A/N: This chapter's going to be a bit different, as well as long. I'm incorporating two songs this time. The regular slanted words is the song that will represent the people who found Harry's body and their thoughts. The slanted/bolded words is the song that represents Harry and his struggle. Whether or not Severus and co. or Harry wins – and whether Harry actually dies – remains to be seen at the end.
This is officially the last chapter. I put this off for so long because I wanted to make sure that I got it COMPLETELY right. It was a bit of a struggle, but I finally managed. Thank you for your unending patience, and I hope that my conclusion satisfies you.
And now: The FINAL CHAPTER of IF I DIE YOUNG. (Over 10,000 words people!)
Does anybody know how I feel?
Sometimes I'm numb, sometimes I'm overcome
Does anybody care what's going on?
Do I have to wear my scars like a badge on my arm
For you to see me? I need release
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,
Although I highly doubt that this will concern anyone, not really, I thought I'd write this out anyway – if nothing else than to give the grave-digger an explanation for inconveniencing him.
For whomever found my body, sorry about the mess. Tell Filch I apologize for making one last mess for him to clean up. Tell him he can curse my name all he wants to now, since he can't give me a detention in retribution. Not anymore. Never anymore.
I suspect that no one will even notice I've been missing for a week or so, and will probably only find me by the smell. I cast an air-freshening charm, just in case; but I'm not sure how long spells last if their caster is dead. This is as good a way to experiment as any, I suppose.
Before I finally leave, and free you all from the Curse that is the Boy-Who-Lived, I want to give several well-earned apologies.
To Ron and Hermione. I know that you hate me, and only continued being my friend in the hopes for increasing popularity and money; and I guess I can understand it. After all, the rest of the wizarding world got a piece of me, why should you be any different? But still, even though I should know better, that I deserved it, I can't help but be hurt by your cruel actions and words, and utter disregard for my feelings and life. So, as I leave, I'll try and remember you as I knew – as I loved – you. On that train in our first year. A self-conscious boy with a love for chocolate frogs and Quidditch; and a bushy-haired know-it-all who watched out for and cared for two idiot, danger-chasing boys. The best mate who sacrificed himself so that his friends could continue on and stop Voldemort; and the brilliant Muggle-born who professed that there were more important things than books and cleverness – like friendship, and bravery. Those are the Ron and Hermione that I'll remember; even as I wish for the current ones to have a long and danger-free life – without me.
To Headmaster Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and Hagrid. I know that it was you three who left me on the Dursleys doorstep. And although I've been given explanation after explanation, I can't pretend to fathom or understand the reasons why. Why you would leave me out in the cold in November? Why would you never check up on me, never tell me about my world – the world my parents died for? Why would you never investigate my first letter – addressed to Harry Potter, Cupboard Under the Stairs, Little Winging, Surrey? And why, oh why did no one ever watch out for, protect, or believe me, year after year, as I was obligated to protect and cover and save you – the adults! – while you sat by and only came when the danger had already passed? The only explanation that I can come up with is – you believed that I deserved it.
The beatings, abuse, starvation, neglect, rapes. Perhaps, Albus, you hoped that the harsh conditions would cultivate the survival magic that helped me survive Voldemort. Or, maybe you hoped that they would succeed in suppressing my power, so that I wouldn't ever be in risk of becoming more powerful than you – or, Merlin forbid, another Tom Riddle. Well, you never have to worry about that again. And you, McGonagall, maybe you hoped that I would rise above the pain and become the headstrong Gryffindor that you so desperately desired. Maybe you were hoping that they would crush whatever of James – my father – I had in me; so that I wouldn't terrorize the castle like he did in his youth. For whatever reason; you, too, succeeded in your goals. And Hagrid – poor, kind, misunderstood, daft Hagrid – I truly don't believe you held me any ill-will. But, with all your experience with creatures and their young, even you should have known that leaving an eighteen-month old child on a doorstep in November was not a good idea. Then again, you've always been more knowledgeable with the larger, more dangerous and sturdy beasties; and how you go about taming them.
