Will to Live
Another story. I know. I should be shot. But you guys love me really. XDD;; I hope.
Will to Live
You could have cut the tension with a knife had it actually been a tangible object. The silence was thick and stifling as every eye turned and locked onto the burning Goblet of rough hewn wood in front of them, the blue flames that danced and crackled from the mouth slowly darkening to an almost purple and then finally red, almost as if the flames had been poisoned. Golden sparks spat violently from the tip, as if it were trying to cough something up and then, finally, a sharp tongue of flame lanced up, high into the air. A tiny, charred scrap of parchment fluttering from the tip and into the waiting grasp of the aged Wizard below.
The intensity of the watchers increased three fold, to a degree where even he felt a bead of sweat begin to form on his head.
"The Hogwarts Champion," the old man called, making the students shift, perching on the very edges of their seats, "Cedric Diggory!"
"No!" Ron complained loudly, but nobody heard him except his best friend, sat next to him and breathing a silent sigh of relief as the Hufflepuff table exploded, everyone jumping to their feet screaming and stamping as Cedric made his way past them, grinning broadly, looking light headed and stunned as he headed off towards the side chamber behind the Teacher's Table. The applause took so long to die down that Harry's ears were ringing by the end of it and he too was clapping and grinning stupidly, perhaps it was selfish, but he was glad that only seventeen-year-olds were allowed to compete in the Tournament, he had been through quite enough excitement to last him a life time. He had no desire to put his life on the line anymore.
"Excellent," Dumbledore called happily, as the last of the uproar died down, the Hogwarts students back in their seats with every Hufflepuff wearing a face splitting smile. "Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real – " he trailed off and it was immediately apparent to everyone just why.
The fire in the Goblet has bled crimson again. Golden sparks flew from the mouth and a long tongue of flame jetted out, a fourth piece of charred parchment fluttering in its disappearing wake.
Automatically, it seemed, the old Headmaster's hand reached out and snatched the paper in midair, threatening to crush it into dust. He brought it down and carefully unfolded it before staring at the name written down in silence, his face grim. There was a long silence and then, as everyone stared at him, he cleared his throat and read out –
It was like a punch to the gut.
Harry moved as if in a daze as Hermione pushed him toward, he stumbled through the throngs of students, grey skinned, wide eyed and horrified, his hands were shaking and he felt sick. The hall was silent as he stared up imploringly at Dumbledore, begging him to explain what was going on, why he was being called, he was fourteen! He didn't stand a chance in this competition, he knew it, the staff knew it! Why... why was he being called?
But no answer was given and it was with a lead weight in his stomach that he walked into the Champions chamber, shaking, grey and terrified.
Cedric and Krum seemed to be the only ones who figured out that something was amiss, that was even before the Heads came thundering in along with the Ministry officials. Harry wanted to throw up. He wanted to go into a corner and throw up and hide away from the rest of the world because he couldn't do this! He didn't want to do this!
"Well... it is amazing," one of them was saying, Bagman he hazily recalled, he wasn't listening, it was as if everyone were underwater or speaking through cling film. He couldn't hear them, there was a ringing in his ears. "But, as you know, the age restriction was only imposed this year as an extra safety measure. And as his name's come out of the Goblet... I mean, I don't think there can be any ducking out at this stage... It's down in the rules, you're obliged... Harry will just have to do the best he – "
The doors behind them opened again and a group of people came in, the Heads followed by Professors McGonagall and Snape along with Mr Crouch. Harry wasn't paying attention though. His hands were shaking and he was staring at the fire, he pressed a hand over his mouth and another one around his stomach, he was going to throw up. He didn't pay attention to Fleur as she marched to Madam Maxime to complain about him, he felt a ripple of anger but gave it up, he was small for his age, and he was only fourteen, he was a little boy compared to her and everyone else in this room. There had never been a Champion younger than he was, that much he knew, the youngest had been Halfblood Yanik Ivanovich from Durmstrang, a month past his fifteenth birthday when he had been selected. He died. There were no rules about age for the Triwizard Tournament.
