Right, so slightly later than I'd promised to (that does seem to happen a lot) but this time it was situations beyond my control like a trip to Switzerland, a near car crash, a crazy birthday party and travelling back to London. I actually wrote most of this chapter in the bus in the channel tunnel. So here I am, suitcases still unpacked posting this chapter (not betaed so just wince and ignore any mistakes).
Thanks goes to those who reviewed, you encouraged me to post today and gave the rest of you this extra long chapter.
Chapter 18: Für das größere Wohl
A loud quack and snorts of laughter turned everyone's attention to Pucey, where the unfortunate Slytherin was now sporting a duck head, his hand still clutching his contaminated porridge. James and Sirius laughed uproariously as a few Slytherins tried unsuccessfully to help their housemate. Even Lily had a reluctant smile as Harry told her amid the noise:
'Told you, prankers are not all bad.'
It was a bit like a formal pureblood dinner at 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius pondered as they sat through History of Magic. There was the polite chatter of people, a wave of meaningless day to day talk to the unobservant eye. But, if you were well versed with pureblood politics like he had been forced to be; you spotted the inconsistencies, implied threats, constant body motions meaning far more than words could express. Half finished gestures and the festering unease, covered up by an insipid layer of grease. He was rather proud of himself for that analogy.
But that was beside the point.
They had gone to their classes in an awkward ambience. Each seemed to be on the verge of saying something that would break the uneasy calm yet at the last moment changed to comment on a less inflammatory subject such as the prank done at breakfast. Well, except the girl, Hermione who started babbling on the twentieth century renovations done on Hogwarts inspired by some Muggle artist.
It was maddening: himself, Remus, James and Lily on one side, Draco and Hermione on the other, neither side quite comfortable while Harry looked straight ahead, eyes glazed and trying very hard to look as if there was wrong with the whole situation.
A flying piece of parchment dragged Sirius from his musing; blearily opening his eyes he saw it was Remus who had pelted him. Remus gave a pointed glance to his wand, and then to Hermione and Harry who were busy whispering two desks ahead of him. Sirius immediately got the message as he nudged a lightly snoring James next to him.
'Mmph- Five more minutes.'
'James, not the time right now!' Sirius whispered, 'Remember the spell we used to listen in to McGonagall talk in the staff room after our icicle prank? What was it? I never got the hang of it. We have to use it!'
James blinked his eyes open, 'Why doesn't Moony do it?' he grumbled, 'He's too far away, can't aim properly. Come on.'
James finally sat up properly, examining the mass stupor of the students around him, that is, all except for the hushed whispers of said two students. A sudden grin appeared on his face and he carefully aimed his wand at Harry, keeping it low on the desk.
He then repeated the wand movement to Sirius' ear, and his own. Immediately, the sound of Harry's voice burst in their eardrums as if he was whispering right at them.
'...don't get is how you found me in the first place. I mean, for all you knew, I had just died taking Him with me...'
James saw Hermione push a strand of her hair back impatiently as she looked into Harry's eyes, 'That's just it, we didn't know. It was more a hunch than anything else. We researched the spell, Deathero Infinitus... We had our own task force for it, officially joined by the Ministry, but they were far too busy reconstructing everything to spare the people. We nearly lost hope when we found out about the limbo part...' She choked.
'So what did you do?' Harry asked quietly after a prolonged silence.
'Most had given up searching for you by then. I think they even liked the idea of a last sacrifice. They were already planning to erect a memorial for you next to the bank. But it didn't fit. Kreacher still didn't answer to anyone else,' Sirius jumped at that name; 'The house was still under your name. That might have been explained by the fact that you wouldn't be dead in the limbo but even at Gringotts, the goblin magic didn't allow anyone else enter your vault. And I talked to Bill, he's worked extensively with the Goblins. The vault should have opened since there is no way you would have been able to come back. The magic would have considered you dead. That's when I asked Shacklebolt for help,' Harry, Sirius and James all frowned.
'He's the new prime minister you know.'
'Finally something those wizards don't screw up.' Harry said moodily.
Hermione ignored him, 'He named me head of the operation. I got to work with the Unspeakables. We concentrated on a new approach. We stopped trying to find your location and whether you were still alive. Instead, we just used you as the point of anchor. We then created a device, the Key, to be able to send a retrieval team to get you. That's what took the longest, building the device. Especially since we broke most of the instruments that could have helped us; when we fought for the prophecy back in fifth year.'
