Disclaimer I do not own Harry Potter and everything recognisable belongs to J K Rowling. Also this story is inspired by 'A Shattered Prophecy' by Project Dark Overlord.
Chapter Forty Eight
The crowd was bigger than last night. It was also more brazen than previous nights. The bets were placed, the door to the cage locked, and the two boys in the ring were already tearing into each other. The crowd cheered as their favourite fighter ducked to avoid the hits. Alex swerved to the side, narrowly missing another strike from his opponent. Alex's punch caught the taller boy, winding him. Another solid hit and the other boy staggered to the side.
Standing amidst the crowd, arms crossed under his chest, was Frank Longbottom. Of course he didn't answer to that name. He believed he was called John, a muggle than ran fight clubs all over London. John watched the fight, he had set up himself, with concerned eyes. Not so much for the older boy, Nathan Jones – God knew that boy was built to take a few punches. It was the exhausted looking boy Nathan was fighting that was making John's breath hitch in his chest every time a fist came at him.
Something was wrong with Alex. John had had this thought ring in his head for almost a week now. Every time he saw Alex, he grew more concerned for the boy. Alex looked increasingly drained, fatigued – defeated, even though he had won every fight in the ring since last week. But even then, Alex wasn't performing like usual. He lacked his trademark charm, his easy confidence, that cheeky glint in his eyes that infuriated his opponents and endeared the crowd. Now when he fought, it was all about aggression, brutality...pain.
John's breath rushed out of him when Alex took a hit. The crowd gasped and swore, urging Alex to retaliate, which Alex did with a powerful kick, knocking Nathan back a few steps. John watched as Alex pounded into Nathan, his fists a blur as they struck the boy until he was a bloody mess. Another kick and Nathan doubled over. John knew the fight was about to come to an end when Alex raised his fist for a final strike.
But then Alex stopped.
His raised hand uncurled and went to his forehead. Alex staggered back a step, doubling over, both hands clutching at his forehead. Nathan swayed on the spot but straightened up, staring at his opponent with confusion. Then, he was laying into him, pounding his meaty fists into Alex before throwing him to the ground.
John shot forward, pushing his way through the crowd, yelling at Nathan to stop, but there was no way anything he said would be heard past this crowd. Shouts and screams for Alex to 'get up!' rang in the air, but Alex was pinned to the ground by Nathan's strikes. The whole time, Alex's hands never lifted from his forehead.
John got to the door and fumbled with the lock he himself had clicked in place. He yelled at Nathan again, threatened him to stop, but the other boy was taking advantage of his opponent's sudden weakness. John caught a glance of Alex's face and almost dropped the keys. Blood was seeping out of his nose, yet Nathan kept hitting him. A cut near Alex's eye started leaking blood down the side of his face.
At last, the lock opened and John ran inside. He grabbed Nathan from the neck and pulled him away, throwing him aside before dropping to the ground next to Alex.
That's when John realised Alex was crying out, choking grunts of pain. One hand was clamped around his forehand, his fingers digging into the skin, hard enough to almost draw blood.
"Call an ambulance!" John yelled to the ones that had followed him into the cage, staring over his shoulder at Alex in shocked horror. "He needs a doctor!"
Alex's hand shot out to grip his arm.
"N-no!" Alex grit out. "No...no doctor."
"Alex," John started but Alex's eyes had rolled to the back of his head and he passed out.
When Alex's limp hand fell away John saw, for the first time, the strange scar on his forehead, shaped like a perfect bolt of lightening.
Harry opened his eyes with great difficulty. Every bit of him hurt. One side of his face felt cold while the other felt warm and clammy. Groaning, Harry lifted a hand, wincing as his fingers protested widely. Harry groped at the cold side of his face, only to pull off an ice pack. He blinked in the dim light, trying to get his dazed and confused mind to work. Where the hell was he? The last thing he remembered was fighting in the ring. He was about to take out that brute of a boy when...when his scar had exploded with pain.
