Chapter 1 - Legacy
As the first rays of sun began to slowly banish the shadows from the corners of his dormitory, Harry Potter battled with Voldemort yet again. The sheets of his bed were crumpled on the floor next to his bed, and he moaned in anguish, the tendons on his neck standing out vividly as he writhed and strained on the bed.
You'll never escape me, Potter – never.
A low, incoherent mumble tricked out his mouth in response. Harry's fingers clenched and his tortured face furrowed in an expression of hatred.
I'll poison your every chance at happiness, pollute your dreams and haunt you every night until you surrender to me.
The moans grew louder, forming words, protestations – the meaning still unclear but the passionate intent behind them clear.
Come Harry, let me show you…
Harry's eyes flickered under his closed lids as a series of brutal images flashed across his mind. Voldemort, victoriously lifting his lifeless body into the air, standing on the dead bodies of his friends and families.
Look at them Harry – look at those you couldn't save.
The images flickered, became clearer. The bloody faces of Lupin, Tonks and Fred shifted into focus, their eyes wide open in horror, staring sightlessly into eternity.
Harry's back arched, his whole body stiffened as his clenched fists pounded the bed in fury. Silent tears streamed down his bruised face, his teeth bared in an pained grimace.
Dimly on the edges of his consciousness, Harry heard the sound of the dormitory door quietly opening. Footsteps crossed to his bed and a shadow fell lightly over him as the figure stood over him.
Still gripped in the nightmare, he felt a cool sensation on his forehead as a soft hand tenderly stroked his face. Slowly, his face relaxed, his fists unclenched, fingers straightening and flattening out onto the bed. Gradually, the taut muscles in his neck and shoulders became still and he exhaled, releasing the pressure within him.
Now only half asleep, he felt long hair brushing over his shoulder as the figure bent closer. Inhaling, a sweet, flowery scent filled his nostrils. Struggling to waken, his drowsy brain seemed to recognise this smell and he breathed it in greedily. Soft lips gently kissed his forehead, and an achingly familiar voice whispered, "It's over now Harry – relax, my love."
Harry's red-rimmed eyes opened, blinking blearily as the dim dormitory came into a blurry focus. His hand unconsciously reached for his glasses as he craned his neck, hoping to see his visitor. He couldn't be sure, but he thought he saw a flash of coppery red leaving as the door closed behind him.
Tiredness overcame him, and his eyes closed again, the reaching hand falling limply over the side of the bed as he began to drift off again. Sluggishly, his brain worked through the clues about his visitor and he suddenly shot up in bed, eyes now firmly open.
He stopped, wincing at the soreness in his parched throat. Fumbling for his glasses, he put them on and watched the dormitory swim into focus. It was silent, save for the soft breathing coming from Ron and Neville's beds, and otherwise deserted.
Tiredly running a hand through his tousled hair, still damp with sweat from the dream, Harry glanced around, suddenly unsure. Had he been visited in the night? He couldn't be certain, but the presence had seemed so real, the voice so tender and the touch so familiar.
Yawning widely, Harry swung his legs over the side of the bed, wincing as the after-effects of the battle the previous day made themselves felt on his aching body. Judging by the dim light seeping through the curtains, it was still early in the morning, but Harry had no wish to surrender himself back to the nightmare. Firmly pushing the horrific images out of the forefront of his mind, Harry reached for his robes and headed for the bathroom.
Once washed and dressed, Harry paused with one hand on the dormitory door, then quickly walked over to his bed and snatched up the Marauder's Map which lay on top of his trunk.
Opening it up, he muttered the familiar incantation and the plan of Hogwarts spread over the page, dark ink filling the worn parchment. At a glance, Harry could tell that most people were still asleep, the corridors deserted. As he had no wish to face the congratulations and praise of others, no matter how well-meant, this was just what he had hoped for.
Still watching the map, he quietly opened the door and stepped cautiously out.
As he approached the main doors to the castle, the dim light grew into beams of pinkish light as the sun rose over the horizon. Stepping out into the cool morning air, Harry took a deep, cleansing breath in as his eyes wandered over the familiar sights of the Hogwarts grounds.
