People loose their morality for the sake of war. For most, it's not a matter of why or how, but when. For Harry, it was the day Hermione was killed. What happened? What are the circumstances? What next?
Author's Note: AU. No romance. I don't own Harry Potter and I don't know British Slang. This is an experimental style in First Person. I got the idea from Rorschach's Blot.
Warnings: Gore, Death, Dark, Morality issues, Intentional bad Latin, Long ramblings, Semi-OCs, AU, Slight spoilers.
From the Mold
(It took a long time to fall from grace.)
The Headmaster stared at me over his half moon spectacles, "She died as a Gryffindor, we should all be proud of her." I couldn't meet his gaze, but stared at the instruments on his desk that hiccupped smoke in irregular patterns into the air, twisting and swirling.
Half of me wanted to ask him whether the only proper way to die was as a Gryffindor and that if one had to choose over living as a Slytherin and dying as a Gryffindor, whether they should choose the latter. But I didn't say anything, refused to say anything; my lip hurts from biting down hard but it was either that or to shoot hexes at the venerable leader. Who cares about being noble and honorable when your enemies take any advantage, especially stabbing your back once you turn, to bring you down? Honor and valor are Gryffindor traits and to me are dead, had long been dead. The parchment in my hand tells the reason why.
The news of Hermione's death came as a shock to all of us: the brightest witch of the century, who had so many aspirations for her future, fought into a corner and felled? It seemed nigh impossible and unfair, but the information was in my hand. I guess that after open-war with Voldemort and his Death Eaters for more than two years, having it blown to massive proportions after sixth year; a close friend's death was an eventuality. For two years, I thought that my purpose was very clear, almost like a cookbook or Snape's instructions on the blackboard to brew a potion- I was to defend the common people, stun or disable Voldemort's supporters, and then sent them via floo or portkey to the DMLE. Never kill or maim, it was expected for a light wizard who needs to maintain a good public image.
But it seems like I need to personally rewrite the procedures.
After beating a pretty rude and hasty retreat from Dumbledore, I hurriedly walked to the Common Room and sank into one of the armchairs by the fireplace, and stared at the flames and thought and thought.
I had read the loopy handwriting for the third time today of one of the aurors' reports (if you sniff really hard, you can smell the alcoholism in the auror's breath). Hermione's cause of death was bravery and courage. There had been a raid in Diagon Alley in the evening, at the exact time Hermione had arrived. With the barrage of spells, the enemies trapped her in a small shop containing potion ingredients with ten other children. For five minutes, as the Death Eaters worked on disabling the wards, she neutralized seven of the oppositions by use of stunners and hexes. She defended the children, ages six through thirteen, from spells that burned, maimed, and killed, even though she knew that the kids were from Dark families.
…Even though the children's parents were attacking on the other side of the wall, Hermione turned a blind eye. She didn't care of their parentage but did the 'Gryffindor thing': calling everyone equal under the laws of Magic. People believe that everything adheres to a certain code, not realizing that the rules to the fight of survival are more guidelines. Those same people call Hermione's actions noble. She could have… she could have… But she wouldn't have.
I call it stupid. I knew, before I heard her death, that the ploy was a trap. But it seemed like everyone on the Light Side didn't realize the implications till Hermione fell and the Death Eaters' children returned to their parents, safe and sound. They walked over her dead body and into the arms of their fathers and mothers, laughing and chattering happily. Some gave her an uneasy look, others kicked her head.
Where were the aurors? Was the Ministry of Magic finally beginning to fall due to its internal corruption? Was it finally succumbing to Voldemort?
"Hey mate," A hand shook my shoulder.
"Hey Ron." I replied. The scroll report was plucked out of my hands, sounds of rustling parchment, the crackling from the fire, and Ron's breaths as they become uneven and deep…
"Was it worth it?" He asked hoarsely.
Was it? For a bunch of Slytherin children, who even now make subtle hints of pureblood superiority with sneers and taunts? I shook my head. My parents would like to have a few words with you, Potter, they're eager to know you better. It's a good thing that mudblood filth is gone; I heard that she was killed most horribly. Don't cry, don't cry, if you want, father can make the pain go away. They think they're winning and so have right over us, but that isn't right. The urge to strangle the brats grows stronger as the days go by. We don't hurt them in Hogwarts because we believe that children can be reformed, but I'm having doubts. Everyone has to follow Dumbledore's orders.
Ron exhaled, "She's like a lioness in a den, defending her cubs." A wistful tone in his words, "I wanted to ask her to marry me, since we've been dating for years, was going to ask her this Saturday, sure that she was going to say yes. But now-"
She's dead. Hermione's dead.