Harry reached out with bruised fingers to touch his scar. It smarted and Harry quickly dropped his hand. His scar was continuously playing up. It dulled at times but the pain was a constant feature in his life now. Harry still hadn't figured out how to deal with it.
"...the pain you feel in your scar is only going to get worse, the longer you and Voldemort co exist together..."
Harry pushed Dumbledore's ominous warning to the back of his mind. He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to consider how true his words might turn out to be. He sat up, or rather tried to. His aching body had other ideas. Harry worked up the strength to pull himself up again, with little success. He gave in, glancing instead at his surroundings. It didn't take him long to recognise the small room. John's office. He was lying on the sofa in John's office.
"This can't be good," Harry muttered as he tried once more to get up.
He managed this time. He swung his legs to the side, preparing to get up. Before he could, the door opened and a pale looking John peeked inside. Seeing Harry sitting up, he hurried to his side.
"Thank God!" he breathed. "You had me this close to calling the paramedics."
Harry smiled, or at least he tried too. His face was bruised, he could feel it. He couldn't help but miss the fast acting bruise salve. It would bring down the swelling in a heartbeat. But he didn't have any, just like all the other potions he needed.
"Alex?" John was kneeling before him, looking more worried than ever. "Can you hear me? Do you have a concussion?"
"I'm fine," Harry replied, surprised at how rough his voice sounded. "And if a person has a concussion, they wouldn't be able to tell you."
Now John chuckled, a nervous giggle more than anything.
"Damn you, Alex. You had me really worried." He reached out and picked up the ice pack before holding it against Harry's cheek. "Keep that on there. It helps with the swelling."
Harry took it in his own hand. He watched John, dreading the question he knew was coming. He could practically read it in John's expression alone.
"What happened to you?"
Harry winced, trying to figure out what he could say. Sorry I lost the fight. See I have this curse scar that plays up at the worst possible times. I think its slowly killing me...
"Alex?" John's hand rested on his arm and Harry snapped out of his thoughts. "What was that? What happened to you?"
Harry pulled the ice pack away. "I don't know," he said. "I just had this shooting pain in my head. It came out of nowhere." One glance and Harry saw he had made things worse. John had paled to the hue of a ghost.
"Sudden shooting pains in the head?" John asked. "That can't be good, Alex."
"Gee, you don't say."
"I'm serious," John shook his head. "You need to get this looked at."
Harry barely kept himself from snorting. Yeah, who could he go to for medical help? St Mungos would give him one course of potions and a quick handover to the Ministry. Somehow he didn't think a lifetime in Azkaban would do his headaches any good.
"When did these pains start?" John asked.
Harry let out a sigh before rubbing at his eyes. "Not long." he answered. He got up, wincing as his head pounded with just that action alone. "Don't worry about it," he said, seeing John follow him to stand. "I've got it sorted."
John grunted. "I highly doubt that."
Harry looked around for his jacket, then spotted it on the backrest of John's chair. He walked over and picked it up. "I'll see you tomorrow," he called, heading to the door.
"Unless you're coming to dinner, no you won't," John replied.
Harry stopped and turned around with a frown. "What?"
"I'm pulling you out," John said. "No more fights, not until you have this health scare sorted out."
"What?" Harry asked incredulously. "John, this isn't a health scare. It's–"
"What?" John was suddenly standing in front of him, anger and annoyance in his expression. "Go on, Alex. Explain it. What exactly is going on with you?"
Harry stayed quiet. How could he explain it?
John was staring hard at him. "Are you doing drugs?"
Harry recoiled, looking stunned. "What?" he asked. "No! Don't be stupid–"
"It's not stupid at all," John said. "I see you looking more and more drained everyday. You come in almost four, five days in the week looking for a show. All of a sudden you need money, and today I saw you take, what could only be described as a fit, in the middle of a fight and you point blank refused to see a doctor, so go on, Alex! Tell me this isn't what I fear it is!"
Harry held his eyes. "I'm not doing drugs, John," he said, calmly. "You have to trust me on that."
John's relief was visible, he almost sagged under it. "I do trust you," he said. "And I hope you trust me enough to tell me what is going on with you."