As the golden rays of sun slowly illuminated the grounds more clearly, Harry's transient sense of peace was abruptly shattered. His heart twisted unpleasantly and his gorge rose as the light reflected over the white sheets laid out in endless rows by the side of the castle.
Against his will, his feet took a few tentative steps towards the rows of bodies precisely lined up and carefully covered with sheets, each one inscribed with the name of the witch or wizard who lay beneath. The meticulous organisation mockingly suggested a sense of order, at odds with the chaos and carnage which the bodies represented.
Harry's stomach lurched again as his mind screamed at the horrific sight laying before him. Unable to take his eyes from the sight, he staggered towards them, numbly tottering down the rows. So many of the names were familiar to him, each representing a memory of a life cruelly cut short.
His steps slowed, his body stiffening as he approached the bodies whose faces he had seen so recently in his dreams. Lying together, as they had lived, fought and died together, were the still figures of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks.
It's your fault Harry. They died for you – because of you.
The mocking voice inside him seemed to carry echoes of his nightmare, but this time Harry did not fight it.
They had a child Harry – another orphan denied the chance to know his parents. Another life ruined – and you are to blame.
Harry's knees buckled and he fell down in front of their bodies. He felt strangely empty of emotion, drained beyond the point of tears. The guilt he felt overwhelmed him and his stomach churned and rose. Taking a few staggering steps to one side, Harry vomited loudly, falling to all fours. As the heaves subsided, he spat bitterly, then wiped his mouth with his already filthy robes.
Getting hesitantly to his feet, he found himself facing the one body he had hoped not to see. The shrouded figure of Fred Weasley, so full of energy in life, lay silent and still at his feet.
They treated you as a son, raised you as one of their own. Is this how you repay them Harry? How can you face his mother now Harry? How can you face G-
A coarse, inarticulate cry ripped out of Harry's lips. Eyes burning red, he looked wildly around, but there was no end to the sight of still, lifeless bodies, testament to his mistake, his actions.
Staggering away as quickly as possible, Harry ran from them, attempting to outrun his guilt. Tears gathered at the corners of his eyes but he stubbornly held onto his emotions. Running blindly, uncaring of his destination, he was brought up short by the cold, hard wall of the castle.
Closing his eyes, Harry sank against the wall, hands clinging to it, body curled into a submissive ball. Lost against the towering walls of Hogwarts, the thin figure of the Boy-Who-Lived lay still and alone.
After an unknown amount of time, Harry was shaken out of his waking nightmare of bitter thoughts and self-recrimination by an unexpected sound. While he had been alone earlier in the morning, this was clearly no longer the case.
In the distance, hidden behind the curve of the high castle wall, the distinct sound of loud, angry voices could be heard. Judging from the number of voices, this was a large group of people.
Not knowing why, Harry got to his feet, instinctively checking his pocket for his wand. Running a grimy sleeve across his face, he set off towards the sound, not out of curiosity, but impelled by a vague sense of uneasiness.
As he got closer to the sound, Harry could see a large group of witches and wizards, gathered in a loose circle. Now that he was closer, he could make out snatches of their angry words.
"String 'em up, I say"
"Worse than animals, they are"
"My entire family gone – their fault"
With a sinking feeling, Harry suddenly felt he knew what – or who – these comments were aimed at, and he broke into a jog, anxiety mounting.
As he grew closer, he could see, between the legs of the angry crowd, three black-cloaked figures cowering on the ground. Forcing his way through the crowd, heedless of their harsh exclamations and sharp blows, Harry burst out into the centre of the loose circle and stopped, panting.
In front of him were three Death Eaters, none of whom he recognised. Their cloaks were ripped and torn, stained with their blood and their petrified faces looked up at Harry, recognition dawning in their eyes.
Turning to face the crowd, the ugly, angry, noise subsided, to be replaced with wondering murmurs as they too recognised the young man standing before them.
"Blimey – it's him!"
"The Chosen One"
A large, barrel-chested wizard stood forward from the crowd. Just visible on his singed cloak was the insignia of the Auror department. Clearly feeling that he should make a comment, he coughed and opened his mouth to speak.
Harry beat him to it. "What is happening here?" His voice was deceptively mild, but carried a hint of steel which immediately silenced the crowd.