She was going to get married. She had a life in front of her with so much promise. She's dead. She was only eighteen.
Ron shoved the scroll back into my hands and abruptly walked away with hitching breaths as he walked up the stairs to his private dorm. The door slammed shut, I was alone again.
I tossed the scroll into the fire, knowing that I'm going to garner Dumbledore's disapproval later but could summon no more strength to care. This has been going on too long and Voldemort's army have just found a new tactic in warfare- taking advantage of our 'Lightness' or morality. The children of Death Eaters are still allowed to attend Hogwarts, even though it's a known Order of the Phoenix main base, because they know that we don't have the heart to attack the innocents. (Are they innocent?) No, wait, Moody once suggested at a meeting to… but he's dead too, transfigured arrow to the temple. The Daily Prophet supports us as the noble, honorable group, but I find that it doesn't matter, good publicity or bad, no one cares when people are dropping like flies.
Dumbledore is so adamant about taking the high road, no murders, no killings, no accidental killing, and no dark or even gray curses. I think he's getting really senile, because there is no way we can win this war at the rate we're going. In fact, after two years of keeping to this pact, the public is starting to call us the weak-hearted side. I suspect it's because of all the negative press that affected him in fifth year, something that passed by unnoticed by the rest of us that made him desiring the heroic spotlight. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore…
I remember fifth year, after Sirius's death, Dumbledore had said, "Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human-"
"Potter!" I spun around, from one to three, bloody hell, an ambush. There were Death Eaters in the immediate vicinity and more were running onto the scene from the junction between Diagon and Knockturn. A trap, I have long given up on the aurors' help, the Order guards who were suppose to trail me have disappeared, people were still rushing to safety, taking shelter in the buildings. "Avada Kedavra!"
I transfigured the ground up into a stone wall which immediately shattered at the blast. Behind me was a yell, "Axelo!"
I ducked under the purple spell and pointed to Dolohov, "Confrigo Maxima Omnia!" The explosion sent a massive shock wave. Spin around, "Carpe Retractum." I whispered, pulling, judging from his nose and jaw, Goyle Senior, "quod hostes es, me tegum precor," and watched in satisfaction as he took six curses that were meant for me. Curses given by Voldemort's marked men have no effect on other marked men. Sort of soul magic in the Dark Mark, I'm not too clear on the details. With the conjured rope, I pulled Goyle behind me.
I can't leave the battle now- to retreat means a loss. The Death Eaters would take the spoils of the battle, whether it is hostages or valuables or fear; I couldn't allow that to happen. It shouldn't take long for the Order members to regroup. "Expello viscus!" I heard, "Ebullis!" I kept running till I got out of the boundaries of the immediate wards and apparated to the archway entrance of a consulting firm. Thank Merlin that even though the anti-apparation wards prevent anyone from enter or leaving with that tell-tale pop, one can apparate within the wards. I turned around to give them enough time to realize where I still was.
"Stupefy in Bombardas Maximas novem ad hostes!" And I slammed the door behind me, activated the emergency wards, mind spinning with spells that Moody literally beat into me, constant vigilance and all.
Standing Fortress/ Consulting Firm
Peaking out the curtains, outside the Death Eaters tried to attack the shelter with curses; others were trying to break down the protection wards.
"Come out Potter and we might make this painless!" sinister laughter, similar to what I hear in my nightmares. Something wet dripped down my forehead; I touched my scar, blood. I rubbed it between my fingers and smeared some onto the window sill, some blood magic offering to the wards, maybe they'll last longer, and ten minutes I reckoned at most, the most I can do. By my scar hasn't hurt yet, either that or that I'm so used to its burning sensation that I can't feel anything. Voldemort isn't here, shouldn't be here, from what I dreamt of, he was trying to recruit dark wizards from Brazil with Malfoy to aid his cause. I snorted, as if, it's a reputable fact that Brazillian wizards appreciate the golden ratio on all human faces, looking part-snake will not help diplomacy.
First things first though, I tapped the walls with my wand, "Cave Inimicum." The stones responded- wards were up, I added a heavy-weight and an impervious charm to the curtains and drew them in. Turning around… "Lumos," I froze when I saw my audience.
I recognized Avery's nose, and the diluted features of Malfoy's branch family, Nott's cold eyes, and other visible characteristics of my enemies- all these I saw in the faces of children, ages ranging from six to thirteen at most. Some I see at Hogwarts. The children knew who I was, I knew who they were, "Hello," I greeted them with as much amiability as one could hold on top of a nail. They all stared back with expressionless faces.