"It's nothing," Harry insisted. "I'm fine, really. These headaches are probably just...just from overworking myself I guess."
John straightened up, studying Harry intently. He nodded. "Maybe," he agreed. "It makes sense for you to take some time off. You're welcome to come every night and hang out, but you're not getting anymore fights."
"No," Harry argued. "I need the fights, John."
John paused, his frown back in place. "Is this about money?" he asked. "'Cause I can loan you some if you need–"
"I'm not doing this for the money," Harry argued. That wasn't completely true. Living as a muggle in London wasn't exactly cheap, but Harry came to these fights more for the distraction they offered. "I need these fights."
"No you don't," John replied. "What you need is rest and lots of it."
"I lost one fight and you're kicking me out?"
"You know that's not it, Alex."
"Then what is it?"
John clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder and smiled.
"You need a break," he said. "Go home, Alex. Get some rest."
Harry didn't say anything. Go home. If only it were that easy.
Damien muttered a few choice words under his breath as Hermione continued her monologue on the Goblin war. Seated at the kitchen table, in the Burrow, Ron looked almost asleep. Ginny was struggling to keep up with Hermione, her quill racing along the parchment.
"Is this really important?" Ron asked at last.
Hermione stopped mid word and glared at him. "Yes, Ronald, it's important. It's very important."
"It's history–" Damien started.
"Exactly!" Hermione said. "It's wizard history. We need to learn it–"
"Why?" Ron asked. "What great catastrophe will happen if we don't remember a bunch of boring stuff that happened a bazillion years ago?"
Hermione frowned at him. "I thought you wanted to learn."
"I do," Ron said, "but I meant spellwork, charms, potions, not this crap."
Hermione slammed her book shut and began stuffing into her bag. "Fine!" she spat. "Then you can study by yourself!" She marched to the door.
"Aww, Hermione, come on," Ron called, turning in his seat. "Where you going?"
"Home!" Hermione snapped back.
"Hermione?" Ron followed her out of the kitchen. "Hey, wait!"
Damien and Ginny turned to look at each other.
"So I guess that's the end of today's home-schooling session," Ginny said, putting down her quill.
"I don't see the point of this," Damien said. "Hogwarts can't remain closed forever. Hermione's just panicking."
"Of course she is," Ginny smiled. "She's Hermione Granger. Freaking out over school is her thing."
Damien chuckled. He packed away his books and parchment before stretching out his legs under the table and sliding lazily into his chair.
"So, how are you?" Ginny asked. At Damien's frown, she elaborated. "You know, with the whole...Harry...thing?"
Damien's brow knitted. "You mean, how am I coping with the fact that even though my brother has left Voldemort, he can't come home because the Ministry will get him Kissed?" His eyes narrowed. "Yeah, pretty darn good, Ginny. Thanks for asking."
"Damy," Ginny placated. "You know that's not how I meant it," she said. "I'm only asking if you're okay?"
Damien knew that, but still couldn't help get annoyed.
"How can I be okay?" he asked, sitting up in his chair. "Mum and Dad are going mad looking for Harry. The Ministry has raised the reward sum, in the hopes of catching Harry and this morning, I heard Uncle Siri saying Dumbledore has stepped up the search for Harry too, sending every Order member out to track him–"
"Professor Dumbledore isn't going to hurt Harry," Ginny said at once. "He's trying to help–"
"Harry won't see it that way," Damien said.
Ginny quietened, breaking her gaze to look at the table.
Damien closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath."Ginny," he started, "Every witch and wizard, other than Aurors, Order members and not to mention Death Eaters, are out looking for Harry." He met her worried gaze. "Sooner or later, someone will catch him." He forced his heart to calm down. "What are the chances it'll be the good guys?"
Damien was restless, ever since leaving the Burrow that afternoon. It was as if speaking with Ginny had shaken up all his worries, bringing them right to the surface. It didn't help that his dad had come home looking more depressed than ever.
