A/N: So sorry for the wait, guys! My life got officially crazy and, I'm ashamed to say, I actually forgot to update. Never happened to me before. That's how insane things got.
Anyway, last chapter here. Nothing more after this… I am playing with the idea of a one-shot side-story in Harry's POV, but I'm not promising anything because, let's face it: I've got Visionary and Nothing Like Harker to work on if I'm feeling non-depressed and inspired.
Enjoy and review. Bye-bye.
xBook Four: False Dilemma (Perfect Solution)
xChapter Three: Termination
When Bill woke up the next day, there was the beginning of a party already audible. He showered, dressed and went about to obtain a copy of some kind of international newsletter. He was perversely interested in who killed the Dark Freak when Harry was dead.
"Weasley!" Devant called him with a shit-eating grin and a goblet of wine in each hand. "Come and drink with us!"
"You never said your boy-toy was the Saviour!" Breasted, a lanky American just out of school laughed as if she had ever even spoken to either Harry or Bill.
Bill said nothing, somewhat surprised and waiting for condolences that weren't coming.
"Were you there, Weasley? We haven't seen you till now – we thought you were in Britain for the celebrations…"
Something was wrong. Bill pulled out a copy of the European Oracle from under an empty bottle. It was half-drenched in some kind of yellowish liquid that, thank Merlin, stank of alcohol. The front page featured a picture of tired, emotionless, but alive Harry Potter standing over the corpse of the Dark Freak, under the inch-tall headline: 'You Know Who Defeated!'
Bill sat down, lucky that Devant had been there and sober enough to shove a chair under him. His sight went out of focus and his eyes stung. He closed them and rubbed the bridge of his nose to give himself time to calm down.
It didn't work well. When he looked again, he could just make out the letters. He flipped the page, searching for information on Harry and anyone else he knew personally. There was a list of prominent casualties: it featured Alastor Moody, Severus Snape and Fred and Ronald Weasley, but there was no Potter listed. He glanced back closer to the top: a Cedric Diggory, but no Delacour.
"How is he?" Carter asked quietly, looking more worried than he had any right to be. When Bill blankly stared at the newsletter, Carter sneered at him and muttered: "You don't have a clue, do you? Did you even know he was fighting?"
Bill rounded on the man and, with less grace and more mindless anger than ever, yelled: "I saw him die yesterday! So get out of my face, you self-serving opportunist prick!"
Carter huffed, but Bill's rage failed to intimidate him. Apparently, while Bill hadn't been looking, the man had grown a spine. "That's rich coming from you, Weasley," he snapped and walked away from the partying group that, despite Bill's presence and obvious confusion, had not become any less rowdy.
Bill threw the parchment on the floor and strode out of the atrium. Just past the wards, he Disapparated.
He strode into the hospital wing at Hogwarts, took a cursory look at the beds, saw no one he knew, and located the medi-witch.
"Madam Pomfrey!" he called.
The nurse glared up from a tray with potions, about to start a lecture on maintaining quiet within the sickbay, but Bill didn't feel like he had that kind of time. He was on a mission. "I was wondering if you knew where I could find Fleur?"
"Fleur…?" the woman repeated, confused. Then she brightened. "Oh! Miss Delacour – she has gone to Diggory Manor; Amos has offered it as a temporary safe-house, bless his soul-"
"Thank you," Bill forced himself to say before he spun and walked out of Hogwarts, leaving the medi-witch staring after him.
The grounds were full of ghosts.
He would have thought that something like battle – or, more accurately, carnage – couldn't have left a mark on him. He carefully avoided thinking of his mother and father… and George. The names he had read in the Daily Prophet were just that, names. There was no substance, no meaning to them.
He certainly didn't have to go to the Burrow and take part in the aftermath.
Bill stopped a couple of feet short of a charred crater in the ground where the node used to be. It had been a good call to Apparate out, it seemed; otherwise he would have been torn to particles when the node imploded. He had narrowly escaped death. Plus, he had a viable excuse for having deserted.
Now, if he had only thought to ask the way to Diggory Manor…
Bill spun and walked back to the castle. He would ask the floo address – the first measure after the battle had ended would have been reinstalling the floo connection, primarily to contact the Ministry and open the passage to St Mungo's. No need for Bill to go searching the hills around Ottery St Catchpole (and risk his family seeing him roaming aimlessly around).
Diggory Manor was on a partial lock-down. The only route inside, it turned out, was a private floo connection from the Head's office at Hogwarts (or, alternatively, a portkey created by the owner of the house).
