The Love of a Good Woman
Summary: A man left with nothing does not have the power to overcome a Dark Lord. If that is the case Harry Potter appears to be in deep trouble. Luckily for Harry Love has not quite given up on making him a whole man.
A/N: Greetings and welcome to my post-apocalyptic style story. The story is marked as Harry/Daphne, but you will notice first and for most in the present time, as it stands, there are several hints to another relationship Harry once had. In flashbacks, which happen more readily starting in Chapter 2 (you as a reader will want to know how we ended up to this point, trust me) this relationship will get actual screen time 'in the past'. As the story progresses there will be less flashbacks and the Harry/Daphne will fair outweigh any previous relationships Harry once had. Thus, the pairing stated on is accurate, and we will meet Daphne fairly quickly in both flashbacks and present time.
Disclaimer: Many of the characters in this story (ie: any you recognize) and the world in which the story is set are the wonderful gifts of J.K. Rowling. I do not own these characters and no profit is being made.
Chapter 1: The Many Regrets of Harry Potter
"Yes, it was rather horrible," said Luna conversationally. "I still feel very sad about it sometimes. But I've still got Dad. And anyway, it's not as though I'll never see Mum again, is it?" Luna Lovegood, to Harry Potter. (OP/38)
13th November, 2001
Harry awoke to the loud crashes and thuds coming from the first story of the house. His hand immediately flailed to his side and clutched his wand from underneath the edge of his pillow while he bolted upright in the bed. He snatched his glasses from the nightstand located near the bed, if one could call it that since the mattress was old, lumpy, and filled with holes, and kicked to the side causing him to connect with a woman's leg.
"What in Merlin's name?" the drowsy female said from besides him. "Another bloody nightmare, Harry? Really-" The voice stopped and the woman sat rigidly upright when the sounds of pitched battle finally reached her ears.
Harry jumped out of bed and landed on his feet as he drew himself instinctively into a fighting stance with his wand at the ready pointed at the bedroom's door. He was ashamed that the woman beside him still hadn't learned the reflexes and reactions needed to stay alive in the volatile environment that the British Isles had become. He himself was dressed in his clothes. He rarely took them off now. Some part of his personality, the part that was easily embarrassed years earlier, was still with him. He couldn't walk around in the nude and on some occasions, just like this, he didn't have time to dress. His black jacket was still damp and stained from his mud from several hours earlier, and the shirt he had on underneath, a simple gray dress shirt from his days at Hogwarts. It was similarly splattered with mud and had many holes. It was uncomfortable, wearing damp clothes bed, but ever since Voldemort had by all accounts won the war it was nearly impossible to stay stationary in one location or get a good night's rest when away from the rest of their group.
Well, that wasn't true. While Harry was still alive there was hope according to the sodding Prophecy uttered by one of Harry's least favorite people, the former Divination professor Sybill Trelawney. Strictly speaking Harry would never admit that he had lost hope, but he had come very close to ending it all on several occasion. The Dark Lord Voldemort, the most feared wizard of the last decades, controlled what amounted to the Wizarding World in Britain except for a few select communities putting up a defiant act, but Harry figured it was just a matter of time. He had precious few loyal followers himself (at least they considered themselves followers once they had elected Harry their leader) in what was the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix and his own Dumbledore's Army combined.
The voices and shouts of spells being cast on the first floor of the supposed safe house gave away that it was in fact Death Eaters that had entered the house rather than a portion of the remnants of the muggle military. The latter had fractured into vigilante divisions when the muggle government had collapsed. They spent their time raiding stockpiles of weapons and food since Voldemort tended to leave them alone. At least he would until the rest of the wizarding pockets of resistance were taken down.
"Its that Lestrange again," the woman muttered Harry noted that she was finally out of bed and had her wand at the ready.
It was certainly Rodolphus Lestrange, Harry knew, having recognized the voice in an instant. There had been many run-ins between Lestrange and Harry in the past several years. Lestrange wanted to enact his own twisted version of vengeance after a battle that left his brother Rabastan bleeding out on the ground with a fatal opening in his jugular. Truth be told Harry had been waiting for his own chance after what had happened Ron. He had been saving a certain cutting curse that he'd inadvertently been taught by his former Potions professor for just such a meeting with the surviving Lestrange brother.
