A History of Magic
Disclaimer:The following is a work of fiction created by and for readers of the Harry Potter books for no profit. No copyright or trademark infringement was intended, and all of the characters, situations et c. belong to, though aren't limited to, JK Rowling.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed, and those of you who have favourited the story.
This is the last chapter of A History of Magic. To those of you who have been reading from the beginning thanks for following through to the end.
I am going away for three weeks tomorrow, so I'm not going to be able to respond to reviews for a while. I'm not being ignorant, I promise! I appreciate every review I've had so far, particularly from those of you who have reviewed more than once. I hope you all enjoy the ending.
RaeWhit, without you this never would have been possible: thank you.
Warm arms held him. A potion was poured down his throat. He forced his eyes open but he couldn't see a thing.
He didn't need to. He knew that embrace.
Madam Pomfrey wouldn't leave Harry alone.
He could understand it; he'd fallen into the present with a bang, and the bang reverberated through him. It bloody hurt. However, the worst of it was healed now, and there was nothing else she could do for him. He needed to see Albus as soon as possible.
It was unfortunate she'd insisted on a full physical before letting him be discharged. There was no hiding the damned Horcrux burn once it had been seen. Black, hard skin stretched over his thigh.
When she discovered it, she started ranting for ten minutes.
She didn't stop even as Harry began to dress himself, though it seemed to give her pause when she realised he was putting on his uniform.
She threw her hands up in exasperation.
"You cannot leave the ward until you are fully healed, Mister Potter," she said insistently.
Harry laughed. It was that or cry. After all, Harry understood now, better than anyone, what had happened to Albus's hand.
"I'm not going to be fully healed, Madam Pomfrey," he said. "I know more about this type of injury than you and there is absolutely nothing in your – or anyone else's – power that's going to have any effect when dealing with this."
The mediwitch bristled at his words, clearly insulted.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. He was tired of this discussion. His leg ached, and he knew there was one person in the castle who might understand.
"I am quite capable of coping with it, I assure you. Now, was there anything else, or am I actually permitted to leave?"
Madam Pomfrey's face was a picture.
"You should not have recovered so quickly."
Harry held back another laugh. He hadn't recovered quickly at all, but then he could hardly tell her that it had actually been three years since the original curses thrown at him by Malfoy.
"One night of bed rest is not sufficient for what happened to you."
This time he didn't hold back his laughter. "There's hardly much of a precedent for what's happened to me. I'm sure one night of bed rest is just fine. It's about the same as I got the first time a Killing Curse bounced off my head."
He probably hadn't had even that. Harry couldn't imagine Aunt Petunia taking him in quietly.
"But there are visible effects this time that we should at least attempt to counter, if you would just –"
"Madam Pomfrey, unless someone has figured out a way to bottle youth and I've not been told about it, I reckon I'm stuck this way."
Harry stroked a hand over his chin, which bore stubble from two days of not shaving.
Madam Pomfrey stared at Harry in surprise and he smiled sadly at her.
"Now, if there are no further problems you'd like to address, I think it would be prudent for me to go visit the Headmaster and explain a few things to him," he said, using a tone of voice that brooked no argument.
When she didn't reply, he began to march away. A hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Harry, will you at least allow regular check-ups so that I can see how your injury progresses?"
There was no use in agreeing to it, but Harry felt guilty already. He reached up a hand and settled it on hers. "Just try to keep me away," he said softly, offering a small smile.
Harry stepped through the curtains and his heart nearly stopped.
Severus was staring at him, his expression one of scarcely hidden disgust.
Harry forced himself to walk past. He mumbled, "Professor," his voice tight. His head jerked in a nod.
Harry didn't stay to see if Severus returned it. He was shaking.
How had he forgotten that he would still have to face Severus when he came back?
He couldn't do this.
Harry was still staring at his leg. It ached so much less now. He could hardly believe it.
"You have yet to tell me everything that is on your mind."
Harry looked up.
"There's nothing more to say. I told you what happened to me, where I went. What I did."
Harry's voice shook on this last. He was determined to remain stoic, but it was difficult to do so, knowing that his carelessness had condemned him to death.
"Harry, you do not seem to be at ease," Albus said. He fixed Harry with a stare but did not attempt to penetrate his mind.
