Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit.
Author's Note: I lost a bet. The prize of the bet was a chapter of Princess from Harry's perspective. This is what I came up with. I wasn't going to post it, but figured what good did it serve if only one person read it.
It's only been edited by me. And that means that it probably needs work.
I heard the oddly familiar, yet unidentifiable rustling around me before I opened my eyes. It probably says something about me that I'm not unaccustomed to waking up and not knowing where I am or how I got there. I could hear arguing, but I couldn't make out exactly what it was about.
I dug through my memories, trying to piece together just how I wound up wherever I was. Well, who am I kidding, I'm sure I'm in the hospital. It wouldn't be a year at Hogwarts if I didn't wake up in the hospital not knowing how I got there.
Speaking of, hadn't my evening started in the hospital? Yes. It had. But then Dumbledore had interrupted me and I'd gone with him to the cave. That damn cave with the zombies. Had the headmaster not been quick with the fire wall, I'd have likely died there. But I'd managed to apparate us back after.
And then I remembered the dark mark above the north tower. And we raced there. He'd asked me to hide, and then I was forced to watch as Snape killed Dumbledore. I remembered chasing after them. I raced after multiple death eaters in the castle, chasing them down the stairs as fast as I could.
I ran into her at the bottom of the stairs. She was laying against the wall but seemed otherwise okay. I wanted her to stay there, but she insisted on coming with me. I knew better than to argue with her so I let her follow me.
We made it outside and we chased the Death Eaters toward the end of the castle grounds. I remember seeing Hagrid's hut go up in flames. I remember yelling after Snape, and to my surprise he responded to my taunts. Another death eater tried to curse me, but Snape chastised her.
But then something hit me. I could remember my chest being ripped open. And I could remember falling to the ground. And then I remembered hearing shrill laughter, the popping sound of apparation, and blackness. And then her face. Above me, smiling through matted hair. And then she fell on me and I didn't remember anything. But that was enough to give me an objective. I shot up in the hospital bed, opening my eyes and noticing the general chaos of the room. No one even seemed to notice I'd sat up with everything going on.
"Where's Daphne?" I ordered. My chest hurt when I spoke. Everyone in the hospital wing turned to look at me.
"You need to rest," Madame Pomfrey said, rushing over toward the bed and trying to get me to lie back down. I shifted away from her.
"Where's Daphne?" I repeated, more frantically.
"Harry, please," Hermione said from a few feet to my side. I hadn't noticed her or Ron before. I looked around the room. Some of the other beds were occupied but I didn't see her anywhere in the hospital wing.
"Where is she?" I growled. My tone must have been harsher than I intended because Hermione flinched away from my words, and Ron rose to defend her.
"Mate," He said, scolding me with one word. But I was uninterested in Ron Weasley at that moment. I pushed myself away from the nurse and lifted myself out of the hospital cot, much to Pomfrey's dismay.
"Mister Potter!" Pomfrey protested immediately. I ignored the nurse and looked down at myself. I was only wearing the jeans I wore out with Dumbeldore that evening; a fading pink scar graced my chest. It looked rather a lot like I'd been cleaved open. I could remember the pain and the blood, but I seemed okay for now, although perhaps a little weak and lightheaded.
"What happened?" I asked, taking my gaze off of my own body and looking around the surprisingly full hospital wing. Almost every one of the bed was occupied, I suspected that the nurse was close to expanding the hospital magically. Perhaps Daphne was helping with the injured, and that's why I couldn't see her.
"It was like you said," Ron said. I looked over toward him briefly, but quickly returned to scanning the hospital for Daphne. "We watched Malfoy on the map until he vanished into the Room of Requirement. And then we activated the old D.A coins and tried to ambush the Death Eaters as they entered the castle."
"How many were there?" I asked. I wondered if all of them followed Snape and Malfoy to the north tower or not. Judging from the people in the hospital I suspect they wreaked their own form of havoc on the castle.
"I don't know," Hermione admitted from next to Ron. "Five to ten maybe."
"Anyway the Death Eaters made a lot of noise. It roused some of the professors who joined in. It was chaos. And then we saw Snape running away with Draco and tried to follow him but we were blocked off," Ron explained.
"He took Draco to the edge of the grounds and apparated away," I said. I figured that they were already aware of that, but it seemed like pertinent information to add.
"We thought so," Hermione said. "But what happened with you and Dumbledore? Where is the headmaster?"
"He's dead," I said bluntly. "Snape killed him on top of the north tower. He used the killing curse." The words were like punching myself in the gut. I can only imagine how it must have been for Hermione and Ron. But I felt better immediately after saying it. And I knew that I needed to do something to keep myself busy. I couldn't brood about it. I needed to be active.
"What?" Ron asked, as if he hadn't heard me properly. Or maybe he just couldn't actually fathom what I was saying.
"Oh no," Hermione said quietly. She sniffed once.
"Mister Potter, you really must get back to bed," Pomfrey said.
"I'm fine," I said. I took my wand off of the bedside table and transfigured the bloody remnants of what must have been either my shirt or just cloths used to clean me up into a red t-shirt with a Gryffindor lion on it. I'd never transfigured clothing like that before. It had never seemed like something that I should have any cause to do. But I'd watched Daphne do it on multiple occasions when getting dressed in the Room of Requirement. Anyway, the spell came surprisingly easy to me. I hardly even noticed as I cast it and pulled the shirt over my head. I did steal a quick glance at Hermione, who looked moderately perplexed by the development.
I wondered exactly about my choice of shirt. Daphne has created a similar one after Gryffindor won the house quidditch tournament. I hadn't been able to convince her to wear it in public, but I'd rather enjoyed when she wore it and little else in private.
I smiled inwardly at myself at the memory. But Pomfrey interrupted my thoughts once more.
"Harry I insist. We don't really know what happened and you need to rest," she said.
"I'm fine," I snapped again. And I really felt fine too. My chest hadn't hurt past the initial pain on waking up and I seemed to have more energy than I was accustomed to in the evening. "How long was I out for?"
"Two hours, maybe?" Ron said.
"Two and a half," Hermione corrected. "Pomfrey just let us in about a half hour ago. They had to take care of something, I guess." I looked to the nurse.
"What can I do to help?" I asked. "Is there something that needs brewing or some errand I can run? Or should I find Daphne and help her?"
"Harry," Pomfrey started.
"She's dead," Ron blurted out. He looked surprised that he even said it. I started at him for a moment, hoping that I hadn't heard it right.
"What?" I snapped.
"She's," Pomfrey paused and stumbled over the next word. "Gone."
"No," I said quietly, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
"Harry, you should really rest," the nurse said. But I wasn't listening. I didn't want to listen. Everything suddenly felt so cold. And numb. I closed my eyes. I could still see her face smiling at me when I did that. And somehow I instantly knew that I would never see that smiling face again with my eyes open.
I didn't even try to fight back the tears.
I don't remember the funeral.
I don't know if that should bother me, or if that's for the best. I know I sat next to Hermione and Ron. And I know that Hermione kept trying to take my hand and I wouldn't let her. Something about me just didn't want Hermione touching me. At the time I couldn't explain it. But I just didn't want her that close to me.
I'm sure they were just interoperating it as my worry that something could happen to them. That I was just concerned I may lose more friends, or more people that were close to me. But I honestly wasn't thinking about that. I remember eventually crossing my arms across my chest and just sitting as still as I possibly could until the eulogies were over.
I do remember being glad that no one wanted me to say anything.
I also remember returning to the hospital wing after the event. Not because I was sick or injured, but because I felt I should help out. That I should at least honor the rest of the terms of my punishment from earlier in the year. Pomfrey never commented on it, and there wasn't really that much work to do as the semester wound down. But it helped to keep busy. Pomfrey kept her distance. She wouldn't answer my questions about Daphne. Instead she just told me that there was nothing I could do. That she would miss my former girlfriend as well. And that we needed to look to the future, and not the past, especially with everything that was going on.
After Dumbledore's lessons about the past I suspected that the headmaster wouldn't have fully agreed with that sentiment. But I could at least understand what she was going for. Anyway, being in the hospital wing kept me out of Gryffindor tower. And that seemed like the best possible idea for the remainder of the semester.
I remember passing the time in the hospital by transfiguring the potted flowers into anything that came to mind. The nurse would get annoyed with me when she stepped out of her office and the decorations changed. She told me not to overdo myself. But none of it seemed particularly taxing.
I spent the last few days of term avoiding everyone. And I was strangely okay with that. I spent the time thinking about what I was going to do. It wasn't particularly pleasant. I had no real idea exactly what the best course of action would be.