Dinner was a quiet affair, even with Sirius at the table. Damien couldn't manage more than two bites of his food. He helped his mum tidy the dishes afterwards, while his dad and Sirius moved to the living room, to discuss another possible attempt at finding Harry. Damien tried not to listen in – none of their plans had worked so far, so why would this one? He turned to go upstairs.
"Before you go," Lily called, "take the rubbish out."
Damien held back his groan, but quietly uttered, "Why is it always me?"
"It's one of your chores," Lily replied, doing the dishes, not fazed by the moaning. "That's why."
Damien pulled the bin bag out, tied the top and carried it out the back door. He walked to back of the garden and threw the bag into the plastic blue bin. He stood for a moment in the open air. The sun had set, the wind was just a bit too chilly to be enjoyable but Damien forced himself to stand there, breathing in the crisp cool air. He didn't manage it for too long, it was far too cold. He turned to walk back.
Something snapped, like a twig underfoot. Damien paused and turned back. His gaze searched the trees just outside their gate. Nothing but shadowed darkness. He turned back but his steps were slow, ears strained. No sound this time, but something definitely moved behind him. He sensed it, a presence, raising goosebumps on his exposed flesh. Damien turned around, eyes narrowed but still, he didn't see anything out of the ordinary.
Damien knew he should walk away, go back into the house and tell his parents. But what would he tell them? That he felt...weird? He hadn't seen anything, he'd only felt it.
Damien stepped towards the gate, searching the trees, trying to find if anything was hiding there. He opened the gate but didn't step past it.
"Hello?" he called. "Anyone here?"
Nothing but the night's stillness answered him. Damien gave his surroundings another sweeping glance before shaking his head. He needed his bed. A few hours of sleep would stop him imagining things. That is, if he didn't have more nightmares of his brother getting caught and Kissed by Dementors.
A loud snap just behind him made Damien stop. Before he could turn around, something grabbed him, or rather, someone. A strong arm closed around his middle, trapping his arms to his sides. A hand muffled Damien's cry of surprise.
Fear surged in Damien, almost making his heart stop. He struggled wildly, trying to get free but the grip was too tight.
"Easy, easy," the voice whispered in his ear. "You'll pull something."
Tremendous relief swept through Damien, almost making his knees buckle. It would have been okay of they gave out under him, his brother had a firm enough grip to keep him standing. The hand pulled away from his mouth as did the arm around him and Damien whirled around to see Harry smiling at him.
Damien couldn't speak. Sheer surprise and overwhelming joy had stolen his voice. He threw his arms around his big brother, partly to convince himself he was really here. For the first time, Harry returned his hug.
"I knew you'd come home," Damien breathed. "I just knew it." He pulled back, grinning from ear to ear. "What are you doing out here in the cold?" he asked. He took Harry's arm and tugged him forward. "Come inside, Mum and Dad are going to be so–"
He stopped when Harry pulled back.
Damien frowned. "What?" he asked. "What is it?"
Harry didn't say anything. His eyes darted once to the cottage behind Damien before meeting his again. His expression was one of unease, tension – remorse.
Then it dawned on Damien. "You're...you're not back, are you?"
Harry didn't answer but Damien didn't need him to. He could read the answer in Harry's eyes. This was just a visit, nothing more. Damien let go of Harry's hand and turned to fully face him.
"So why are you here then?" he asked. "Why come when you're not willing to stay?"
Harry met his gaze head on.
"I never meant for you to see me," he said. "I just," his eyes flickered to the house again. "I wanted to see you."
That only made Damien angrier.
"You don't think we want to see you?" he cried. "God, Harry, you have any idea what it's like? Mum and Dad are going crazy looking for you! They spend every minute of every day, planning ways to find you, going out and searching for you. Dad hasn't ate or slept right ever since the Ministry put that reward on your head!" He paused, breathing hard, willing the stinging in his eyes to go away. "They are desperate to see you, to make sure you're okay, but you don't want to see–"
"I didn't say I don't want to see them," Harry interrupted. "It's not like that."