"You're Harry Potter aren't you?" A girl stepped forward, nine I guessed, a close relative to Yaxley, "Daddy said that you torture purebloods and are killing the magic in us."
I grimaced. …Well, I guess they can put it that way. I prefer to say that I remove a threat called pureblood supremacy from the society. Pureblood supremacy: it brings a bad taste to the tongue. That's what all these kids believe, either now or when they grow up- that as a half-blood, I cease to become a true magic-wielding wizard. Some might already know, judging by the hostile looks from the older kids. I blandly smiled at the group in general, "Are your parents out there?"
"Yep!" The youngest looking boy said proudly, puffing his chest in a show of familial pride, "Da's out there. He told me he's saving the world from filthy people."
The leader of the group, a Nott, yanked on the boy's hair and hissed, "Idiot, the orders are to stay quiet and act helpless, Prince." The message would have been too low for normal ears to catch, but I had placed a temporary sensory enhancement before rushing off to the raid. The message was useful in two ways. One was that even if the first time, Hermione's death, was unintentional, this was the thoroughly planned out. Every child here knew one another, the body language showed that they were used to each other, they were future Slytherins… no, not all Slytherins are bad.
It's just that it takes more and more time to convince myself of that as the years go by. Prince? The little brat was Snape's relative? They do share the same jaw, hair, and eyes. But Snape's on our side and Princes were estranged ever since Eileen Prince married the muggle and the only Prince family left only has the name, the Potion-finesse gene had been diluted and mixed heavily with copious amounts of Bole blood. But now was not the time to be reviewing the family tree lessons I had with Regulus Black's portrait.
The children aren't good at this sort of secrecy, untrained, unchallenged, they have no idea. They have no fucking idea that they already messed up their chances.
I fought down the urge to bare my teeth at them by pressing my lips hard together, "Is that so?"
The door behind shook till it rocked the hinges and the ground. A big wave of magic pushed my hair forward like a wind and caused some of the others to step back. Damn, the first layer of the wards were broken, there wasn't any time to waste. Nott must have read my thoughts because his wrist immediately flicked out to reveal his wand holster but with years of experience, I had my wand and the incantation ready before he could take the proper dueling stance, "Expelliarmus!" His wand sailed cleanly through the air and into my outstretched hand.
"Give it back, it's mine." I inwardly snorted and enjoyed the panicked expression on his face, eyes so wide that the typical half-lidded eyes showed the entire pupil and then some, his face looked like a wind was constantly blowing his skin back and tight. Merlin, I hope I didn't look that stringy as a thirteen year old. He lunged, hands outstretched, but I was prepared.
"Incarcerous omnia." I intoned, drawing out ropes for every individual member and watching my spell work critically to make sure that they won't escape. Instantly, protest erupted in the form of high pitch whines, pre-puberty. Teen-angst and child-angst worked itself into a hum of never ending complaints. They started screaming with words that no child has the right of knowing at such an age when I smiled benevolently at them and waved my wand, "Silencio." And there it was- blissful quiet, good for thinking.
The buzz of magic coming from the walls and the doors mean that the second layer of wards was fighting to stabilize. That would mean, uh, five more minutes? Right, so what could be done?
…But isn't the answer obvious? The question was: do I have the guts to do it? Hermione didn't and she ended up six feet under, deciding to take the high-road, the goddamn 'light' road that ended sixty feet up. Metaphorically, she fell to her death from a cliff of heroism. Can I do it? Is it not Gryffindor enough?
The foundations of the buildings shook beneath my feet. The older children shot my victorious glances and mouthed out their insults. In an illusion, the words came out of their mouths, "Come out Potter! Save us some time and we'll make it painless! No Cruciatus curse like last time when you screamed!" There was more jeering laughter. I closed my eyes to try and refocus as the memory of my first day at Hogwarts rushed back.
"You could be great you know. It's all here in your head. And Slytherin can help you on your way to greatness, there's no doubt about that. No?" said the Sorting Hat back then, all those years ago. Good ol' Sorting Hat, unbiased and neutral. Slytherin wasn't dark; it was ambition, getting things done, having the drive to finish, and no matter what, and with a certain amount of style.
At sometime in the middle of war, I guess the realization might have hit them when they planned for their next raid, after the enemies' personality analysis reports were completed, the Death Eaters realized that the fault in the Light side was the 'lightness'. They self sacrificed for their friends, families, and enemies. Now that I think about it, there had been lots of occasions- like that time when Voldemort leveled St. Mungos to the ground, it was the Order who had to risk their lives to go in and evacuate light, neutral, and dark wizards alike. So many other scenarios, do we seem like pushovers? Are we still pushovers? If Professor McGonagall, or even Ron, found themselves in my situation, would they be willing to do what I'm planning right now?