Eventually I came to terms with what I knew I'd have to do. I suppose that I've always really known what it would come down to. But once I finally decided to do it, everything seemed to make sense.
I woke early on my final morning at Hogwarts. It seemed odd to think of it as my final morning at the school. But somehow I just knew that I wouldn't be returning for my final year. I walked to the train with Hermione and Ron, but I mostly ignored them as we did. I think Hermione could sense that something was bothering me. But she didn't bring it up, and I didn't say anything.
On the train they attempted to talk about the future, but I didn't say anything definite. Ron assumed that I'd be coming to stay with them at some point during the summer. He assumed I'd want to be present for Bill and Fleur's wedding. Honestly, I didn't care and I suspected that I would not be in attendance. But I didn't tell Ron that.
I was almost glad to see the Dursley's. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to go back to Privet Drive with them. But there was some sort of comfort in the forced silence that accompanied them. Vernon and Petunia said nothing to me on the drive. Dudley wasn't present.
Vernon drove. His full attention forced through the front windshield. Petunia just stared out the passenger side window and I sat in the back and thought about what I was going to do. I felt completely clueless. You'd think I'd be used to that by now. But I still hated every second of it.
I walked straight up to the smallest bedroom at Privet drive, dragging my trunk behind me and doing my best to not hit any of the steps or the wall too hard. For some reason, I doubted the Dursley's would have said anything, but old habits die hard. Dudley was in his room playing some animated racing game with vaguely familiar characters. He didn't acknowledge me as I walked past.
I didn't even unpack when I got into my room. I just deposited Hedwig's cage on top of the dresser, she wasn't in it, choosing to fly back at her own leisure rather than take the train, and I didn't bother to open a window. She'd be back in another day or two and then would hoot at me for the remainder of the summer.
Of course, I wasn't really expecting to be here for the entirety of the summer, but I had no doubts that Hedwig would be able to find me, so I didn't spare her another thought.
I threw myself down onto my bed and just stared up at the ceiling. I couldn't think of anything better to do. I felt like I should be doing something, but I didn't have any idea what that could possibly be. So I contented myself with, at least for the moment, listening to the up-tempo electronic music coming from Dudley's racing game in the other room.
Somehow that reminded me of Daphne. She'd talked of meeting her family over the summer. At the time I'd doubted that Dumbledore would have let me go visit with the Greengrass family over the break. But I hadn't brought that up to her. She'd mentioned that they lived in a Muggle part of London and I'll admit that I'd been curious to see how her family lived. As they were Purebloods but she'd been clearly versed in Muggle items, unlike most of the Weasleys.
For a moment I debated writing to Astoria. I was sure my owl could have found her. And I could have at least found out when the funeral would be. Her parents hadn't even bothered to wait for me to wake up before they'd removed the body and Astoria from the school. Toward the final day of the semester I'd managed to pry enough that Pomfrey explained how she'd floo'd St. Mungos to contact Claire Greengrass almost as soon as Daphne and I had wound up in her care.
Claire and Nathan Greengrass had immediately come to the school. Pomfrey summoned Astoria and apparently the three of them took the body and left. Perhaps a half hour after she'd arrived in the Hospital wing they were gone. I wouldn't even wake up for another couple of hours.
I couldn't blame her parents. It's not like they knew about me. Well, about me and Daphne at least. She never mentioned that she'd really told them anything. Astoria may have known more. But Daphne had never introduced the two of us and I didn't think Astoria would have been able to sway her parents at that point.
I just stared at the ceiling and willed the time to pass. I wasn't sure exactly when Dudley stopped playing his game. But at some point that evening the house was completely silent. And that struck me as odd. I mean it shouldn't have, Privet drive was often quiet. But I soon realized that wasn't what I found awkward.
No, since Valentine's Day, when I'd started spending more and more time with Daphne, I'd grown so accustomed to her presence. And she'd always liked to talk. Sure she was perfectly capable of sitting quietly. And we'd done that enough. And I don't think she even really realized how much she could talk.
I'm sure she thought she was a quiet old stoic. If a topic annoyed her she would immediately shut up. But once I shifted topics she'd start all over again. It wasn't annoying. And she seemed to know when I didn't want to listen. But otherwise she would prattle on. And I missed it tremendously. Everything was too quiet now.
I spent fifteen days at Privet drive. Fifteen days of near complete isolation. I only ever left my room at night, after I knew everyone else was in bed. I'd eat whatever processed food was readily available and go back upstairs. I made no attempt to even work on my summer assignments. I knew early that I would not be attending my seventh year.
On my third day at Privet drive Hedwig showed up and I immediately sent a letter to Hermione. I tried to keep it as casual as possible. I was fishing for information. Information that she may not even know; but something that I'm sure she'd be able to find without much effort.
On my seventh day Hedwig returned. Hermione's letter was six pages. Two of it was the usual pleasantries and her parents' reactions to what was going on in the wizarding world. I skimmed those pages, looking for when she answered my specific questions, and hoping that it wouldn't take her four pages to do so.
Naturally, it did.
But her letter explained the Trace to me. It explained just how the ministry could track magic used by those under seventeen. And it answered my questions readily enough. Deep down, I knew all of this already. But I'd wanted the confirmation. I knew I'd have to use magic to get out of Privet Drive. And now I knew that would result in my expulsion from Hogwarts, a punishment that would have frightened me even a year earlier. But now, it didn't even really register in my head.
I tossed Hermione's letter into the corner of the room without paying any attention to where it landed and I went to bed myself. I pulled one soft fuzzy blanket tightly to my body and imagined that I was holding Daphne and not it as I drifted off to sleep.
I spent the next eight days working up the courage to do what I knew I'd have to. I knew I was being stupid, and that I should trust the Order and their plan to get me to the Burrow. But I didn't want to wind up at the Burrow. I knew if I wound up there I would lose some control over what I could do. But mostly, I just didn't want to be around other people. I just wanted the war, if it really even was a war, to be over.
On the fifteenth night I decided it was time to stop procrastinating. I could have probably just left straight from the smallest bedroom. But I didn't know exactly what type of magic was on the house. So I figured I'd walk outside and leave from there. What would a few steps be, anyway? And if a rogue Death Eater was sitting around waiting to murder me, well then the war would be over fairly succinctly. I stepped out of my room at half past ten and ran almost directly into Dudley.
"Where are you going?" he asked, eyeing me, like he could tell, despite the fact I wasn't dressed to travel or carrying any belongings, that I wasn't going to stay.
"I'm leaving," I responded quietly.
"You can't," Dudley said, looking alarmed. "That professor explained how you're safe here." I raised an eyebrow at my almost sibling.
"I'll be fine," I said.
"But we won't be," Dudley snapped. "Your friends will think we did something to you. They'll hurt us."
"I'll leave a note," I said. "They should be here tomorrow to make sure you three get somewhere safe. Who knows, with me being gone, you may not have to leave."
"I'm not going to let you leave," Dudley said, sternly. He looked ready to grab me to make sure I couldn't leave.
"Dudley," I said slowly. "Do you think that you can stop me, really?" The top three inches of my wand were sticking out from my pocket. I made a show if reaching for it.
"You can't do magic outside of school," Dudley responded, looking alarmed.
"Or I get expelled," I nodded. "But I have no intention of going back to school."
"Still, you wouldn't," Dudley said. But he'd frozen. And I just stepped around him toward the stairs.
"Let's not find out," I said as I descended. I didn't spare him another look back. I didn't care if I ever saw them again. But still, I hoped they'd be safe. They were rotten people, but what did it matter anymore?
It only took me a couple of seconds to move out the front door. I walked into the street and stared at the night sky. No curses hit me so I figured no one was waiting to ambush me. I wondered just how long I'd be able to deal with the thought that no matter where I went, someone might be looking for me, simply so they could hurt me. I wondered if I'd go as insane as Moody.
But then I decided it didn't matter right then. I picked my destination in my head and vanished from Privet drive with a loud pop.
Diagon Alley was still fairly busy despite the hour. I was glad that all Gringotts branches were open twenty-four hours a day. That was going to make my life considerably easier. Somehow, I doubted that the goblins would care if I'd been expelled or not.
I didn't bother with any of the tellers. I didn't even bother looking at who was in the bank. Instead I just walked over to the complimentary floo station in the corner, with a list of Gringotts branches posted above the fire. Paris was third on the list and I figured that, for now, that would be as good of stop as any. So I threw some powder into the fire and stepped through.