Rules... Yes. Hermione mentioned something about the Rules one night.
A school representative, a student, could only be a champion. It was to prevent the Teachers from attempting to take part and steal the glory and the prize from the younger, less talented students. To prevent Master and Apprentice from taking part for much the same reason.
Only a student could...
Harry felt cold. There... really was no other option was there? Not if he wanted to live to see his fifteenth Birthday. He... had been entertaining the thought of leaving before now. He... In his Second Year that he learned the Wizarding world wasn't all it was cracked up to be, their mentality made him feel ill, it was as though they didn't have an original thought in their heads. Whatever they were told they accepted as the gospel truth. No one second guessed authority, no one thought for themselves, they were just so... fickle. No one stopped to consider the Founder's History, no one stopped to even consider Hagrid when he was expelled, when he was carted off to Azkaban, no one stopped to think about getting Mandrake Restorative Drought from St Mungo's, the hospital, or even from the Apothecary in Diagon Alley. No one even considered looking for Ginny, just sat back and informed her family of her death.
And he would see these actions repeated in depressingly familiar patterns the very next year.
Third Year, he decided, was that much worse, he decided that the Magical World was rotten right through to the core, this was when his first desire to leave was born, when Sirius offered him a way out, a home and even if he hadn't been cleared Harry would have gladly gone with him and escaped Hogwarts without a backwards glance. Because it was freedom, it was safety and even though Sirius was hardly the best person to be taking care of him, Harry didn't need taking care of, he'd been doing it himself for as long as he could remember. He just needed someone to love him, protect him from the adults who sought to use him and from all those things he wasn't old enough yet to handle himself. But common sense dictated that it would be easier for Sirius to hide alone than with Harry tagging along, he would probably get them caught in all honesty as he neither had an Animagus form and he was entirely too high-profile in the Wizarding World to avoid a massive manhunt for, one beyond that of the one Sirius had to suffer through.
So... in all honesty... it did boil down to this.
Harry had no desire to die, and he had no desire to conform to the Stage that Dumbledore was beginning to set, he was hardly stupid, he was hardly blind. 'The safest place in the world is Hogwarts.' Funny, funny how it was safe for everyone but Harry and funny how the danger always seemed to be nudged just right to involve him, to aim for him. Harry was naturally a suspicious bastard, he had to be, what with Dudley offering him drinks laced with Anti-freeze or Vernon taking him out with the family from the kindness of his heart only to try and 'leave' him behind in an unknown place. Only Petunia had yet to do something like that, though the way she swung that Frying Pan at him in the drop of a hat was another thing entirely.
He... he was actually beginning to long for those days, those simple uncomplicated days where everyone knew the status quo and everyone knew the roles they had to play and Harry knew what his future would entail and how he would go about leaving them behind. But now he knew the truth and ever since he arrived in Hogwarts, that simplicity was shattered, painfully.
Every year... every year he nearly died. Sometimes more than once. Every year.
He looked up then, took a deep breath and said as loudly as he could without shouting –
Whatever Harry had been expecting when he returned to Gryffindor Tower, it most certainly hadn't been the impromptu party lying in wait for his arrival, though really, considering how it was the Weasley Twins who apparently threw everything together he shouldn't have been surprised. He hadn't been able to get a single word in edgewise as he was whirled from group to group, everyone cheering his 'success' in tricking the Age Line and getting into the Goblet of Fire. It was all Harry could do not to strangle the nearest available throat and scream at them to listen to him for once instead of just deciding everything themselves!
In the end, Harry slipped away and stalked up to the boys' dormitory, he didn't want to be around the crowd anymore, never wanted to be around it anyway. Did any of them realise how Hufflepuff may have been feeling right now? His heart sank and again, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Cedric and Krum had both managed to give him a little peace of mind, but walking in here, facing the wall of enthusiastic teenagers who weren't even willing to pause their merriment to hear what he had to say had shaken it from him.
