Title: Anthem of the Angels
Author: Shadow Rebirth
Warnings: Death, language, spoilers
Chapter WC: 2,559
Story WC: 2,559
First Written: December 30, 2009
Last Edited: June 27, 2010
Posted: April 27, 2010
Summary: Time has no meaning, not to the Planet. Time is a human conception, a human worry. But time is all Harry has left-and something he's running out of. /The Calamity has returned, they whisper. The Calamity will Break again./ AU, no pairings.
Anthem of the Angels
"What's your name?"
Finally the man grunted, sounding both resigned and annoyed. "Who isn't these days?" he asked rhetorically." He sighed then returned to the list he was filling out. "Place of birth?"
Harry hesitated. He had managed to hide his English accent well enough and there certainly was no way he was going to reveal it now; it would freak people. And why shouldn't it? England had been ground zero. Had he not been a wizard, there was almost no way he could have survived. As it was, "radiation poisoning" had contaminated most people of the people who had survived, according to the Muggles.
"New York," he said.
The worker paid no mind to his pause. He did not care, to be frank. Harry was just one of hundreds of thousands of refugees. He was just a number, moving through the line. As soon as this little info session was over, he would be packed into a camp with Merlin only knew how many others and then swiftly forgotten.
Harry did not mind, truth be told. He craved anonymity after all these years—reveled in it. Now that everything was said and done, he wanted to get lost in the crowds. For him, this would be a vacation.
Then why wasn't he happier?
Harry knew the answer to that. Knew it so well it ached in his bones. But he did not dare dwell on it, lest he get lost to madness building with the confines of his mind, just waiting to burst free.
"Any family members or relations?"
They left him alone.
That was what Harry liked the best. No one bothered him. No one asked him questions or even spoke to him at all. They did not stare at him, did not look at him funny, and did not even glance his way. He was like a ghost. A ghost among thousands of other ghosts, as it were.
As glad as he was to be left alone, he could not really be glad. Not when a sea of depressed faces surrounded him. Hopelessness and despair smothered the very air of the refugee camp. It weighted limbs and buried into broken gazes. Everyone looked lost, Harry thought. Like they did not know what to do next.
And who did know? Almost every major city had been destroyed. Billions were dead—two thirds of the population, the said. The world governments were just barely hanging on, which was a miracle in the aftermath of all that chaos.
Sighing heavily, Harry watched from beneath half lidded eyes as a woman, caked with dust and grime, shushed a small infant and rocked them in her arms. Both mother and child wrapped dirty, ragged clothes, much like almost everyone else. There was nowhere to get new clothes, after all. There was not even anywhere to wash, except for what rainwater could be collected. The rest of the water they had was too precious to be wasted on personal hygiene.
Harry wrapped his own military regulation blanket tighter around himself. The frayed edges tickled his unshaven face, but he did not notice.
A balding older man had staggered over to the woman. "They were there, you know," he was saying. "They were there when it fell. When the sky fell down around us." He laughed sharply and the woman shrunk back, fear in her eyes. He did not notice as he continued to ramble. "I remember seeing them. Such pretty lights. Angels. Or devils. What's the difference between the two? Nothing! Nothing, I say!"
The woman jumped in surprise at his sudden shout and scrambled backwards. Her infant began to wail and she held it tightly to her chest while scurrying away. The disturbed older man did not seem to notice her departure.
"Everything always falls in the end," he was saying. "It's only natural. You realize that, when you get to be my age. The veil lifts and you see life for what it really is. Life? Ha!" Abruptly his voice dropped down to a whisper and even Harry had to strain to hear his next words. "I can feel their soft caresses. They're death, not life. The dead! Ha! Drifting so happily while the rest of us wander the surface of HELL!"
The man threw back his head and laughed heartily, only to abruptly cut the sound off a moment later. His gaze swiveled around to pierce Harry with a startling clarity in their depths. He scuttled closer, almost seeming to glide over the ground.
"They rose," he whispered. Harry stared impassively at him, not reacting. "They rose and swallowed the earth whole. Everyone knows what happened, even if they don't speak of it. Magic saturates every inch of the earth now. No one can escape from it."