I'm sorry, all three of you, for not taking what the Dursleys had taught me to heart. I was more powerful than Voldemort and Dumbledore, I was almost a Slytherin, and I refused to break under them. It's not your fault, nor the Dursleys, that I refused to believe I was a Freak for most of my life. It was mine, I'm just too bloody stubborn. Don't punish them, they did their best to teach me the error of my ways, my place in this world; but they just weren't strong enough.
Perhaps you should have hired two specific wizards to do the job; for, in truth, they were the ones who broke me.
To Professor Lupin, I apologize for being such a weak pupil and pathetic cub. I'm sorry that I'm responsible for the death of your mate. I'm sorry that I took away the last of your friends – of the Marauders. I'm sorry that I'm responsible for James and Lily's deaths; and Sirius' incarceration. I'm sorry for relying on you, for depending on you. I should have known that I didn't deserve that, and that I was only being a burden, making it harder on you. I leave so that you can hopefully heal, recover, without the bane of your existence dogging your every step. But, most of all, I'm sorry for being so weak and leaving to see Sirius again; while you cannot. I know that you were put on suicide watch. Funny, no one thought to do the same for me. Probably because they knew I didn't deserve it… I'd done my job, and it was time for me to disappear. So that's what I'm doing. I wouldn't be surprised if, a hundred years into the future, no one remembers my name. I'll only be known as the Boy-Who-Lived, The Chosen One – a name as lost to time and legend as his archenemy You-Know-Who, or Voldemort. No one shall remember orphan Harry Potter, just as none will remember orphan Tom Riddle.
To the wizarding world, I sincerely apologize for, first, allowing and aiding Voldemort coming back in the first place, then not getting rid of him quickly enough – and thereby sparing more lives. I've sullied and cursed your world for far too long, and I'm only sorry that I didn't spare you sooner – spare you of myself.
To Mr. and Mrs. Diggory; I am sorry for being responsible for the death of your son. I'm sorry that I took away from his thunder, from his hard-earned glory, and repaid him nothing. I apologize for the pain I've brought your family, for not being strong enough to save your son – who was so much more than just a 'spare'.
To Draco Lucien Malfoy. My love, my one, my only. My reason for living, for fighting, for breathing. My everything, my all. I could list a million reasons why I loved you, why I still do; but they would fall dull and flat, for they are nothing that I haven't already told you a thousand thousand times before. So, instead, I'll tell you all the ways I've wronged you; and apologize for every one, though it can never possibly be enough to atone for the burden of me.
I'm sorry for unloading everything upon you, for laying all my pathetic woes upon your shoulders and never giving anything back. I'm sorry for holding out on you, for being unwilling and afraid to give that part of me that my uncle had already tasted and violated. You were right, you deserved it and more, after all you put up with for, because of, me.
And, no matter how I know I deserved this pain of betrayal and condemnation and heartbreak, no matter how much I fight against it; I can't deny that the one thing I apologize for, more than anything else, is falling in love with you. Because then, maybe, this wouldn't hurt so fucking much. Sorry.
And, finally, to Professor Severus Snape. Greasy Git. Bastard Dungeon Bat of Slytherin. Spy, Potions Master, ex-Death Eater. Father. I apologize to you the most. For being a representation of all you lost, all that was stolen from you. For never being good enough, never measuring up, never making you proud. I'm sorry that I almost trusted you, almost told you everything about my mother and your wife, almost shouldered you with the burden that is the Boy-Who-Lived. I'm sorry for always forcing you to have to save me, for never being competent and always a dunderhead. I'm sorry for plaguing your life with the ghost of James Potter, your tormentor and worst enemy. And, most of all, I'm sorry about that night. The night that Lily Snape coerced you into an Unbreakable Bond to protect me against your will; the night that the selfish baby-Harry interrupted your mourning over her body with his pathetic, self-centered fears and pains. Yes, I remember, I've always remembered; and I'm so, so sorry.
It's these last two, my boyfriend and father, that destroyed me at last. I'd always hoped, dreamed, that one day I'd marry Draco, and my Father would rescue and forgive me; and we'd live happily ever after. I thought, after everything I'd done, that, surely, I at least deserved that. But I didn't. I never did. And it was that fact – that realization – that finally broke me. Like I said, they succeeded where the Dursleys had failed.