The interior of the Paris Gringotts was all white marble with ornate gold leaf fleur de lis symbols all over. I only spared the décor a cursory glance before moving up to the teller station.
A pretty French girl waited for me with a practiced smile. I vaguely remembered something from History of Magic about how the World Wars had wreaked havoc on the Goblin communities on the continent, and that many European Gringotts branches outsourced the more menial tasks to witches and wizards.
I walked up to the open teller and just blinked when she spoke to me in French. She seemed to understand my confusion and switched to an annoyed sounding English, asking how she could help me.
I explained that I was going to need to spend a great deal of time in the Muggle world in the upcoming months and was inquiring about setting up my account so I'd have spending money for that time.
She took my account information, looking a little surprised when it revealed who I was, but quickly resumed going through the required information. It only took about fifteen minutes. I opted to pick the full discretion package that would prevent Gringotts from revealing where I spent any money. I wondered if the Muggle world had something similar. I doubted it, but the Goblins were always careful. It was fairly common knowledge that Death Eaters had used similar clauses to cover their tracks. I didn't feel particularly bad about abusing it myself.
Eventually, she handed me a small plastic card with a long number above the words Harry J Potter before having me sign it with a charmed quill. I slipped the card and my wand back into my pocket and thanked her before I wandered over toward the complimentary floos.
I felt like I should have been thanking someone for this. But really, it had been Daphne that had given me the idea. I'd been reflecting on our conversations at Privet drive when it had clicked.
I'd remembered how her father worked in the Muggle hospital. I'd asked her how that worked, and she'd talked about how he'd send his checks to the goblins and they would convert the money and add it to their accounts. And how they issued magical debit cards for anyone to use in the Muggle world. I remembered thinking at the time that having one would be rather handy. And now one was burning a hole in my pocket.
Still, I knew I couldn't stay in Paris. I hadn't wanted to do this in England because I didn't want to risk someone spotting me there. But I knew the teller would eventually talk. So I needed to go somewhere else immediately. Again, I stared up at the list of Gringotts locations posted on the wall. I took about thirty seconds scanning all of them before picking one and stepping through the fire once more.
Valencia's Gringotts was no more crowded than the Paris one. I only took a minute to look around the building before ascertaining the exit and moved toward it. The streets outside were no more crowded than the bank. It took me about a half hour to find my way into Muggle Spain. I felt calmer once I did.
I walked the streets for another hour before I stumbled upon a hotel. I'm sure it wasn't the first one I came across, but it was the first one I really bothered to notice. It was just a mid-level chain and I wandered into the lobby cautiously.
The attendant at the front desk just looked tired. He didn't seem particularly interested that I walked in late at night looking for a room for the next few nights. My new card went through without any sort of issue and in a mere ten minutes I found myself in a hotel room. It was much colder and more sterile than every incantation of the Room of Requirement that Daphne and I had created.
I relaxed on the bed in the dark room for a few moments anyway. I wondered what was going on in England, if they even knew I was gone yet. Dudley would have had to have told someone. And I don't think he remembered Figg's squib status from after the Dementor attack. Either way, they'd learn tomorrow when people came to move the Dursley's to a safe location.
I decided to not focus on those thoughts and turned the television on. I picked a channel at pretty much random, just so there was some noise in the room. I crawled under the covers and imagined that Daphne was just finishing up her nightly shower, and that she'd be joining me soon. And that thought helped me drift off to sleep.
I ate breakfast at the small restaurant in the hotel, getting by mostly by pointing at what I wanted and keeping conversation to a minimum. None of the wait staff seemed too bothered by it so I just tried to be as nondescript as possible. After I finished eating I wandered into Valencia.
My agenda for the day was fairly simple, given that I hadn't taken any belongings, past my wand, with me from Privet drive. So I just wandered until I found a building with a relatively familiar logo on the front. At least one I'd seen Petunia have bags from before, so it seemed safe enough. I wandered in.
The sales staff gave me a slightly awkward look. I suspect my oversized clothing and general disheveled appearance lead to that reaction. I ignored them and moved to the men's department. There were a lot of suits and what not, which I wasn't particularly interested in so I just sort of walked aimlessly around, realizing I had really no clue how to properly shop. For some reason I suspected this would have been a lot easier with some type of female companionship.
Eventually I found an area with things I'd actually consider wearing. I stared at a few things for a moment, marveling a little bit at the price. Not that I really knew what clothing cost, but I had a hard time picturing that it was all that expensive. If it was, I thought wryly, it's no wonder the Dursley's didn't dress me well. I heard some sort of noise nearby but didn't pay much attention to it. My sardonic thoughts; however, were interrupted by a perky voice.
"Can I help you find anything?" a young female asked in accented English, seeming slightly confused. A small tag on her shirt read 'Corina'. I suspected the noise I'd heard before was her trying to get my attention in Spanish. I turned my gaze to her. I'd have bet she was older than me. She had tanned skin, dark hair, and bright eyes.
"Probably," I sighed and thought of an excuse amazingly quickly. "Lost my luggage at the airport. The airline told me it probably wouldn't make it here for a week or more and I may be on my way in the next couple of days."
"Ouch," she winced empathetically. "Well, what are you looking for?"
"Everything," I frowned. "I don't have much more than what I'm wearing."
"Well, what do you have in mind then?" she asked.
"Couple pairs of jeans, handful of shirts, shoes? Maybe a small suitcase in case I have to travel before mine shows up," I said.
"Well shoes are down a floor, want to start with jeans or shirts?"
"Jeans, I guess," I said. She smiled and we walked over to a denim section. It took some sheepishness on my side before she just started picking out things for me. Eventually she led me to a fitting room and I tried on the jeans. They all fit but I decided I didn't like half of them, for one way or another. Before I finished Corina showed up outside the door and hung a bunch of shirts on the side. I pulled them in and tried them on as well.
The entire affair, after I let her take over, took maybe an hour. She looked moderately surprised when my card went through. I was rather surprised by the cost of everything. But it didn't really matter. After inheriting from Sirius, I knew that it wouldn't even dent my finances.
I took everything back to my hotel room before starting my second mission of the day. I moved back into the magical section of Valencia. In the late afternoon it was a bustle of activity. I just stuck around long enough to steal a daily paper and moved back to my hotel. There wasn't anything in it about me. I assumed that was a good thing. I stopped at a restaurant in the Muggle world for dinner and then went back to my hotel.
I left Valencia the next day. While I trusted the goblins enough to not disclose my records to anyone, I didn't want to stick around in one place too long. I took muggle transportation to the airport and hoped on a flight to Palma. I didn't know anything about the city, or really even where I was going, until we landed on the Island.
As best I could tell there wasn't a magical presence on Majorca. The island was beautiful though. And I spent most of the day, after finding a hotel, walking up the beach, thinking that Daphne would have enjoyed it. The thought saddened me.
I tried not to think about it, but I could picture her, smiling and laughing, wandering ahead of me and talking about the beach or the sun or anything that took her fancy. It would have been a fun place to spend time with her.
My birthday came just a few days later. I celebrated it alone in Palma. It was a relief to know that they couldn't track me. I spent one more day on the island. Remembering that Bill and Fleur's wedding was set for the first, and I hoped they had a great day. I wondered what their plans for the future were. But that just made me think of the future, and that was something best ignored.
I killed the remainder of the day by screwing around with magic in my room. Transfiguration seemed easier than I remembered. But I shrugged and wondered if I was just thinking too much into it. I didn't seem to get worn out at all over excessive spell casting either. Eventually, I went to bed, thinking idly about how I'd normally be thrilled when the calendar changed to August, as it signaled just one more month away from the magical world. Now it didn't really mean anything.
I flew to Milan the next morning. I had no real reason except that I knew there was a Gringotts there as well, so I knew there was a magical section of the city, and that it was the first flight out when I got to the airport. It took me most of my first day there to find the magical portion of the city. And by the time I did, I didn't think it was worth exploring. So I found a nearby hotel again and checked in.
Deep down I knew I was stalling. But I was enjoying seeing the cities and walking around the towns. I was even enjoying the looks I got from people in the street, especially in Milan. Corina must have picked out easily recognizable brands of clothing. Once or twice I debated trying to woo one or two locals. Daphne had commented idly that I could have gotten most females in the school with a confident smile and kind words. But I thought she was just being nice. After all, it had taken breaking her nose to get her attention.
Early the next morning I found a bookstore in the magical part of town. I bought every book in English in the shop that dealt with the Dark Arts. The shopkeeper gave me a quizzical look as I checked out, but didn't bother to comment further. Not that I spoke Italian anyway. But he didn't know that.
