The title of this chapter comes from Swinburne's poem "Hymn to Proserpine," which, not coincidentally, also provides the title for the seventh story, I Am Also Thy Brother. Also, this is the last chapter of A Song In Time of Revolution.I will begin the next story on either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on where you live in the world.
Chapter Ninety-Seven: Having Seen That Love Hath An End
The vision flooded out of Harry again, leaving him shaken and drained. For long moments, he could only lie on the stones of the Astronomy Tower, blood soaking out from his forehead, Snape's hand shaking his shoulder, and try to absorb what he had seen.
When he knew—when he had realized that the Minister was dead and three of his allies would be forced to fight him again—then he screamed.
His magic burst out around him, phoenix wings gone dark, flaring with steel spikes and serrated edges. Harry heard the wind pick up, and knew the harmless whirlwinds he had raised to contain the green potion fumes in the dungeons were puny compared to the might building now. As if in response to the thought, thunder answered from overhead. His power was drawing a storm.
And why shouldn't it? Harry thought, his hands clenching beneath him so hard that he thought he felt a finger break. And why shouldn't it? I have a right to hate him. All he's done so far, and I thought I hated him for that. But I never knew what true loathing was until now.
The clouds above him swayed and drew together, and obscured the place where the moon would hang, were it not dark tonight. Harry lifted his head and cried out again. The wings beat, hard, very nearly throwing him forward and off the Tower.
Snape shook him again, and Harry could hear him speaking, but he could no more afford to pay attention to the words than he could have afforded to listen to Argutus's Parseltongue when he thought Draco was dying of the green potion. Snape was safe, and would not follow the others to Voldemort's side because he had defeated Voldemort in his own mind. But the others—
There were people living in pain and people dead right now, and all because they had tried to help Harry, or loved him. Voldemort might have struck at Scrimgeour, because he was Minister, even if he had been Harry's enemy, but the others would have been safe.
Everything I touch, I taint.
The hatred built, curved, piled steps of darkness, half hatred of Voldemort and half hatred of himself. If it had been only one or the other, Harry thought he could have stopped it from building. But how was he supposed to resist this? No one he loved would ever be safe again. Harry had felt the Dark Lord's triumph. If he had had this planned for Scrimgeour and Percy, Hawthorn and Adalrico and Lucius and Snape, he would plan something else for Draco, for Snape now that his first plan had failed, for Connor, for McGonagall, for Regulus. Everything and everyone who loved Harry was in danger while he lived.
Unless he went to Voldemort now. Unless he destroyed him before he could take anyone else or make anyone else suffer.
The wings had firmed on his back, solid black shapes that channeled the wind. Harry stood and made his way towards the battlements, his mind set into one firm mold. He would find Voldemort. He did not know where he was and could not Apparate there, but he would follow the burning of his scar, which would act as a guide. He would find him and he would destroy him. He would cause the Dark Lord such pain as he had never known, until he told Harry where the Horcruxes were.
All of this had happened because he had not hated enough, not been angry enough, not been firm enough.
Harry pulled his magic into himself with a roiling crash. The ward on the stairs behind him disappeared. He would need the power it had contained when he faced Voldemort.
He leaped into the sky, and the wings caught and bore him as only a broom would have done before. Steadily, he turned west.
He whirled around. Draco was on top of the Tower now, having broken through when the ward vanished. He had a hand outstretched, and his voice was harsh with something worse than rage, though his face was free of tears.
"Where are you going?"
Harry laughed. The storm laughed with him. His magic was everywhere around him, aching and hungry for the kill, wilder than the wolf that had come to him on Walpurgis Night. "I'm going to him, Draco. To kill him, as I should have done before it got this far."
"Harry, no!" Draco leaned forward. "I forbid it."
Harry arched an eyebrow, and the wings on his back twitched. "How exactly," he asked, keeping his voice gentle, "do you think you can stop me?"
Draco took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Harry was waiting for the familiar feeling of Draco's possession gift in his mind, though. He caught it, and captured it, and threw it from his head. Draco gave a pained grunt and staggered back. He might have fallen and split his head on the stones, but Snape caught him. Distantly, Harry was glad of that.
He turned, ready to fly again, ready to give himself to the abyss of fury. His magic purred all around him, glad to be free. Other people kept telling Harry that he had to be the leader in this fight with Voldemort, that he had to set his magic free and use it. He should have listened to them before.
He noticed a small figure rising from the grounds to intercept him, and growled in annoyance. He did not have time for this.
As he leaned into the wind, Connor had never been so glad that he had a Firebolt.
He'd spent time with the damn broom since Christmas. He'd mastered it. No one else could have taken the Firebolt off the ground and reached Harry as fast as this. Granted, Connor had had to sneak out of the school to the Quidditch Pitch first, because none of the prefects were minded to let the students leave their common rooms with a mad Snape running about, and that had taken some time. But when he heard, from gossip brought back by those same prefects, that Harry had last been seen heading upward, he had known he needed his broom.
And now this. The storm. His brother's magic, restless, whipping around Connor in the air.
Harry on black wings, just above him.
