A/N Right, so I keep saying that this story is over, and then it keeps not being over. But I think it's really over after this. Chapter title refers to a song in Les Mis, from which the quote comes, and clearly does not belong to me. This takes place after both CoE and DH. Likelihood of a happy ending: slim to nil. Apparently I only write depressing stuff - who'd'a thunk? This chapter also gets a shout out to PARAXENOS, because this idea's been knocking around my head for a while, and it's rather her fault :)
Phantom faces at the window
Phantom shadows on the floor
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more...
Harry Potter followed the trail to here, here of all places, he thought grimly, clutching his wand and striding into the great, cavernous room.
The amphitheater with the Veil in the Department of Mysteries was not in any way, shape or form his favorite place. He had lost Sirius here in a battle that, while rather minor in the grand scheme of things, still burned sharply in his memories.
But that was not why he was here. He was looking for Torchwood, and a man called Ianto Jones. Severus Snape had left Harry more memories than he knew what to do with, and most of them were scattered and random, peripheral to the ones of Lily Evans. Still, memories of a suited, fragile Muggle had started to haunt Harry's dreams, as though Snape wanted to apologize from the grave.
So Harry had searched. He'd followed an almost nonexistent trail, starting at a crater in the Millennium Center in Wales and ending here, at last, in the Department of Mysteries, where a strange man in a long coat was standing before the Veil.
"Excuse me?" Harry called in surprise from the doorway, striding forward into the amphitheater. To be truthful, he had not expected to find anyone here. The trail had left off last in the Thames House, where there had been some sort of disaster - Harry had, from there, found a strange sort of magical residue that led here. He suspected, although he hoped that he was wrong, that the path led here because Ianto Jones was dead, and the path of all who died led here, in the end. But he looked hopefully at the man - perhaps he was Ianto Jones, and Harry was wrong. "Sir?" Harry called again.
He did not have time to say anything more. The man in the coat walked toward the Veil, a determination to the set of his shoulders. It took Harry a moment to work out what he was doing. "Wait!" Harry cried. Was the idiot really going to walk through the Veil? Really? "You don't—" his voice died in his throat, because it was too late. The man had brushed the cloth.
The stranger grasped murmuring, flowing fabric of the Veil in a fist. Harry gaped. The dark cloth whispered in the stranger's hands and he lifted it high above his head. It was as though he had pulled aside a curtain made of velvet; behind it was nothing more spectacular than the other side of the amphitheater, as though the Veil were just an ordinary curtain. When the man stepped through the archway, he simply walked to the other side of the room.
"S-sir?" Harry demanded, gaping. How was that even possible? Sirius had fallen through that Veil, Sirius had died because of that thing.
The stranger sighed. The Veil fell in front of him, briefly obscuring him from Harry's view. Harry sucked in a breath, thinking in shock that the fool had passed on, into Death. Instead, the stranger strode around the archway and regarded Harry with an odd, defeated look on his face. Then he grinned the most awful grin, like a puppet or a skull.
"Worth a shot," he said, accent brash and American, and he walked toward the door. His voice might have been cheerful, if his eyes had not looked so hopeless.
"Wait—" Harry said, completely confused. He reached out to grab the man's arm. "How did you just—?" he managed to splutter.
"Don't try it," the man growled. Right, Harry thought grimly, as if he ever would.
"I'm looking for a Ianto Jones," Harry continued doggedly, still following him. "Are you—"
"Ianto Jones is gone," replied the stranger harshly. He stopped walking at last to glare.
Harry met his gaze and swallowed sharply. The stranger had the bluest of blue eyes, and there was an odd smell that surrounded him, something heady and dark. Those eyes fixed intensely on Harry's green ones. "And you, kid," the man continued softly, his expression cold as stone. He brushed the bangs from Harry's forehead and smiled another awful smile. "The Boy Who Lived," he murmured, voice bitter and grieving and guilty.
"Who are you?" Harry asked. People recognized the scar, of course, so it wasn't much of a surprise that the stranger knew who he was, but an introduction would have been nice. This man was no Death Eater; Harry knew it, somehow, down to the marrow of his bones. He looked like a Muggle, albeit a rather old fashioned Muggle. Still, with that coat, there was no way he was a wizard.
"Me? I'm the Man Who Doesn't Die," said the stranger, and left with a swirl of his coat.
Harry never found his name, and the trail of Ianto Jones died, irrevocably, there in the Department of Mysteries. The dreams never stopped.