Ron wasn't down there. Neither was Hermione.
He hoped they would believe him when he said he hadn't put his name in. He hoped, but in all of life's things, he didn't put much faith in it. Once bitten, twice shy.
Ron was fully dressed and lying on his bed when Harry slunk in, closing the door behind him to silence the merriment taking place below, for a moment, the Boy Who Lived observed his friend, long lanky limbs he had yet to grow into, stark orange freckles, short fiery red-gold hair that was almost curly, his second hand clothes that threatened to reveal an inch of ankle flesh as he lay down. And for a split second, Harry felt cold and sad, knowing that he wouldn't see his friend again for a long time.
"Oh, hello," the red head greeted, he was grinning at him but... it was just so fake that Harry didn't know how to reply, the words he wanted to say dried up on his tongue.
Instead, he smiled weakly in greeting and made his way to his bed.
"So," the other boy began, "Congratulations."
What was there to congratulate? "What do you mean?" he asked quietly as he began to unpack his school bag, not looking up at the red head as he piled his textbooks in one group and his notebooks and unused Parchment in another. Stationary was pushed to the side, uncaring as to whether or not the quills stained the bed with ink.
"Well... no one else got past the Age Line," he pointed out, still wearing that horribly fake and strained smile, "Not even Fred and George. What did you use – the Invisibility Cloak?"
"The cloak wouldn't have gotten me across the line," Harry pointed out slowly as he opened his bedside table and began to unpack the knick knacks inside as well.
"Oh, right," Ron realised. "I thought you might've told me if it was the Cloak... because it would've covered both of us, wouldn't it? But you found another way, did you?"
Harry frowned, "Listen," he bit out, looking over his shoulder at his friend, he didn't want to see that horribly fake smile, but he wanted to show the other boy he was telling the truth! "I didn't put my name in that Goblet. Someone else must've done it."
Ron's eyebrows rose, "What would they do that for?" he asked sceptically.
Harry bristled slightly at the tone and faced away, scepticism, disbelief, scorn, all there, all painful to look at coming from his best friend... former best friend, he guessed. Harry shrugged as he got down on his hands and knees and explored under his bed, coming up with a pair of old socks and the little statuette of Viktor Krum Ron had on his bedside – wordlessly, Harry tossed it onto the red head's mattress. "Dunno," he finally answered as he opened his trunk, it would probably be too melodramatic to say 'to try and kill me', even though it would have been the truth. He was just fed up of having most of his questions answered like that. 'Because someone is trying to kill you'.
Ron's eyebrows had risen further, "It's okay, you know, you can tell me the truth," he pointed out coolly, "If you don't want everyone else to know, fine, but I don't know why you're bothering to lie, you didn't get into trouble for it, did you? That friend of the Fat Lady's, that Violet, she's already told us all, Dumbledore's letting you enter – "
Harry cut him off, too angry, too hurt to listen to anymore, even his best friend thought he was lying, "I've been expelled, Ron." The red head gaped at him as the dark haired male scooped up his belongings off the bed and dropped them into his trunk, slamming it shut. "The Fat Lady's friend obviously didn't stick around long if she missed that. Snapped my wand and everything. I'm going back to the Muggles."
He grabbed Hedwig's cage and his Trunk, marching off towards the doors, "Goodbye Ron. Nice knowing you," he stated flatly, not looking at him as he left the dormitory and made his way down to the Common Room.
Ron could only stare at his departing back.
The room descended into silence, every eye turned toward Harry in startlement as the fourteen year old stared unwaveringly up at Headmaster Dumbledore.
"Expel me," he repeated forcefully. "The Triwizard Tournament Rules state that only a student representative of the School can be Champion. If you expel me, I will no longer be a student and the Contract will be broken." Bagman stuttered and Harry swallowed tightly, still staring defiantly up at Dumbledore. "Expel me," he repeated.
"Harry – " Bagman begun.