"Then what is it like?" Damien asked. Harry didn't say anything. The wind ruffled their hair, the chill seeping through Damien's skin. He ignored it and stepped closer. "Please, Harry," he begged. "Come inside. Mum and Dad will hide you. We'll all keep you a secret, I promise."
Harry smiled a little at that. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "Have me live in the basement?"
Damien choked out a laugh. "We don't have a basement," he said. "We have an attic though. You could live there," he joked.
The amusement left Harry quickly. His expression darkened as he took a step back, shaking his head.
"I can't stay," he said quietly.
"I wish I could," Harry cut him off. "Trust me, Damien, there's nothing I want more." He took in a breath, his eyes glancing once more at Godric's Hollow. "But if I come back, I'll bring nothing but trouble for all of you."
"No you won't," Damien argued.
"If the Ministry found out, they'd throw all of you in Azkaban for hiding me."
"I don't care!" Damien cried.
"Well, I do!" Harry snapped back. "I won't bring you all down with me. I promised myself that."
"Damy?" Lily's call echoed from the house.
Harry moved so fast, Damien could swear he disappeared before his eyes. But Harry wasn't gone, he was only taking cover in the darkness under the trees.
Steeling every nerve in his body, Damien turned around to see his mum appear in the doorway of the house.
"Planning on coming back inside?" she asked.
Damien had to fight to get his voice steady.
"Y-yeah," he called back. "I thought I saw my snitch, lying under the trees."
Lily shook her head, a frown on her face.
"Grab it quickly and get inside. It's too cold." She walked away, leaving the door open.
Damien turned around, his eyes seeking Harry's dark shadow. He took a step closer and Harry reciprocated.
"You don't get to decide what we do, Harry," Damien said. "If we want to fight for you, then we will. There is no way Dad is going to sit back and let the world hunt you down. There is nothing Mum won't do to protect you, and you can promise yourself whatever you want, you can't stop me from helping you."
Harry's gaze was cold. "I don't need your help."
"Yes, you do," Damien replied. "You have the entire world out for your blood–"
"Which is why you need to stay away from me."
"If you believe that, then why did you come here today?" Damien asked.
Harry didn't reply. He looked away but his silence gave Damien his answer.
"That's it then?" Damien asked, angrily. "You get to come and see us whenever you want, but we don't get the choice to see you?" He felt blood rush to his face, heating it. He had never felt this angry before. "You know what, Harry? If we can't see you, then you don't have any right to come see us!"
Harry stilled. His shock and hurt was almost tangible. Damien gaped at him, horrified at his own words. He was angry, he said it in spite, lost in a moment's fury. He didn't really mean it.
Harry straightened up and nodded stiffly. "Hear you loud and clear."
Damien's heart almost stopped when Harry turned and began walking away.
"Harry, wait!" Damien cried, darting after him.
"I get it, this was a mistake," Harry called. "It won't happen again."
"No, wait!" Damien grabbed his arm, pulling him around. "Please stay. Please, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I'm just angry. I didn't mean any of it." Damien was close to tears. "Don't go, please, don't go."
Harry could have easily thrown him off, but he didn't. For the first few moments, both boys stood in awkward silence. Damien had to force himself in place. Every nerve in his body was urging him to turn and run, to go tell his parents Harry was here. He knew they would find a way to make Harry stay. But Damien didn't move. He couldn't take his eyes off his brother. It was only now, in the limited moonlight, that Damien noticed how run down Harry looked; dark circles under bloodshot eyes, face pale and thin.
"You look terrible," Damien said.
Harry managed a half smirk. "Gee, thanks," he said.
"Where are you staying these days?" Damien asked.
"It's not important," Harry replied.
"It's very important."
Harry gave him an irritated look. "Why?"
"'Cause it looks like you haven't slept in weeks or eaten in days."
Harry ran a hand through his messy hair. "I'm doing just fine, Damy."
Damien highly doubted that. He opened his mouth to argue when his heard his mum's call.
"Almost got it, Mum!" Damien called back. His eyes never left Harry. "I've almost got it," he repeated quietly.