Connor didn't intend to fly away and leave him there. What kind of brother would he be if he did that?
Harry was turning towards him now, his eyes wide. Connor could see his lightning bolt scar welling with blood as real lightning began to flash around them, and the wind picked up. Connor ignored it all. He had played Quidditch in worse circumstances than this. He braced himself against the broom and scowled at Harry, wincing as he felt pain begin in his own scar. He didn't usually feel it—the last time he'd truly felt it had been when he spent months near Voldemort possessing Sirius's body—but if there was any evening when it would happen, it would be this one.
Voldemort was probably behind Snape's poisoning of the Headmistress somehow. Connor could see him attempting to harm Harry, because he had never known how to act around Harry. But harming McGonagall with a poison was simply clumsy. If Snape had wanted to kill the Headmistress, he would have done something subtler.
"What are you doing here?"
Harry's voice was so low and thunderous that it took Connor a moment to sort it out from the storm. Then he scowled harder, because he could not believe that Harry would be that stupid. "Stopping you," he said simply.
"You can't," said Harry.
"Why not?" Connor countered. "I think we take turns being the stupid one. You're stupid right now. He's probably convinced you it's all your fault and you have to settle this on your own. That's what he convinced you of in third year, and second, too, though then you at least had Draco with you. So right now I'm the smart one. And I love you, Harry, and you are not going anywhere on your own."
Wind howled in his ear. Connor raised his eyebrows, asking his brother without words if he was supposed to be impressed.
"You cannot stop me," Harry repeated, his face twisted into a grimace. Connor thought that was four parts Voldemort and one part self-blame. However Voldemort was possessing him, it had to have roots in Harry's guilt and self-hatred, two of his strongest emotions. "My magic is stronger than yours."
"Yeah, it is," said Connor. "But you can't do this."
And he lashed his compulsion like a rope around Harry's mind. Fly back to the Tower this instant, and stop being an idiot.
He hummed, did Lord Voldemort, he sang, because he had tapped into a part of his heir's mind that was his, and which lay deep in the boy, and which almost none of them knew about, though Harry had felt it stir in his head a time or two when he let his temper fly.
Their magic lay between them. So did the link, founded in the scar, and through that Lord Voldemort could feed hatred and whisper to that buried part to rise, to envelop and embrace Harry. Twice he had almost succumbed to it—once with his mother, and once with Lord Voldemort in the graveyard where he had lost his hand. Once the traitor and Lucius's brat had saved him, and once the necromancer had. But no one would get close enough to Harry to save him this time. Harry would push them away, keep them safe, because he had already witnessed enough loss through the visions Lord Voldemort had given him.
It was perfect.
Which was why it rather annoyed him when he felt compulsion he hadn't put there striking through his heir's mind. He reached out, though it was slow and heavy and hard because the connection was so muted, and tried to force the boy riding the broomstick near Harry away. It was not his time yet. Oh, yes, Lord Voldemort knew what he would do with Connor Potter, but falling from his broom, or dying in a blast of his brother's magic, was too simple a death.
The boy simply snorted, and turned to face him. Lord Voldemort received a vision of his face, half-fueled by their mental connection and half through Harry's eyes, and saw utter disdain there.
"I'm a compeller, too," Connor Potter told him. "And compellers are immune to compulsion."
Which made him even more annoyed.
Connor could feel intense pain in his head. The pain only bled into his anger. He was not about to give in to the bastard trying to take his brother away from him. He pulled on the rope he had fastened on Harry's mind.
And Harry screamed, and broke the leash, as any vates would be bound to do the moment he felt a compulsion placed on him.
Then the full might of his anger turned on Connor.
A wind came at him, one Connor knew would smash the Firebolt to kindling and himself to tiny bits of flesh. Of course, it had to catch him first, and he wheeled and steered out of its path.
Then a crosscurrent of winds tried to catch him. Connor tucked his knees close to his chest and sent the Firebolt spinning out from between them, then clamped his knees down again and dived from above Harry, making him start and shy, his black wings fluttering nervously. He wasn't used to them yet, while Connor knew everything about the broom under his hands and knees, how to make it sing.
"You're being an idiot, Harry," Connor called. "For Merlin's sake, you don't need to go alone. You always do, and look what the hell happens. You almost die of blood loss. Or you only succeed because someone repossesses his own body for a moment and Peter's there to throw the wand of the sacrifice to you. Going alone, by yourself, is stupid." He took a deep breath. That might make Harry pause and listen, but Connor knew he needed words to attack the self-loathing. "And Voldemort would be stalking someone else if you didn't exist, me or Neville. People would still suffer, and still die. Magical creatures won't be free if you go. We need you here, Harry. Too much to let you go. Come back, now." He extended a hand from his Firebolt, swinging in low over his brother, taking in his wide, devastated eyes, from which rage was beginning to falter and into which sense was beginning to come.
But with the sense came the blame, of course.
"But they died because they were connected to me," Harry whispered. "They died because I loved them."
Connor rolled his eyes. Oh, for Merlin's sake—
"Do you need a hug, Harry?" he asked.