Harry jerked a hand up, startling him into silence, his face twisted in frustration, "Please, Professor. Every year since I've come to Hogwarts, someone or something has nearly killed me. Every year. Sometimes more than once. I survived on luck." He swallowed, "I'm fourteen, Professor. I'd quite like to live long enough to see sixteen. I can't do that if I'm taking part in this Tournament. I'm not suicidal. And I'm not arrogant enough to think I stand even the slimmest of chances."
Snape sneered and opened his mouth to, no doubt, launch a scathing tirade of piss and bile designed to do nothing more than insult and humiliate him, Harry didn't even let him draw the breath to speak before he was pointing at the Potion's Master and glaring. "And you can shut up! It has nothing to do with you!" he barked angrily, "Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth." He didn't know why he was lashing out like this, but he was just so fed up with everyone trying to kill him, everyone bad mouthing him, everyone thinking they could treat him like crap in one breath and then love him in the next.
"Come now, Mr Potter, surely – " Mr Crouch began, his voice attempting to be soothing.
"Expel me, or I'll snap my wand and never come back!" Harry snapped, his temper fraying, he wasn't stupid, he knew, he knew for a long time that it was Dumbledore who needed him, the Wizarding World needed him a lot more than Harry needed them. He had been planning his escape from the Dursleys' for years even before he found out that he was a Wizard, it wouldn't be too difficult to adjust those plans to take into allowance the Wizarding World, hell, it would be easier now that he knew he had access to all that money hidden within Gringotts. All he would have to do is catch up with the missing years of Muggle School, which shouldn't be too difficult, Potions like Wit Sharpening and the like would help his memory retention – and Harry was hardly ever stupid to begin with, he just had to act like it to prevent a Dursley Temper Tantrum and a week in the Cupboard.
Snape sneered, apparently regaining his mental faculties along with his sour disposition, "Just like your father, arrogant to the core," he seethed, "You would never be able to survive in the Muggle World, you selfish little wretch! Your tiny little puerile mind cannot – "
"Harry!" McGonagall spluttered in horror, her eyes widening to impossible proportions behind her glasses. Even Moody, who had just walked through the door, swore in alarm and horror as the Boy Who Lived snapped his wand over his knee.
Snape froze, his mouth open mid-sentence as Harry sneered at him, the broken pieces of his eleven inch Holly and Phoenix Feather wand dropping from his fingers to clatter hollowly on the floor, feeble scarlet and gold sparks sputtering from the tip.
"Did you think I was joking?" he asked quietly, only Cedric really noticed the slight waver to his voice, everyone else in the room had gone grey and green, staring at him horror as he essentially exiled himself from their world.
He turned away and roughly shoved the door open, "I'm leaving. Don't expect me to ever come back."
"Harry, my boy, don't – " Dumbledore began but Harry had just had enough.
"I'm not your ANYTHING!" he roared, "I'm tired of it! I'm tired of wondering when I'll die, I'm tired of being scared every time I get on the Hogwarts express, I'm tired of being scared every time I get off it! I'm tired of it! I'm tired of the Magic World and I'm tired of the Durlseys and most of all I'm tired of you and your constant meddling, your manipulations, your lies, your tasks, your tricks! I'm tired of your negligence! You nearly got Ginny killed! You nearly got ALL of us killed with those fucking Dementors last year!" he screamed, cursing and biting back the prickle of tears. He just couldn't stomach this any more. "And now you're setting up the Triwizard Tournament where they could die!" he added gesturing to the Champions, "Enough! Enough, enough, enough! No more! Go fuck yourself and your secrets old man and leave me alone!"
"Mr Potter!" He didn't know who said it, probably McGonagall, but it was enough to jolt him out of his anger, enough to make him calm down just long enough to turn away and march off out of the Great Hall.
Enough to make him sit down on the Marble Staircase, out of sight, put his head in his hands and just breathe.