Harry ignored the woman's comment and swiftly walked towards the bedroom door. He opened it cautiously and glanced down the hall. It was still a pigsty. In fact, the entire house was a broken down slum. Still, it was the best that Harry and the last few members of his excursion team had found on such short notice. Everything was short notice nowadays. The Order of the Phoenix had fallen and with it went the safe houses, rest stops, and trusted members of the community that would harbor them. Now they were lucky if the slumlord they were dealing with didn't automatically walk over to the nearest militant group, Death Eater, or informant so he could get a reward. Luckily Harry still had some of his money left over so he could pay a generous amount. The money wouldn't last forever, though.
The floorboards creaked as the woman drew near behind Harry. He risked another quick glance into the hallway. It was still deserted, but the sounds had stopped downstairs. That meant the Death Eaters, and more importantly Lestrange, could be anywhere in the building.
"Harry?" the woman whispered, but Harry brushed her off in annoyance. She just didn't understand the gravity of these situations at times.
"If you want to live you'll be quiet," Harry hissed a little more cruelly than he would have liked. Then again the situation did warrant it.
Bianca Sweeney. In her early twenties, Muggleborn, and a true Hufflepuff, she had chestnut brown hair, prematurely going gray, that fell to her shoulders. She stood slightly shorter than Harry, coming up to his chin, and had, despite all of his intentions, taken to being his 'girlfriend'. She pursed her lips in annoyance at her lover's comment and further rewarded him with a reprimanding glare. If she wasn't covered in a few days filth from their flight across muggle London she'd look quite stunning.
Harry appreciated Bianca's openness to provide him with a purely physical, sexual, release, but his heart wasn't up for anything more. At the mere age of twenty Harry felt like a beaten man. Bianca assuredly knew this, but still tried to act the part of being an attentive lover.
Where are Ron and Hermione when you need them? Harry often questioned in situations like these where he was confronted with unknown, and likely unbalanced odds in Lestrange's favor. It was extremely difficult to not abandon the fight as his closest friends were taken from him slowly and surely. While he still had a small group of followers with him, and there were others elsewhere, they weren't up to the caliber that Ron, Hermione, Remus Lupin, and Minerva McGonagall had been. That was proved time and time again with Bianca at his side. It was amazing that she, an average witch at best, was still alive while Hermione, the brightest and most book-smart witch he had ever known, had perished some time ago.
There was a loud scream and some more struggling. This was followed by a loud thud and then sound of someone flailing across the wooden floor. "Crucio!" the gruff voice of Lestrange echoed down the hallway. The screams escalated in frenzy. They were very familiar screams. Too familiar.
Without another moment's hesitation Harry jumped into action by barging into the hallway. He had abandoned caution the moment he recognized who was on the receiving end of Lestrange's curse. There was Neville Longbottom, one of his last true friends alive, being dragged down the stairs in magically conjured ropes by two cloaked Death Eaters while a third, undoubtedly Lestrange judging by the man's large stature, supervised. He had just reached the top of the stairs when they had caught him, judging by the slick trail of blood at the top. The last Harry had known was that Neville had stayed awake on the ground floor, too troubled about the death of his beloved Hannah Abbott months ago to find solace in sleep, while he and Bianca retired upstairs.
Harry gnashed his teeth together in anger before thrusting his wand in the direction of Neville's assailants. "Sectumsempra!" he cried, catching two of the three Death Eaters off guard. Lestrange had proactively dove down the stairs out of harms way the moment he saw Harry appear, but the other two, still struggling with the flailing Neville, were caught flat footed. Harry's spell caught the Death Eater on the left in the mid section. There was a horrid screech of pain as the individual fell to his knees.
Intestines, liver, and stomach all pouring of his wound, the Death Eater, in a daze, lazily tried to pack them all back up into his abdomen. Luckily for him he was in such shock that he didn't realize the pain he was sure to be in.
The second Death Eater that was hauling Neville around had ducked down enough so that he was behind the Gryffindor. However, it was a well placed kick by Neville, whose legs weren't well restrained, that hit the Death Eater square in his face and sent the man tumbling down the stairs. Neville struggled, gaining ground on the stairs so that his upper body was on the upper floor.
Harry was ready to sprint over and help his friend all of the way up so that they could all escape together, but Neville had other ideas.
"No, Harry," Neville began, his voice hoarse and weak. "Go. Just go. Save yourself. It is my time... I... want to see her again," he began to trail off more and more.
"No!" Harry yelled in reply, but he hadn't moved an inch. Back in his school days he would have already sped across the floor to help, but by now, after all that had happened, he knew the reality of the situation. The reality in which he knew Neville was correct. The look of peace on Neville's face left Harry with no doubt that the former was looking forward to being reunited with Hannah in a better afterlife. Harry knew the feeling all too well. "If only to give in," Harry thought for a moment before he was rudely interrupted by Lestrange. It was something the man did well.