Inconsequently, 'Manor' was too pretentious a description of the house. It was bigger than a cottage, yes, but it could not have housed the younger years evacuated from the school – not without some powerful expansion charms – but Bill didn't have much time to muse on the size of the building because he almost ran into a middle-aged couple shuffling in the opposite direction. The man had red-rimmed eyes and the woman had a lost look, as if she didn't quite know what to do with the girl in a Hufflepuff school-robe that was clutching onto her.
It had been stupid of Bill to become involved in the war, but he was going to make the most of it.
He spied a flash of silvery-blonde hair in an economical bun and moved in the direction, but a wall of wizards and witches waiting for their offspring blocked his way. Emotions were high and Bill would have been loath to start an unnecessary fight, but it turned out that no hostilities were necessary: the commotion itself attracted everyone's attention (kids on the gallery paused in waving to their parents and grandparents and stared), and eventually even Fleur glanced over to see what was going on. Her expression brightened when she noticed Bill.
Bill smirked and lifted a ring high in the air, wordlessly asking. He knew he was one of many on this day, but at least he would have arguments pre-prepared for him if his mother accused him of being insufficiently respectful to his brothers' memory…
Fleur's eyes widened.
Bill twirled the golden band so that the gem twinkled in the artificial light.
Fleur absently excused herself from the woman she had been reassuring about her children's welfare and wove through the throng.
"Marry me?" Bill asked once she came close enough that he didn't have to shout.
"Oh… oh…" She took the ring from his fingers and examined it.
Bill hoped that it passed inspection, but he couldn't tell from her expression.
Fleur looked at him with narrowed eyes, suspicious. "I did not zink you were interested in anyssing permanent…"
As if Bill would let an opportunity like that pass him by. How often did he have a beautiful rich French noble willing to marry him?
"Is that a yes?" he asked, trailing his fingers down the side of her neck to add some incentive.
Fleur huffed, then chuckled, and finally put the ring on her finger and lifted her hand to admire it. "Oh, yes, of course!"
Fleur had been too busy to just up and leave, so they had arranged to meet in the evening in Grimmauld Place. Bill took a detour through the Diagon Alley, but even so he arrived long before dinner – if dinner was even going to happen in his mother's absence.
He had expected the house to be deserted. In the wake of a destructive battle with too many wounded for one hospital to admit and enough dead to fill up a newspaper page, most people naturally wanted to spend time with their families or friends. Bill should have realised that some people had no families and no friends.
A loud crack of broken wood made him veer off from his direction and take a detour through the first floor. He stood next to an ajar door, unseen from inside the room which, curiously, seemed to have belonged to Snape (judging by the few beakers and jars on the lid of the heavy chest and the black robe hung over the backrest of a hard wooden chair).
"…somehow can believe it," Harry's voice, void of inflection, was saying. "I've been warned often enough in the past not to form an attachment."
Bill pressed closer to the wall. He could hear blood rushing through his veins; his heartbeat echoed against his ribcage.
Lupin, soft-spoken as ever, replied: "Harry, you'd be welcome-"
"Don't bother. I don't want to go through this again. Four times' enough, don't you think?"
Bill tried to figure out the number. Four? Who had Harry ever cared for? His abusive relatives? Doubtful. Bill? Possibly, once… a long time ago. Certainly not Dumbledore but perhaps Snape – Snape, who had without the slightest hesitation taken a mortal blow meant for Harry-
What was Harry doing in Snape's room again?
A female voice, which Bill tentatively identified as Tonks', protested: "Harry, we wouldn't-"
"Spare me. I've heard the spiel before. It doesn't mean anything." Clever kid. He never forgot, never forgave. No one could do indifference quite as well as Harry Potter. "I don't really know you, and, to be honest, I don't want to."
"What I don't understand, Harry…" Black grumbled, deeply hurt. "If you hate us all this much, why did you refuse Voldemort?"
"No, I'd like to know, too, Remus," Tonks supported Black.
They fell silent, waiting for Harry to reply. Downstairs a door slammed shut and the appalling portrait's muffled yelling drifted up the stairs.
"There was nothing I wanted that he could give me," Harry said evenly.
"Can we?" Black asked hopefully. "You know you only have to ask-"
"I know no such thing. And I don't want anything from you," Harry shot him down. Glass clinked – perhaps Black, shocked, had stumbled into the chest. "Leave me alone."
Bill hesitated. What was he going to say? 'Hi Harry, I'm glad you're alive, but I'm going to get married in two months and you're an adult now and should be perfectly fine on your own, so I'm not inviting you back into my life? You never meant that much to me anyway…'
It wouldn't accomplish anything.