"You've fixed my leg. Well, the best you can, anyway. Madam Pomfrey sorted the rest."
Albus shook his head. He reached over the desk, his fingers lightly touching Harry's hand.
"You have been alone a long time, I think, if you do not know that I am asking after more than your physical well-being."
Harry hunched his shoulders up, becoming as small as he could.
"I've not been alone," he whispered.
Albus's grip tightened.
Harry shook. He met Albus's gaze and the sight of those familiar eyes strengthened him.
"There was someone I – someone I left behind."
Albus lifted his hand, covering his mouth.
"You fell in love?"
"I don't know – I – I think..." Harry shrugged helplessly. "I didn't expect this. I just wanted him to be okay, to be happy. He'd had such a rough time of it and –"
"Him... I don't suppose." His voice was soft. He stroked his beard thoughtfully. "And... yes, a librarian, I believe..." Albus came around his desk and knelt by Harry's side.
"Severus once spoke of a young man who moved in with him. He told me that this young man had lied to him, but that he had believed Severus to be loyal to me. In fact, from his defence of Severus, it seems this young man was quite loyal to me himself. I am ashamed to say that I did not recognise his name. Perhaps you would?"
Harry nearly swallowed his tongue. "He told you about me?"
"He was quite taken with you, from the start. I am aware that Severus led Mister Jones – you, Harry?"
Harry nodded uncertainly.
"Yes, well, Severus led you to believe that you were doing him a favour by moving in. However, I had invited Severus to spend his holidays in the castle just weeks before, and he was very keen to do so. He enjoys the brewing space here."
Harry frowned. "I don't understand. Why would he have lied to me –?"
"Ah, that's just the right question, my boy. I suspect he lied because he felt sure you wouldn't have moved in with him had it just been him offering you a favour. And he was truly determined to do you a favour after the good turn you had done him. Furthermore, you fascinated him. There were not many people at the time who spoke well of both Severus and me. Most people rather fell into one camp or the other. You fascinated me. I was always sad to have never met Severus's only champion."
Harry's mouth felt dry. He licked his lips nervously, trying to take in all that Albus was telling him.
"Did he say... anything else?"
"Severus says very little. He was, however, quite impossible for some time following the mysterious disappearance of Tom Jones."
"I never meant to –"
"I know, Harry," Albus said kindly. "I merely meant for you to understand that Severus truly cared for you."
Harry looked away. "Yeah. Thanks. I guess... I guess that's something."
Albus waited for Harry to look back up at him before answering. "Harry, my boy, that's everything."
I have not left the castle for almost a week. I did not request leave from work, but I received a letter from Hettie regardless, granting me a month. Longer, if I needed it. She's filed it under bereavement.
The boy's funeral is tomorrow.
I do not feel bereaved.
I am furious.
I have vented my fury.
For the first three days I was here, I did nothing but vent my fury.
They have managed me surprisingly well.
Even Longbottom, who just waited for me to finish and walked away. He barely shook at the sight of me.
My ire has not faded, but my energy has. I am outraged that this boy, this mentally unstable child, was permitted access to a dangerous area. His death is pointless. After all he's lived through – a hat-trick of unstoppable Killing Curses – he has died for nothing.
Nobody has addressed the questions in my tirades. Nobody has told me why Potter was not stopped.
When Hogwarts was rebuilt, my old quarters were abandoned. I am grateful for it. I haunt my rooms now, too lethargic to leave the same stone walls behind and venture out where there will be light and other people. I stay in the sitting-room, living in a nest on the sofa. The house-elves bring me food. I lurch from my seat to use the restroom. I do not bother to shower.
I have still not learnt how to handle my drink.
A pit of empty bottles curls around my chair. A breeze rolls one back and forth, glass scraping repetitively against stone. I drink straight from the bottle. There is no need to stand on ceremony here. I do not question my desire for oblivion; it is enough that I find it at the bottom of the sixth – the seventh? – drink.
I drop the bottle. It bounces against the floor but does not break. Just like Potter, dashed against stone over and over and bloody over, but he always made it through in one piece –
I lift the bottle and launch it into the empty grate. My shoulder wrenches with the force behind the throw.
Just like Potter.
My face is wet.
The boy's funeral is tomorrow.
I'll be there.