Breathe and think about what to do now, where to go now and what to do when he got there. Breathe and calm down, simmer his anger and cool it off, to get his hands to stop shaking and his vision to stop spinning. To calm down and reassure himself that he had done the right thing.
Originally, he had thought he could expel himself for just that year, come back the following year like they sometimes did with Muggle Schools. A suspension wouldn't work because he would still be a student, but if he was off the Register as an Expulsee, then he could transfer back in after 'Homeschooling' himself. He could sit the tests at the end of the year, pass them, and rejoin Hogwarts at fifth year but now...
He'd let his temper get the better of him and now he was without that option.
The Gryffindor – ex-Gryffindor now, he supposed – sighed and leaned back, he guessed that his first step would be finding a place to live. Once he had that, he could think about everything else. He wondered if Wizards had anything like those people... the Housing Sales People... ideally he didn't want anything too big, he didn't have much stuff and he knew that he would rattle around in a big house, briefly he contemplated getting a Penthouse apartment with marble kitchen tops and a jacuzzi and a Queen sized bed in the middle of London before snorting at his own stupidity. He grew up in a Cupboard and spent the last three and a bit years sharing living and sleeping space with four other guys, he would feel insanely uncomfortable in a Penthouse or indeed, in anything even the slightest bit luxurious.
He would have to go to Gringotts first, see how much money he actually had. Muggle banks had those Bank Account things so he figured he should find out if there was any way of getting his Wizarding Money in the Muggle World, he doubted it though, otherwise the Grangers wouldn't have to keep going to Gringotts and exchanging their money with a Teller. Ah well, it wouldn't hurt to ask at least.
Then he could think about getting a new Wand – if Ollivander would sell him one, if not then... he couldn't be the only Wand Crafter in the world, could he? Harry would just have to hunt down someone else.
"Harry?" The Gryffindor jolted and looked up sharply to see Cedric stood in front of him looking a little uncomfortable, "Are you alright?" he asked hesitantly.
The Boy Who Lived stared at him for a moment before shaking his head and looking down, "No, not really. I'm sorry for making a scene earlier," he muttered, his behaviour back in the antechamber had been... embarrassing to say the least, he'd completely forgotten that he had something of an audience when he laid into Dumbledore like that.
"Don't worry about it." The Hufflepuff bit his lip and hesitantly sat beside him on the staircase, "That was pretty brave of you, snapping your wand like that," he said quietly, making the fourteen year old jerk slightly and look at him in disbelief, Cedric smiled encouragingly at him, "It was." He looked down at his clasped fingers, picking a little at his thumbnail, "If it were me, I don't think I would be able to give up magic. It's too convenient, I guess."
The two sat in silence for a bit, Cedric trying to think of a way to cheer the young Gryffindor up and Harry wondering if the Hufflepuff was having him on.
"To tell the truth," Cedric said, "I was angry when I found out you were going to be the Fourth Champion. I thought you were trying to be a Glory Hound, but then I actually looked at you, you looked so scared. You'd gone grey and I felt guilty that I'd even considered it. I had noticed before how you hated the attention Weasley kept drawing to you, how, whenever something went wrong, you would try to put it right. Like saving Granger from that Troll in your First Year or saving the Weasley Girl in Second." Cedric picked at his thumbnail, tearing a crescent off and flicking it away to continue scratching at the now raggedy tip, "I guess what I'm trying to say is, you're a modest guy so you wouldn't try to enter the Tournament. You'd only risk your life to help someone and entertaining a crowd or getting honour and glory won't help anyone but yourself so..." the Hufflepuff shook his head and smiled self depreciatingly, "I'm not coming across very well. Am I?"
"Not really," Harry admitted shyly.
Cedric laughed lightly, "Thought so. Look, you're a smart guy, you're not like other Gryffindors who don't think and instead just leap in head first." His smile was kindly and not at all malicious, but never the less Harry felt a little upset at his next words, "You knew you would've died if you competed so I'm glad you decided to leave. I don't want to know how everyone would react when they had to carry your body out, it would probably kill Granger and Weasley."