Harry smiled, but there was no humour behind it. He turned to look at the open back door – in invitation his mum had unknowingly left for him as well as Damien.
"Is Dad really going out looking for me?" he asked.
"Every night," Damien replied.
"He has to stop."
"He won't," Damien warned. "Not until he finds you." He stepped forward, holding onto Harry's arm. "I get it, Harry. You don't think it's safe to stay here, but at least let Mum and Dad know you're here. Go in and meet them. You have no idea how worried they are about you."
Harry let out a breath, his eyes narrowing at the door, and for a moment, Damien was sure he was going to give in. But Harry looked away and shook his head.
"Why not?" Damien asked, his voice breaking.
"Because I know that if I see them, if I talk to Mum and Dad..." he paused. "I won't be able to walk away from them."
Damien stilled. "Would that be so bad?"
Harry looked over at him. "Yeah it would," he said. "Because there's things I need to do, before I run out of time."
The stab of fear stole Damien's breath. He didn't like the way Harry said that, didn't like it one bit.
"Damien!" Lily cried, anger and annoyance laced in her voice. "Get inside now! Snitch or no snitch!"
Harry pulled his arm out of Damien's hold. "Go," he said quietly.
Damien shook his head. "Not without you."
"Go Damy." Harry gave him a little shove, no malice behind the action, only a bittersweet encouragement to walk away.
"Will you come back?" Damien asked.
Harry paused before shaking his head. "No." His voice was gruff, strained.
Damien stood his ground. "Then at least tell me how to contact you. How to find you if I need to."
"Take care of them, Damy," Harry said, turning to walk away. "Find a way to stop Dad."
Damien sprung forward and latched onto Harry's hand. "You're not doing this!" he said. "You can't leave, not without giving me a way to reach you."
"There is no way for you to reach me," Harry replied.
"Where are you staying?" Damien pressed.
"Damien!" Lily called.
Damien ignored her.
"Let go, Damien," Harry warned.
"Tell me, Harry!" Damien said, "or I swear, I'm going to tell them you're out here."
"Go ahead!" Harry said with fury. "I'll be long gone by the time they come out."
"You don't want to run from us, Harry," Damien said, "or you would have disapparated the moment I walked outside."
Harry fell silent, but his eyes stayed on him, dark and furious.
"Damien?" Lily had come to the door now. "Where are you?"
Harry met Damien's stubborn gaze.
"One shout," Damien whispered. "That's all it'll take."
Harry yanked his arm free but he didn't move or run. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a mobile phone.
"Take this," Harry roughly handed him the phone. "Keep it on you. I'll call you and tell you when and where to meet me."
Damien took the muggle device and slid it into his pocket. His eyes never left his brother. "When will you call?" he asked.
"Tomorrow," Harry had already backed away into the shadows, the darkness eagerly swallowing him up. "Keep the phone hidden."
Damien nodded. "I will."
His mum's voice was a lot closer and Damien had no choice but to break his gaze from his brother's fast-becoming-invisible form to see his mum, frowning at him from halfway down the garden.
"What are you doing?" she asked, sounding rather angry.
Damien pushed himself towards her, fighting the urge to turn and glance back at the trees, to see if Harry was still there or not.
"I'm sorry," he said. "The wind – couldn't hear you." To help cement his lie, a strong breeze ruffled his clothes and hair.
Lily was not impressed. "Get inside, before you make yourself ill."
Damien began walking back to the house. He couldn't help wonder how long Harry had been standing out here in the cold?
"Did you find your snitch?" Lily asked, walking alongside him.
"No," Damien said. "I thought it was my snitch but, turns out, it was something else."
A little of Lily's ire melted at her son's dismayed expression. She got to the door and turned to face Damien, reaching out to cup his face. "Well, you know what they say," she smiled, "what's yours, will find a way to get back to you." She patted his cheek and went inside.
Damien turned and looked at the darkness under the cluster of trees.
"Yeah," he said quietly, "I sure as hell hope so."
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