Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, I really don't own much at all, and I don't make any money writing this rubbish… If I get sued, someone's going to be very disappointed…A/N: Ok, so it's not a songfic...
It was more than a recurring nightmare. It was history… it was a memory… and it was his greatest failure. Sometimes, the past is better left forgotten, but other times, the past itself refuses to be ignored.
The battle lasted all afternoon. Harry Potter was cold, tired and hungry. He was cold because it was the middle of February in Northern Scotland. He was tired because of the forced, horrific dreams that had kept him awake for the last three days straight. He was hungry because whenever he tried to eat, his shattered nerves would cause him to expel anything that he tried to put into his stomach.
The end was so close. He thought it would be easy. All the horcruxes were easily taken care of, too easily taken care of. It took only three weeks of searching to find all of them. They even managed to capture Nagini right from under Voldemort's nose. After two months of trying to destroy the cursed things, he half-jokingly mentioned that they should shove the lot of them down Nagini's throat and toss her through the veil in the Department of Mysteries. It was almost comical, the look on Hermione's face when he flippantly joked about it. She frantically placed quill to parchment and furiously scribbled out a long Arithmantic formula. She suddenly sat back in her chair, looking dumbfounded for only a moment, before bursting out into hysterical laughter. She jumped from her seat and crashed into Harry, knocking the wind out of him while calling him 'her genius.'
It seemed that the hardest part was over. All that was left to do was kill the weakened Lord Voldemort. Simple, right?
On the day they did exactly what Harry suggested, shoving the lot of them down Nagini's throat and tossing her through the veil, it soon became apparent that Voldemort could tell that the remainder of his horcruxes had been destroyed. Within the hour, Voldemort attacked Hogwarts with everything he had. The final battle had begun.----------
It was in the early morning that Harry awoke with tears still streaming from his blackened eyes. It was that dream again. His head was painfully throbbing as he strained to open his eyes against the light from the sun that was creeping over the horizon. He found himself sitting up against a brick wall in a dirty, rubbish-strewn alley, an alley he was somewhat familiar with, for he had the habit of occasionally waking up there. He was still clutching the bottle of cheap, rotgut booze that he was drinking the night before. He raised the bottle to his lips, but when he saw it was empty, he tossed it further down the alley where it shattered against an overflowing waste bin.
He could only remember fragments of the previous night. The local bimbo at the bar who couldn't take the hint that he wanted to be left alone, the oversized idiot who mistakenly thought that he was the one trying to pick her up, the rather one-sided fight. 'Oh, yeah…I remember now… the sucker punch…' He ran a hand over his face and winced as his fingers touched his nose. He felt the dried blood from his nose crusted around his mouth. Even the weight of his cracked glasses put a painful pressure on it. At least he was sober enough at the time not to pull out his wand and hex the bastard into next month.
He unsteadily got to his feet and made his way out of the alley. The street was relatively quiet, with only a few passing motorists on their way to whatever jobs they had. Harry wasn't employed at the moment, he seemed to have a problem holding a job for more than a few months. Employers didn't seem to take too kindly to his habit of not showing up for a week or so when he went on one of his benders. It was getting a bit harder to find gainful employment of late, it seems his rather sullied reputation preceded him whenever he sobered himself up enough to actually look for a job. His unusual sobriety was usually due to him running out of money. Unlike some women, it was rather difficult getting pissed when one is out of funds.
He walked along the sidewalk to his car, which was still parked near the small tavern he was brooding in the night before. It was an old, beat-up red 1985 Camaro. The car certainly had seen better days, its paint was faded, its tires were bald, it seemed to burn more oil than gas, and it had quite a few scrapes and dents. A few of the dents were there when he bought it, but the majority of them he made during his many periods of binge drinking.
He fished around in his pocket and pulled out his keys. He looked down at the five keys and the single gold band on the key ring. Ignition, trunk, his Gringott's key, the key to his motel room and… that key. He still had the key to the house that he had once shared with his ex-wife. Of course, by this time, she probably had the locks changed, but he still kept it as a reminder. The gold band was, of course, his wedding ring, the reminder of his continued failure in life. The marriage had lasted less than two years, and to be honest with himself, he was surprised it had lasted that long.
He unlocked the door and sat heavily in the driver's seat. He fit the key in the ignition and gave his wrist a twist. The car let out a pained whine, then said no more. All the idiot lights on the dashboard went dark. He turned the key again. Not even a 'click.' He thought he smelled a faint odor of burnt wiring.
'Oh, Merlin, not again!' he thought angrily as he bounced his fist against the steering column. On top of his 'bought and paid for' hangover, his nose, and the constant, nagging depression, now he has a car that's nothing more than an oversized paperweight. He certainly didn't have enough money to get it fixed. At least, not until his employment situation made an upswing, anyway, but what were the chances of getting a job with no means of transportation? He didn't want to use apparation. He had too many close calls. The last thing he needed was to be discovered.
He pulled his wand out of his leather jacket and looked it over, running his fingers along the scarred and pitted holly wood. He hadn't done much magic in the years he's been on the run. He was too afraid that he would be discovered, either by the 'good' guys or the 'bad guys.' Either would be a disaster for him, but the throbbing pain in his nose wasn't going to fix itself, and he certainly didn't have the money to see a doctor, so with a quickly and inconspicuously muttered 'Episky,' he felt his nose twitch and straighten and the pain immediately calmed to just a slight tenderness. He didn't even bother cleaning himself up, the less magic he used, the better.