So now, I leave. I free you all of the burden and Curse that is Harry James Potter, Harrigan Severus Snape-Evans, the Freak, the Boy-Who-Lived, the crazy attention-seeking liar, Just Harry. I'd go on and on with apologies to all those whom I ultimately failed, who died due to my failure, but that's what I'm leaving now to do. And then, once I've paid my penance, I'll be free to spend the rest of eternity in Hades; where a freaky bastard like me belongs.
Gringotts will contact all persons whom I've mentioned in my Will and Testament shortly. I've been planning this for a long time; but have been too much of a coward to go through with it. So there you go, Harry Potter's last Gryffindor act.
Do I have to scream for you to hear me?
Do I have to bleed for you to see me?
'Cause I grieve, you're not listening to me
Do I need to scream?
As Severus forced the last word through his painfully tight throat, he looked up at those assembled around him.
Dumbledore, McGonagall, Weasley and Granger, Hagrid, Pomona and Filius, Madam Pomphrey and Severus, Lucius and Draco, and Lupin. Not a sound was made, as all had no words in the face of such pain, agony, despair, and condemnation.
Lucius and Draco stood off in a corner, Draco's head buried in his father's chest. His muffled sobs echoed through the tragic silence of the Hospital Wing.
Dumbledore, indeed, looked like he might never speak again. He had such a look of devastation and pain on his face that no one could look at him without feeling like it was a knife to their own hearts, as well. McGonagall was no better off, staring off into space, nearly comatose; unable to believe the torment of her little lion, and her own unwitting part in it all.
Hagrid, for the first time in his life, had passed out. He had fallen back onto an empty bed, collapsing the legs and sending the mattress to the floor. But no one said anything; no one even looked.
Pomona and Filius felt terrible, thought not nearly the level as those around them. But, deep in their hearts, they couldn't help but wonder if they hadn't seen it; but just as easily dismissed it. Pomona was only too familiar with the desperate loyalty that those who were abused could exhibit; clinging to those who showed them kindness and comfort and never letting go. Wasn't so the same with Harry? And Filius, clever, powerful, half-goblin Filius, had his own slice of self-condemnation on his plate. Didn't he have extensive experience with those who drowned themselves in books – whether it be factual or fanciful – to escape their cruel and abusive lives? Ones who had abandoned all hope and so relied completely on fact and not at all on emotion; or those who drowned in hope, becoming airy and absentminded in an effort to distance themselves from reality, like poor Ms. Lovegood?
With her depressed, neglectful, absent-minded father who often turned to the bottle and relied on Luna to take care of him, to handle the upkeep of the house, to brew the hangover and nutrition potions; it was no wonder that she turned to fanciful, rare creatures – the same study that her poor mother had devoted herself to.
Filius had had an example right in front of him. Had known what he was looking for, what the signs were; and yet totally missed another similar child. Harry, who was often found in a corner of the library, curled up with children's stories and novels, smiling in a sad way that Filius had wondered at, but dismissed. Harry, who read and studied and memorized all of the most complicated and powerful charms and spells so as to survive what was thrown at him year after year. Yes, Filius knew all the signs, and hated himself for ignoring them.
The one who felt the most guilty was surprising – or not so, depending on how you looked at it – was Madam Pomphrey, Dragon of the Hospital Wing. He left hand was clutched tightly over the throat, as though to force the bile that wanted to escape down; while her right gripped her wand in a white-knuckled grip. Her wand – ten and a quarter inches, Welsh Green heartstring, unusually sturdy, good for protection – that had fought and defended with a fierce, single-minded passion in the First War; and had healed and mended with an unerring and soothing touch in the aftermath of each battle. To protect and heal; to fight and mend; to sooth and tear asunder. Whatever she put her heart to, as long as it was to protect, her wand would do anything she asked it to. It's what gave her the nickname of 'Dragon' long before she ever came to Hogwarts; and it's why Dumbledore was so eager to hire her. After all, if you want to hire someone who can both protect and heal your students; why not find the one who's very magic was made to do so?
And yet… and yet… her wand hadn't seen, hadn't protected, hadn't healed. At least a half-dozen times she saw Mr. Potter every year; she'd had him under her wand all those times, so often that she'd recently created a plaque over the bed he frequented, hoping that it would bring a smile to the face that hardly ever did.