I went back to my hotel and read.
Three days later I moved to Lisbon, via the Milan Gringotts floo. I checked the bookstore there as well, and found a few more Dark Arts tomes that weren't in Milan. I spent most of my time reading, and some of my time looking for food and at the sights. It probably wasn't as proportional as it should have been. But I liked the freedom.
I wasn't even sure what I was looking for. Something to track Horcruxes, perhaps. Any type of information that could lead me to them, or any type of information about destroying them, or battling them. Through the first four tomes I found nothing but a series of rather dark spells. Some of which I tried, mostly out of boredom, in my hotel room.
One, in particular, seemed rather vile. Its inspiration, for lack of a better term, came from the assassination of Julius Caesar. The victim was stabbed as many times as the Roman Emperor, but by magic with one single spell. It took longer to repair the damage than I'd hae liked.
Four days later I went to Munich. I repeated the same routine there. Two days of Munich turned into a day in Berlin. From Berlin, Ypres. Three days in Belgium and I decided to see what Vienna had to offer. Three days later I moved to Moscow. Two days later, Bucharest. Four days later, Istanbul. Finally, I flood to Paris. Deep down I'd know early on that nothing was helping. And that I was just procrastinating. And that I couldn't run forever.
I'd nicked a paper just outside of the Paris Gringotts. There was a great deal of news of England. And some speculation that I was surprised made it into the papers. But I doubted the Death Eaters were reading periodicals from across the channel. There were copies of the new, anti-pureblood legislation that was flowing out of England. France seemed concerned but was not ready to invade to deal with an English despot.
More surprisingly, though, they reported that Voldemort had been sighted near the location of Malfoy Manor on two occasions. Once by a reporter trying to get an exclusive, another going to meet a group of people who claimed they'd captured Harry Potter. The paper even gave a vague location of the home.
And I'd decided something somewhere between Russia and Turkey. I'd realized quickly that there wasn't a way of destroying a Horcrux in any of the books I'd bought. But I'd realized something darker after that.
There was no way I was going to find them. It was an impossible task. I had no idea where to look. Dumbledore had more knowledge of the area. He'd imparted me with some vague thoughts of where they might be. But Voldemort could have hidden them anywhere. And I wasn't going to be able to find the hiding spots, no matter how hard I tried. I couldn't end the war that way. I'd have to end it a different way.
A sense of calm washed through me as I made up my mind. At the very least, I'd enjoyed what may be my last month alive. But I shook that thought out of my head as I packed up my clothing and shrunk my suitcase until it fit into my pocket, a ritual I'd grown accustomed to in the last month.
I checked out of the hotel and moved through the magical section of Paris. I walked straight back into the Gringotts where I'd first arrived after leaving England. The same pretty teller was working. I smiled briefly at her before I moved to the floo.
Shortly after one in the morning on August 28th, I stepped back into England.
Nothing really seemed to change. But that shouldn't have surprised me. I'd barely been gone. I wondered, for a moment, just where everyone was. School would be starting soon, I wondered if my friends would go back, or look for me. With me out of the picture, they probably wouldn't be a threat.
Of course, the Death Eaters could very well just assume that they knew where I was. Perhaps my leaving had put them in more danger than I realized.
I walked into a nearly deserted Diagon Alley and looked around. There were no signs of life. It felt almost awkward to be there. Like I stuck out simply by being on the street. I saw an issue of the evening post sticking out of a nearby bin and grabbed it, tucking it under my arm as I walked.
I frowned when I realized that I wasn't going to accomplish anything that night. Not waiting until the morning seemed like a remarkably dumb decision. I stepped into the Leaky Cauldron. There were three patrons at the bar. Two turned to look at me, one ignored me. I just stepped through and out into Muggle London without giving them any glance.
The Muggle streets were more crowded than the Magical. I walked for four blocks before finding a hotel. I'd debated Grimmauld Place, as I owned it. But I didn't know what could be waiting there. So I picked out a hotel again.
Once I was in my room I read the evening post. I learned that Muggle-borns simply stole magic from rightful owners, that blood restrictions would be in place in Hogwarts, that creatures were being even more discriminated against, and that people were going missing. I saw the adverts. I saw my face with a bounty under it.
All of this information had an interesting effect on me. It didn't frighten me. It just annoyed me. But slowly the annoyance change to rage. Making me angry was all it really accomplished in the end.
I burned the paper with a quick spell before turning in for the night. I woke early, ate, and checked out. After checking out I stepped into an alley and apparated to the point where the French paper had indicated Malfoy Manor would be located. I sort of felt like I knew where it was anyway. Not that I could possibly explain how.
It was a dreary area, to say the least. I observed multiple houses for a part of the day. But once I saw one I knew it was Malfoy Manor. I couldn't explain how I knew, but I knew. It was like I'd seen the house before. Like I'd visited it before. I could remember rooms inside and wondered just where those memories would have come from. But I didn't let that bother me. I just waited. For any sign of Voldemort.
He didn't show. I'm not sure if I expected him to or not. But come late afternoon I apparated back to the nearby Muggle town and had a quiet meal. I tried to eavesdrop on nearby conversations to see if anyone noticed anything odd. But nothing came up.
I apparated back to the manor after I finished eating. Again, there was nothing unusual. I watched the sun set behind the manor in the distance as I waited for any sort of activity that I could use to my advantage.
Eventually, I realized I was stalling. I decided to myself that I didn't care how it ended. But that it would be over tonight. And so I stood and walked toward the house, fully expecting alarms to go off as soon as I stepped onto the grounds. But they didn't. Could Voldemort be that arrogant? Or perhaps he just wasn't using the house as a base.
When I got closer to the house I noticed a familiar figure sitting out on the middle of the gardens. That warranted further investigation so I moved in that direction. It seemed to be throwing bread at some swans. I recognized the platinum blond hair.
"Hello Draco," I said. He jumped up and I hit him with a body bind. Seeing him infuriated me. But I tried my best to not let that show.
"Potter!" He yelled. I punched him.
"No yelling," I said. He stared at me with wide eyes. I really looked at him. He was broken. He looked too thin and pale. And I almost felt bad for him. For a moment. But I shoved that thought out of my head.
"What do you want," he said.
"For this to be over," I admitted. "I never wanted any of this, Draco. But no matter what your master wasn't going to accept that. So here I am. One way or another it's over tonight."
"He's going to kill you," Draco said.
"Maybe," I shrugged. "But he's failed before. And he's already taken everything I care about from me. What's my life? Anyway, if we're talking about him. How do I summon him anyway."
"Why would I help you?" Draco scoffed.
"Because I'm going to kill you if you don't," I said calmly. I wondered if it was the best time to take Daphne's advice about being more confident. But given that Malfoy just started laughing at me. I figured it didn't work. His laugh irritated me.
"You don't have the stones," Draco taunted. I raised an eyebrow and slashed my wand at the swan he'd been feeding. I didn't really want it to turn into an explosive red mass of goo, and I felt bad as soon as I did it, but I tried not to think about that.
"You were saying?" I said? It worked. Draco looked terrified.
"You touch a Dark Mark with your wand and say his name," Draco said, his eyes glancing to his wrist.
"And how long does it take him to show?" I asked.
"It can be anywhere from instantaneous to twenty minutes," Draco admitted, his eyes darting around. "Given that it's late and the last I heard he was on the continent, I would think it will take him a bit of time to get here."
"Interesting," I said, waving my wand at him, vanishing his shirt to reveal the Dark Mark on his arm. I pressed the tip of my wand to the dark mark and muttered the name of the dark lord. As soon as I did a searing pain shot through my scar. I was greeted with a momentary vision of Moscow. Perhaps I hadn't covered my tracks all that well.
I recovered quickly, but the pain in my head reminded me of my connection with Voldemort. And that reminded me of how my wand wouldn't fight his. I saw Draco's sticking out of his pocket and nicked it. I wouldn't have time for anything unexpected once Voldemort arrived.
"You said you'd let me go," Draco stammered. He seemed afraid of the concept of his master arriving here.
"I said I'd let you live," I responded. "I'm not going to risk you warning anyone right now. Are the disappearing Muggleborns here?"
"They're all dead," Draco said. I gnashed my teeth together. "Well except for Granger."
"Hermione is here?" I said, gazing toward the house.
"She, Weasley and his little sister." Draco said. "They've been here since the first. He gave up everything he knew almost immediately. They were harder to break." He sneered at me and I felt my blood boil. I'd intentionally wanted them left out of this. It's why I left. And instead I'd condemned them to a worse fate. I leveled my wand on Draco.