He leaned back into the comfortable leather seat and stared out of the cracked windshield, watching the sun rising over the water. The view was pleasant… a small, Cape Cod bay, ringed by a thin stretch of beach and surrounded by quaint old houses. There were a multitude of small to mid-sized boats bobbing lazily in the water.
How he ended up in Massachusetts was a mystery to him. He had traveled around the world for the first two years of his self-imposed exile from Europe. He visited South Africa, India, and then Australia and Japan. He spent a few months in Brazil before he toured the United States. He hated the people in California, but he was surprised to find he loved Las Vegas, although the heat and aridness of the climate there forced him to move on to places that didn't average 115F. in the summer.
He spent close to a full year in the deep woods of Montana, and almost decided to stay there until his careless use of magic nearly got him caught. He considered himself lucky that his alarm wards worked, much to his surprise. When the apparition wards went off, he barely made it out of his hovel undetected. With the help of his invisibility cloak, he managed to hide from a black-cloaked figure who stormed into the shack that he was living in. Obviously, they were tracking him down. Maybe Voldemort discovered the full prophesy somehow, or maybe he was just obsessed with Harry's death. He decided then to avoid using his magic whenever possible. He couldn't remember the last time he cast a simple 'Lumos.'
Feeling the exhaustion creeping up on him, he flipped the lever beside his seat, dropping the backrest a bit before closing his eyes. He soon drifted back into sleep.
Harry had been in fights before, but he never experienced the sheer horror of a full-scale battle. Sure, he'd seen death. The clean, almost antiseptic death of Cedric and Dumbledore. Traumatic, to be sure, but the simplicity and ease of the Avada Kedavra curse was nothing like what came to pass at the Battle of Hogwarts.
It's always so easy to be brave when you're not ankle-deep in gore. People don't realize how hard it is to think when you're standing beside a pile of corpses, some of which you were conversing with the day before. People think that battle is like what you see in the muggle movies, the hero gets shot in the arm and bravely carries on, wiping out scores of enemies while never seeming to run out of ammunition. They never realize how just a bit of pain could stop you in your tracks, derail whatever train of thought you were following.
He knew that the Death Eaters also suffered a massive, staggering amount of losses. After Voldemort sent the Dementors to 'soften up' the Order a bit, he sent the horde of his freshly recruited Death Eaters. At first, it was a slaughter, wave after wave of the green Death Eaters, many of whom Harry recognized as being former Hogwarts students from Slytherin House, were used as nothing but fodder.
It wasn't until after the giants attacked when Voldemort sent in his more experienced Death Eaters. That was when it started to get messy. He saw a cutting hex from Neville Longbottom lop off Bellatrix LaStrange's leg. She bled to death in less than a minute. Lucius Malfoy had his head turned into a fine, red mist from a well placed, close range Reductor cast by Fred Weasley, who was disturbingly thrilled with his accomplishment. Harry couldn't blame him for his apparent glee at the senior Malfoy's cranial explosion, after all, it was Lucius that cast the AK at his brother, George. The highlight, if you could call it that, was when Hermione cast a simple stunner at Antonin Dolohov, who in turn collapsed onto one of the centaur's stray poisoned arrows, the tip of which was protruding from the ground beneath him. Although it was inadvertent, that was the first, and last time Hermione had actually killed anyone. It was kind of a poetic justice, seeing that it was Dolohov that cast the strange, purple-flame curse that nearly killed her in the battle at the Department of Mysteries.----------
Harry was only asleep for a few hours when a white car with a thick, blue stripe running across its side pulled up to the rear of his car. The words 'Raven's Cove Police' were stenciled upon the car's front fender.
A few moments later, a tall woman with short brown hair and a pleasant, youthful face cautiously approached. The muggle police officer scanned the inside of the car through the large, rear hatchback window. When she looked at the person sitting behind the wheel, a light of recognition lit in her eyes and she visibly relaxed.
He woke up just before she made it to his door. He looked up at her as she approached and said, "Well, good morning, Jenna, or is it 'Officer Evans?'"
A wan smile appeared on her face as she softly said, "It's 'Officer MacGregor,' you know that I took back my maiden name when we…" She noticed the dried blood that covered his lower face and stained his white tee, "Oh, Jim, not again!" She let out a sigh, "Another rough night, I see."
She leaned into the open window while pulling a handkerchief out of the breast pocket of her uniform. He was a little embarrassed of how he probably smelled as if he spent the night drunk in an alley. In fact, he was sure that he smelled as if he spent the night drunk in an alley. She moistened the cloth in her mouth and gingerly began to clean the mess from his face. She saw him wince when she accidentally brushed his nose as she worked. He obviously didn't do a very thorough job of fixing his nose.
"It's probably broken, you should get that looked at."
Harry just nodded and said, "I'll get it taken care of."
He watched as she stood back up and folded her arms over her chest while she looked him over. He could tell by the look on her face that, while she disapproved of his behavior and his current condition, she still cared a great deal for him. A small smile tugged at his lips, but quickly faded when she asked, "So, what caused you to get plastered out of your mind and into a fight this time?"
Harry's smile disappeared and he dropped his gaze to his lap. He didn't reply, but he didn't have to, she knew the answer already.
She shook her head sadly, "How long has it been, Jim? Ten years? Ten years and you still grieve for her? How did you expect me, or anyone for that matter, to compete with someone who has held your heart for this long?"
He just shrugged and said, "I'm sorry, Jenna, but I never expected you to compete. Why did you feel the need to? She's dead… it's not as if I could have left you to run back into her arms."
