Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Disclaimer: Only the 'plot,' such as it is, is mine. The characters, as indeed the world of Harry Potter, still belong to JK Rowling.
Warning: Mention of character death. If you can't handle reading about the deaths of major – and perhaps, even loved – characters then please give this story a pass and try another.
Summary: Harry is old, very old. After recalling a phrase he read once, he reflects on two specific deaths …
.oOo. .oOo. .oOo. On with the story .oOo. .oOo. .oOo.
"Do not go gentle into that good night."
"What was that, Headmaster Potter?"
I turned around and growled at the portrait of Albus that hung behind my chair. He knows how much I hate being called that, especially by him. After glaring at the chuckling portrait and gaining no satisfaction in the action, I finally answered him. "I was just talking to myself … just remembering a line I read somewhere. It reminded me of that night … and another."
"And neither of you went 'gentle into that good night.'"
The portrait of Albus sighed as he seated himself in his red and maroon brocade chair, "No, no, we did not, my dear boy."
I ground my teeth at the term of endearment, "I'm hardly your dear boy, Albus; I'm neigh on two-hundred-years-old now – older, I might add, than you were at the time of your departure for your 'next great adventure,' my dear boy."
Albus laughed out-right at that. Then collecting himself, he said with a sad smile, "Alas, I think of all of my former students as 'my dear boy' or girl, even you … Headmaster, though you are now of a greater age than I …"
I waved a hand at him to stop that train of thought. "You know, there have been more times than I can count that I've thought about those nights and how much I wish, or wished, I could have changed the outcomes."
"Destiny isn't always amenable to change, and those events that plague you lo these many years are but two examples."
"What plagues me, isn't so much the events as the … your eyes … and his. The looks in those eyes were so …"
I visualized a pair of blue eyes, twinkling with fine laugh-lines etched in the skin at the outer corners, and I don't know how long I sat there lost in thought … in memories of times gone by – times long gone by. It's funny how something that happened almost a hundred and eighty years ago can be so fresh in memory and pain.
I remembered the night Albus and I went to retrieve Slytherin's locket from the cave. The horror of that night still visits me in nightmares and makes me shudder. I remember my mentor drinking and drinking and drinking … that cursed potion – it seemed as if there was no end to the potion – and … and then there was the panic the headmaster endured because of it.
I remembered being on top of the astronomy tower, hidden under my invisibility cloak, watching in terror … and horror, as Albus was hit by the killing curse. I was not only engulfed in terror at what I was being forced to witness, but I was also nearly consumed by fury. I was insensible with anger at the Death Eaters and my former professor, Professor Snape, at what I was captive audience to.
Of course, later I understood why Professor Snape … yes, Professor Snape. It was a year, almost two years, later that I found out the truth. The man earned my everlasting respect.
Anyway, I digress. I remembered Albus' eyes as he looked straight at Professor Snape, and pleaded, "Please Severus." Albus' blue eyes … normally twinkling, normally holding knowledge, and normally guarding secrets untold. Albus' eyes that night weren't twinkling, though they still held knowledge and secrets. That night they also held pain incalculable and … sorrow. It wasn't until later, much later, that I understood why.
I remembered feeling hurt, too, intermixed with my fury and terror. I was hurt that Albus had focused so intently, to the exclusion of all else, on Professor Snape. I'd wished … no, I'd needed Albus to look at me.
Just one last time, I wanted to look into those blue eyes. I wanted to see that all would end well. I wanted to see even just a flicker of the compassion that I'd seen before. I wanted to see something in those eyes – something that I could call, right or wrong, love. But he only looked at Professor Snape, and I was hurt.
Suddenly, I visualized a pair of brown eyes, eyes so brown that they looked black. There was no twinkle in those eyes; in my lifetime, there never was. Between the brown eyes, permanently carved between the brows, was a deep furrow; one that deepened in anger, or a fit of pique, or intense concentration.
My memories were suddenly caught up in remembrances of those eyes. I recalled the first time I ever saw those eyes somewhat close up – well closer than in the Great Hall, anyway.
I remembered my very first potions class. I'd been so excited to see that class listed on my timetable, that I could think of little else as we traipsed through the corridors of the castle en route to the dungeons in which potions class was held; I'd looked forward to it ever since I'd found out what 'potions' were … but then there were those eyes.