"You said you'd let me go!" he stammered, sensing what I wanted to do. My arm hesitated for a second.
"You know what," I said through grit teeth. "I'll give you the same chance you gave me. Sectumsempra." The purple magic was more controlled now. And I cleaved his chest clean open. His body fell next to the swans and I didn't spare him another thought. Instead I walked away from the garden, into the open area nearby and waited.
"Hello Tom," I said fifteen minutes later, as soon as I felt him arrive. He appeared behind me, and I didn't turn to look at him. Everything seemed to chill for a moment. Voldemort didn't say anything at first. I suspect he couldn't really believe what he was seeing.
"Harry Potter," he said quietly. "Come to die?" I shrugged my shoulders and turned to face him.
"We'll see," I said. We must have made quite the picture. Quite the dichotomy. He wore a long black robe, the only attire I'd ever seen on him. His wand held loosely in his right hand. He hesitated, though, as he stared at me. I was dressed in black muggle jeans, with a dark blue t-shirt. I held Draco Malfoy's wand in my right hand, and my own in my left.
"Confident," Voldemort chuckled. Almost as if he appreciated the flippancy.
"Well, you are oh-for-six," I smiled. Voldemort raised his wand. I didn't move. Instead I waited just a second and spoke up again. "I'm surprised you don't want an audience."
"An interesting point," Voldemort said, "Although your corpse will be all the proof I need. Avada Kedavra!" I stepped calmly aside from the green blast and turned my gaze toward the manor.
"I had similar thoughts," I said. "About your corpse that is. But I think I'd rather have an audience to truly understand what's going on. Ignis!" I turned my phoenix-feather wand on the Manor and the upper floors of the building went up in flames.
"What are you doing!" Voldemort said. I turned back to him.
"I told you, I wanted an audience. How many of your followers are in the building, Tom?"
But he didn't respond. Instead he just started shooting spells at me again. A variety that I didn't always recognize or understand. But I managed to dodge or shield them readily enough. My scar started to hurt as he grew more impatient and furious. But I didn't fire anything back at him. Our light show brought spectators though. One by one they started to filter in. Some left and came back with more. Until there were perhaps fifty in all there, watching the duel.
I wondered if that was all of them. It was certainly the largest gathering I'd ever seen. And I supposed fifty dark wizards would be capable of doing massive amounts of damage against muggles. Oddly, I never felt overwhelmed as I looked around at all of them circling us.
"My son!" I heard a shriek from the side. From over where I'd left Draco's body. He'd stopped convulsing and whining about eight minute after I'd cursed him. Honestly, I felt worse about killing the swan.
"Our boy?" I recognized Lucius's voice and turned my attention over to the two. Narcissa stood over Draco's body. And then she looked up at me.
"You. You murdered him!" I laughed as she yelled. It was perhaps, not the best response. As she turned on me and shot a killing curse my way. She aimed poorly, though, in her anger, and it shot well above my head. But it was enough to infuriate Lord Voldemort.
"The boy is mine!" he yelled, and struck her down with a killing curse of his own. The audience seemed shocked.
"You bastard!" Lucius yelled, he turned his wand on Voldemort as well, but exploded before he even got a blast off. There was a murmuring from the Death Eaters around us. Some of them, I think, we're frightened.
"Nice master you all have," I said, flippantly. They turned their gazes back to me. "Seems like a pretty shitty gig." One Death Eater turned to run and he too, was struck down by Voldemort.
"You will all stay and watch my triumph!" Voldemort said. I stared at the fallen dark wizard for a moment, before speaking.
"You're going to run out of flesh of the follower," I said.
"Like you could even kill me anyway," Voldemort said.
"I'm not even going to try to kill you," I admitted. Voldemort laughed, a loud cackle over the dark field.
"See! Even the boy admits that he cannot defeat me!"
"I didn't say that," I smiled. "Everything ends tonight, Tom. I know a lot more than you expect. I know I can't kill you. But I don't need to."
"Boy, I will kill you tonight," Voldemort yelled. He fired another spell at me but I apparated away. I watched from a few feet off as the spell hit Yaxley, I think, in the chest. The Death Eater went down like a ton of bricks. Another turned to try to flee and Voldemort killed him as well.
"You're going to run out of support in a hurry if you keep that up," I said. Voldemort shot another spell at me. I shielded it with a blinding flash. A few Death Eaters near me shielded their eyes. I leveled my phoenix wand on them and once again used Sectumsempra before apparating across the field once more. I found myself a few feet away from Snape and Pettigrew.
"Fight me, boy!" Voldemort yelled. He shot another killing curse at me. I grabbed Snape, the potions master looked both shocked to see me and scared for something. I pulled him in front of me and used his body as a shield. He crumped in my hand and I dropped him to the ground, figuring that at least Snape did one nice thing for me in his life. Voldemort shrieked in annoyance and I figured I'd take care of a little more business.
"Tonare!" I yelled, and Pettigrew's head disappeared.
"What are you doing, Potter," Voldemort said, quietly. I looked toward him and saw he'd lowered his wand. Obviously I'd piqued his interest now.
"I told you, I'm ending this tonight. There was only one way I could think to do that. And this is it," I said.
"Explain yourself," He ordered. "You can't beat me."
"Actually, you can't beat me," I echoed. "Because that would be partial suicide."
"What are you talking about?" The Dark Lord spat, and I could see I really had his attention. My scar burned as he tried to read my thoughts.
"You never really thought about marked as an equal, did you?" I laughed. "You created your own demise without even realizing it."
"Explain!" he ordered.
"I'm your last horcrux, Tom. I'm one seventh you. Just like you are right now. But unlike you, I'm much more."
"What?" He looked shocked. He gazed around, and I wondered if he even knew the fate of his other Horcruxes. I figured the snake couldn't be far away, but I wasn't going to worry about that at the moment.
"I'm also Harry Potter. My parents died for me. They offered me their protection in the end. You took away the chance of anything else. Years later you took away my Godfather as well. He died to try to protect me. And months ago," My voice caught as I remembered Daphne. "You took away another I cared about. She died to give me life. Everyone I've cared about, you and yours has removed from this life. And I'm done with it all, Tom. It's over tonight."
"Passionate speeches do not win duels, Potter," he laughed. "No matter what you say. You're just a boy. You really stand no chance." He fired more spells at me. I shielded them, I deflected them, I dodged them. More strays hit his followers. They were now making as much effort to dodge as I was. But no more of them tried to leave.
"Your master still can't touch me," I laughed, addressing the audience now. "Many of you watched me beat him in the Graveyard. And have watched as he's failed to kill me since. Perhaps you're on the wrong side." My comment was teasing. But some of them shifted toward me. They simply earned Tom Riddle's wrath, though, and fell as quickly as the others. There were perhaps only twenty left.
"Enough boy!" he yelled. And then he brought out the big guns. He scorched the earth; he shot spells nearly faster than I could comprehend. But he left his mind open. My scar burned and burned but I could see into his head. I could see what he was going to do, and I could avoid it all. He was all fury and I remained calm.
The entire spectacle lasted perhaps twenty minutes before he collapsed to his knees. I laughed quietly.
"Lord Voldemort," I chuckled. "Defeated by his own exhaustion?" The Death Eaters milling around murmured to each other. Voldemort had halved their number in his onslaught. They'd certainly noticed that. As they'd also noticed that their master was panting on the ground before me. And I hadn't fired a single spell.
"You insolent," he started but I raised my wand and he just stared. I picked out one particularly nasty spell I remembered from the books I'd read.
"Tyrannis," I muttered, and twenty-three successive jolts shot from my wand and pierced Voldemort's body. He fell face forward to the ground. I barely spared him another look. Fourteen Death Eaters remained. Half of them ran. The other half pulled their wands. But they were frightened, awed, and slow. I'm not even sure most of them realized what happened. When I turned back to Voldemort's corpse I could already see his wraith form rising out of the body. It shrieked and flew straight for me.
I stopped it inches from me, smiling.
"I prepared for that, Tom. It seems there's not much in any text I could find about finding Horcruxes. But restraining a ghost isn't that difficult," I said. It shrieked again.
"I will get you, boy! I will get another of my horcruxes and come back!"
"Well, you are awfully low on flesh," I gestured to the corpses around us.
"I can stamp my feet and get more followers!" he yelled. I resisted the urge to point out he didn't have any feet.