"It was bad enough when you called her name out during those night terrors of yours, but how did you think I felt when you'd call out her name while we…"
"I'm sorry," interrupted Harry. He didn't want to hear the same old argument again. "Well, it was good seeing you again, Jenna. We should do lunch sometime. You know where to find me."
"Ok, Jim… you take care of yourself," She looked him in the eye with the same, sad expression that she wore for the most of their failed marriage and softly said, "and try to be careful, I know it's never your fault, but I can't keep bailing you out of jail when trouble finds you."
Harry heard her let out a pained sigh as she walked back to her cruiser. He chanced a glance back through his side-view mirror, only to see her still standing beside her car. She had her head hung and he saw her wipe her eyes on the sleeve of her uniform.
The break-up was a lot tougher on her than it was for him. She felt as if she failed him, she couldn't 'fix' him. The sad truth was that he really didn't want to be fixed. He wanted to keep the vile memories, he was resplendent in the horrid nightmares. He felt he deserved the punishment for his own failure, not just for the loss of Hermione, but for the entire Wizarding world. He felt that he abandoned them when they needed him most, even though he knew that if he had stayed in Britain, he would be dead by now. He believed, more often than not, that he probably would have been better off dying beside Hermione. A lot people would have been spared a lot of heartache.
His mind traveled back to that horrid night. Yes, he would have been much better off dying beside Hermione.----------
Early in the battle, he had witnessed the quasi-death of his best friend Ron, his soul devoured by one of the hundreds of dementors that led Voldemort's attack. Throughout the day, Harry had witnessed the systematic destruction of the forces of the light. Nearly all of the aurors that were sent by the Ministry were lying about the grounds of Hogwarts in various states of dismemberment. He personally witnessed the demise of most of the members of the Order of the Phoenix. There were so few left… so few…
He had dragged the bleeding and broken body of his girlfriend into the tunnel beneath the stump of, what was until earlier that day, the Whomping Willow. He was freezing, exhausted, weak from hunger and lack of sleep… and he was scared. He was trying his very best not to show it, but the near paralyzing fear had its' hooks firmly embedded in his psyche. His eyes were wide with fright. He was alone, crouched behind a broken, moldy bed on the upper floor of the Shrieking Shack. He was still breathing hard from the exertion of carrying her up from the tunnel and into the old bedroom, the same room where he confronted his godfather years before. He was crying while slowly rocking the dead body of the young witch in his arms. How could he just leave her behind?
Everyone was gone now. He had nothing left, no one left to turn to. He had failed most spectacularly, and he had no idea what to do next.
Earlier, just before they entered the tunnel, he noticed the full moon rising over the horizon. Now, in the distance, he could hear the savage howls of the werewolves that were rampaging through the nearby village of Hogsmeade. He knew that he would be found soon. He could hear the spells ripping into the doors and walls of the shack. He heard the creaking as someone ascended the stairs.----------
Harry watched as Jenna sat in her car and watched him, obviously waiting for him to start the car and drive off. He didn't really want her to know that the car wasn't going anywhere any time soon, so he hit the release to open the hatchback, got out of the car and while pretending to be looking for something, gave her a smile and a wave indicating that he'd be a while yet.. Harry knew her shift would end soon, so he waited until Jenna reluctantly drove away before he slammed the hatchback closed.
He was a quite a few miles away from the motel room that he was renting long-term. A bed, a small icebox, a chair and a small television set that worked… sometimes. He began walking along the main road in the direction of his motel, glancing into the windows of the small, familiar shops as he passed. He just made it past the fifth window when he heard the unmistakable sound of apparation in the distance behind him.
"Bloody Hell," he thought to himself, "they must have detected that 'Episkey.'" He made yet another mental note NOT to use magic.
Harry quickly ducked into the next door he came across, which happened to be a tiny florist shop owned by a young man who Harry had only met a few times in passing. It was only in the deafening silence of the shop after he closed the door did he realize how loudly his pulse was pounding in his ears. He quietly made his way behind a large table that was covered with assorted vases containing differing arrays of floral arrangements. He positioned himself so that he could just see out of the front window through the flowers.
He stared intently out through the window as he tried hard to get his ragged breathing under control. Suddenly, he felt a soft hand gently rest on his shoulder from behind, causing him to jump, spin around and let out a panicked gasp.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to startle you!" came the oddly effeminate voice of the florist. He looked slightly younger than Harry did, wearing a flower patterned Hawaiian shirt, a dreadful pair of orange Bermuda shorts, and an apron. Not the regular white clerk's apron, but a pastel pink, frilly, lacey apron that looked as if it belonged to a French maid.
He gave Harry an appraising look, noticing the rather large bloodstain on Harry's tee shirt. "My, you're a jumpy one… hiding from someone, are you?"
"Well, I guess... it's just that I saw my ex-wife out there and I just wanted to avoid any further unpleasantness, you understand." It wasn't really a lie, but he couldn't come out and say that he was hiding from a wizard who was probably looking to kill him… or worse.
Harry backed himself a bit further along the line of vases so that he was blocked from view from the outside.
The florist again glanced down at the stain on his shirt as he commented in a flamboyant way, "Yes, those permanent relationships can get so violent when they turn sour. That's why I'm never going to get married. I'll just remain a free spirit!"
Harry truly believed that the man that was speaking to him would never be married, not in the traditional sense anyway. He conversed with the man for a few minutes while keeping a surreptitious eye on the front window. The florist was in the middle of describing how the last relationship that he was in had fallen apart because his 'significant other' had cheated on him when Harry saw a black-cloaked figure pass in front of the shop.