Did Voldemort's men stupidly expect that I could be trusted with their children because of my so called hero-complex? Did they think that little kids with wands and training wands can stand against me? How confident they must be to force their kids into their plans, risking their lives. Inbreeding has definitely taken its toll on the parents.
With that thought, I levitated all of my loving companions into the next room and closed the door, save for Nott.
I removed the Silencing charm off of Nott and tilted his head back with my wand under his chin, "Come. Let's go have a walk outside," I loosened his leg bindings enough to make sure that he can hobble with little steps and poked him with his own wand to herd him to the door, sometimes my frustration pushed him hard enough to make him stumble. I noted with slight curiosity that his wand was thicker than mine but lighter, "Is your wand made of balsa wood?" I grabbed the back of his collar and shoved him in front of me, tapping him over the head with my wand, "quod hostes es, me tegum precor," and examined my handiwork with satisfaction. Nott has no idea that he just became a human shield, a spell magnet.
"Yew." He sneered. Yew- Voldemort's wand.
"You wish." I muttered, giving said wand an experimental twirl at the door, no response. I snapped the wand over my knee and threw the pieces to the ground, eliciting a gasp of shock from the boy as the magical backlash washed over him. I heard from Hermione that for the owner of the wand, the experience is strangely euphoric.
"What did you just you?! Is that… You mud-." He yelled with panic and fury laced into every word before I wordlessly cleansed his mouth with soap.
"Language," I chided, smiling. "What would your father say? He's out there right?"
And at that moment, it clicked for the thirteen year old like a bulb lighting up above his head. It reminded me of the time I read a textbook on a radical psychology theory that said that the last moments before death is the only time a person will show his true self, bare and naked to the world. There are those who resign to their fate and those who beg, plead, and grovel to survive. The author had argued with and against himself on which type was more good and preferable, but didn't settle on one decision. I watched with grim satisfaction that the boy's eyes widen in realization and the pupils dilated. Strange that, the human psyche, which runs on a series of mental switches, conveying a perfect balance as events all around constantly threatens to shift the weights. The boy is in shock, he's taking it rather well for someone of his stature, but I can't know for sure.
"Father told me that you wouldn't dare to kill us. You're Dumbledore's Golden Boy." He whispered, fear draining his face of blood, making it look like he's thinner than he should be.
"Well, we can't always fit into that mold can we?" I replied, patting him on the head. His eyes dimmed considerably, like small black coals staring out into the world like those who had attained a sort of wisdom that pays a price to visualize. Like a servant whom his master has finally broken from rebellion and insolence, Nott's head tilted a fraction towards the ground, showing perfect submissiveness. But his back hunched in gloom of an animal about to be taken to the slaughter houses or a prisoner awaiting his execution. How perceptive.
"Come out Potter! Come out Potter before we burn this house down!"
Nott turned immobile; I can't read his body language anymore. Trying to assure him a bit and pretending that I couldn't hear those in the Alley, I gently clasped onto his shoulder, "In fact, I'll let you in on a secret," I leaned down and whispered to his ear, "The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin." Before he could reply, I kicked open the door and faced the light and the surprisingly lack of curses directed towards me and boldly walked out. The smudge on my glasses did not work well with the sun's glare.
There were more Death Eaters than what I last saw, around fifteen, give or take a few. I faced them with as much dignity as I could muster. Wolves: the lot of them. All were in perfect health and ready for a fight, or a hunt as it seemed they expected. They faltered when they saw the first face that came out, causing me to feel pleasantly surprised that they haven't just shot off the Killing curse as a tripwire response. Their faces contorted into lines and ridges.
I heard, "Mudblood scum, what are you doing?!"
"Who is that? Nott's son?"
"Second son, what is he doing here?" and multiple variations of the questions which lacked something important. The ingredient had been missing from these people, making them all sound like clones of one another, no inflexion of the voice, no cause to allow them to humanly care. They changed into monsters.
My eardrums of beating with too much blood for me to discern the different voices, my palms got slightly sweaty, my heart beat faster and harder, I swallowed. I'm betting all my chips into this gamble. The sounds blended together into one drum beat and the hum of magic that makes its appearance at the corner of everything magical. But vision hasn't left me, I saw their faces freeze, Nott senior's especially. I noted the father's countenance and color and noted that yes, they really do look alike, cheekbones, hair, eyes, muscle. I placed Nott in front of me, held onto his collar, and jabbed my wand at the base of his head.