June came and Bill informed Carter that he wished to be relocated to a site somewhere in Western Europe, preferably France or Britain. The administrator couldn't meet Bill's eyes and when he spoke during their meeting he addressed the wall – it had been so since the newspaper had reported Harry Potter's disappearance.
Bill had not been the least bit surprised by Harry's escape, and at times wondered if Harry was going to come back to Egypt, to places and society he knew and felt moderately comfortable in. Sometimes he imagined that Harry was only waiting until he was gone – until August – to turn up and ask Carter for a job.
Knowing Carter, Harry could have asked for John Baptist's head and he would get it.
Bill took a sip the ale from his glass and looked around the tavern. A few females were giving him the eye, some of them even good-looking enough to consider, but then someone appeared on the barstool on his other side.
"Hello," she said, appropriating Bill's glass, while Bill's eyes roamed her features. He couldn't find a fault: blue eyes, genuinely blonde short hair in sexy disarray, dimple in her cheek when she smiled… "I'm Medea."
"I'm Bill," he replied, and gestured to the barman to get him another glass of the same. He got it in half a minute and lifted it to toast: "To new acquaintances."
"To pleasurable acquaintances," she replied and drank. Her gaze remained sharp, though, and once in a while Bill had the feeling that she was looking through him rather than at him. It made her seem dangerous – and excited him yet more.
"Let me take you out of this place," he suggested the second her glass was empty.
"But, Bill…" Medea said slyly, leaning closer to him while her finger traced his ring. "Good men don't cheat."
"I don't believe in love – and a part-veela's pretty face won't make me change my mind. What she doesn't know won't hurt me."
"A part-veela!" she exclaimed with bated breath. "You're a lucky man!"
"You look like a veela yourself." For once, Bill didn't even have to lie in his flattery. Medea might have had short, spiky hair, but other than that, she met all the criteria amazingly well – the silvery-blonde hair-colour, the clear blue eyes, the soft pale skin and extraordinary beauty of her face and body…
"Never knew my parents," she admitted. "Might be part-veela, for all I know."
They laughed, more out of inebriation than hilarity, and minutes later Bill was leading the woman down the street. "Mind if I Apparate us?" he asked.
She laughed again, like bells – like Fleur – and Bill for a moment became nervous (What if they knew each other? What if they were family?), but then lust became prevalent again and they ended up tripping onto his bed in the apartment.
Medea glanced around and set to unbuttoning his shirt. "Won't your flat-mate come back?" she inquired, obviously afraid of a lover returning too soon.
Bill shook his head and shimmied out of the open shirt. "That bed's empty. I'm living alone for the time being."
Medea let her head fall back and teasingly pulled on the ribbon of her dress. "Well… then that's alright."
"Did you know there's one thing you can do to transform a betrothal contract into an unbreakable marriage contract?" Medea remarked.
Bill straightened rapidly, alerted by the mock-casual mention of betrothal contracts. Why on earth would a… a one-night-stand mention something like that? In the morning after, no less?
"It's like a safety clause, to make sure the younger betrothed doesn't get abused too badly."
Bill saw through it, six hours too late – it was a trap and he had let himself be led like a pig to slaughter. His voice broke as he stared into a pair of cold blue eyes. "H-harry?"
The veela look-alike smirked. "That didn't take you long, sir," she replied, retaining the appearance. There were several Dark potions capable of granting someone the appearance of someone else; Bill should have listened when Snape had warned him about Harry's propensity for the Dark. The she-Harry stretched – perversely taunting Bill with her nakedness – and raised her eyebrows. "Care to have a guess at the clause?"
Bill, with his tongue glued to the top of his mouth and something stuck in his throat, shook his head.
Harry tutted mockingly. "You didn't even read it through past making sure it was breakable, did you?" Her smirk widened. Even in the guise of a beautiful woman, she looked ugly with that expression on her face. "You couldn't fuck me."
Bill felt like he was slapped. He knew something bad had happened, something that was going to screw him over royally, but his brain got stuck on the abstract knowledge and couldn't move on to contemplate the particular ramifications.
"You see, sir," Harry continued, laughing. "When you shagged me – and let me remark that I've had better: Syd', for example, liked me a lot – you solidified the contract. You can't get out of it anymore. And I hear you were fixing to marry a little French half-veela… what a pity."
Harry stood from the bed, spelled her clothes on and walked out of the apartment, without so much as a last hateful glare in Bill's direction. Only when the telltale crack of Apparition sounded from the outside, he became able to move again.
Bill raised his hand up to his face and, with surprise, felt a drop of liquid – a tear? Preposterous.
He would have to look for the contract, but he didn't doubt that Harry had researched his revenge well. The boy had always been good at the things he was doing, and especially when those things included getting what he wanted.