"Do you seriously think, Tom, that I'd go through all of this if I didn't think of that already?" I summoned the robes off of his corpse and transfigured them into a small silver cylinder with a pointed top. I threw some fins on it for good measure.
"Boy, what are you doing?" the ghost asked.
"Ending this," I said, as I forced the spirit into the cylinder. I'd read about this as well. The spirits couldn't pass through silver. I may not be able to finish Riddle's ghost. But I could get rid of it another way.
"Boy you will," but his voice stopped once I sealed the container. I wandered over to where his corpse was and picked up his wand. I pressed all three together and stuck them to the bottom of the cylinder and gazed up at the horizon. One bright object stuck out and I smirked a bit.
"Oh don't worry Tom. I suspect the container will break when it impacts on something. You just better hope my aim is pretty good tonight. But then again, Mars is particularly bright tonight," I said to no one in particular. Although when I focused on my scar, I could sense his panic. He could at least hear me. I pointed the three wands and cylinder at the planet and focused all of my magical power into one spell and fired.
The sheer force of it knocked me to the ground. I was winded and dizzy and by the time I could focus I couldn't see the cylinder. I focused on my scar then, and could sense it and see it. I saw it rise and rise and rise and then I saw it surrounded by an ocean of black. I followed it until distance broke the connection. I rose to my feet after I could no longer sense it and muttered to myself.
"Bon voyage, Tom. Bon Voyage."
I paused then and surveyed the scene. I was dimly reminded of the burning manor behind me and I canceled the spell. I tucked Voldemort's wand into my pocket, snapped Draco's and tossed it into the direction of his family's corpses, and kept my own holly one out.
I walked next to Voldemort's body. I could see the stab wounds all over and winced a bit at that. But he probably deserved worse. I summoned another set of Death Eater robes to me and transfigured them into a stake. One quick spell cut off Voldemort's head. Another flick of my wand impaled it on the stake. A third impaled the stake into the ground. A macabre monument to be sure, but part of me hoped they never took it down.
"Morsmordre," I said, pointing my wand to the sky. The Dark Mark filled the night readily enough. I paused for a moment, know that it would get the ministry's attention by itself. But I didn't like how it looked. I raised my wand on it once more and drew a green lightning bolt piercing through the skull.
And then I waited.
Twenty-five minutes later the first Aurors arrived on the scene. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks stared at me. Tonks ran to hug me but stopped when I held up a hand. Kingsley looked up at what I was standing next to.
"My god," he muttered quietly. Tonks looked up at it, and then around the field, and shrieked.
"What did you do!?" she yelled.
"In fairness it was about seventy to thirty, Voldemort to me," I said.
"You killed these people?" Tonks asked. She had her wand leveled on me. As did Kingsley. I was still holding mine, but it was pointed at the ground.
"Some of them," I nodded.
"You're coming with us, Mr. Potter," Kingsley said. His voice wasn't menacing. And I do think he was perhaps just interested in getting me out of the field. But I shook my head.
"I'm not going anywhere, Kingsley. If you need to get the minister, I'll wait," I said.
"Mr. Potter, I insist," he said.
"Kingsley," I sighed. "I will go through you, if I have to, but I am not going anywhere with you." Kingsley looked up at Voldemort's head, weighing my words.
"Tonks, wait here. I'll return in moments." And he apparated away. Tonks looked at me and shook her head.
"Harry, you should leave," she said. "Scrimgeour is dead. Thicknesse isn't your safest bet."
"Tonks," I sighed. "I'm not going to stay here long. I just need to get a point across. And then I've got seven more Death Eaters to find."
"Seven?" she asked.
"That's how many got away," I said as Shacklebolt popped back, he was accompanied by perhaps two dozen Aurors, and a few members of the Order. I recognized Bill and Fleur, Charlie Weasley, the twins, and other familiar faces. They all stared at me. And then saw the display next to me. Some expressions were elated, other horrified. I didn't really care one way or another.
"I'm leaving," I said after the din died down. Kingsley seemed to be the one in charge. Whomever Tonks has referred to did hadn't shown up. The Auror looked at me.
"Mr. Potter we need to know what happened," Kingsley said.
"I ended the war," I responded.
"But how?" he asked.
"That doesn't matter," I said. "It's over. Voldemort is dead. And I'm done."
"Harry," Bill said, perhaps sensing the anger in my voice.
"No. I'm done. Bill, Fleur, sorry I missed the wedding," I said, remembering that I'd skipped out right before it. That had probably negatively affected the event.
"Harry that is unimportant," Fleur said, but I waved my hand to silence her.
"This is all over," I said again. "There's a dead dark lord, and forty odd dead Death Eaters here. I look back, and you know something? My parents died for me. Cedric died for me. My godfather died for me. Dumbledore died for me. And my first girlfriend died for me. All because none of you could stop this."
"Harry," Bill started again, Kingsley deferred to him. Apparently he thought a Weasley could calm me.
"I'm furious with all of you, Bill," I said. He stepped away from me. "I've only stuck around to make one thing clear. I don't care anymore. I'm leaving. If you try to find me I will give you the same treatment that I gave Lord Voldemort." They all winced at his name.
"Mr. Potter such a threat," Kingsley started and I just laughed.
"Such a threat? Harsh tones worked so well on Voldemort didn't they? One seventeen year old wizard did all of this, Kingsley. While you sat back and hid. It wasn't even really that hard. Had you mobilized," I let my voice trail off and shook my head. "I told you I don't care anymore. Tell them I killed him. Tell them I'm dead. Hell, tell them a team of Aurors did it. I don't care. I'm leaving. If someone comes looking for me, make it clear to them, that they will die." And I apparated away, wonder if they'd quote me in the next day's paper. Perhaps the headline could be Dark Lord Potter Threatens English Aurors.
I checked into a hotel in the Muggle London, not too far from Trafalgar Square. I'd picked out an expensive suite. The night concierge seemed rather surprised that anyone showed up at that hour, but I didn't care.
I intended to just go to bed immediately, I was exhausted. But the large marble tub in the bathroom won over and I slid into the warm water moments later, closing my eyes and wishing Daphne was in my lap. I fell asleep in the water. I woke up long enough to get out and magic myself dry, before collapsing into the bed.
I woke in the evening and dressed. I grabbed my invisibility cloak and stepped out into London. I threw it on outside of the Leaky Cauldron and snuck in just long enough to steal an evening paper before heading back to my hotel to read it.
The official story was that the ministry and I had raided Malfoy Manor after receiving a tip that many Death Eaters were congregating there. Voldemort had come to the aide of his follows, and a massive battle ensued. I killed Voldemort. They gave me full credit for that. And I was also no longer Undesirable Number One. Which was a perk, I guessed. They had a list of the dead. They noted which were found to have the Dark Mark on their body. There were only two names that they indicated didn't.
Ginny Wesley's body was found charred to death, tied up in one of the upper bedrooms. The paper didn't speculate on the cause of the injuries. The wandmaker Ollivander also found burned and suffocated in the basement prison.
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, though, were both found alive, albeit burned and struggling to breathe in the same basement.
I'd forgotten that Malfoy had even mentioned it. The article implied that one of the Death Eaters lit the house on fire in an attempt to get the Aurors to flee. I winced. I'd killed two people purely by accident. One of whom had been a close friend. And I'd nearly killed my best friends.
I put the paper down, knowing I couldn't ever possibly face them again. I checked out of the hotel the next morning and left.
It took me thirty-six days to find the seven Death Eaters that had fled the manor. I'd found the last two shortly after they'd wiped out the members of a Magical Research Team headed by Claire Greengrass. I didn't know why they could have been there, but it had infuriated me. Could I have possibly caused more pain for that one family? Once they were dead, I left England.
I took a plane to Canada first. Landing in Montreal and finding a hotel. I'd realized in my month away from it all just how much I liked to travel. So I traveled. I went from city to city to city to city. I spent about a month in Montreal, taking in the sights and the people. A week of it I spent with a pretty blonde named Sophie. But she'd returned to Saskatoon and I'd decided to move south.
I don't think I can even accurately describe New York City. It was massive, sprawling, and positively alive. I spent three months there and still felt like there was more to see and do. I left after the holidays.
I spent some time in Baltimore, and checked out the museums in Washington D.C as well. I was particularly awed by the Lunar Module in one of the many buildings. But I changed directions after that and went back to Canada.
I stayed in Toronto until summer. I spent more time among people there, simply going out. I'd modified my magical identification to say I was old enough to drink in the United States, so I started doing a fair bit of that. That led to waking up with the occasional random girl in my hotel room, or sometimes their home. I typically apparated away in a hurry in those cases.