That had the effect of making Harry stare at him in confusion, interrupting his self-pitying ramble. "What?"
"You need a hug," said Connor. "I think I'll give you one."
And, not giving himself time to think, he launched himself straight off the Firebolt, and towards Harry.
Lord Voldemort was very, very, very annoyed. Deeply irritated. Displeased with life in general.
Harry's hatred had rolled away too easily, at the first minor challenge. That suggested it would not be as easy to snare his heir's mind and drag him to his side as Lord Voldemort had hoped.
And now he found Harry's focus changing completely, from killing him or blaming himself because he hadn't foreseen this to trying to catch his falling brother.
Lord Voldemort could admit when he was defeated. Besides, he had plans Harry had not seen, plans to punish those who loved him that could begin now. Those plans might be enough to gather Harry's hatred up so that he, Lord Hunter, Lord of the Dark, could make another try in the near future. He cut his ties to the anchor in Harry's mind.
He leaned back, and announced, "It seems that my heir will not be joining us this evening." His thorn's face fell. Lord Voldemort leaned forward and caressed her hair again. "But we will see him soon enough, I have no doubt."
It does not matter. I know the third.
Connor was jumping from his broom, because he was mad, and Harry had to catch him before he could fall. He could not stand if someone else who loved him died this night.
He flared his serrated wings wide, so that they would not cut Connor, and then spread his arms. Then he flew a little backwards, because Connor's leap, brave, stupid thing that it was, had carried him in a wide arc over Harry's head.
He felt the breath leave him as his twin slammed into him, and scrabbled madly at his robes for a moment. Then Connor's arms curled around his neck, and his arms curled around Connor's back, and they hung there in the middle of the air together, panting, while Harry tried to feel some emotion that was not terror or self-pity or hatred of Voldemort or deep annoyance at his brother.
"Why did you do that?" Harry asked at last, because he had to know.
"To—get your mind off what you were thinking about," Connor panted. "To give you someone to protect. That's the only way to get you to stop thinking about the dead. Get you to start thinking about the living."
Harry's eyes closed, and he began to soothe the storm, to draw his power back into him, and make this a calm, dark night in June, the way it had begun.
A calm, dark night filled with so much death.
Harry shuddered. He had learned a number of nasty things about himself in a very short time. He could not protect everyone in this war. He was capable of feeling enough mindless hatred towards Voldemort to want to kill him, after years in which he had never hated anyone that way. He could disregard the living people around him in his concern over the imprisoned or the dead. He still tended to act alone first, if he had a chance at all, and on impulse.
And the moment he felt enough hatred—and Harry knew it would only increase, with Voldemort attacking more people he loved and attacking innocents—Voldemort could try to snatch him again. The curse scar was a vulnerability as great as the Dark Mark of any Death Eater.
"I just want it to be over," he whispered into Connor's ear, feeling a great wave of weariness roll over him.
"You and everyone else," Connor responded, his voice hard. "That's why you can't charge off on a whim, Harry. We need you to lead this war, to fight it, to help destroy Horcruxes, to free magical species—for so much." His arms squeezed hard, again. "So you had better stay right here, or I'll chase you down and compel you to stop being an idiot again."
"If something does happen to me—"
"We're doomed," Connor said, without preamble. "So make some attempt to stay alive, Harry, yes? And don't you dare say anything about the prophecy choosing me for the third round," he added with a savagery Harry had never heard from him, when he opened his mouth. "It might, it might not, but that doesn't excuse the fact that there are many things only you can do. You're going to outlive this war and make the world a better place, Harry. Show Voldemort that he's only a tiny cloud in the sky of your life."
Harry said nothing, but began to fly towards the Astronomy Tower again, with Connor's words working slowly inside him.
So that's what other people mean when they say my life is more important than anyone else's. I—understand, now. Both emotionally and intellectually.
I'm the Light's greatest vulnerability, because Voldemort is fighting this war to hurt me. But I'll just have to continue on with being its greatest weapon, as well. I have to do this. There really is no other way. And I can't give in to hatred, or the impulse to hurt him independent of allies.
He came in low, set Connor down on the battlements, and landed softly, dissolving the wings back into himself. Then he lowered his head, and relaxed into a simultaneous pair of embraces, from Draco and Snape. He could hear voices on the stairs. Peter and Regulus, it sounded like. He knew they had not been taken, or Voldemort would have shown him that, too, but it was nice to receive confirmation they were there, and free, and alive.
He lifted his head to the skies, and stared at the place where the moon should have been, at the clouds rushing over the stars.
He felt Voldemort's presence passing through his scar like a second, foul breath, beating heart of the beast.
Harry bared his teeth. To the death, then, and the third round of the prophecy. Come on, you bastard. I'm ready.
When he raised his magic this time, he did it in the shape of a pair of phoenix's wings, and sent his voice to follow it, living reminder of immortality and greatest Light, a warning to Voldemort about what was to come, mourning for the dead, and embrace of the future and its endless sacrifices.
As I said, the new story starts on either Tuesday or Wednesday. I hope you'll enjoy reading along as much as I enjoyed writing it.