Harry pushed aside the decorations hanging just behind the portrait when he entered the Gryffindor common room. Glancing around at the abundance of orange and black—streamers, floating jack-o'-lanterns and all manner of flying paper creatures—Harry struggled to hold on to the small smile he'd hid behind through the entire visit with Hagrid. Waving absently at a few of his classmates, he ran up the stairs and to his dorm, relieved to finally escape into the quiet sanctuary.

Harry supposed he was lucky. There weren't many times when he felt their loss. He could go on with his days at school—complete his assignments, spend time with his friends—and live a life that had become more normal and acceptable for him than life with the Dursleys had ever been. Then, there were instances when the absence of his parents threatened to consume him.

This Halloween wasn't more or less special than any of the others. The usual celebrations were going to take place—with the addition of three students being chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. But this year, it felt different. There was a cloud over the day he'd spent the last three years celebrating and Harry didn't know how to deal with it.

Had the world been terribly different before this year? Yes and no. He'd spent the first nearly eleven years of his life vaguely wishing for the idea of parents to counteract the misery he'd grown up with. It wasn't until Christmas break of his eleventh year, his first at Hogwarts, that Harry got a real idea of who and what he had missed out on.

If Dumbledore hadn't intervened, there was a chance Harry could've stood in front of the Mirror of Erised indefinitely, gazing into his mother's eyes, so like his own, and imagining the comforting and supportive touch of his father's hand on his shoulder. For a sweet, forbidden while he'd distanced himself from reality and come away with nothing but longing for a life he'd never have with parents who'd loved him enough to give him the ultimate gift.

If this cold emptiness was what it meant to love and miss his parents with every fiber of his being, Harry reasoned he could do without the deep longing that accompanied these rare moments. At the end of the day, the feelings just made him wish he could be with them, whatever form that might take. If Hermione could hear his thoughts now, she'd do her level best to rationalize the way he was feeling and steer him away from it, but Harry knew it was impossible to distract himself completely. In time, he would be able to suppress it and live life as normal, but for now, he couldn't deny the melancholy that had been waiting beneath the surface.

In the moments when he thought his existence was little more than a fluke of magic that had taken away a wonderful person, who was he to be grateful for what he had? How could he eat candy and laugh and enjoy himself when the sum of his life came down to a choice he never would've asked his mother to make? It may have been a willing sacrifice on her part, but Harry could feel none of the warmth and happiness he knew should accompany love, not on this day. He felt little more than the wish his parents had never died for him and the unshakeable feeling that he could never live up to their sacrifice.

Harry sat in front of the window next to his bed. The sun was setting, turning the late afternoon sky into a cornucopia of oranges and pinks as it touched the clouds surrounding the castle. Up here, isolated in the tower dorm, it was easy to lose oneself in these kinds of thoughts. Harry imagined his father standing at this same window seventeen years in the past, thinking of the upcoming Quidditch match or what he would say to Lily the next time he saw her. Closing his eyes, he conjured a picture of the two of them together, holding hands and laughing in front of his mind's eye. He wished he could always think of them this way.

Absently, he reached up to brush the moisture from his face. Feeling like this was useless, but Harry couldn't help himself. It had been building for a while now and there was no escaping it. He knew no amount of crying could drown out the sound of the rising wind. The storm inside him would rage until it found little else in him to break down. At this point, he wasn't sure how much was left.

"Harry, what's wrong?"

Startled, Harry jumped away from the window and swiped at his eyes with both hands. He took a deep breath to steady himself and then looked across the room to his concerned roommate. "I'm fine," he said, the answer as automatic as his reflexes on a broom. He desperately hoped the little shake in his voice would go ignored.

"You're not fine," Neville said, stepping closer. "Ron said you seemed a little quiet earlier, but he doesn't know you're in here crying, does he? I could go get him." He turned to leave.

"No," Harry said. Neville turned back and Harry saw the one thing he could scarcely tolerate from one of his friends—pity. "It's nothing," he lied. "You don't have to tell anyone."