'I can't believe it worked...' Harry mused.
'I can't believe it broke.' Hermione retorted, 'I have no idea how we're ever going to get back now. The whole mission's failed for the moment. We even lost the sand in the device back outside the Lestrange manor. We'll have to start from scratch and Merlin knows how long that is going to take. We'll have to go to the library, Restricted section, can we get uninterrupted access? Or we can just use your cloak; I got all your things, just in case. Besides, I think, with the Marauders, we'd better work at night. What have you worked on since you've been here?'
'Well, I- Dumbledore went to talk with Flamel, he didn't tell me what he's found out yet. And he went through Grindelwald's old research. That's how I found about the spell he cast on me.'
He looked at her before asking: 'What?'
'Dumbledore?' She mouthed, looked puzzled, but then her expression cleared: 'You haven't done anything to get yourself out of this mess have you?'
'What do you think I should have done Hermione?' He replied a tad bit too defensively.
'I don't know, anything! I know you Harry; you never rest on your feet while waiting for other people to do what needs to be done.'
'Yeah, well maybe there was nothing to do, I told you, Dumbledore was working on it.'
'Dumbledore, Dumbledore, can you hear yourself? As much as I respect the Headmaster, I know you've stopped listening to his 'advices' ever since that Skeeter woman wrote about him. Why else did you defy his orders and used the link you have to check out Voldemort's link?'
'Will you lay off Hermione!' Harry grumbled as he hunched back in his seat, black strands hiding his eyes.
'No, no I won't Harry, not this time. I understood why you went to meet Him in the Forbidden Forest after seeing Snape's pensieve. I forgave you for pretending to be dead; I could understand all you were doing was to kill Him. But this... you're hiding Harry. This isn't about defeating him anymo-'
'Well maybe, for once in my fucking life, it doesn't have to be about him.'
James gave Sirius a look, both still pretending to be snoring with the rest of the class as Professor Binns voice droned about Gormuk the Gleeful and his Goblinic coup d'etat. Harry didn't swear much, and that more than anything else told them how heated the conversation was getting.
'No, I'm sorry Harry, but you need to wake up. I know, I get how much you wish this was your life, this must be your most peaceful year yet, despite the kidnapping. But it's not real Harry. Lily... James... Heck, Sirius and Remus, they can't replace them. Laughing, pretending here, it won't bring them back-'
'God, Hermione, you think I don't know that? I'm not delusional-'
'I'm not saying you are, just that- subconsciously you're not even trying to get back to our world. Half of you wants to stay here and forget about who you really are. And it's understandable. But you cannot remain hiding from reality. Every parental figure you've ever had has died back there, but you are forgetting the living Harry, you mean the world to them over there. None of them here even know the real you!'
'Fine, I don't want to leave, there, I said it, but I know, I know, same way as I knew I would never have a future with Ginny to keep her safe. But here it's different, no one knows me, if we get rid of Him I could stay and protect-'
'No! Harry that is exactly what I was afraid off! You can't change destiny. Everything that happens must happen, or you'll end up killing thousands more. Is it what you really want? They don't know anything about who you are here, what they mean to you, you're living a lie! To all of them, you're just a transfer student here for a year. You mean nothing to them!'
Harry had turned white at her speech, which had progressively turned louder until it could hardly be called whispering. She seemed to regret her words as soon as they were out, but the bell ringing stopped her from apologising as Harry turned white and clutching his bag and wand, stormed out of the classroom.
Hermione started shuffling quills and parchment in her bag hurriedly, as Draco seemingly glided towards her.
'Well done Granger, that's all we need, Harry on his periods. Next time do use a silencing spell before you alert the whole world about our mission.'
Hermione seemed about to retort when she saw Sirius and James far too innocent faces looking towards them. Sighing, she replied, 'He can't go far, we have DADA now. I'd forgotten how melodramatic he could be.'
As the class converged noisily out into the corridor, coming back to life after the zone out session, Remus zeroed in on them, eyebrows raised, 'Got it?'
Sirius gave a slight nod, mindful of the two new transfers hurrying in front of them.
'Got what?' A sly voice asked behind them, Sirius, already on edge from the conversation, jumped, 'Merlin, Evans, quit doing that!'
'We'll tell you later,' James ground out as a blonde head turned around eyeing them with a contemptuous glare. James asked loudly: 'So that means I'll be your date for the next Hogsmeade visit right Lily-flower?'