'Harry Potter's Bed – DO NOT TOUCH
Possible Consequences: Potter's Luck – a Contagious Disease that is only curable by ten trips to the Hospital Wing every year and the consummation of five different potions, until such a time as you graduate. Possibly. We haven't had time to study this curious disease, so it very well might be permanent.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK'
It was in that bed that Harry lay now. Again, only moments after she'd healed and examined him with her wand – too late, Poppy… perhaps, far, far too late – and the knowledge that he might never see that plaque, that this might be the very last bed he lay in – it very nearly broke her heart. At that moment, Poppy hated her wand almost as much as she hated herself.
As for Remus Lupin, well… he was another story altogether. All his life he'd been locked in a battle between beast and human; wolf and man. First, when James and Lily had died, the wolf had howled and cried for them to care for their cub, the last of their pack. But the man, Remus, mourned the loss of his mate and pack, and feared the idea of taking care of a child – and so he ran. At that time, the Ministry was so happy and ecstatic about the defeat of Voldemort that they'd have done anything to grant the wish of the late James Potter, and his most loyal friend – werewolf or not. But he'd waited too long, ran too long; and when he came back it was a harder, crueler, more unbending world that shunned werewolves. And so, the man and wolf both lost – pack, mate, and cub.
And now… well, it all comes back to the choices of the man, doesn't it? The beast, the wolf, is nothing more than a primal being of instinct and survival. The wolf's instinct was to mate, to cub, then to pack. To hunt, howl, run free. Man is always controlled by emotions, feelings, fleeting conceptions of right and wrong, selfish desires and desperate wants. And, when Remus cut off the wolf's instinct – tore them apart shred by shred and stomped on them – the knowledge that Harry was their cub, was no more. They were alone, the Lone Alpha Male, and that was how it had always been.
So now, Remus was torn apart by pain and guilt, unable and yet forced to witness the consequences of his selfishness, his own human desires and emotions. But the Wolf, with no knowledge or care that Harry was once a cub, only remembered the loss of his mate – again – and so was mad in rage and fury and sorrow. The Wolf had finally become what Remus had always professed it to be. Without instinct, without pack, without cubs, and without a mate – for the second time – the Wolf became nothing more than a mad beast; a monster.
And Remus, once again torn as he was between Harry and the Human, the Wolf and Harry; wondered who, all along, the true monster was. Moony… or himself.
And as for Severus… well… his grief, his pain, was a thousand times more potent and acute – if only for the reason that he'd gone so long without feeling anything other than numbness… or hatred.
There were, indeed, no words for the agony and self-condemnation weighing down his soul…
It hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains
These words flashed by in Harry's mind, over and over and over again; every time spoken by a voice – a face – of a person whom he'd once loved – but now only tormented him.
Faces flitted in front of his face, appearing and vanishing in the darkness too quickly for him to make sense of them… to make sense of anything.
He was trapped, surrounded in all-encompassing darkness. He could not move, speak, scream. There were only the faces, the hatred, the loathing and condemnation; tearing through and shredding him as he lay there, immobile, unable and unwilling to deny their accusations.
For he knew them to be truth.
But Harry was only human, only a weak Freak, and so, after a while, he could not stand to listen anymore. He wanted to run, to escape, like the bastard cowardly Slytherin he was – wait, was that his own thought, or was that Ron's who was right beside him? No, it's James now, and Sirius, and Neville, and Cedric…
So Harry struggled. He fought furiously in his mind until something gave – and, suddenly, he could wriggle. And that wriggle became a squirm, and that squirm became bucking, and that bucking turned into thrashing.
All the while, the faces and voices and curses turned faster and faster, louder and louder, more and more piercing and soul-shattering. After a while Harry became lost to them, losing his sense of when, where, what he was.
Until, finally, something broke. And he was screaming, and falling, and begging for mercy.
He was Harry, he was Freak, he was the Chosen One, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Savior, the Murderer, the attention-seeking lying bastard, the Fatherless, Abandoned Orphan.
And he was still falling.
Then, there was a flash of green, a streak of red, and a shroud of black.
Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away
Has anybody seen what's been done?