Instinctively, Harry crouched down, hiding himself behind the table. The florist glanced towards the window and whispered, "I'll get rid of her for you."
Before he could warn the florist, he flitted around the table just as the door opened. Harry kept low and moved further back into the shop, crouching down beside a large glass-fronted refrigerator unit that held bouquets of fresh roses. He couldn't hear the conversation above the hum of the refrigerator's compressor, but could tell from the few words he caught that the florist was assuring the person that he hadn't seen anyone all morning. After a tense minute, the person left the shop and Harry let out a heavy breath that he was holding for much too long.
After a few more moments, the florist stuck his head around the unit and smiled. "She's gone. I must say, you have style, my man. She was definitely looking for you, described you pretty well, actually. Makes me wonder what type of fella you are if you want to hide from a babe like that, but I suppose you had your reasons for getting rid of her."
Harry almost laughed to himself… imagine… a foxy Death Eater.
The florist then absently remarked, "I almost feel bad for the girl, she looked so sad when I told her I hadn't seen you. Still, if she could bloody your nose like that, I can't say I blame you for avoiding her."
Again, Harry almost laughed to himself… the only thing that Death Eater was sad about was the knowledge that a Cruciatus awaited her when she returned empty-handed.
Harry hung around in the shop for another hour, making small talk with the florist and politely refusing to accompany him for a coffee at a nearby café.
Harry had the florist step out to check if the coast was clear. Harry thanked him by making a purchase of a dozen red roses, a purchase that he really couldn't afford. He casually stepped out from the shop and made his way along the street, again in the direction of his motel, which was still a very long way away.
Only after another uneventful hour of walking did he feel the tension of the near-encounter ebb slightly. It was a little past noon when he passed a small tavern, the 'Port O' Call.' He had only been in there once before. It was a spacious place, but frequented by a relatively rough crowd of local bikers. Feeling the empty pit in his stomach, he pulled out his remaining cash and gave it a quick count. Forty-five dollars was all he had left to his name. Having exercised off the effects of the hangover he suffered from earlier, he figured a quick bite and a few beers would help to quell the lingering nervousness over the narrow escape he had.
Needless to say, the food was forgotten the moment he entered the bar, and a few beers turned into a few more, followed by a few shots of whatever house whiskey they were pouring. Several hours later, he found himself getting the bum's rush out of the door after one of the regular bikers there decided he didn't like Harry's face.
Amazingly, he had the presence of mind not to transfigure the biker into a toad. Harry set his auto-pilot to 'home.' He thought the fresh night air would help to clear his mind, but the effort involved in staying upright as he walked only served to hasten the alcohol through his system to his brain. By the time he made it to his door, he was listlessly swaying on his feet. He almost fell over as he shoved his hand in his pocket, only to discover that he left his keys in the ignition of his car, which, of course, was miles away.
He leaned forward and rested his forehead on the locked door. All mental notes and the previous close call with the Death Eater was forgotten as he pulled his wand from his jacket and, after only seven unsuccessful tries, managed to cast an 'Alohamora' on the lock. The door abruptly swung open, but unfortunately, his forehead was still supporting his weight against it. Harry ungracefully fell face first onto the dirty, threadbare carpet inside of his room. His cracked glasses fell from his face and broke into two parts as they skidded across the floor, joining the dozen roses that were now scattered haphazardly on the carpet.
He laid there for a minute, thinking that the floor wasn't all that dirty. Maybe sleeping right there wasn't such a bad idea. Maybe he'd get lucky and he wouldn't wake up at all.
He let out a chuckle at that thought. No, he'd never get that lucky. Still, if he were to curl up and die right at that moment, maybe he'd get to see Hermione again. Or maybe not. After what he'd done, and failed to do in his life, what would lead him to believe that fate, karma, or whatever cosmic forces ruled the universe would ever allow him to spend eternity, or even just a moment, in the same place as her?
The chuckle that was on his lips died, and turned into a choked sob. Why couldn't he forget? Why couldn't he forgive himself? Why did he have to be 'The Chosen One?'
Jenna was right. She was always right. She had been competing with a corpse, and she lost every competition. He was stuck living in the past, clinging to a life that didn't exist anymore. That was the only reason he agreed to marry her, she was so much like Hermione… pretty, smart, bossy in her own way, but she wasn't Hermione. Every day he compared Jenna to her, and every day he was reminded how badly he missed her… how badly he had failed her…
'Yes,' he admitted to himself as sleep and the alcohol finally claimed him, 'this dirty, threadbare carpet is just what I deserve.'
Moments later, loud snores emanated from Harry's throat as he lay sprawled face down across the threshold of his room. In the motel's parking lot, two things were happening. From one end, the sound of tires crunching through gravel announced the arrival of a white and blue police cruiser. From the shadows at other end of the lot, a 'crack' of apparation revealed a black-cloaked, hooded figure that was holding a strangely glowing sphere while purposefully walking towards the line of doors.
Harry looked down onto Hermione's bruised, bleeding face. He gave her one last kiss on her cooling lips and whispered to her, "I'm so sorry, love. I've failed you. I've failed everyone."
The battered door slowly opened and fell off its rusted hinges. He saw a pair of red, menacing eyes that flickered in the darkness beyond the doorway.
Harry laid his dead girlfriend onto the dirty floor and stood up. His shoulders sagged in defeat. He took one last glance at Hermione, and before Voldemort could set any kind of a dampening ward, he disapparated away with a loud crack.