Lily automatically responded with a scathing repartee, but for once there was no bite in her insults as they curiously made their way to their new DADA class.
It didn't take them long to find Harry lounging against a wall next to the DADA classroom, an aura of unapproachability surrounding him. That didn't seem to stop Lily as she marched forward and smiled.
'Harry! There you are, why are you waiting outside?'
'Locked,' Harry answered warily, his eyes flickering between her and the Marauders slowly approaching.
'So Harry, do we have permission to prank this professor or is he off limits the same Lily flower is to James.'
James blushed bright red and Harry couldn't help but give a soft chuckle, 'You can try, but I doubt George would fall for anything you come up with.'
'Wanna bet?'Sirius waggled his eyebrows, 'I doubt he's ever seen anything like a Marauder prank.'
'Fine, don't say I didn't warn you, look what happened to Pucey.'
'Yeah, I've been meaning to ask about that, how did he manage it? Was it a time delayed spell?' Lily asked, 'because it didn't activate until he was at the staff table...'
'Excellent deniability,' James added.
'I reckon he dropped some kind of powder in the guy's porridge,' Harry said softly, 'while he was waving his wand to block the hex.'
'Hmm, we need to prowl around that office of his, Prongs, see if he has anymore powders... think of the possibilities.'
Harry rolled his eyes but did not get to warn them against the idea as the door to the DADA classroom creaked open. Most of the students stopped gossiping as they observed the complete darkness behind the door.
'Do you think we should enter?' Alice, who was hanging around Frank, asked cautiously.
Harry frowned, not liking the feeling he was getting, and gave an involuntary glance towards Hermione, who shrugged.
By then though, the students, tired of waiting were boisterously entering he classroom. Shrugging , Harry followed Sirius, into the classroom. He definitely needed to get more sleep, this was Hogwarts; he was getting paranoid.
Except...he revised his statement as the last of the students filtered in and the classroom door snapped shut. Immediately Harry fished his wand out, his hair on end.
There was no warning, no significant change, perhaps only that unconscious shiver on the back of his neck, but instinctively Harry shouted: 'Duck!'Grabbing the two closest to him and pulling them down. A fraction of a second later, red bursts illuminated the darkened room as Stupefying spells rushed past them.
Amid the ensuing pandemonium of edgy students, several voices cried out: 'Lumos.'
Harry raised himself and saw from the periphery of his eyes that the DADA classroom had been enlarged greatly, but what garnered his attention were the Hogwarts suits of armour dispersed against the wall, advancing while still throwing spells around with less than perfect aim. Despite the crazy wand waving more than a quarter of the class were already out of action.
'I'm going to kill Weasley, if this is his idea of teaching.' Draco drawled as he waved his wand carelessly, rebounding a Petrificus Totalus.
Harry looked back to see the Marauders were relatively unscathed. Sirius alert, his wand out, while Lily and James were arguing on his side. Remus was watching the advancing suits of armour with wide amber eyes.
'...Goodness sake Potter, I can fight on my own, stop throwing yourself at me whenever you hear a hex called out.'
'Don't Lily me!' She retorted, 'Protego!' And stopped the spell aimed at the small of James back.
'Guys, can you go back to arguing later?' Remus asked mildly.
Harry nearly snorted with laughter, his shoulders relaxing as he regarded the classroom exercise in a new light. He had never really used dummies in the DA. Mostly he had paired the students with each other. Nimbly side stepping another curse, he admitted he still preferred his own method. The suits of armours moved in predictable patterns, pausing between each burst of magic. George had probably done something to them, to lower their firing speed since they had fought more smoothly in the battle of Hogwarts. But then, the poor visibility of the few lighted wands caused enough chaos and confusion. Harry ducked another jet of light, this one from a panicked student.
'Impedimenta!' Sirius threw at one, cackling madly. The suit was pushed backwards a few metres, tripping another one by the force of the spell where James was ready, sticking them to the ceiling with a wand movement Harry was sure had been learnt from one of their numerous pranks. He had to admit Sirius and James were brilliant duellers in a contained environment. The moves they used might not work against a real enemy wishing to cause serious damage but he could not fault them for something they had not experienced in full.
'Incarcerous,' Hermione chanted neatly close to him as the suit stopped a few inches from casting a spell, falling heavily on the wooden floor.
Harry was surprised by how few students were left on the duelling floor as the suits of armour continued firing spells. He watched while duelling his own with ease as a Hufflepuff lifted her wand and used Incendio on the opposing suit of armour.