I cleared my throat, "Surrender yourselves to the Ministry and the aurors or else I'll kill him," wishing that the statement wasn't shakily said.
"What? How dare you!"
"He won't do it! Disregard the threat, he'll push aside Nott right at the moment we shoot the Killing curse at hi-"
"-ut him down! I order you to-"
How dare you? Yes, how dare I? How can I? I'm so terribly sorry. I'll put him down before you and prostrate at your legs for forgiveness as the Pain curse runs its course through my body as it had done time and time before. I'll listen to every order you give me and die at the hands of Voldemort, allowing him to finally take tyrannical control over Wizarding Britain and use muggles as circus animals and slaves.
I heard outright denial and rejection that I could ever do such a thing, the words passed through from one ear to the other, but I stared hard at Nott senior, after all, is this not his son? The father might or might not deal with his son; it might not matter much since there is Theodore Nott from my year and every pureblood family must ensures the survival of one male heir and only one male heir. But I received no response from the middle-aged man but an incline of his head and a sneer, as if asking me, "Can you really do it? Go on, we don't care." Except that no spells were fired towards me… I would have used his son as a shield, I really would've. And Nott senior was a father. I'll probably never figure out how close the parental bond is, but I hope it hurts when it snaps.
In the midst of many battles, constantly, I wonder why Dumbledore insisted on the high road, no fatal harm or intentional killings to the opposition. I tried so hard to find loopholes, straddling the border and getting away with as much as I could; sometimes I get caught, bringing the old man's wrath upon me in ways that… I believe what I'm doing is right. I wonder why Dumbledore won't let us lower to their level to the point that I actively question and debate with him on the consequences of our actions. Only Moody supported my views, but he's gone. (There's no legal help to our side, the ministry is useless. Where are the aurors?) Hermione was my opposite and I love her as a sister, but we were just so different. And Ron took her side since she demanded support; I frankly don't think he cared at all. I told you so, I repeatedly said, but no one listens to me because they say that I'm turning Dark.
But now time was running short and I can't bet forever that they won't impatiently send a curse to weave under the boy. There are holes in a human shield after all. I realized that they don't believe that I will do it, that I don't have the heart and cruelty to and to them; they'll bid their time since they have all the time in the world through the stalemate. Little baby Potter can't possibly go out of his way to fatally harm others, it wasn't in his blood. I scanned their faces again, confident and self-assured that they know me better than I do, though that's all about to change.
I wanted to say goodbye to the boy in front of me, he was nothing more than collateral damage, the unfortunate one who was picked at random. But he wasn't shaking in fear, but resembled a stone statue and I'm curious to see his face. I don't even know his first name. I also wanted to say sorry, but don't think that he would understand. He's silent and aware of what's to come, silent boldness. I wonder if the Sorting Hat told him that he would do well in Gryffindor. Probably not.
My next actions will influence the future in ways that I have no hope of conceiving. The Light side is bound by rules and rules are meant to be broken: they're going to hate me after I do this, I just know it. Who will stay by me in the aftermath? This sort of circumstances can't be hushed up, though there are no normal civilians in public right now, I know they're in their shelters and hovels, observing my every move. What will the Golden Boy do now?
The Death Eaters were too fooled to think that this plan will work with me. It makes me question their intelligence, but this is War and Death, and they do funny things to people when their exposure is high. And so I summoned the familiar warmth in my magical core, aware that I was crying. For you Hermione, I'm so sorry that I killed the Gryffindor within me, but for you, in your memory, I must.
(In front of me, I finally heard the boy speak since we came out, "Father, please…" But no one else heard him. Last words were never important.)
"Reducto!" I blinked as wet and chunky bits of brain matter splattered over my face and shirt. There was only a bloody stump of a neck, white bone and sputtering blood, an eyeball clinging to hair leisurely rolled down the steps. My hand was red at the place where I was still holding onto the collar. I let go. Slowly, leg-locked and with no support, the body tilted forward and fell to the ground in a soft thud, displacing dirt and dust.
I can hear nothing but the blood pounding in my head. There were so much red, stains, sins, violence. The world reeled.
I closed the door behind me and went to the room where the children are, looking for my next suitable hostage. They gave me hateful glares and smirks, still under the silencing charm and I mirrored their expressions, feeling a sense of power that comes from knowing who's ignorant. But it didn't matter, once they figure out what is going on, some will be like Nott and accept the inevitable, others will beg and grovel. Moments before death are where they are bare to the world.
Morals are dead in war.