Officer Jenna MacGregor had just begun her midnight-to-ten shift and, as a force of habit, swung by her ex-husband's seedy motel. At first, she thought he wasn't there because his old Camaro wasn't parked where he usually put it. As she pulled into the parking lot, her headlights briefly illuminated the open doorway of his room. It didn't surprise her to see his legs sticking out from the doorway. At least he found the right door this time. She parked the cruiser in front of his room, stepped out of the car and walked up to him.
She crouched down over Harry and was just about to reach out to him to wake him and to help him the rest of the way into the room when she noticed an oddly dressed woman, holding a strangely glowing orb and walking slowly up to them.
Jenna stood and walked towards the woman, "Can I help you?"
A tired, halting voice came from within the shadows of the hood, "Excuse me, but I'm looking for someone, and I have reason to believe he's in this area."
Jenna immediately detected the unmistakable accent of a Brit, which was one of the things that originally endeared Jim to her.
The cloaked woman stuffed the glowing sphere into her pocket and then pulled an old, dog-eared photograph from within her cloak. She handed it to Jenna before she continued, "His name is Harry Potter."
Jenna didn't recognize the name. She knew practically everyone in the small village and this 'Harry Potter' wasn't at all familiar. She was about to tell the woman that, but when she glanced at the photograph her voice caught in her throat. She immediately recognized her ex-husband, James Evans, standing alongside two other people. One was a tall, gangly redheaded boy, and the other was a thin, pleasant-looking girl with unusually bushy, frizzy brown hair. She looked at the third figure in the picture. He looked much, much younger than he did presently, but there was no mistake. This picture was of Jim Evans. She thought, for only an instant, that the Jim Evans in the picture winked at her, but immediately dismissed the absurd thought.
Immediately assuming that the cloaked woman was referring to the redhead in the picture, she shook her head and told the woman, "I'm sorry, but I haven't seen this 'Harry Potter.'
Jenna heard a shaky sigh rattle out from the woman before she asked, "Are you sure? I'm positive he's in this area, and I believe he has been for some time."
"I'm pretty sure… I mean, he'd be pretty hard to miss with that head of red hair."
"No, you don't understand," said the woman as she snatched back the photograph while speaking rather quickly, "this redhead's name was Ronald Weasley, this other boy, with the black hair, he's Harry Potter."
A look of shock washed over Jenna. She looked intently at the woman's shadowed face. The red, neon light from the motel's sign eerily illuminated her mouth and chin. She had to ask, "The girl in the picture, who is that?"
"That's me," she said as she pulled back her hood and revealed her face, "My name is Hermione Granger."
Jenna narrowed her eyes and instinctively rested her hand on the grip of her pistol before retorting, "That's… that's impossible! Hermione Granger died over ten years ago!"
Jenna looked down at the teenager in the photograph, then back to the face of the woman standing before her, and realized that they were one in the same. She then turned to look at the pair of legs that were protruding from the room. "His name is Harry Potter? Not James Evans?"
Jenna heard a sharp intake of breath when she asked the question. She glanced at the terrified face that had just noticed the legs of the prone figure. Hermione tried to rush past her to get to him, but Jenna grabbed her arm and asked again, with a bit more force and more than a trace of anger, "His name isn't James Evans?"
Hermione clutched at the wand in her pocket, wanting nothing more than to see for herself who the prone figure was. Suppressing her anxiety, she haltingly answered, "His full name is Harry James Potter, his mother's name was Lily Evans and his father's name was James Potter, who were both killed when he was a baby. If it is Harry, he probably took his parents' names. So you do you know him?"
Jenna released Hermione's arm and sighed, "He's my hus… ex-husband."
"What?" squeaked the small voice. Jenna's heart nearly shattered when she saw the devastated look that fell over Hermione's face.
"He told me you were dead. He said that you were murdered right before his eyes. He said you died in his arms. Was he lying this whole time?"
A look of understanding glinted in Hermione's eyes, "No, I think he actually believed I was dead. It all makes sense now. I almost did die from that bludgeoning hex… It broke every rib, and tore up a bit of my insides as well. I ended up in a coma for six months. When I finally woke up, Harry was gone. He'd been missing since the battle…"
Jenna stared blankly at Hermione before asking, "Wait, wait, wait… Bludgeoning hex? Battle? What battle? What are you talking about? Were you two soldiers or something? Actually, that would explain a lot of things… I figured he had to get those damned nightmares from somewhere."
"You were married to him and you he never told you?"
"Told me what, exactly? He never talked about what happened to him, but his nightmares told me more about his past than he ever did when he was awake."
"I'll show you what he should have before he married you," Hermione said as she stared at the unmoving legs and then shakily asked, "Is… is that him?"
Jenna nodded and gently took Hermione's arm to lead her back to his door.
"Is he… is he dead?" asked Hermione in a small whisper.
Jenna let out a mirthless "Heh…" before saying, "Dead drunk is more like it." Jenna tried to be cold to Hermione, but upon seeing the miserable, wretched look on her face, she couldn't manage to hold onto the spite. From the way Harry described her, she wasn't exactly what Jenna had expected. She was somewhat pretty, in a 'girl next door' sort of way. She was just as tall as her, and built about the same…in fact…
It suddenly dawned on her that Hermione looked very much like herself. Same color hair and eyes, same build, and even their voices were similar. 'So that's why he married me… I always wondered… Jim, you poor fool.' The thought sent a profound sadness through her.