That, however, did startle Harry. His eyes widened a fraction of an inch before he managed to rein his reaction in and return to his dispassionate expression. He was looking at the older man in a different light though now.
"You're a wizard." It was not a question, and they both knew it.
"Of course," the man replied with a wild grin. "Almost the entire magical population survived, you know. Our bodies are accustomed to magic. We can adapt to the influx. It's the Muggles whose bodies are failing." He laughed again suddenly and Harry had to struggle not to jump in surprise. "Radiation poisoning! As if! I hear the mice whispering. They say someone dropped a nuclear bomb on merry old England. We all know better. We know what happened. We know they came. Radiation poisoning! They can't handle the magic. Too much energy for their feeble bodies. They're dying. But, but! Here's the thing—we got screwed as well!
"We won't survive either. Can't!" He giggled gleefully. "Wands don't work; too much energy in the air already. Spells backfire. Boom. There goes another one. Another dead witch, another missing child. And see how the mice scurry! They know something's up. They know somethin's not right. A nuclear bomb! As if! They can smell the truth. Right beyond the edges of their senses. So close...so close..."
The man fell into silence, which was far more unnerving to Harry than his ramblings had been. But...everything he had said was true. Magic now saturated every molecule of the earth. It was in everything—and everyone. The problem was, Muggles bodies were not adjusted to magic. Such a massive amount in such a short time was killing them just as quickly as the initial earthquakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, and volcano eruptions had. It would not be long before every last Muggle was dead.
Of course, that was exactly what Voldemort would have wanted. How ironic that his greatest achievement had come from his greatest mistake. Harry was just glad that he was not around to see the result of his actions.
"Is there any news?" Harry asked after a moment. If nothing else, it broke the silence.
"The changes are happening already," the man replied in a faux whisper. His eyes shifted around as though searching for nonexistent eavesdroppers. "I hear whispers, see shadows...The Muggles blame it on the 'radiation'. They say it's mutating the animals. Well that's certainly true! But it's not radiation. Ha! No, not radiation. It's the magic. Magic is real, you know. So pretty and soft. It wraps around my mind and whispers to it, muttering the secrets of the universe in a constant unintelligible stream. It has only happened since the Breaking. That's when the world changed, when magic awoke. Now their souls walk among us, in every fiber of our being, constantly whispering and muttering and moaning and it's driving me MAD!"
His breath was coming in short, harsh gasps now, but his rage faded as quickly as it had come and was once again replaced with a sharp intelligence. "You can hear them too, can't you?" Harry flinched and that was all the confirmation he needed. "Of course you can! Everyone with an ounce of innate magic in them can. So many of us are falling, unable to handle it. Another suicide, another child gone mad, another person broken. But we all fall in the end. It doesn't matter anyway..."
The man fell back into a sullen silence. His gaze was distant, as though his thoughts were millions of miles away. And they probably were.
Harry certainly knew what the man was talking about. He could hear them too. Though they were not really voices so much as emotions and impressions. It was like the thoughts and feelings of a million people at once, all pressing down on him. It was enough to drive a man insane. Harry thought it was probably only because of the rudimentary instructions in Occulmency that he'd gotten from Snape and Dumbledore a few years ago—but Merlin, it felt like a lifetime—that he was able to ward them off. He had taken to clearing his mind every night in order to keep the madness at bay.
He had no idea what the voices were from. As the man had said, they had only been there since the world had Broken. Clearly, they were tied to magic, but...Other than that, Harry did not have the faintest clue.
And honestly, he did not care to find out.
"The Muggles will figure it out eventually," the old man was muttering when Harry turned his attention back to him. The governments already guess—some probably already know! It makes me wonder. Wonder what will happen when it all comes out..." He looked up at Harry and this time met his gaze solidly instead of looking though him. "We all have to fall eventually."
Harry was getting restless. To be fair, he had never stayed in one place as long as this before. It was probably just cabin fever—or camp fever, as it were. How long had it been anyway? How many months? Years?