The spell was fired by Lestrange who had just popped up from behind Neville's body. Somehow finding the strength to move his legs, Harry had lunged sideways, connecting with Bianca's abdomen, and causing them both to crash abruptly onto the filthy ground of the bedroom.
An explosion was punctuated with the shatter of glass from down the hallway that Harry had occupied mere seconds earlier. It drowned out Bianca's comment, but Harry didn't have either the time or the care to listen.
"Harry! Go! I'll stop them!" Neville's voice came from the hallway again, and by the sound of Lestrange grunting, he had most likely hampered the Death Eaters yet again.
Harry quickly peered out into the hallway. To the left, Neville's form had disappeared down the stairs with the Death Eaters, and to his right was his exit. Lestrange's spell had blown out part of the wall leaving an exit into the streets of London. While the streets were hardly safe especially with Lestrange's team of Death Eaters around, staying here was surely the worse option. "Come on!" he called over his shoulder to Bianca, who was just getting to her feet now.
"What is it? Is Neville...?" Bianca stopped when she saw Harry disappear around the corner in the opposite direction. Hurriedly, and without even checking to see if the coast was clear, she followed Harry down the hall to the gaping hole in the wall. "Harry?" she questioned nervously.
Turning to face Bianca, Harry nodded solemnly. "Neville's… made his decision," he trailed off just as some angry grunts, followed by curses, and followed by screams of at least two people echoed down the hall from the first floor. Harry had a hard time swallowing. He had seen and heard a lot of pain, suffering, and death in the last little while, but it came back to bite him the worst when it was people he knew from Hogwarts. "Neville, take care of Hannah, Luna, and the rest for me, okay?" He shook his head to clear it and gestured to the window. "This is our way out."
The moonlight splashed over Bianca's face as Harry pushed her forward. He had checked and luckily enough there was an awning just below. They were on the second floor, so falling one story only would hopefully allow the awning to, well, not break. She was worried. Her face had age lines that shouldn't be there for several years. Harry didn't have time to wait for Bianca to come to grips with the situation. He pushed her out of the window just as Lestrange, now unmasked, came rushing up the stairs again. Harry's mind barely registered with grim satisfaction that he hadn't managed to repair the spell damage to his nose from their exchange in the Fall of Hogwarts.
A cruel twist of fate, Lestrange's foot landed squarely in the pool of Neville's blood at the top of the stairs causing him to slip. He crashed down in a heap with some intestines of the fallen Death Eater looped around his right foot for good measure. Harry quickly banished Lestrange back down the stairs which elicited a yelp from the unsuspecting Death Eater.
Harry turned his attention back to his alley of escape: the blown out wall. The awning was still intact, but there was no sign of Bianca below. Perhaps there had been trouble and she'd had to flee? Harry steadied himself for a moment and then threw himself out of the window. The sounds of Lestrange and other footsteps were coming ever closer.
The awning didn't hold his weight. It slowed his fall, sagged, and then tore at the seams to have Harry flailing wildly for the last eight feet. The cold, wet, stone walkway was surprising more comfortable than it should have been. In fact, it didn't hurt at all. He blinked for a few moments, poking the ground to make sure it was real.
"Cushioning charm, Harry," Bianca stated proudly, stepping out from the shadows. It was chilly and damp enough out that Harry could see her breath.
"Right, whatever," Harry muttered, although he was grateful, hopping to his feet. He grabbed the girl's wrist and pulled her swiftly across the street, nearly causing her to trip off of the curb. Luckily the streets were deathly silent.
When Harry was sure he'd headed far enough away to take a slight breather and look back at the supposed safe house, he felt even sicker to his stomach. There was a flash of green light seen through the blown out wall. The Dark Mark soared high above.
16th November, 2001
Harry shivered as he descended further into the forest. It was colder now and the wind was biting, but at least on this venture into the woods his clothes were dry, and he appreciated the difference. With his hands stuffed in his pockets to try to stave off the numbness that was slowly overtaking them he trudged on, sure to keep his wand firmly grasped in his hand that was feeling all too tingly for his comfort.
The sun was extinguishing itself on the horizon, but in this extraordinary forest the disappearance of natural light only made the surroundings more vibrant and alive. The dim orange and red hue vanished from between the trees and the woods, unhampered by the fading light, glowed brilliantly. The forest, Luna Lovegood had once, years ago, informed him was full of moonlilies. The pollen the lilies created while in bloom illuminated under the moon casting a silvery glow over all it covered. The effect the sight had on Harry the first time he saw it, on a snow-less Christmas over the holidays of his sixth year, he had been mesmerized by the raw beauty flowing around him. Equally, Harry had been just as captivated by the natural beauty of his companion.