He shook his head with a sigh, dispatching his own with an 'Impedimenta' as he turned to see the screaming Hufflepuff running around with the suit now breathing fire after her.
'Aguamenti,' He called out, dousing the suit with water before blasting it back against a few others.
'Harry, stop hurting them!' Hermione called out, 'They're just doing their job!'
Harry rolled his eyes as a few straggling students turned their incredulous gazes to Hermione.
'Fine, Incarcerous!'He called out to his next opponent.
There were not many students left by the time they were down to the last suit of armour, less than ten, Harry counted. He turned to help Hermione dispatch the last one, the floor littered with unconscious students and wriggling suits bound with long ropes when the darkness residing in the room, disregarding the few weak lumos', started lifting. Harry raised is gaze to where he could see the door to the Professor's room creaking open.
But out of it did not come a shock of red hair but Basilisks. Two rather small basilisks, they managed to fit through the doorway after all. Harry instinctively closed his eyes as they slithered in, was George off his rockers? How the hell did he find two basilisks in the first place? Then, he frowned, realising he'd already seen the yellow eyes and was still not petrified. Amid the continued screaming now going on, the two basilisks which were narrowing on the poor Hufflepuff girl who had previously managed to light her suit on fire changed directions, and then suddenly one morphed into a large Acromantula, while the other turned into a large wolf. A werewolf.
'It's a Boggart!' Hermione shouted over the din. Harry spared a glance for Remus, who had turned sheet white at the werewolf appearance.
'Ri-riddikulus!' Alice stuttered at the large Acromantula who was growling menacingly.
Harry stood arrested, his brain willing his body to move but a gripping fear freezing his limbs. Voldemort...Dementors...the people he'd lead to death... He didn't want to face the truth, any of it. He watched as Hermione, and surprisingly Draco leapt forward to deal with them. One Boggart sped towards Draco, morphing into Narcissa, a wizened hand stuck behind grey bars and Harry instinctively knew it was Azkaban. He saw Draco pale but still intone calmly: 'Riddikulus.'
CRACK! Immediately the scene changed to Bellatrix in Narcissa's place. Draco let out a joyless 'Ha!' and the Boggart disappeared with a shriek.
Stupid. He hadn't been able to stop focusing on Draco's worst fear. He had ignored the rest of his surroundings. Elementary mistake. He was suddenly faced with the shifting grey form the Boggart took as it travelled towards him. Perhaps sensing he held the greatest fear. He had just enough time to glimpse Hermione being blasted from her feet by a suit of armour, which had not been incapacitated properly and the sudden silence as the few remaining students conscious enough looked towards him in spite of themselves. Then it was only him and his worst fear, a part of him filled with morbid curiosity, because he had no idea what would appear.
CRACK! The scene in front of him morphed. Suddenly Harry was floating upright, in a place he thought he would never go back to. Warm light bathed him as he found himself back where everything had started. He marvelled at how his worries seemed to vanish. From the corner of his eyes he could see his body was slowly being moved forth but he couldn't bring himself to care. He instinctively knew he was back in limbo but the thought did not seem to cause him stress.
CRACK! Harry let out his breath as he hit the cold stone floor. All of it disappearing. He looked around, his eyes blinking dazedly.
He saw the Marauders, Lily Draco and Frank were the only students still left standing. And finally, in the middle of the classroom was George, his wand out, expression frozen. His eyes roving over the identical persona Harry instinctively knew to be Fred. There was a moment of silence, the three other time travellers too frozen to interfere. Fred raised his arms, and gave a small smile, but before he could open his mouth, George quietly let out: 'Riddikulus.' Immediately Fred turned into a canary cream puff. Finally, with a bitter laugh, the Boggart was vanished.
Harry lowered his eyes, unable to face George's gaze but he needn't have worried. George turned around to the middle of the Duelling floor. With a wave of his wand, students were re enervated. Harry let himself be lost in the indignant cries of the waking as the bruised Marauders crowded around him.
'You alright Harry?' Lily asked as she impatiently brushed her straggling hair out of her face.
'That was rough mate, stinky little buggers. I feel bad about letting that one into the Hufflepuff common room in fourth year,' Sirius mused.
'Fine, Just peachy.' Harry muttered more harshly than he intended to. Softening his voice, he added: 'I'm alright now, just didn't expect George's first class to be this intense.'