The Auror blanched, his pale face whitening. Gulping, he spoke in a low voice.
"We captured these three-" He jerked his head towards the huddled Death Eaters. "trying to escape into the Forbidden Forest, and brought them back here."
Harry's bright green eyes narrowed as he stared at the large man. "I can see that, Auror…?"
The man flushed. "Auror Morris – Mr Potter".
"Auror Morris," Harry repeated flatly. "Perhaps you would be so good as to tell me why you and your – friends-" He paused to cast an eye over the assembled crowd. Very few of them could meet his gaze.
Turning back towards the bulky Auror, he continued in the same mild tone. "Why you felt the need to bring these prisoners here, rather than escorting them to the dungeon. That is where the prisoners are being kept prior to transfer to Azkaban, is it not?"
The large man flushed darker, an ugly expression appearing on his heavy features. He spoke dismissively. "Azkaban? That's a bloody holiday camp for them, isn't it? Get in and out any time you want!"
"They need punishment – that's what!"
The shouted voices were hidden from Harry's view, far back in the crowd, but others began to nod in agreement. Harry tensed as the atmosphere became charged with violence, but still spoke in the same mild, steely, voice, this time addressing the whole crowd.
"Ah, I see. You want revenge, do you?"
The crowd shifted uneasily at this, not liking his words. A thin, blond witch near the front, dirty face still streaked with tears, replied angrily, "We want justice!"
There were nods and shouts of agreement at this, and the crowd began to surge closer. Harry's hand tensed around his wand, pulling it out from under his cloak in one smooth, practised movement.
This had the desired effect. The crowd stopped momentarily, but Harry knew their hesitation was only momentary. His stomach clenched, and a thin line of sweat began working its way down his hairline.
When he spoke, his voice betrayed none of the nervousness he felt. "Justice? Right here? Right now?" His wand arm flicked, now pointing in the general direction of the captured Death Eaters, who moaned in fear.
"You should do it!"
Harry paused, appearing to consider their request. "Me?" he mused out-loud. There were general nods of assent, and the crowd came closer still.
They have a point, you know Harry. Isn't it the least you can do for them?
Ignoring the quiet voice inside his head, Harry squared his shoulders as he faced the crowd.
"And what then?" His voice held a hint of challenge, the steely tone becoming more apparent. "We go home and celebrate? Brag about how we murdered defenceless men and women?"
"They murdered my son! He was defenceless!"
"Aye, and my wife – our baby too!"
The voices were angry and determined, but Harry didn't react outwardly, although his mind turned at once to the only memory he had of his parents - the terrible night they faced their deaths.
When he spoke however, his voice was determined and sure. "You would do to them what they would to you? What does that make you then?"
The mob shifted and murmured again, but there was a sense of uncertainty growing now. Sensing this, Harry pressed on.
"Take a look at those white sheets over there. Can you tell who fought for us, and who for them? Haven't we seen enough violence, enough death?"
His voice broke slightly on the last word, but the effect of his words was clear to see. Several people were nodding. Some were shaking their heads, looking around as if they didn't understand how they had got here.
"A great wizard once told me that we must choose between what is right, and what is easy. It would be easy to turn our grief to anger, to lash out at those who have hurt us so badly. But would it be right?"
The murmurs of assent grew louder. At the edges of the crowd, figures shifted as if wanting to walk away, but the sound of Harry's clear, determined voice held them in place.
Clenching his wand tightly and staring intently at the crowd, with a fierce expression in his green eyes, Harry issued a challenge.
"If any of you want to take the easy path, go ahead. Try. But you will have to get past me first."
The murmurs grew wider. Some shook their heads incredulously.
"I don't believe it!"
"He's protecting them"
For a long moment, Harry stood stock-still, facing down the crowd. His battered face was stern, the sincerity of his words clear to all. They shifted again, unable to meet his bright gaze, and slowly began to back away.
Harry felt a muscle in his face twitch as the tension within began to show, but he still held his ground, holding his breath.
The crowd turned and began drifting away, shooting embarrassed, wondering glances over their shoulders as they went. The large Auror lingered, then turned as if to go. Harry's quiet voice stopped him in his tracks.