He had taken to stalking around the camp. Silently passing through without really seeing any of it. The conditions were getting worse though, that much he noticed. More people were dying every day, and not just from the sicknesses that ran rampant through all the camps. But Harry was almost beyond caring now; he had already seen too much death, too much agony, to be phased by much.
But he was still growing more restless with each passing day. Paranoia was begging to seep in. What if something had happened? What if his Last Spell had not gone right? What if It had awoken?
It was not long before he could not take it anymore. So he left. Just picked up his things, walked out, then Disapparated away and went back. Back to where it had all started.
And where it had all ended
Everything was fine. Of course, it was; he knew it had been. But that had not stopped the inherent feeling of wrongness. And the Voices had not helped either. They had not stopped whispering about deathpainloss or hoperebirthbeginning. They never stopped, never abated, and Harry was starting to doubt that they ever would.
Harry stared at the pile of rubble as though expecting something to rise out of it at any moment. And he half did, even though he knew that everything was fine. This was all that was left of Hogwarts. But it was so much more than that now. Now it was a tomb, and not just for those who had died in that final fight.
Voldemort had, naturally, been the start of everything. But even he had not intended for things to happen the way they had. The war against him had been so difficult, but they had been so close to defeating him. And that, more than anything else, was probably why he had done what he had. Voldemort had gotten desperate, so he had turned to magicks that even he knew almost nothing about: Summoning.
It had worked, at first. Voldemort had summoned many powerful spirits and they probably would have won the war for him. But then something went wrong. The spirits got loose and, directionless as they were, they turned to the only thing they knew: destruction. They had literally ripped the world apart, Breaking it. The very plates of the earth itself had shifted and the oceans had reformed. The world now, only a few short years later, looked nothing like it once had.
It had taken them a long, long while to stop the spirits. They did it eventually, but only by using some very powerful rituals that had bound the spirits into magical stones that had since been locked away, never to see the light of day again. By then they would found out that Voldemort was dead. Apparently, he had tried one last summon in order to undo his mistake. But this was a different kind of summon—instead of being a spirit it had been a powerful being from another dimension.
They had called it the Calamity. That was what it had been, after all. A calamity on all humankind.
They almost had not been able to stop that one. It seemed as though nothing they did harmed her. She shrugged off all of their spells as though they were nothing but static charges and seemed to be immune to enchantments. In the end, they had not been able to kill her. So instead, they had sealed her away. Hogwarts would be her eternal tomb.
Of course, the Muggles knew nothing of this. The spirits, being creatures of magic, were invisible to them. They had known only death and chaos and agony and confusion. Harry almost hoped that they would never find out the truth; he did not think they would be able to take it, not after everything that had happened. It did not really matter though. Their race would not survive, after all.
Harry sighed heavily and turned his back on the ruins. Things never should have turned out this way, but they had, and there was nothing he could do about it. He accepted that, as much as he did not want to. He was a far different man than he had been just a few short years ago.
As though sensing his resignation, the Voices suddenly began to push at him more strongly, rising to a crescendo. Harry shuddered as the pressure built up inside his head, giving birth to a pounding headache. The world spun and Harry stumbled. Unable to regain his footing, he fell onto all fours, gasping for breath.
What in Merlin's name had that been? Harry to no more time to question it, however. Staring at the ground as he was, he had finally noticed a faint green glow peeking through the cracks in the stone. Even as he stared, it grew brighter and brighter until finally it was blinding him and suddenly he was falling and falling and there was nothing he could do and oh Merlin what was happening?
The voices were softer now, almost comforting. They enveloped him just as the warm green light did and suddenly Harry was no longer falling, but rather floating, suspended in nothingness. Safe, the Voices whispered, Safecomforthome. Sleepreststayslumberwait. Time. Wait.
And he knew nothing more.
A/N: As you can see from the dates at the top of the story, this is something that I've been working on for a while. The idea and outline has been completely developed now, so all that's left is to write the story. That that note, this story is going to be relatively short—probably just over 10 or so chapters. It will be Harry-centric, although a lot of different characters will have their time in the spotlight.
I hope that all the background in this chapter was clear enough, but if not, please feel free to ask questions.