"I don't," Neville agreed. "Maybe you need to talk, though." He crossed the room and sat on the window seat Harry had just vacated. "I know we're not really that close, but I'd be willing to listen if you need someone."

"I don't…" Harry let his voice trail off. He remembered Dumbledore's comments from months before and found himself wondering what it would be like to be in Neville's position instead of his own. Rather than have parents who were gone completely, to be able to see and talk to them and know they would never recognize him. For a brief moment, Harry felt less sorry for himself. Neville could show his parents all the love he was capable of giving and receive nothing but wan smiles without recognition in return. Which was a worse kind of hell?

"Today is the anniversary of my parents' deaths," Harry said finally. He didn't add anything else as Neville's face fell into a frown that mirrored his own. He imagined that Neville was briefly thinking the same thing he'd considered—what if their situations were reversed? "I didn't hear the details of what happened that night until Professor Lupin talked to me about it before the end of last term," Harry said, deliberately leaving out Sirius Black's part in the complicated story telling.

"This is the first year I've really…known," he said quietly, his eyes drifting to the darkening sky. Harry blinked as more tears blurred the sight of the sun dipping further below the horizon.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Neville said simply. Harry's eyes were drawn back to him. The other boy twisted his mouth to the side, his eyes dropping as he worried over what to say next. Finally, he spoke. "I know how you feel," Neville whispered. "My p-parents, they—"

"Neville, you don't have to."

His eyes shot up. "No, Harry. I do." He swallowed hard. "For me, it's Christmas." Neville looked down at his hands and began picking at the edge of one of his nails. "My parents were tortured for information about You-Know-Who a few weeks after what happened to your family. They fought as hard as they could, but in the end, the Death Eaters tortured them into insanity," he said, his voice breaking on the last word. Neville looked up and Harry saw that the brown eyes were shiny with unshed tears.

"Do you know what helps?"

Harry shook his head, sure Neville was going to say something about a charm or potion that temporarily took away this debilitating sadness.

"I remember what Gran used to tell me," Neville said. "My parents didn't fight hard for what they believed so everyone else could live in fear and pain. That's what You-Know-Who wanted. They wanted me to have the best life I could. Of course your parents would know you'd have to grieve for them, but I don't think they would've wanted you to suffer every time you think of them."

He offered Harry a small half-smile. "It may sound a little strange, but she's right. The first Christmas she talked to me about it, I tried celebrating what they meant to me instead of spending the entire holiday depressed." Neville nodded slowly and his smile widened. "I took out their pictures. I thought about stories I'd been told. I even read my dad's journal. It helped. It got easier every year. It's still hard for me to see my parents as they are now, but when I cry, it's because I'm proud of who they were and what they did for me. I'd rather my tears go to celebrating their lives than be shed for anything a Death Eater did to them. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction." With one last smile, Neville stood and left the room.

Surprised by the unusual advice, Harry leaned against the window and watched the darkening sky as he considered what Neville had said to him. He had never considered celebrating his parents in place of grieving their deaths, particularly since he didn't know nearly enough about them. Still, it was an idea that might allow one day of the year to stand in honor to them rather than live in infamy as a day of tragedy.

Strange as it seemed, Neville's words made sense. How could they, or any of the victims, cope if they didn't find their own ways to deal with their situations? On the same token, if the balm of hurt minds was to recognize his parents' sacrifice in celebration instead of pain, could the balm for his broken heart be tears for the love they had given rather than what had been taken away?

As he watched the sky darken outside the window, Harry crossed his arms and leaned against the window. When tears filled his eyes again, he closed them and pictured his parents as they might have been on their first date, their wedding day, the day he was born. He pictured them celebrating Halloween in the Great Hall with their friends—Lily smiling at James across a tray of their favorite sweets. After a time, Harry realized the aching he'd felt had lifted—not completely, but enough that he knew he could banish it in time.

Smiling, he stood and left the dorm to join his friends for the celebration.

Author's note: The phrases "tears shall drown the wind" and "the balm of hurt minds" were both taken from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Also, you can review this and other Halloween stories by visiting the Halloween challenge link in my profile.