'Yeah, we got somewhat anxious when you started disappearing.' Remus added, his normally neat tawny hair mussed.
'I disappeared?' Harry asked numbly.
'Yeah, it was weird, all this light appeared and it was getting harder to see you.'
'I disappeared...' Harry didn't know much about Boggarts but he had never heard anything like that ever happening. George's voice did not allow him to ponder the implications.
'Pathetic.' He said, much to the discontented whispers going on in the class. All the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were up now. George paced, ' I did not use anything not learnt in your first five years at Hogwarts. Would anyone explain how only six students remained standing when I had more than half the Slytherins up after this exercise and a quarter of the Ravenclaws.
A swarthy Gryffindor spoke up: 'You ambushed us, how do you think we were supposed to react?'
'Ambushed? Do you live in a Patented Day Dream charm? You would be dead right now. You don't get to decide if you want to be ambushed or not. Out there. You adapt. Or you die. At the end it doesn't come out to who studied the most or won the last Quidditch match. You think Voldemort will play fair?'
George ignored the cowed looks and dead silence. 'Whether you chose to become his filthy slaves or fight against him, he will lie and cheat and kill to get to the end of his means. There is no fair in real life duelling. You will be pawns either way. You just get a better epitaph depending on who wins.'
'That's not true. Some of us will fight for what we believe in.' Lily couldn't help but interject.
George gave the same broken laugh again; James was eerily reminded of Harry laughing so the first few days at Hogwarts. Like the mouth could go through the motions but had lost the ability to inject the warmth and humour needed.
He slowly turned to face Lily as she refused to lower her trembling chin.
'What you believe in? Is it worth it? The sacrifices? What you believe in is all you have left as you lose track of all the dead bodies, and that's when you wonder if you're fighting for what you believe in or what your precious leaders decided you should believe. There is precious right and wrong, black and white in war. All that matters are the people you care about and that vanishes with their death when you sign up on either sides of their propaganda. Class dismissed.'
The rather bashed students seemed to take a second to realise they'd been released and then wasted no time to get themselves out of the intense class. Only seven students seemed to remain locked in place.
During the Professor's rather impassioned speech, James had discreetly looked at his friends. Draco had a weary expression on his face. Hermione was not even looking at George as she bit her lip worriedly and gave small glances towards Harry.
Harry...had his face downwards, expression masked, but James could see the white clenched fists and the tick in the jaw. He nudged Sirius, silently asking if he thought they should stop this speech with their usual brand of mayhem before blood was spilled. Sirius shrugged, his eyes pointing to Lily whose wand was shooting angry red sparks. The last of the other students were barely passed the threshold when she burst again:
'You're just repudiating the entire resistance that took place against Grindelwald and that was much bigger than this war against You-know-Voldemort. We would be under the whims of a manic Dark Lord if they had all thought like you do. Of course there were sacrifices-'
'Grindelwald? Grindelwald is the past, I am preparing you for a new generation of war, repeating the mistakes of your forefathers is not an option. It is very easy, Miss Evans, to talk about sacrifices and statistics of the past. After all, they are merely story books to your generation. It is when you are embroiled in your own sacrifices and manipulated by the 'great' men of the century that you start questioning the motives and causes. Take my advice: ignore whatever they sell you as a cause. Whether it's killing Muggles or protecting them against Death Eaters, it is a thankless task, you can only just try to save your loved-'
'But sometimes it is about the Greater good!'
James had been wondering how long Harry would be able to restrain himself. Apparently this was it, frankly he was surprised Harry had lasted that long.
'Sometimes, you have to think beyond yourself and who you're putting in danger by merely existing. Sometimes a generation of death is necessary for the future's peace!'
'Really Harry? Was it worth it? I would have thought you of all people would understand.'
'And you sound like Aberforth. Some things are worth dying for.'
'Dying for? What about sacrificing the lives of your parents, children, brothers? Are you willing to pay that price for a new generation of ignorance and naiveté?'
'That's not your choice. It can't be your choice. You have to let the others- ' Harry seemed to choke at his words, and James could only stand there, conflicted. Because George and Harry seemed to be on a completely different wavelength, having a completely different conversation. The words made sense but the pleading expression on Harry's face, the bitterness on George's, even James could see there was a whole other conversation going on.
'Guys, please...' Hermione trailed out, her eyes flickering between her two friends.