I moved to Chicago next.
I didn't take me long to fall in love with Chicago. Perhaps it was just because I had some more experience with cities. But I loved the centralized downtown, everything was easy to get to. I could walk anywhere without much concern, and it also felt alive. But it wasn't as massive as New York.
I went to Wrigley Field and watched a strange muggle sport. I wandered up and down the lakefront. I wandered through the parks. I found many restaurants and bars. When winter rolled around I went to the United Center to watch another strange muggle sport. This one at least reminded me of quidditch. I learned how to properly eat a hot dog and I learned how to properly celebrate Irish holidays.
I even bought a town house in downtown Chicago, just one street away from the hustle and bustle of the main commercial areas. I made new friends, mostly muggles, and spent nearly a full calendar year in the city. I had a two month long fling with a college student named Lyn until she went home for the summer. And honestly, there was a while there where I thought I was going to settle in the city. I could picture myself staying in Chicago forever.
But some reporters caught up to me. They wanted to know if the ministry version of events was true. I didn't want to live up to the promise I'd made to Kingsley, so I just left. I wound up in San Diego and relaxed for a month on Coronado Island. I learned to find a small bit of joy in watching the gigantic naval war machines go out to sea, and the small jets fly overhead, flying home after long missions.
I went further south after that, moving into Brazil. Sao Paolo was lively and I liked the atmosphere, but I didn't last long there. I took a plane to Tokyo and got a massive load of culture shock.
But I loved it. It took forever to pick up enough of the language to not be totally useless. But I still had fun. Everything there was so different, and so bright and vibrant. And everything was so crowded.
I was in Tokyo when I realized that I'd been gone for exactly two years. I looked back and marveled at how little time it really seemed like. Shortly after the two year mark I was greeted by a familiar face.
Hedwig showed up one night while I was standing on the balcony of my hotel. She hooted at me and flew straight to me, practically hugging me with her wings. I laughed aloud and hugged her back. I hated to think of just how my owl got to Japan, but I'd long since learned that magic could do some wonderful things.
She had a letter tied to her leg, with my name written on the face. I wondered if other people had tried owls to communicate with me. I suspected that maybe they had. But Hedwig had always been special to me. Even if she seemed slightly annoyed that I didn't have any owl treats readily available.
The letter was from Luna Lovegood. She sounded less dreamy in print, although her handwriting had a certain waviness to it that made everything seem less solid. She briefly stated that she hoped I was doing alright and that she and my friends missed me. And that perhaps it wouldn't hurt if I could write something on occasion.
And then she asked for a favor. She knew I was traveling. The entire wizarding world knew I was traveling. She asked if I'd write articles about the places I went for the Quibbler. She said it would fascinate people to learn about other parts of the world.
I thought about it for a moment. I'd never really written anything. But I sat down at the desk in the hotel room and started to write about Tokyo. The words flew out of me. It seemed so easy to praise the city and talk about things I'd done, people I'd met, places I'd seen. I sent Hedwig back a few days later with pages and pages on the city, but no information on myself.
And then I left.
I went to Sydney next. It was nice to have people actually understand my English again. But I didn't stay there long. A few weeks later Singapore seemed interesting, and then a few weeks later, Thailand.
Hedwig returned when I was in Thailand. She had a copy of the quibbler with my ramblings about Tokyo in it. Luna stated it was the best-selling issue since I'd given an interview. She'd indicated that a deposit for a share of the revenue had been made into my vault at Gringotts and she thanked me for my efforts.
Again, she included some notes from my friends, random words of encouragement attributed to various people. She stated that Hedwig had been the only bird to actually return from a trip sent out looking for me. And that she hoped I would keep writing when I had a chance.
I wrote another article, this time about New York. I didn't know if people would come looking for me based on what I wrote, but I was still having fun in Thailand so I didn't want anyone to make any connection yet.
I sent Hedwig off with my notes, and moved on to India.
The process repeated itself every two months or so. My owl would show up with a magazine, and the lead article would be my words about a locale. Luna would include brief notes asking how I was doing and words from my friends. I would never respond to them. I couldn't bring myself to respond to them. But I would always include another article for her.
I wrote about Sydney, I wrote about Toronto, I wrote about Washington, I wrote about Thailand. I went back to Moscow and wrote about that, before returning to Istanbul and writing about that. I wrote about Milan and Prague and Vienna. I mused about Paris and Cairo and Tehran.
I never wrote about Chicago. I wanted to keep that for myself.
Every time I eventually received an issue of the quibbler, and larger and larger statements of what went into my vault at Gringotts.
I started writing about other things too. I wrote stories about nothing. I wrote musing about where I was. I wrote down what I thought about anything, from people to clothing to food. Ink and paper became my primary companion.
And then I wrote something else. I wrote about Daphne. It hurt, but I forced myself to. I wrote about her last year of life. I wrote about what I thought that must have been like for her, and how she must have struggled with her friends, and family, and everything around her. And I wrote about how her struggle was my fault. All because somehow, after hurting her, I'd pestered her. Because I thought she was pretty, and funny, and somehow had just liked being around her.
My mood worsened as I wrote this. And I finished it, ending with the last thing I remember seeing, her eyes closing as her head fell toward my chest. My travelogues during this time stayed bright, but nothing else did. I drank more as I remembered that year. And I missed her more and more.
I was in Barcelona when I finished it. It was later at night than I would have liked. But when I was done with it I knew I couldn't sleep. So I left the hotel and found a nearby bar. It was in the magical part of town.
I'd found I could get away with being in magical areas now. I was often recognized, but people seemed to know to stay away. I'd written in one of the articles that the thing I liked the most about the Muggle world was that I was ignored. And I wished that would be the same in the Magical. And somehow, that took. Sometimes I'd have to sign copies of the Quibbler, but that wasn't often. Mostly people just let me be.
I saw a quidditch game playing on the television and wondered just where it was coming from, given the late hour. I recognized one team from the British and Irish leagues, but not the other until I looked closer. It had to be a friendly of some sort, given the time of year and the opponents. But I ordered a beer and some random tapas and gazed up at the screen for a moment. But then someone sat next to me, and spoke.
"Who's playing?" the man asked.
"The Saskatchewan Snowmen and the Tutshill Tornadoes," I said, hoping the patron was just making useless small talk.
"Right, the North American Friendlies series," the patron said. He flagged the bartender and ordered a beer for himself and another for me.
"Tutshill seems overmatched," I said.
"And Sinclair is way better than Fredericks, she'll get the snitch for sure," he said. I looked at him for a moment. It was the first time in my life I'd sat at a bar and talked about quidditch with a stranger. And I didn't recognize him at all. It had been, by then, four years since I'd stepped foot in England. So people could change, but I couldn't put a name to a face at all. And yet here we were, speaking English in a bar in north-eastern Spain.
"Do I know you?" I asked.
"I was a few years ahead of you at Hogwarts," he said.
"I see," I said, tensing.
"Relax man," he said. "I just want to drink and chat about quidditch. I always wanted to play a game with you."
"Did we play against each other?" I asked. I hadn't been on a broom since the end of my sixth year.
"Once, your first year, then Malfoy got his way. Thankfully I'd already been invited to youth league developmental camps and didn't need to be on a house team," he said.
"A Slytherin," I said. And then I recognized him from Slughorn's party. But I didn't say his name aloud.
"Yes," he said.
"And we talked at Slughorn's party. You said teams would be scouting me," I laughed at the memory.
"And they would have had you not disappeared. The General Manager in Ballycastle still talks about you like you're the one that got away," he teased.
"Trying to recruit me still?" I laughed.
"Nah, I just wanted a drink and to watch the game. I love watching Jason lose," I vaguely remembered the chaser he'd been with.
"Well, those are two things I can appreciate," Harry said. He noticed his new friend had finished his beer and ordered another round for the both of them.
"But if you ever want to swing by Ballycastle and fly around, the Bats would love to host," he teased.
"I haven't been back to England since the war," I admitted.
"Ballycastle is in Ireland," he countered. I laughed aloud. I'd missed people, a simple joke made me smile more than it probably should have.
"Maybe I'll take you up on that," I said. I didn't really have any intention of doing so. But to say that outright would have been rude.
"You should," he said. "I can't imagine traveling around as much as you do."
"I don't travel that much," I said.
"Every wizard across the world reads The Quibbler now, Harry," he said. "Unless you're making it up, you're more traveled than Marco Polo."
"Well I suppose a bit," I said. He laughed.