The large man paled again, turning back to face Harry.
"I would like you to take these prisoners immediately to the dungeon please." Harry's voice was quiet, but the command in it was unmistakable.
The Auror nodded his head dumbly, then started to move towards the Death Eaters, who huddled on the ground. One, a small, sharp-featured woman, glared malevolently at Harry.
"Don't expect any thanks, Potter. If I had my way, I would happily have died for the Dark Lord."
Harry gave the woman a strange half-smile. "I didn't expect you to understand."
He turned on his heel and walked away, following the crowd, without looking back.
As the crowd gradually dispersed, Harry wandered aimlessly, uncaring of his destination. His hands were shaking with tension, and he stuffed them in his pockets, conscious that there were still eyes upon him.
Reaching the edge of the crowd, he looked up and was brought to a sudden, crashing halt.
Standing before him in a tight group were the Weasleys, with Hermione at Ron's side. Harry's heart seemed to turn to stone as he saw the people he called family staring intently at him. They had clearly been waiting, and had heard every word he had spoken.
His face flushed with shame and he looked down at his feet, unable to meet their eyes.
How can you face his mother now Harry? How can they possibly forgive you for the death of their son, their brother, their friends?
The small internal voice was back, dripping with restrained fury. Harry shuddered, still intent on the ground. Hermione's quiet, clear voice interrupted his inner turmoil.
Slowly, battling his inner demons every inch of the way, Harry raised his head, forcing himself to look at the concerned faces of his oldest friends.
Ron and Hermione were standing very closely together. Harry noticed inconsequentially that they appeared to be holding hands. Both looked pale and drawn, with cuts and bruises marking their faces.
Ron cleared his throat, and spoke. "Are you alright mate? We didn't know where you were until Nearly Headless Nick said he'd seen you by…" His voice trailed off as he made a vague half-gesture in the direction of the rows of white sheets.
Harry nodded slightly, not trusting himself to speak. In the back of his mind, he noted Ron's use of 'mate', but discounted it immediately. It doesn't mean anything, he told himself fiercely.
By a colossal effort of will, he shifted his eyes to look at Percy and George, who stood next to Ron. Percy had clearly made a half-hearted effort to tidy himself up, but his collar was crumpled and his tie askew. George – Harry couldn't bring himself to look at him and he quickly looked on, drawing in a sudden intake of breath as he found his eyes locked with the chocolate brown eyes of Molly Weasley. A random thought crossed his mind; they looked just like-. He stopped himself with a shake of his head.
"Harry?" said Mrs Weasley, her brow furrowed in concern. Her face was chalk white, and she appeared to only be standing with the support of Mr Weasley's arm holding her tightly around the waist. Harry's heart felt as if it were shattering into a thousand pieces as he saw her expression. How can she still care, when Fred-?
The internal voice had nothing to say.
Harry dragged his eyes away from her, looking into the grave face of Mr Weasley. Without his normal cheerful expression, he looked curiously different – almost a stranger. Only a softness in his eyes gave away his thoughts as he gave Harry a small nod.
Encouraged, Harry nodded back, and before his courage failed him altogether, he forced himself to look at the one person he desperately craved, and feared, seeing.
Ginny Weasley stared back at Harry with an unreadable expression on her pale face. Even in the midst of his turmoil, Harry couldn't help but notice how her glorious red hair framed her perfect face, and his heart skipped a beat. His mind recalled the presence in his room that morning – could it possibly have been her?
Looking again at her, could now see cracks in her controlled façade. Her puffy eyes bore the unmistakable signs of crying and there were faint, half-dried tear-tracks down her cheeks. Harry's shattered heart seemed to splinter into tiny shards of ice as he thought about what she must be going through right now.
She'll never forgive you Harry. Her brother – never…
Feeling as if his feet had been Transfigured into stone blocks, Harry took a tentative step towards Ginny. He had to know, regardless of the consequences.
Ginny flinched at his movement, tears starting in her eyes. With a sob, she tore herself away from the comforting arm of her father and ran towards the lake, ignoring the despairing calls of her family to return.
Harry's veins froze and his knees threatened to give way again. Whirling round in his confused mind was the same thought, repeated over and over again.