Jenna sighed then said, "He never got over your 'death,' you know. I can't count the number of times I dragged his drunken ass home as he cried on my shoulder about how he felt he let you down. I held him night after night as he screamed out your name in his sleep during those damned night terrors of his. There were countless days he'd spend sitting alone in a room, just staring at a wall, brooding over a lost past that he refused to share with me. That's the reason we divorced two years ago. I couldn't take any more of his constant depression. I tried so hard to help him… I really did, but I finally figured out that he really didn't want to be helped."
When they reached the doorway, Hermione looked down at Harry. "H- Harry?" With a shaking hand she reached down, grabbed the shoulder of his leather jacket and slowly and carefully rolled him over. She couldn't stop the gasp that escaped her when she saw the large bloodstain in the dim light.
"Don't worry. That's from when he got into another drunken fight last night. It looks like he's added a few bruises since then. I've learned that he never really starts the fights he gets into. People in the bars he tends to hang around in don't really need an excuse to fight, but he does seem to be a favorite target… I've heard it had something to do with his accent."
Hermione's face screwed up as if in pain as she sadly whispered, "Oh, Harry…" She fell onto his unconscious form and began sobbing into his jacket, "It's okay now, Harry, I'm here… I've come to take you home."
Jenna turned away and ran her sleeve over her dampening eyes. "You're going to take him back to England? He said he could never go back there." She didn't know why the thought of him leaving was so unsettling to her. Maybe in the back of her mind, she thought he just might wake up one day and be just like any other guy. Maybe she did hold some sort of twisted hope that they might get back together someday.
Hermione stood while wiping her own eyes, "He has to come back. He has unfinished business there."
"But if he doesn't want to go back, how can you…"
"It's time that you learned who, or rather what we really are," interrupted Hermione as she drew her wand from the pocket of her cloak.
"Harry has a baton just like that one. He said it was a good luck charm, a souvenir from when he was an orchestra conductor."
"It's not a baton, it's a wand… a magic wand."
A confused laugh escaped Jenna, and then she said incredulously, "There's no such thing as magic!"
Hermione pointed her wand at Harry and said, "Mobilicorpus."
Jenna was stunned when she saw Harry eerily rise from the floor and began floating towards the bed, being gently guided by Hermione's wand movements. She stood for a few moments with her mouth hanging open before being snapped out of her daze by Hermione's words.
"I'm a witch. Harry here is a wizard," she said in her matter-of-fact tone of voice. "I left England to find him as soon as they released me from St. Mun… from the hospital. I've been tracking him with this." Hermione drew the glowing orb from her pocket, "The British Ministry of Magic has the recording of every wand's magical signature that has been sold in the last thirty years. This orb is tuned to Harry's wand, but in order for it to work, he would have to actually use his wand, which is something he hasn't been doing very much of. I've even had the goblins monitoring his Gringott's account, which he hasn't touched in all this time, either.
"Goblins? Little, green evil creatures?" The shock from everything Jenna was hearing was clearly showing on her face.
A flash of annoyance at the 'evil' comment crossed Hermione's face before she remembered what muggles are used to believing about magical creatures, "Actually, goblins are an integral part of Wizarding society. They run the financial institution called Gringott's Wizarding Bank. They take care of the Wizarding economy and I've had them monitoring the activity, or lack of activity, of Harry's vault."
"Jim… umm… Harry has a vault? He's been working as a laborer in warehouses, in car washes, and doing janitorial work for as long as I've known him… he can't have any money!"
Hermione gave a slightly embarrassed look, "Well, I'm sure he knew that his account was being watched. The truth is, he's one of the richest wizards in Britain, but I suppose I'm not really the one who should be telling you that…"
Jenna just silently stared open-mouthed, trying to comprehend that the 'shaggy, disheveled Jim Evans' was actually a rich wizard.
Hermione cleared her throat and continued, "I thought I had finally caught up to him in Montana years ago, but I just missed him there. It detected a healing charm this morning, but unfortunately, I arrived in the area too late to find him then, too. A short while ago, it detected an unlocking charm, which led me to right here, right now."
Jenna sat heavily in Harry's hard, wooden chair, which caused her nightstick to jab her painfully in the ribs. Rubbing her side, she asked, "He's… you're both really wizards?"
"As I said, I'm a witch, and right now, he's the most powerful, most famous, and the most important wizard in the world. The battle I mentioned before happened on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, of which we were both students at the time. There's a dark wizard who calls himself Lord Voldemort, and Harry was prophesized to be the only one who could kill him. Well, it turns out the prophesy was spot on, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to wake him before I continue with the story, he needs to hear the rest of this."
Hermione raised her wand and pointed it at Harry. She quickly cast a sobering charm on him and was preparing to cast 'Ennervate' on him when she felt Jenna's hand gently push her wand down.
She caught Hermione's questioning look and said, "He's believed you were dead for ten years. He has been grieving every day for every one those years, and I'm afraid the shock of seeing you might be a bit much for him right now. Why don't you step outside for a bit while I prepare him?"
Hermione nodded and quietly stepped out of the room and into the darkness outside.
Jenna closed the door and walked back towards the bed Harry was laying on, only pausing to gather the scattered roses and to pick up his broken glasses. She laid the wilting flowers and the parts of his glasses on the nightstand before she sat down on the bed beside Harry. She reached her hand to his face and gently ran her fingers over his cheek and along his lips and let out a tired sigh.
