if Harry was keeping count of the time. They'd been in the Sanctuary a week, and it was the early part of July. Harry's birthday was coming up at the end of the month, and so was the second ritual of the thirteen in their three-year courting dance.
Draco fully intended to not only have Harry thinking of him and him alone on that night, which had happened on Walpurgis, but to have Harry share in more pleasure than he had managed then.
Snape smoothly conjured wooden targets and just as smoothly used his wandless magic to destroy them. He hadn't had any trouble using it since they arrived in the Sanctuary. The air, the atmosphere, the very light here ate away his defenses and made his emotions boil to the surface.
Two wooden, human-shaped targets appeared. The next moment, both exploded into splinters, and his magic curved around the room, a fanged beast on a leash.
He had dreamed last night. The Seers were leaving him alone, as he had demanded, but, as they had promised, dreams came hunting him in their place. Snape had relived, again, the day that he finished brewing a potion that would allow him to see his own soul, and drank it.
Bang, bang, and two more targets were no more. Snape paced to the other side of the room and conjured up a stone basin. It burst apart when he glanced at it. Snape felt a shard sting his cheek, and a small flow of blood appear. A tongue of his magic licked the wound in the next instant, and it flickered and vanished.
He had seen what he was. He had seen the knots there, the bitternesses, the absolute and utter tangles of resentment and hatred and envy. It was that sight that had ultimately driven him to join the Death Eaters. What better place for someone with a soul that looked like that? He knew he could never find sanctuary in the Light, not with their golden Gryffindors, not when some of those who served the Light had tried to kill him in his sixth year at Hogwarts and had escaped expulsion only because of the Headmaster's favor. His later confirmation that Dumbledore felt guilty, in part, because Sirius Black had endured childhood abuse that Dumbledore had been unable to rescue him from did not change Snape's mind. Horrible things happened in other people's lives all the time. But those were attended to. His were ignored. It was the way of the world. He was ugly, inside and out, and the ugly were neglected for the beautiful and the charming. Snape had sometimes wondered how many of Lucius Malfoy's victories were due to innate talent, and how many to the combination of his last name and his white-blond hair.
Another pair of targets started to form, but they didn't get more then a few limbs intact before his magic chewed out their hearts. Snape could not cast Dark Arts spells in the Sanctuary—they simply would not work, the peaceful air suppressing them before that could happen—but he could and did use his magic for pure and simple violence that worked against inanimate objects.
He paced the room, and then he stopped and leaned his forehead against the wall and closed his eyes.
He knew the cause of his latest outbursts. The dreams that had appeared to him so far were in chronological order. They tried to show him his memories from a different angle. Snape did not know that he could accept the vision of his soul as anything other than what it had been, what he had decided it was at seventeen. But he knew one thing. He knew what was coming next.
The three days at his mother's bedside, as Eileen Prince slowly died, as she told him truths that had scored his soul forever, that had killed the last moments when he might have referred to himself by his first name. Those three days had destroyed the last sanctuary he had. When he had buried his mother, he had gone, dry-eyed and bloody-minded, to Lucius, and Lucius had brought him, without pause, to the Dark Lord, and Snape had sold his soul to Voldemort for a Mark on his arm.
Before those three days, he had clung to the idea, pathetic and misplaced though it was, that part of him was worth something. His father was a Muggle, a rough and shallow and poor man. But his mother was a pureblood witch, of a line once powerful and even rich. Snape had thought of himself as half-pureblood—reared out of their society, knowing almost nothing of their rituals and their dances, forever a stranger in that much, but at least connected to them by blood. A halfblood Prince, if he could be nothing else.
And then his mother had told him what he truly was.
And Snape had gone out to cause pain to others. Why shouldn't he? Pain was the way of the world.
He did not want to face those memories again. He would rather hate than fear. He would rather brood on what he had become than remember how he had changed into what he was.
He did not want to remember—he rarely did, consciously—another way in which he and Harry were alike. Tobias Snape had left his own scars on Snape's soul, as James Potter had on Harry's. But the scars from both their mothers ran far, far deeper.
And both Lily Potter and Eileen Prince had believed they were doing the best things for their sons, in the end.
Snape conjured a stone pillar this time. It split down the center, and the pieces went spinning into corners, bouncing off each other with a series of sharp cracks, growing smaller and smaller each time they did so. Snape imagined each one as Sirius Black's skull.
Harry opened his eyes slowly. He had not had much trouble sleeping since he came to the Sanctuary, and he wondered if only the odd dream—something about a book sparkling as he opened it, with a title that included the word Medicamenta—was to blame for his wakefulness now.
Harry sat up abruptly, because he knew that laughter, but it was too late. The bird sitting on the end of his bed, lizard-tailed, claw-winged, red-eyed, tooth-beaked, with feathers that shimmered like an oil slick, had already flown at him and raked its talons down his left arm from his shoulder to his stump. Harry hissed at the pain, and watched as the wounds froze over before any blood could fall, just like every other wound he'd received from the bird.
He raised his head to glare as the bird danced gleefully over the end of his bed. "What do you want?" he hissed.
You will not know until it is too late. The words seemed to appear in his mind as if he'd always known them. I am preparing you. Marking you. Warning you. Binding you. The bird screeched, a more unpleasant sound than its laugh. We are all bound, you and he and I, and we cannot escape. But I can arrange the bond to my liking.
"If you would tell me what you are talking about—"
You could still do nothing. It is not a binding about which things can be done. The bird flew at him, and, as always, Harry ducked. Again came the laughter, and then it faded above him.
Harry was left to sit and shake in place, until the steady ache from his arm reminded him that he should do something to heal the wound. He placed his hand on the scratches and closed his eyes, concentrating. Nothing happened, and Harry cursed, voice trembling still.
From what he could tell, the bird was a creation of pure magic, and its vicious temper reminded Harry of his own magic just after it had escaped from the phoenix web, growing to sentience under intense pressure. His magic had been uninterested in anything except punishing his parents for confining it, even though, by then, Harry had not wanted to hurt them. That this creature was interested in hurting Harry…
Did I hurt the wizard that it belongs to? Is he imprisoned somewhere, and the only way he can reach me is this? But the bird's been appearing for months. I don't know who it could be.
Harry took a deep breath, and sighed. It would mean explanations he didn't like, but he would have to go to Vera and show her the wounds, since his own magic couldn't heal them. They stung like blazes as he slid out of bed, and he tried not to move his arm too much.
He did pause on his way out of the room. He had thought he heard a faint scream, as if someone in pain. But it didn't sound again, and so Harry made his way slowly down the terrace steps, wincing as every last one jolted his arm.
He frowned as the bird's laughter repeated itself in the distance.