It suddenly wasn't so flattering to be the centre of Harry Potter's life, not when the boy – young man – hated him enough to throw away all the possibilities for his life just to make Bill miserable. And they had… they had slept together… Bill still couldn't wrap his mind about it. Was that really Harry? The little boy with an Uncle-inflicted bruise on his cheek? The child that had stopped loving Bill because he had feared that the sentiment would make Bill resent him?
Bill had given up on so many people in the past, and it took Harry giving up on him to show him how far he was gone… but he hadn't taken the hint and pressed on further, to such depths of depravity that he had been destined to hell on earth – and he had pulled Harry along. Snape was right. He should have damn well let things be.
Ultimately, William Weasley's life was ruined by a drunken idea of Timothy Masen… and Bill couldn't blind himself enough to believe that it was Masen's fault.
The letters from his family became gradually more and more insistent, but Bill ignored them until Charlie threatened to come to Egypt and have words with him. Knowing that his brother was fully capable of it, Bill promptly bought a portkey and arrived in Romania, on the edge of the Preserve.
A Hitwizard descended upon him and in broken English demanded identification. Bill would probably have been detained on basis of his nationality, had Charlie not come out of the wrought iron gates of the reservation and rescued him.
They didn't go in – apparently Charlie didn't want his colleagues to meet Bill any more than Bill wanted his colleagues to meet Charlie – but rather up a slope until they reached a top of a hillock. There was a village in the vale in front of them, with a tall church-tower sticking out of its centre.
Charlie halted at a little muggle shrine with a burnt-out candle inside and sat on the concrete stair.
"Harry came by about two weeks ago," he started without a preamble. "He wanted to know about the betrothal contract."
Bill nodded. He felt cold. Harry, the all-too-clever little beast, had tracked down Charlie, found the details of a practically forgotten contract, used Dark Arts to transform himself into a woman fitting Bill's taste and seduced him. At seventeen, Bill had not been nearly as accomplished as a bastard.
Charlie interpreted Bill's silence as wordless admission. "I dared hope you had just filled his head with nonsense, not actually used the betrothal contract. I told you to use it only as a last resort!"
"And I didn't listen to you," Bill shot back. "Does it surprise you, little brother?"
"I can't believe it…" Charlie shook his head incredulously, "that he would throw away his whole life for revenge…"
As Harry had put it, a long time ago, when the world wasn't as ugly a place as it was now, Charlie was too 'nice' to understand the mentality of someone hopeless.
"Oh, please," Bill scoffed. "He killed two birds with one stone this way. He got his revenge on me, and he made sure I couldn't dump him."
"But he hates you…" Charlie argued, as if that was of any importance. Bill had honestly expected to be interrogated on why he hadn't come to Burrow, why he hadn't attended his brothers' memorials, why he hadn't let anyone know that he was alive – what did it say about Charlie when he cared more about a stranger's feelings?
"Everybody he knows he hates," Bill said, thinking back to the time when it wasn't so. He still saw Harry as a little boy and could not (never would be able to) believe them married. "He's got no one in the world, Charlie, no one. Exactly why does what he did come as a surprise?"
"Merlin…" Charlie sighed, plucking a straw and putting it between his teeth. "You taught him to be just like you."
"You told me, once, that taking him with me would make me a good man," Bill mocked.
"And I was wrong. Instead it made him a bad one."
"Nothing good came of it. Two lives were fucked up." And in that Bill had not counted Haidar, Dumbledore, Snape or Fleur – though, truth to be told, Fleur could have ten new marriage offers before the day was out. How was Bill supposed to break an unbreakable bond? Why on earth had he accepted his brother's harebrained idea about a betrothal? "I hate you, Charlie."
"I'm sorry," Charlie said, sounding almost sympathetic.
"I believe you," Bill replied coldly, "but that just doesn't cut it. And I know it was my decision in the end, and that you're in no way responsible, and guess what: that makes me hate you more."
"Go away, Bill," Charlie said, threw the straw he had been gnawing on to the ground and stood. He was still smaller than Bill, but he had put on muscle that was intimidating in its own right – and, most importantly, he had matured, perhaps even more than Percival. "Go away and don't come back here. I don't want you as my brother. You're not welcome here."
"I figured," Bill replied, fingering his portkey.
But he hadn't, and it still hurt a bit – it hurt that part of him that had once upon a time accepted Charlie as someone he could confide in. That confidence was not broken but the young William Weasley had been; what remained of him – this tragic caricature of a man, chained to a psychotic Saviour of the wizarding world bent on vengeance – had lost any sense of belonging.