She whispered to his sleeping form, "So many secrets, Jim… or Harry… or whatever… A wizard, huh? Who'da thunk it?" She stifled a small laugh before continuing, "It was magic at first, wasn't it… I only wished our good times, as seldom as they were, would've lasted a bit longer… I still kinda held hope for us, but I guess you're going to finally get your life back… I really think you deserve it." She bent down and placed a feather-soft kiss on his lips, then whispered, "I wish you luck, Harry Potter."
She stood from the bed and gently shook his shoulder, "Harry? Wake up. We actually have something to talk about now."
Harry's eyes fluttered for a brief moment as he mumbled, "Hermione? Izzat you?"
How many times has she heard that first thing in the morning? She always thought that he called out Hermione's name whenever she woke him was because he was dreaming about her, now she realized that it was because she sounded almost exactly like her.
"No, it's Jenna… now wake up."
Harry opened his eyes and looked at Jenna's face. A wide smile briefly flashed along his lips before it disappeared into his normal, indifferent expression. She had always thought that the smile that flickered was for her, but now she knew better. It was always for her near-twin, Hermione.
"Harry, I've got a surprise for you."
"Oh? Are you wearing that red negligee set under your unif…" Harry's eyes widened, "What did you call me?"
"'Harry.' That's your name, isn't it?" she softly asked with a smile.
Panic gripped his stomach. He instinctively grabbed for his wand, but was stilled by her soft hand on his arm.
"Relax, I know all about your real name, and about you being a wizard, too."
"How? How did you find out? Was I talking in my sleep? Did I…"
Jenna interrupted him, "I met a woman today who knows you. She showed me a picture with you in it."
Harry's thoughts jumped back to the incident at the flower shop. "No, you don't understand! They want to kill me!" Harry leapt from the bed and started throwing open drawers, gathering what few belongings he had and throwing them on the bed.
"Wait, Jim, just wait a minute… listen to me… If she wanted you dead, she would have killed you a few minutes ago when she was in here."
Harry froze as he was just about to toss a pair of his boxers onto the pile on the bed. "She was in here?"
"Sit down. I really don't know how to tell you this…" Jenna let out a pained sigh, "What if I were to tell you that your old girlfriend, Hermione, didn't actually die that day?"
"I'd say you were barking mad." Harry answered coolly, while running his fingers through his hair, "I know what happened. I was there. God, I'll never forget it. How could I forget it?"
"Jim… Harry… she survived. She's waiting outside to see you. I just wanted to ease you into the fact that she's still…"
Harry didn't hear the rest of whatever she was saying. He sprinted across the room and threw the door open, ending up face to face with…
"Hermione…?" he whispered in disbelief. He slowly reached out his trembling hand to touch her cheek, "Hermione!"
Hermione was standing there, twisting her fingers in her hands and looking at him with a nervous smile. "Oh, Harry!" she cried as she practically knocked him over when she jumped into his arms. "I've been looking for you for so long!"
"How? How did you survive?" asked Harry with a mixture of fear and wonder in his voice.
"Remus found me in the Shrieking Shack the next day. He came from Grimmauld Place, that's why he wasn't at the battle… because he had no one to make the Wolfsbane potion for him, so he was locked in the dungeon there all night. Someone told him that they saw you carry me into the tunnel. I was in pretty bad shape when he found me."
"I thought you were dead," Harry said with his voice cracking every few words, "I… I carried your body into the Shrieking Shack myself. You were so cold and… and pale. You weren't breathing… and Voldemort was there and I… I…"
Harry loosened his hold and backed away from her. The shock and joy at seeing her again was smashed down as if pounded with a sledge hammer, and in it's place came the familiar emotions that had been slowly consuming him for years… shame… guilt… regret… His shoulders slumped and he hung his head. Hermione, with tears streaming from her eyes, looked at him questioningly.
"and I ran." He admitted in a whisper. A bitter, tortured frown crossed his face as he fought back his own tears, "I ran like the coward I am. I saw everyone dead, I saw you dead… I was just so scared that I just couldn't face him. I've regretted it every day since then. I regretted that I didn't die there with you."
Jenna was watching the scene from the doorway. She watched the uneasy tension between the nervous witch and the brooding wizard. Hermione looked torn between falling on the floor and crying, and jumping on her ex-husband and kissing him until he passed out. Harry, on the other hand, just looked ill as he sat on his bead with his head in his hands.
Jenna decided to break the uneasy silence. She looked at Hermione and asked, "What were you saying about a prophesy?"
Harry visibly flinched at the word while Hermione just continued to stare at her anxiously fidgeting hands and answered, "It's not a secret anymore, Harry. I never really believed in prophesies. I always thought that the 'inner eye' business was a load of wonky rubbish, but now, with what I've seen…" She looked sorrowfully at Harry and continued, "You have to come back."
Harry closed his eyes and stiffened, then absently shook his head, as if he were trying to dispel some terrible image in his mind, "Hermione, I can't go back. I can't fight him…"
Before he could say anything more, she continued, "A lot of things have happened since you disappeared. The next day, after the battle, Voldemort proclaimed himself the new master of Wizarding Britain. As boldly as you please, he walked right into the Ministry of Magic. What he didn't know was that the Unspeakables from the Department of Mysteries had a plan in place if he ever entered the building again. They set up a time displacement ward in the hallway leading to the Minister's office, which they activated when he passed it."
Seeing the confused look on his face, she explained, "He's frozen in time in the hallway at the Ministry. He's been there since February 15th, 1998. As far as he knows, it's still February 15th, 1998."