"We all need a home," he said quietly. I looked back up at the game. "That doesn't have to be England, mind you. But you look worn out. And frankly, lonely. That was the first thing I noticed when I walked in. How alone you seemed."
"I don't really want to talk about this," I said. But I didn't get up to leave.
"I know you don't," he responded. "But really. I noticed that before I even recognized you. I do have to say, though, thank you."
"For what?" I asked.
"My family was always on the darker side of things. They weren't supporters, and they weren't at the manor. But I think had the war gone on much longer they may have been. And they may have tried to get me involved," he said.
"So?" I asked.
"So all I ever wanted to do was play quidditch. And your heroism has let me do that. So thank you. And if you ever want to fly around with some professionals, stop by Ballycastle," he said, before returning to his beer.
"I just might," I responded quietly after a few moments. He gave no indication that he heard me. But another beer later he smirked up at the television.
"Sinclair has it. What a rout, told you she was too good," he said. I watched as the Snowmen's seeker swooped around the pitch with the snitch in her hand. I stared for a moment and then laughed quietly to myself as the camera focused on her pretty face, her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She looked rather familiar. I wondered if she'd recognized me in Montreal. She had to have, really. I shook my head, ignoring my friend's question about what he found so funny.
We parted a short time later. I stayed in Barcelona for a few more weeks, thinking about everything. I knew I wasn't happy. I'd known that for a while. In fact, I didn't think I'd been happy since I'd lost Daphne at Hogwarts. But I knew I'd have to get over it.
Another Quibbler came from Luna. It held even notes of encouragement from my friends. She even included a note that Hermione and Ron were engaged. And that they'd missed me and were hoping they could somehow contact me. And see if I could make it to the wedding.
I stared at those words for a long time before I wrote a reply back to Luna. I told her to have them pick a time and a place and I'd meet them for dinner to offer my congratulations. I also told her I'd be relatively local for the time being, but I didn't give any indication of where I would be. And I sent her my story about Daphne, and asked her to do with it whatever she pleased.
After I sent Hedwig off, I went to Ireland.
I hadn't stayed at the Ballycastle stadium for long. But it was fun to be on a broom again. It felt much faster than I remembered. But I made due. It wasn't like I was trying for anything. I just wanted to have fun, to be part of something again. And it worked.
I went out with the Ballycastle Bats after the game, heading to some bar that claimed to have the best burger in Ireland. We got pissed and I only vaguely remember eating the burger. It was fantastic. But most food is after as much alcohol as we consumed.
I doubted that flying with the Bats would make it into The Quibbler, but I didn't really care about that. I felt much more a part of the whole than I had in a very long time.
I stayed in Ireland until I received a letter back from Luna. She had kept it very simple, it was just a date, time, and name of a restaurant in London. She also stated that she didn't think she could publish the story. But she had only read the first few pages.
Hermione and Ron wanted to meet with me one week later. I stayed in Dublin for a few more days, feeling more and more nervous every minute that I spent there. But eventually, I traveled back to London. After over four years, I apparated back to England.
It was odd, walking through the streets. I stayed on the Muggle side of town, figuring that there was less of a chance of running into anyone. I doubted that anything strange would happen if I were travel into magical London, but I didn't see the point in risking it.
Hermione and Ron had picked out a Muggle restaurant anyway. I wondered if it was because the majority of my Quibbler articles had been about Muggle sections of cities. It was probably related to that.
I checked into the same hotel that I'd used four year ago and willed the time to pass. Eventually, the day came around. I twitched all morning, and all afternoon, waiting until the time where I was supposed to show up.
I dressed in a nice shirt and jeans and walked to the restaurant. I could see them, sitting inside, as I walked toward the door. They didn't see me. I stared at them through the window for a few moments and I realized I couldn't move.
They were talking to each other, completely absorbed in the conversation they were having. They were holding hands. I swallowed hard and realized that I couldn't face them. Not yet at least. I'd almost killed both of them. I had killed Ginny. How could I sit down and dine with them after what I'd done? How could I face them? How could we even talk to each other?
I took one step back from the windows, staring at them. They both looked alright, physically. Time had treated their wounds. But if I said something wrong, well, they'd hate me forever. And I wasn't ready to face that.
I turned away from the restaurant. One day, they may understand. But today I wasn't going to be able to face them. Perhaps I'd flee back to Chicago, and maybe invite them over there. Maybe if it was on different turf I could face them. But I couldn't trust that for now. I knew that there was very little that could keep me in England. Daphne may have been able to, but past that, I knew I'd been slightly mistaken. Home, for me, wasn't this country anymore.
I walked around London for a good chunk of the night. I didn't really know what I was doing or where I was going. It didn't really matter. I just kept walking, from one neighborhood to another.
Eventually my stomach grumbled and I realized I was rather thirsty, and tired, as well. I wasn't exactly sure where I was in relation to my hotel, but I could always apparate straight back to my room if I so desired.
I found a corner café a few blocks away. It wasn't that crowded for a weekend night and I walked in not paying attention to anything but the menu above my head. Once I made my way to the counter I ordered a coffee and a sandwich. The man working the counter said something, but I wasn't paying attention. Instead I was thinking about Ron and Hermione and wondering if I should go back and look for them.
"For here or to go?" someone asked. It must have been whoever was helping make my sandwich. It took me a moment to realize that I was being addressed.
"To go," I said, not paying attention to my surroundings. A moment later someone pressed a bag against my hand, and I grabbed it. A moment later I felt the warm coffee cup against my hand. I looked to the clerk then, intended to give my thanks.
And then I saw her. Everything froze. She was smiling a faux smile, her eyes shining, her hair loose down her back, her head tilted ever so slightly to one side. And then everything sped up again, and the coffee splashed everywhere. In my surprise I'd forgotten to close my hand around the cup.
Most of it splashed her.
"Hot hot hot!" she squealed. She grabbed a handful of napkins and started to dab herself.
"Daphne," the man who'd taken my order gave an exasperated groan. Daphne. Her name stuck in my head. It seemed to echo there as I stared at her. Sure, she looked older. But it was her. It was exactly her.
The man handed me another cup of coffee. I looked down at it. And then back up at her. The food and drink was unimportant to me at that moment. But I couldn't say anything. I could speak. I couldn't bring myself to do more than stare at her.
I knew my mind had to be playing tricks on me. I was just picturing this girl to look exactly like I wanted her to. And I was being stupid. Daphne would have recognized me anyway. And she wouldn't be working in a muggle café in London.
But then her expression changed. She still had the faux smile, but her brow furrowed, and she looked annoyed that I hadn't gone away. And then she crossed her arms over her chest and thrust her hip to one side. I'd seen that exact pose more times than I could count.
"Do you need something else?" she asked. Her tone was pleasant enough, but I knew better. My mind raced. Did I need something? Yes. I needed you, Daphne. I needed to jump across the counter and to hug you, to kiss you, to hold you again. But I couldn't do that. It wasn't her, anyway, it couldn't be. She was dead. They'd told me she was dead.
Except they hadn't.
Ron had told me she was dead. Ron who admitted to not being let into the hospital wing until shortly before I'd awoken. Ron who had a propensity for jumping the gun. Pomfrey hadn't confirmed. She'd merely stated that Daphne was gone. And her parents were both doctors. Could they have snatched her away before I'd even woken up? But if that was true why didn't she recognize me?
All of that ran through my head before I realized that I needed to respond.
"Can I eat this here?" I asked.
"Of course, would you like me to get you a plate?" her voice sounded cheerful, her expression looked annoyed.
"No, that's alright," I said, staring at her. She had the same lips, her hair and eyes were the same color. But she was thinner. She looked like she wasn't eating much. And she had bags beneath her eyes and her face looked a little sunken. She was still pretty. But she looked more worn out than I remembered.
"Alright," she sighed, the same exasperated sigh she'd used when I was being uncooperative in a lesson. "Well help yourself to a table. Derek can help you if you need anything else." She nodded to the man at the counter. I looked at him for a moment, he was watching me rather intently.
She stepped around the counter and moved back to the table where there were more boys, playing some type of game judging by the materials in front of them. She joined the table. I just watched her, wondering what I was going to do.
I sat at a table and ate quietly, doing my best to not seem like I was staring at her. But I knew it probably didn't help.
I made up my mind then, wondering at the irony of it. Hours earlier I'd thought that only Daphne could keep me in England. And here she was. Or was she? I didn't know. But I would find out. I had a purpose again. And I smiled, realizing that for the first time in over four years I was excited.