Harry nodded, Cedric hadn't thought he was capable of fighting in the Tournament either... but still, he was right, he would've died and it would have upset Ron and Hermione greatly if he had died. He smiled slightly, they might hate him and call him a coward for ducking out but... at least Hermione wouldn't be crying and Ron wouldn't be walking around like a Zombie.
"Cedric," he said, making the older boy cringe a little as he no doubt realised how his words could have been taken, "Thanks."
The Hufflepuff grinned cheerfully, "Don't mention it. Stay safe, Harry. If you need any help just send me an Owl alright? You know my Dad's in the Ministry so if there's anything at all, we'll do our best to help."
Harry nodded and watched as the Hufflepuff got to his feet and made his way down the staircase towards the kitchen, the Hufflepuff Dorms must have been downstairs in the Dungeons then. How odd, though, Badgers were creatures that had their homes underground, perhaps that was the thinking?
"I as vell, vill help if you haff need of it."
Harry jumped and nearly swore as Krum's thickly accented voice resounded next to him, the hawk eyed Quidditch Player having appeared from the Great Hall while Cedric and Harry had been talking. He had his hands in his pockets and his deep set eyes were watching the Gryffindor closely.
"You did the right thing. You are too young to haff to compete. It vould not haff been sporting forcing a fourth year to compete against seventh years," he explained with a brisk nod. "Should you haff need, I vill help. I hear you are good vith Quidditch, perhaps ve vill see how good?"
Professional Quidditch? Harry nodded, a slight smile coming to his lips, that was something that didn't require a wand and he was a damn good flyer. He may not be able to play Seeker, that was Krum's position, but Wood said he would have made a fair Beater, perhaps he could train for that or even get a recommendation as a Seeker for another Team?
"Thank you," he told the Bulgarian sincerely.
Krum nodded and then smiled, it changed his whole face, before he looked surly and unattractive, when he smiled it was like his whole face lit up and he looked so young. Harry was a little stunned to be honest. Krum should smile more often, he decided as he watched the man slouch off, no doubt leaving the school and heading back to the floating ship.
He should probably go to bed as well.
He could think about this complicated stuff tomorrow while he was on his way to Diagon Alley.
Getting to his feet, Harry rubbed a little warmth into his cold behind and began the long trek up to Gryffindor Tower.
Anger gave him energy as he stormed through the bitter chill of the Hogwarts grounds, heading to Hogsmeade and the Three Broomsticks, hopefully Madam Rosmerta would still be open and willing to let him use the Floo. True, he was supposed to wait for the Hogwarts Express tomorrow, a formal announcement was going to be made at breakfast but Harry just... he just didn't want to deal with the students, with Ron, with Hermione, with Snape, with just Magic in general. He would stay connected to the Magical World, but he wouldn't... wouldn't be a part of it. He could get a room at the Leaky Cauldron, like last year, and sort out whatever business he had to from there, Tom would be able to help him out as well, the toothless bartender had all sorts coming and going, he would certainly be in the know and he had always been very helpful and pleasant to Harry before.
Luckily for Harry, the Three Broomsticks was still open, it wasn't going to shut until midnight in another three hours.
Shouldering his way through the masses of witches and wizards he made his way to the counter where Madam Rosmerta was pulling a pint of Butterbeer, a quick conversation later and the exchange of three sickles earned him a handful of Floo Powder and the use of Madam Rosmerta's living room with which to travel. The pitying look on her face when she found out he'd been forced to leave Hogwarts made him severely wish that the Knight Bus could be summoned just by pointing a finger out and saying 'there's no place like home' three times fast.
Either way, he spun and spun and spun and got bruises on his hips and elbows and scratches on his knuckles from keeping hold of his Trunk until he was finally spat out in the Leaky Cauldron.
It was less busy compared to the Broomsticks but the clientèle were a lot shadier.
But never the less.
Harry was on his own from now on. He wasn't sure whether he should be excited... or scared.
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