'You have to let the others choose, whether the cause is worth it for themselves. Whether they are able to put everything on the line. That's the only way you can live with yourself...You know he would agree with me. He would-'
'Don't!' George breathed so quietly James saw his lips moving more than anything else. 'Don't talk about him like he chose that-'
'He did though. We all did. We all decided it was worth it. We can regret them now. But you couldn't deny them their freedom then, and you can't deny their sacrifice now!'
'Shut up! Your parents were dead!'And James saw Harry take a step back as if George had physically punched him. 'They were dead since you were young enough to be ignorant of what the word meant! You do not wake up every morning wondering why it was him, not you, him in that place at that time. You should be damning Dumbledore and Voldemort. Their scheming is what made your life such hell. Every significant action you took in your life was decided by them. We saw the memories, in the pensieve, the ones Snape left you before he died.'
'George, please, please stop!' Hermione cried out, hands wringing.
James could not say anything though. It was the same morbid fascination in which you watched an approaching Bludger crash into a player in slow motion. He half expected Remus to bring out his diary and copy word for word the accusations ringing in his ears.
'No. I need to hear it. Why remain Dumbledore's Golden Boy? Why, when you saw he was raising you like swine for slaughter? You were nothing but a chess piece to him. A chess piece in his nineteen year match with Voldemort. Why do you protect his twisted ideals after you had the granite proof he was manipulating you. Like he did all his other pawns. At least you were his King. But what about your parents? Bishops do you think? Or just simple fodder for the jaws of death-'
'Weasley, there's an audience, have some decency-'Draco drawled out finally.
But George seemed too far gone as he clutched his wand tightly, his eyes burning bright.
'Was Cedric also Für das größere Wohl? A necessary sacrifice? What about Dobby? Tonks? Moody? What about my brother?'
'Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Don't- Don't make it seem- like I don't care- don't-'
'And what about Sirius? Was that your first necessary sacrifice? Did you justify his death the same way? I know secretly you know it was your fault, that you've let the guilt eat you away from the inside. Who did you secretly blame for him? Bellatrix? Voldemort? Or Dumbl-'
James never saw his wand move as a powerful red jet of light rushed at George who immediately parried it.
Again James watched the duel, his indecision annoying him, but Hermione and Draco also seemed unable of stopping them without hurting them as a furious duel ensued. This was somehow different than the duel with Bellatrix, for one, the curses didn't seem as dark. But the raw intensity behind the curses seemed to fuel them with so much more power. There was a desperate expression on Harry's face as he riposted spell after spell, barely dodging the responding curses. Instead, he blasted defensive shields one after another, the heat and force pushing the spectators further away. After the first few minutes James wondered if the Infirmary was open because this could only end with one of them incapacitated.
What he didn't expect was Lily stepping in, wand out as she aimed an Incarcerous at George. George batted it away as he automatically flung another curse back at her. Harry saw the movement at the same time as another curse came towards him. His body moved before his brain as his wand performed the wand movement to dispel the vomit inducing spell coming towards him and the rest of his body moving to shield Lily. His dispelling curse seemed to work but he was flung backwards as the cutting curse sliced his right cheek open.
Hermione's wand immediately seemed to act as she incarcerated George.
'That is enough!"She said firmly as Harry got to his feet slowly.
'Don't pretend you don't hate him as much as I do,' panted George, ignoring Hermione, 'Don't spout words of wisdom you don't believe in.'
Harry ignored Lily exclaiming about his cheek as he spun around without a word, ignoring the calls after him, he sped up down the corridor.
'Excellent Weasel, anything else you want to get out in your self pity purge?' Draco drawled his countenance seemingly unflappable.
'I need to go-'
'No you stay here, he's had enough of both of you it today. Try and do some damage control if you will,' he added, jerking his chin towards the Marauders. 'I'll go break up his own mounting pity fest before he drowns all of us in manly Gryffindor why-couldn't-I-save-them too moans.'
With that, the blonde strode out still managing to look like he was gliding. Hermione seemed about to run after him before she sighed, brushing an errant curl of her face. Then she looked at their expressions and glared. James couldn't but gulp at the ominous expression.
Harry didn't know where he was heading after storming out of the classroom so he was surprised when he felt the cool evening air. He was close to Hagrid's hut but he balked at entering and answering the ensuing questions about his mood. Instead, he headed to the outskirts of the forbidden forest, not out of a particular sense of recklessness but because everything seemed to go back to that moment. When he had faced the Avada Kedavra curse for the third time. The last time he had seen his mentor...Dumbledore.