Harry always found this particular forest location comforting, and yet it was not without sour memories. There was a time where he could count on companionship when he ventured here, but now even his eccentric and lovely friend could not be here to share this with him. There are times where people would often say "leave me alone", and Harry damned himself for every time he had ever uttered those miserable words in the quietness of this forest sanctuary. Sometimes, if Harry strained hard enough, he would swear that he heard her words of encouragement carried on the billowing breeze.
In the center of the woods was a clearing with several large rocks. Luna had told him a fairy tale on his first visit about how fairies and pixies used the rocks to communicate with the Heavens. Harry used them for a similar purpose today.
The bespectacled youth paused at a nondescript tree on the edge of his rather unused path. He slipped his wand from his pocket and motioned it to his left. On the tree a rune flared into existence, but winked out only seconds later. With his ward deactivated, Harry trudged through the last few feet of dense underbrush into his clearing.
The first rock was of medium size compared to the others in the clearing and stood facing the entrance way with a defiant slant to it. Harry ignored it and pressed further into the clearing, passing other smaller, similarly glowing rocks that had slumped in the moist ground sometime since they were arranged. Finally the hardened youth, still with his back arched trying to conceal himself from the whipping wind, came upon the massive slab of stone, that stood at least twice his height, with several carvings. On closer inspection they were names, all having been carved roughly, though with great care, with a the telltale sign of magic.
A shivering Harry pointed his wand at a non-marked section of the rock before frowning. He reached down brushed some fluorescent dust off of the surface leaving his fingertips glowing in the darkness. Before beginning his all too practiced ritual the warrior stalled and his eyes darted to some of the other names before settling on the original name he had carved in the rock. His heart gave a painful twinge.
Ginerva Molly Weasley. And then underneath in smaller characters: 26th December, 1996.
"Ginny," murmured Harry as he struggled to find the correct words. Harry always had the most profound feeling of guilt associated with the death of Ginny Weasley. Ginny was the first name entered into Harry's makeshift memorial, and Harry had vowed that it would be the last. That was a vow Harry was painfully inadequate in being able to keep.. "I'm... sorry?" his voice failed him for a few moments. "Sorry, for what? That I didn't share your feelings? That you took it so hard? That I was shagging your best friend? That you happened to see?"Harry shook his head quickly and squeezed his eyes closed in an attempt to block the flow of tears. "I did nothing wrong," he offered. "I did nothing wrong," he repeated. "And neither did Luna. She helped me understand. She really did. I hope that you can see that now." The words flowed as freely as the tears which now stained his cheeks. "I loved you, Ginny, and I'm sorry. I love you, but just not in the same way you loved me. You don't deserve me tarnishing your memory any longer by snapping at you."
It was always like this when Harry visited his memorial. It wasn't always Ginny, though. Sometimes it was Ron. Sometimes it was Hermione, or Dumbledore, or whomever he happened to be missing at the moment. He'd stand here and vent his feelings even if it was unfair. His only wish is that those departed didn't take his comments too seriously. Each and every one was a friend that he cherished and had died in the conflict that he was at the very heart of. To avoid looking at Ginny's name any longer, and further embarrass himself, Harry's eyes flicked to the side. That didn't make things any easier.
Remus John Lupin. 4th January, 1999. The image of Lupin's dissected body on the battlefield of Stonehenge rose to torture him. He looked further away from Ginny's and Lupin's carvings.
Ernest Alexander MacMillan. 30th September, 1997. Kill team lead by the Carrows. They were after Luna and himself instead, Harry remembered. Noble to the last breath, Ernie was there battling dark forces.
Colin and Dennis Creevey. 2nd June, 1997. Burned alive when the Lestranges sent some Fiendfyre rolling over their family home in Birmingham. Beyond the Creevey's there were even more names that Harry skimmed.
Padma Patil. 15th August, 1998. Arabella Figg. 10th February, 1997. Elphias Doge. 22nd March, 1997. Hestia Jones, Ditto. Cho Chang. 1997?.
Reeling from the blur of memories Harry sank to his knee in the damp snow that abounded in the clearing. Too many names. Too many dates. "And now... one more." Before losing himself fully, Harry swiftly raised his wand again and carved swiftly using a cutting hex.