After a weekend spent with his fiancée in Nice, Bill returned back to the apartment in the niwt, which he still subconsciously regarded as home. It was always quiet and dark these years, and he never stumbled over anyone else's things anymore. His books remained in the chest where he had put them and his wards-
His wards had been disturbed.
Bill knew who it had been, of course, and was surprised when his predominant feeling wasn't anger or spite, but fear.
He entered quietly. A lantern was lit, the one above the doorway between the kitchen and the bedroom, and Bill's bed had an occupant who seemed to be asleep, subconsciously hugging Bill's folded blanket to his chest. A pair of heavy combat boots stood sadly stooping at the foot of the bed, and two wands – Harry's familiar one and another, slightly longer, made of some kind of black wood – lay on the bedside table.
"If you came to apologise, spare yourself the effort," Bill said coldly, loud enough to wake the boy on the off chance that he truly was sleeping. The lack of transition to wakefulness was proof enough that Bill had been correct in recognising the deception.
"I'd just killed Voldemort, and I found you were gone," Harry muttered, facing the wall. "I figured – and I know I was being stupid, but I just didn't have the energy left to deal with the truth – that you had left 'cause you thought I was dead-"
"I had," Bill cut in before he could stop himself.
Harry continued as if he hadn't heard him. "And then I woke up the next day and I hoped, foolishly, that after the wizarding world heard that Voldemort was dead and their sodding Saviour triumphed again, that you were going… I don't know, come for me or something. Take me away from them. With you." Suddenly Harry sounded so young – like the self-conscious eight-year-old rather than like the fake femme fatale. "But you didn't care to have me back. You left me to the vultures."
"That's why you disappeared?" Bill asked and, figuring he might as well make himself comfortable in his home, pulled off his shoes.
"I was undesirable, sir." Harry chuckled. It was a sound like a ghoul sneezing. "As always. Unwanted." He wheezed out more sickly chuckles. "In the end I took myself away before they killed me – or locked me up. Again."
"No, you're not," Harry dismissed Bill's apology. It was to be expected: Bill had spoken it without giving a thought as to whether he truly was sorry. "You came back to Britain the next day. I managed to build myself a castle of air in the half-hour before I found you've asked Delacour to marry you. I've died less when Voldemort zapped me with the Killing Curse."
Bill's throat was tight, and he had to swallow several times before he was able to speak. "And you wanted revenge."
"Revenge had little to do with it." Harry shook his head and turned around, locking his gaze with Bill's. "I wanted satisfaction. Betrayal for betrayal. Broken heart for broken heart."
Had he got any of it? Bill didn't understand this. This was past the borders of rationality and logic, and pragmatism didn't work here. "And now?"
"I don't know," Harry replied and shrugged. Apparently, he didn't care either. "I don't have anything left – to be or to do. In fact, if you want to go back to Delacour, you could kill me. I won't defend myself." With a mirthless quirk of his lips and a hint of challenge, Harry offered: "Free yourself, sir."
Kill Harry? The mere idea was utterly absurd, and Bill was going to prove it.
He reached for his boot and one-handedly extracted his knife. He lifted it and pressed the tip to Harry's skin between two ribs, where he knew it would go straight through the heart. All he had to do was grip the handle a little harder and lean on his hand. Simple. Fast.
He met Harry's eyes. Harry was looking at him dispassionately, resigned, perfectly ready for his death at Bill's hands – and truly believing that he was going to get it. That belief, from Harry, from the person who once upon a time understood Bill better than anyone, whom Bill had accepted into his life… whom Bill in the end wanted in his life… It made Bill hate himself.
The emotion came as a shock to him, and he leaned on his right hand, without thinking the action through. Harry's body gave, of course, and the knife sank, cutting through skin and muscle, into the heart.
Harry breathed out and looked away, waiting in silence.
Bill, in shock and oddly suspended from his feelings, cupped Harry's face and forced him to look at him. He tried to think of something to say, something to sooth the hurt he had caused, but he would have needed years for that and he had but seconds.
"I don't hate you," Harry spoke suddenly. "I lied. I'm sorry."
Bill didn't know what to say. He remained silent, and Harry's lips curled in a little sardonic smile, disappointed but unsurprised. He died with that expression on his face.
They were drowning in a lake of blood – Harry's still warm carcass and Bill – and Bill pulled out the knife and seriously considered killing himself. Then he recalled he had a family that had yet to disinherit him and a woman in love with him, ready to marry him. What had Harry had? How would it right his wrongs to lay down his life for nothing?
"I'm sorry, too," he said.
A/N2: Merlin… thank you for reading through. I hope you enjoyed the story despite all the darkness and hatred (which also weren't intentional). Let me know.