Harry didn't react as his Cloak slipped off him. It barely registered that he could move again. His mind was filled with white noise, so loud he could make out nothing else.
Albus had warned him – of course he had – but Harry had hoped that it would never come to – and he had never dreamed he would be forced to watch, an invisible statue bearing witness to the worst crime.
Severus was panting, staring white-faced and blank-eyed at the broken window.
Harry wasn't invisible anymore.
Dark eyes woke up, moving frantically as Severus tried to take in the surroundings of which he was once more aware. He spun, his black cloak clinging to him. His gaze froze on Harry.
Harry wanted to go to him. His heart ached for it. He wanted to call his name and wrap his arms around him and grieve with him.
But he didn't.
He licked his lips, preparing himself. He nodded abruptly to Severus, needing to give some sign that he knew, a sign that what followed wasn't real.
"Snape, you bastard! I knew it! I knew Dumbledore shouldn't trust you!"
Malfoy was flat on his heels, half dragged behind, his wrist clenched brutally in Severus's fist. The two vanished into shadows.
Harry followed, turning off another way at the sound of raised voices.
He threw himself into battle, all thoughts vanishing in the rush of spells.
Wand after wand clattered, body after body fell, and Harry did not stop to see whether those he stepped over were friend or foe.
No candles had been lit in this corridor, but white masks could be made out clearly by the light of curses, casting off halos of different colours.
Someone called his name. There was no chance to respond, engaged in a wildly paced duel with a dark-haired witch.
"Where's Dumbledore?" It was Shacklebolt. The Order must be here.
A woman cackled. "Dumbledore is dead! He should be more careful who he trusts."
"What? How? Confringo!"
Harry ducked a curse and darted from the corridor. He pelted down the stairs, winding his way lower and lower.
The great doors to the school hung open, one blasted off its hinges. Through them, Harry could make out two long shadows distorted over the lawn.
The shadows hesitated.
"Harry! Harry, what are you doing?"
Disgusted with himself, Harry's lips twisted in a sneer. If his cover is lost, it is for nothing.
"COWARD!" he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.
For a moment, the shadows seemed to draw nearer. And then they vanished into the darkness of the Forbidden Forest.
A hand clutched his shoulder and spun him.
Bill Weasley was frowning at him. A deep gash spanned his face.
"Come on, Harry. Hospital wing. It's over."
"It's not over," Harry said darkly, casting a final look at the empty lawn before turning his back on it.
"It's not over."
The hall is empty.
Rows and rows of chairs have been laid out where there are usually four house tables: we can expect a good turnout. They face the closed casket up on the teachers' podium. I wend my way through. Wooden legs scrape against stone. I do not look where I am going.
The sun catches motes of dust and they flicker like golden stars over Potter's coffin.
It is a bright day.
No candles have been lit. The shift of clouds dissects beams of light, giving the shadows here the illusion of life.
My shoes scuff against the stairs, my steps muffled by the black carpet that has been Conjured.
I rest my hand against sun-warmed, white marble. Nothing could be further from the boy than this.
It is still.
There are no photos, no flowers resting on the coffin's top. Perhaps they will be laid later. Perhaps his friends know that Potter did not like fussy ornamentation.
I want to look away. I want to look away and drop my arm and leave. I can't. My face burns, my skin is tight, and my fingers softly trace the edge of the coffin lid. I never planned for this.
I never planned to be a guest at Harry Potter's funeral.
My breath shudders in and out of me. I cannot bring myself to pull away and break this connection.
Footsteps approach, almost silent.
Whoever it is does not interrupt me. I can feel the heat of them at my back, but they wait for me to finish.
I steel myself, close my eyes, and turn.
My eyes burst open.
He stands too close, a silhouette in light and shadow.
"Severus, I –"
I cut him off with a jerk of my head. I do not want to hear what he has to say.
I want to sag; I feel as though my strings have been cut, leaving me limp and lifeless. Yet it is on steady legs that I walk away.
His breath hitches.
My footsteps echo noisily when I reach uncarpeted stone. I move quickly, doubling back past the podium so I can walk around the forest of chairs. Rage thrums through my veins, scalding me more than the steady beat of the sun. Adrenalin keeps me tall though I want nothing more than to slump.
He is crying.