Neville Winston Francis Longbottom. 13th November, 2001.
Neville's name joined the countless others that nearly covered the rock. Finding new places in the future might prove difficult. "But there aren't too many names left to add," Harry reminded himself.
Pomona Sprout. Filius Flitwick. Minerva McGonagall. Fall of Hogwarts. 20th June, 1998.
Despite the wracking guilt and inner turmoil seeing this location brought to Harry there were always three other names in addition to Ginny's that he always paid his respects too more than the others.
Ronald Bilius Weasley. Harry's best friend. The date was covered in fluorescent colored pollen intermingled with chunks of damp snow. He knew the date far too well. Ron had gone out in a blaze of glory as a true hero amongst his peers. His actions allowed what remained of Dumbledore's Army to escape to fight another day.
Hermione Jane Granger. The smartest witch of her age. She died being as much of a hero as Ron had been. After Ron's demise, however, Hermione had never been the same. A permanent sadness had clouded her mind.
Luna Astrid Lovegood. Luna had been the one person to understand Harry's grief over Sirius, his parents, and all the others that had died. She had understood his feelings of guilt and worked with him to overcome them. Always Harry's confident, and later much more, Harry had honored her memory in different way. Harry had carved the likeness of a sparkling moonlily, Luna's favorite flower, around her name. 13th September, 1999. Always Loved; Always Remembered. Wit Beyond Measure Is Man's Greatest Treasure.
Harry stared at the stone with a powerful combination of guilt and regret. He gazed upon Luna's name and epitaph that he himself had carved the day of her death. That had truly been the worst day in Harry's very troubled and tumultuous life. He had nearly lost himself to the overwhelming sorrow that had gripped his heart. Voldemort had very nearly won the war outright that day. "My love," he whispered running his frigid fingertips across the capital 'L' of Luna. He reluctantly pulled back after a few extra precious moments with his beloved.
"Too many friends," Harry muttered, his emotion welling up inside of him as he spoke, "Too much family... too many that loved and lost... now nothing but names to be remembered on a fucking stone wall." Harry's bitterness was no longer at peace inside of him, spilling out with each word that came out of his mouth.
Suddenly Harry's eyes and mind were drawn to a smooth part of the stone, untainted by the name of a person he held dear. Untainted with the regret he had to live with every day. The stone was huge, and it was full of names, yet fittingly it held only one more space. Was it meant for the next person, if anyone, he gave any part of his heart to? Was it meant for him? Harry gave serious consideration to the question, sure that if he left a note Voldemort would be all too glad to do the carving personally; Voldemort would be the type to like a piece of stone with "Harry James Potter" on it over his mantle place, hell, maybe he'd even make a Horcrux out of the damn thing.
Then in a rare moment of clarity, in a moment not filled with anguish, Harry smiled. A sense of purpose welled up inside of him as he now knew, with a confidence he did not know the origin of, whose name belonged there. Tom Riddle, the man who it could be said was the first to die in Lord Voldemort's rise to power, should fittingly be the last name on the stone. How great it would be, a man so ashamed of his blood and of his true legacy that he was forced to abandon not only the name, but his very humanity and soul to try to run as far away from the name Riddle as possible, his lasting legacy to the world would be that of a victim, another name in a sea of many names, none more extraordinary than the next, all footnotes in the grand scheme of things for their single defining common trait: Victims of a madman.
By the time Harry had returned to the ruins of Ottery St. Catchpole, the first town to be utterly wiped off the map since the war began in earnest, he found a bored looking Bianca waiting for him.
"You look like you've been through hell," she commented.
"Something like that," Harry acknowledged with a grunt. He'd tried to have this conversation with Bianca before, but it wasn't worth it. Bianca was not Ron or Hermione and especially not Luna. She simply did not understand what it was like to be Harry James Potter. "While I was returning I got word from Seamus. I might be able to blow off some steam if the news is correct." He reached into his pocket and withdrew a muggle cellular phone. Voldemort's forces were intercepting all known magical forms of communication so Harry and the rest of the Order were relying on equipment outside the expertise of Voldemort's followers.
"Where are we going then?"
"Little Whinging? I thought You-Know-Who burned the whole suburb to the ground."
Harry shot the woman a glare. The worst part was that she was being serious. Bianca was a good person, but Harry plainly felt the need to separate himself from her as quick as possible. "If you knew me you'd know that there's only one place I've truly ever called Home."
- If you pay attention to dates both blatantly written out in full and mentioned in other ways you should piece together a fairly good picture of a key event, but not in its entirety.