"You mean he's trapped there? Helpless?"
Hermione nodded. "But they can't keep him that way forever. The remaining Death Eaters have raided the ministry building a few times since he's been there, but they're not as strong as they used to be. The Final Battle finished most of the inner circle, although they decimated our side, too, as you know."
"Then why hasn't anyone gotten rid of him yet?"
"They tried. They cast every spell they could think of at him, even the killing curse, but nothing affects him. They even tried using muggle weapons, but nothing has worked. Do you know why?"
Harry nodded as he looked into Hermione's eyes and quoted the Prophesy, "One must die at the hand of the other…"
"Only you can end it, Harry. You can finish it once and for all… avenge all the people he's hurt and killed… Dumbledore, Sirius, your parents… my parents… Ron, George, and everyone else. You can end it today. You can have your life back, our life back…"----------
Harry stepped off the golden-caged lift and walked along the long, wide hallway. Dozens of people were lined up along each side of the hall, all silently staring at him as he passed, there to witness the long-awaited destruction of the imprisoned Dark Lord Voldemort. Most of the faces he had never seen before, but mixed among them were a few very familiar ones.
He saw the Weasley Matriarch, Molly, standing between Fred and Ginny. Molly looked painfully thin, and her hair now had turned almost fully gray, but still held some red highlights. Fred was watching him with empty, vacant eyes, evidently still feeling the loss of his twin, his other half, even after all these years. Ginny was also wearing the scars from the long-past battle. She stood motionless, supporting herself on a walking stick to compensate for the prosthetic leg she now had to wear. Her youthful beauty forever gone as he glanced at the long, jagged scar that ran from her scalp, through one empty eye socket, along her nose and ending on her twisted upper lip.
Further along the hall he passed Luna Lovegood, who was being escorted by her seeing-eye… whatever that beast was, it certainly wasn't a dog. She was standing beside Neville, another of the very few survivors of the battle. If he had lost some of his boyish awkwardness during his sixth year at Hogwarts, it was all gone now. He proudly stood straight and tall, displaying his auror badge on his robes.
As he neared the area that was sectioned off with thick, velvet ropes, he came upon Remus Lupin. Decades of his lycanthropy has apparently wreaked havoc with his constitution, for he looked as a man who was twice his age.
Harry reached the rope and a large, grim-faced auror pulled the rope aside to let him pass. Just inside the roped-off area stood the current Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley, who nodded at Harry as he approached, then pulled open a large, red curtain revealing the trapped Lord Voldemort.
Voldemort was frozen mid-stride. Harry looked into his eyes that, while even frozen in time, still eerily glowed crimson red and held a triumphant gleam. A wide, sneering grin was splayed across his thin, pale lips, obviously reveling in his apparent victory. His bony-fingered hand was curled, as if holding the wand that was, of course, taken from him and snapped a decade ago.
He glanced down at the jewel-encrusted, silver sword in his right hand, feeling the texture of the grip. He hefted it and swung it in front of him only once to test the weight of the silver blade. He felt the calming warmth in his left hand, which was held by Hermione. She gave his hand a slight, reassuring squeeze before releasing it as she stood back to join Arthur.
He looked up into Voldemort's smiling, sneering face. He looked into those menacing, hateful eyes. In that instant, the memories came flooding back. The memory of the graveyard where Cedric died. The memory of Sirius dropping through the Veil. The look on Dumbledore's face as his lifeless body plunged from the Astronomy Tower. The years he was forced to spend in an abusive household, with people who couldn't care less if he lived or died, all because of the murder of the parents he never knew. All of the people who died in the Final Battle… Ron, George, Charlie and Bill Weasley, Parvati, Seamus, Dean and Lavender… All those families that were left shattered from the loss of husbands, wives, parents and children…
The ten years he lived in poverty and misery… in fear… in regret… living with the miserable, vulgar shame that haunted every day of his life since the battle. It was time for Tom Riddle to pay the Ferryman.
A menacing scowl appeared on Harry's face as he lifted the sword and rested the tip against Voldemort's chest. He gave a quick nod to Arthur, who in turn nodded at a pair of Unspeakables who were standing on either side of Voldemort.
The instant the time suppression ward dropped, Harry pushed all of his weight behind the hilt of the sword, plunging it directly into Voldemort's blackened heart. Dark, purple blood sprayed out of the wound onto Harry's face, but he didn't even flinch. He pressed the blade even harder, and with a grunt, pushed up on the hilt and twisted the blade violently.
A wide, almost insane smile creased Harry's lips as he watched the shock spread across Voldemort's face. Voldemort's mouth opened in a silent, breathless scream as his lifeblood spurted from his chest, covering the man holding the implement of his destruction.
Just before the glow totally dissipated from Voldemort's eyes, the last thing he heard was a deep forceful voice spitting the last curse he would ever hear…
"Fuck you, Tom."----------
Harry walked through the Ministry's atrium, hand in hand with Hermione and still covered in the thick, purple gore. He felt the years of self-loathing roll off his back as he stood and looked into Hermione's eyes. The love he saw in them was just what he needed for him to finally begin to forgive himself.
"It's over. It's finally over," he whispered in her ear as the crowds cheered and celebrated around them.
She just smiled and nodded, then used her wand to cleanse the blood from his face before jumping on him and planting a deep kiss on his lips while the flashes of the Wizarding cameras pulsed around them. They walked towards the floo fires and each disappeared into the green flames on their way to their newly purchased flat and to their newly won chance at a normal life.
A/N: Let me know what you think!