There was so much more he should have asked him. So much he needed to be reassured about. Things he only had thought of after that day in the deceptive peace of Hogwarts 1977. He couldn't blame himself for not asking them. At the time Voldemort was the main concern, it still was after all. But George words still seemed to resonate inside his head.
Don't pretend you don't hate him as much as I do... Did he? Did he hate Dumbledore for what he had made him go through? Would he have done much different in Dumbledore's place to ensure the peace of the Wizarding world? He wondered. He had hated him after Sirius' death, a white hot anger that had maybe surpassed what George was feeling now. But he had gotten over it. After breaking most of Dumbledore's instruments and nearly attacking him of course. But this was different. George had attacked him. And Harry couldn't bring it in himself to blame him.
He had been a pawn, a wonderfully obedient one. And he himself had used others for his own means. Oh he might have cared for them, feared for them. But at the end, it was still the same thing. The 'light' side had been manipulated by Dumbledore, the 'Dark' side by Voldemort. Only Regulus had broken free and acted on his own. He had blindsided both sides by finding out about the Horcruxes and exchanging the locket for the fake one. But how had that helped anyone? How had acting on his own saved anyone? It had killed Dumbledore after all, or at least weakened him. Was that the only way to win the war? By using human sacrifices and carefully manipulated wizards and witches?
A sudden hoof beat alerted him to a new arrival. He lifted his gaze and saw a thestral, large lustrous eyes approaching. He gave a bark of laughter then stopped as the thestral paused, shy. It seemed so fitting to have a thestral, a creature only seen by those who've seen death, find him on the outskirts of the forbidden forest. He slowly removed his hands from his pockets. Seeing the slowly approaching thestral reminded him of Luna, the wild Hippogriff that had once approached him. He wondered if she was still in the Forbidden Forest or if the animal had sensed somehow, the escalating war and left England. He gripped his wand nervously as the thestral moved right up into his line of vision. Then, before he could move out of its way, a large raspy tongue licked his blood soaked cheek in one wet movement.
Harry stiffened at the voice behind him, 'Of course the morbid thing is attracted to you, is that what the Weaselette has to contend with back home?' He hadn't heard Draco sneak up on him, and that annoyed him more than the actual words.
'Shut up Malfoy, it's my blood she's attracted to. Don't get too close though, might try to kill you like Buckbeak. Animals sense those kinds of things.'
'I was thirteen scar face. Grow up will you.'
'When you stop calling me by pre pubescent insults ferret face.'
Harry realised with a jolt that the usual animosity when he talked with Draco was missing, both their hearts didn't seem to be in it.
'What are you doing here?' He asked wearily, turning around now that the thestral had finished snacking on his face. Malfoy looked at him, his face expressionless before raising his wand. Harry did not even have the energy to lift his own.
'Sana Artasiosus.' With a graceful wand movement his cheek started tingling; Harry raised his hand to his face, the cut had vanished.
'Handy, where did you pick that up?' Harry asked, ignoring how surreal the situation was. An odd small disconnected part of his brain was shouting that Malfoy had just healed his cheek! Malfoy! Harry told it to shut up.
Malfoy just gave him a look. Seeing Harry's clueless expression he elaborated.
'I helped Severus as the resident healer of the Dark Lord after raids when the amounts of injuries were high. The spell is usually used when Sectumsempra calibre castings but then I usually didn't heal little cuts and bruises.
Harry ignored the gibe, not sure what to say to that so he remained silent. Too many possible minefields in every word Malfoy had just said.
There was a moment's silence. If someone had observed them they would have found the situation odd. Both young men just standing on the outskirts of the forest, looking at each other, frozen out of time as the wind ruffled their locks of hair. No words exchanged but conflicting emotions on the dark haired one's face while the other seemed to force his countenance to give nothing away.
Finally Draco broke the mounting silent tension: 'George doesn't blame you, you know.'
Harry, his hands firmly ensconced in his pockets again replied: 'I know.'
There was a pause before the Slytherin realised: 'But you blame yourself.'
Harry gave him the same look Malfoy had given him. But this one expressing the universally understood juvenile Duh.
Draco wisely changed the subject: 'How long are you going to hide here then?'
'I'm coming back up for Dinner, it should be served soon.'
'You know that's not what I meant.'