My eyes flicker over to him. He is on his knees in a heap, his head bowed and tears tracking down his face almost silently. His lashes cling wetly to his cheeks. The coffin of the Boy Who Lived looms over him – of just the Boy Who Lived looms over him – a white spectre casting him in shadow. He is still.
I do not have the strength for this.
I stride back to the podium. He raises his face up to me.
His eyes are the wrong colour, I think madly, and I take his face in my hands.
I kiss him.
He kisses back desperately, his hands scrabbling restlessly, always holding too tight, clenching too firmly. He is clumsy. His tongue darts about my mouth like a startled bird, too skittish to land. I trap it with my own tongue and stroke gently, but he is not to be soothed.
"Please," he whispers against my lips. "Please."
It sounds like a prayer.
I stroke my hand through messy blond hair.
"Thomas." My voice is low, husky.
He shuffles forward, swinging his legs over the podium and hopping down.
As we walk out of the hall, we do not look at one another.
I feel his hand shyly nudging mine, and take it. His fingers clutch me, nails digging into skin.
He walks slowly beside me, his footsteps almost silent.
He is so quiet. Smaller than life.
Granger is at the door, her lips turned down at the corners.
She catches his eye and nods.
He inclines his head.
Then she glances over at me.
I am arrested by her gaze; he almost falls at my sudden stop.
He doesn't look at me. His hand is trembling in my grasp.
I touch a finger to his chin and turn his face.
His eyes are closed, his mouth open in a silent gasp, as though he is caught in a moment of agony. He is white.
He is on the cusp of shattering. An empty bottle thrown in a cold grate.
"Look at me."
He opens his eyes impossibly wide and they are still wrong.
I look past hazel and see green.
"It could never be nothing," I whisper.
And he laughs, the sound choked, bringing up our joined hands to wipe at the wet tracks on his face, touching my knuckles with his lips.
We walk out of the Entrance Hall. I can hear both of our footsteps now, ringing loud and clear and just out of time with each other. A crowd has formed at the door, a heaving mass of mournful black and sober white milling about on the steps; they part to let us pass.
They do not see us.
His hand is like a vice on mine and I'm beginning to go numb. He tugs at me every now and then, as though to check that what he's holding belongs to something solid.
I see him dart glances at me, his still-wet eyes tracing my face nervously. A smile teases his lips.
The sun glares, and my heavy robes cling to me unpleasantly: he is shaking.
The school gates are in sight, glinting like the entrance to Heaven.
I speed up, my long legs eating the distance. He stumbles along behind me, struggling to match my furious pace. He loses his footing, tripping repeatedly, and then drops.
"Severus," he says, and he is begging me.
I sneer at him.
I twist my hand free of his and straighten my back. He is still, allowing me to loom over him; he stares up at me with those impossible eyes and there is no sign of a smile about his mouth now. I want to hit him.
A frisson of energy runs through my arm and for a moment I think I will hit him.
He doesn't flinch.
I swivel, my cloak sweeping behind me. In this heat I wish I'd chosen something less formal and more comfortable: it is the wrong weather for a funeral.
The gates are open, presumably to allow for the barrage of heartbroken fans for the wake. I wrap my cloak tightly around myself and picture the reserve in Wales. A hand closes around my elbow.
I want to berate him for touching me as I am about to Apparate. I want to berate him for a thousand wrongs, real and perceived.
Instead, I shove him into a stone gatepost. One of the winged boars guarding Hogwarts leers down at us. I lay my forearm across his neck and force him onto his toes.
His hands are on my shoulders. He doesn't push me away. His thumbs sketch nervous circles, as though trying to soothe one of Hagrid's creatures.
He struggles to breathe steadily.
My breath ghosts between us, warm and wet and still smelling faintly of alcohol. I'm panting.
I feel him swallow against my arm.
My eyes close and I wonder briefly if it's too late to avoid getting burnt, if there's any way out of this unscathed, or if I have long since passed the point of no return.
I collapse into him, my body covering his, lips covering his, tongue covering his.
There are teeth in this kiss, and fingernails drag along the skin at my nape, and my hand pulls his hair violently back and he groans into my mouth.
I draw away. He gazes up at me, his chest heaving.
His eyes are still the wrong colour but it doesn't matter, I know.
I press my lips to his ear, my tongue sneaking out and wetting cold skin, and I whisper.