Brown eyes bored into me as the possessor of said eyes interrogated me about things I'd never heard of. He'd asked what would be made by adding powered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood; he'd asked where he should look to find a bezoar, and he'd asked what the difference was between monkshood and Wolfsbane.
It's funny that after nearly two centuries, I remember that first class as clearly as if it had happened this very morning. I even remember all the answers to those questions. I almost laugh as I realize that.
Yes, I remember that powered root of asphodel and an infusion of wormwood are used to brew the Draught of the Living Death. Yes, I remember that a bezoar is 'a stone taken from the stomach of a goat, and will save you from most poisons.' And yes, I remember that monkshood and Wolfsbane are the same plant and also go by the name aconite.
I also remember how hard it was to not let it show that I was physically shaking at the cold hatred that burned in the Professor's eyes. I remember wishing with all my might that I could explain to the wizard that my uncle had locked up all of my books and everything after Hagrid had returned me to Privet Drive, and so I'd been unable to read anything for any class.
I remembered feeling, as the Professor finally answered his own questions, that his eyes were boring through me … seeing into my very soul, and that I'd come up lacking in a very big way. I remember being afraid that his gaze would kill me.
Remember, I was but an eleven-year-old child at the time, and only just knew that there were witches and wizards, that I was a wizard; I didn't know what they were capable of. For all I knew, looks could kill, and I expected to die that day in class.
I remembered those brown-black eyes in my third year after I'd snuck out to Hogsmeade under my invisibility cloak. The fury beyond fury in those eyes as the Professor grilled me about why my head was in Hogsmeade, and then went on to say how like my father I was, and that my father believed that rules didn't apply to him either.
By that time, I was pretty sure that looks alone couldn't kill, but the nearly unrestrained fury in those brown-black eyes had me sincerely doubting that I was right. Then again, looking down at the clenched fists at the Professor's sides, I realized he could easily use his hands to do the job for him. His wand didn't even occur to me.
I remembered the fateful … aborted Occlumency lesson – the one in which I invaded Professor Snape's pensive. His anger that day was so intense that I was beyond afraid. It would be not only fair, but accurate, to call it terror. As I looked back later that evening, and even now, I suppose, it was rather a relief that all he did was yell and throw me to the floor before throwing a jar of dead cockroaches at me … and missing me.
I remember, thinking back that night, that the fury in the Professor's eyes was so all-consuming that there was no room left for any sense of reason left in the man; he was … his whole being at that time … was made up of nothing but fury.
My next memory was of that night, that … last night, when Professor Snape lay mortally wounded on the filthy floor of the shrieking shack as he fisted, with waning strength, the front of my robes in his hand. I remember him telling me, with halting words barely above a croaking whisper, 'Look … at … me.'
I remember looking into those brown-black eyes and seeing, not the usual hatred, distain, or fury, but pain, and not the physical kind. The pain in those eyes went much deeper than physical pain ever could; this pain was soul-deep, and I found myself hoping, just before life left those eyes, that the Professor would find something in his 'next great adventure' that would take away that pain – something that would heal that pain.
I realized some time later, that as I watched life leave those brown-black eyes, that indeed, the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I had glimpsed the Potion Master's soul; and in its own way, it was a beautiful thing. I realized that even if the man wasn't a 'nice' man … he was, in his own unique way, a good man.
I still hope he found something … perhaps my mother met him on the other side. I can't help but hope she did, and that she's been able to rein in Padfoot and Prongs so that they all, Remus and Tonks … and Fred included, could have a peaceful 'next great adventure.'
After shaking the memories from my mind and refocusing on the portrait of Albus behind my chair, I repeated myself, "What plagues me, isn't so much the events as the … your eyes … and his. The looks in those eyes were so …" I sighed deeply and finished, "so different … so compelling."
I glance up at my former headmaster and see that his eyes are glistening with unshed tears. He looks back at me, but this time he has no words of wisdom, no platitudes, and remarkably … no verbal puzzles to offer. Instead, he just … looks.
I found myself becoming oddly uncomfortable under his unrelenting gaze and broke the silence, "My time approaches, Albus; and my wish … perhaps my last wish … is that I am permitted what neither you nor Professor Snape were granted. I wish … to go gently into that good night."
As my eyes closed in sleep, I head a faint, almost whispered, response, "You will, my dear boy; you will go gently … until we meet in your next great adventure, dear boy."