'Well what did you bloody mean? His temper igniting like a Summer fire, nervous energy coursing through his body. He started walking back towards the castle then changed his mind, heading towards the lake. Before Draco could answer he continued: 'You know, maybe Hermione is right. Hell, of course she's right, don't pretend you weren't listening, I felt the breach of privacy spell in History class.' Ignoring the nonplussed expression on the blonde's face as he strode to keep up with him, he went on: 'What if I do want to stay? Would it really be so bad to rewrite the sucky future?'
Draco reached out and shook Harry to face him before he drawled back: 'You'd be erasing the millions of lives that exist in our time Potter. Messing with time so far back is taboo for good reason. The only reason we were allowed to create and use the Key even though it could interfere with time depending on where you'd vanished to was because it was Harry Bloody Potter's life on the line and the public was mounting in outrage.' He ignored Harry opening his mouth and rushed on, now Harry following his own furious strides.
'The Weasley was right about one thing, there will always be Dark Lords. Even if you somehow incredibly succeed in keeping a few generations in peace, what then? You die of old age and when a new Dark Lord rises, the population of Britain will only have fairytales to teach them what to do in case of a coup d'état. You need the let life toughen them up and steal what ever naiveté they have about it. The is a force right now, trying to keep everything balanced, but there's only so much it can balance, we need to get back before the ripples we make are too large to be counterbalanced.'
They had reached the lake's edge by then, the dying sun barely visible on the other side. The utter silence of their surroundings seemed to arrest them both, hanging for a second before Harry mumbled: 'Why are you here anyways?'
'Hermione didn't tell you?' Malfoy seemed inordinately pleased with that fact as he stared at Harry unblinkingly.
Seeing Harry's raised eyebrows, he elaborated: 'I wanted- never mind that-'
'Can you just explain-'
'Fine-Fine- I'll start from the beginning. The Key. That's the instrument Granger created working with the Unspeakables,' Harry looked on amazed as he heard the tinge of admiration in Malfoy's voice.
'I didn't study the mechanics exactly, but it worked on affinity basis. The Key needed three magical affinities. One to focus on you, that was Granger, one to bring us back to the right time, that was me and one to hold us together during the journey, that was Weasley. The younger you were the higher the affinity so that erased all the MoM workers including the Unspeakables. Ron Weasley had the lowest readings on the scale with the Weaselette not much higher.' Malfoy didn't seem able to keep a smile off his face at that memory. 'That Loony Lovegood girl had the highest readings, but apparently they were too high, would have stuck us wherever you were with no chance of coming back. Out of the rest of the volunteers, Granger had the highest usable readings. It was convenient since her ...parents are still memory charmed in Australia.'
'George...volunteered?'Harry asked hesitantly.
Draco snorted, 'George has been rounding off the last of the-' He winced slightly, 'Death Eaters with the Ministry Aurors since you've gone. He was the first one to test it, tolerable readings but his parents forbid him. They changed their mind after his reckless stunts with the Aurors. They were actually hoping this was going to keep him safe.' He elaborated for Harry's sake, 'Granger 's been spouting Muggle psychology books to me every time the plebeian irritates me too much. It includes words like survivor's guilt and a death wish.
'But what about you? Don't tell me you came out of the love you hold for me deep in your heart.' Harry managed to croak, rocking himself on the balls of his feet, his eyes determinedly fixed on the lake before them. Oddly, Malfoy did not immediately respond with a barbed comment. Harry stopped swinging, looking carefully at his seven year school nemesis. He froze under the intense look in those silver eyes.
'They're in Azkaban. My parents are in Azkaban. The only reason they haven't been Kissed is because of my mother. She told them she saved your life. I trust her words. I need your testimony. That's why I need you back.
So finally, you have some of the reasons and mechanics of the whole thing. The Boggart thing might have been stretched beyond it's usual capabilities but I'll provide more explanations. Hope there wasn't too much angst and the reactions were remotedly realistic, I was listening to Two Steps From Hell- After The Fall while writing this, so it might sound better while listening to the soundtrack.
Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a Fanfiction writer in possession of large amounts of reviews must be in want to write more. We are at the beginning of the end, so off you go, reviews, I have two more weeks before uni begins and I am going to try my best to give you the completed story ASAP but reviews help. Trust Me.
Finally, I wish an Eid Mubarak to those of you who celebrate it (or those who have family that celebrate it, which is great because then you get presents at Christmas and at Eid XD) and a miserable back to school/university/work/retirement to all of you.