Where was my defense? No one heard my protest
The eyes of God were watching me
It's time to make my peace, let it go and be released
So I can breathe again
I'm on my knees
Severus abruptly stood, towering over all of the grief-stricken occupants of the Infirmary. The intense, dark look on his face – so filled with black fire and fierce will and resolve – both terrified and brought desperate hope to those to dared look upon his visage.
"I refuse," Severus growled, voice as dark and forbidding as his robes; daring the mortal foolish enough to contradict him. "To lose him again. I don't care what must be done, but I am going to fix this… as it should have been done a decade and a half ago."
He whirled to Pomphrey, who just now seemed to be coming out of her lethargy, a small light of desperate yearning and hope lighting her face. If anyone could fix this, it would be Severus. A more stubborn man she'd never known… "Poppy! I need your professional opinion and notes on his mental and physical state. We need-"
And here, we have the fool idiotic enough to first interrupt, then contradict the Potions Master. Ronald Weasley sneered, "Don't bother! He's just a tainted, nasty Freak; whom doesn't deserve to live! He comes back and he will be putting everyone in jeopardy again, and I refuse to risk it! I barely survived four years as his 'friend'; I'm not bloody likely to do it again! Besides," And here, Ron's voice and face turned sly and greasy. "I'm sure that, with him rightfully believing he deserved it and all, he probably left a great deal of money to Mione and me. We won't get it if he's alive. Besides, it's the least that we deserve, dealing with his worthless arse all these years. Don't put forth the effort!
"By the way," Ron didn't seem to notice the horrified looks of everyone in the room – looks that were swiftly becoming all-consuming rage – nor his girlfriend tugging furiously on his arm. It was uncertain if she was doing so out of some misplaced sense of guilt over her ex-friend and what her boyfriend was saying about him; or an attempt to save himself from his own loose tongue. For whatever reason, she was unsuccessful, and Ron continued unfazed, "nice job there, Professor, breaking him like that. I totally agree though – if I had a son like that, I'd wish him dead too."
With that, Severus Snape, most feared Potions Master of the Dungeons, ex-Death Eater, formidable spy; lost his temper and composure for the first time in years.
Fifteen hours later Ron was discovered on the roof of the Astronomy Tower; unconscious, tongue attached to his arse, and bullocks permanently severed off. Hermione was found, after the invisibility charm wore off in the middle of Study Hour, trussed up naked in the library, entirely bald, cursed with dyslexia, and also impotent.
As for those in the Hospital Wing, very few recognized the names, colors, or natures of the curses Severus cast with unerring and frightening precision; and those who did said and did nothing – a couple were even smirking for days afterwards. Draco was unable to resist giving a watery chuckle, covering it up with a cough under his father's amused gaze.
After the two back-stabbing bastards vanished from the Hospital Wing, Severus flicked his hair out of his face, stowed his wand, and turned back to Madam Pomphrey; entirely composed – as though he hadn't cursed two students into oblivion only seconds before.
And, if asked later by Aurors, he didn't; and they really didn't know what they were talking about. Severus? No, he would never do something like that to a student. Preposterous! Utterly absurd! And really, Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger had a history of trying to blame or frame Professor Snape for things he hadn't done; and they suspected this was a similar case.
And, with all witnesses saying the same thing, or variations of the above; well, who could refute it?
"Madam Poppy?" Severus purred, feeling more centered and calm than before, now that he had worked some of his anger out of his system. Amazing what cursing Gryffindors can do for relieving tension… "Are you prepared for this? Are you able to compose yourself so that you might be of use to me? Because I'll need you Poppy. And for this, I cannot have you breaking down."
A fierce rush of power and challenge and determination coursed through her. Before their eyes, she was transformed from broken-hearted woman to the angry, protective, powerful Dragoness that they all knew, loved, and feared. "Must you even ask, Severus?" She growled, pushed her hair out of her eyes, and crammed her healer's cap on her head. Her hand tightened around her wand in a white-knuckled grip; this time, not in hatred, but furious and un-dauntable will.
Seeing the Poppy that he knew – that he needed – Severus nodded and briskly moved forward; vanishing the curtained room and exposing Harry Potter's body to the gazes of those in the room.
Those who loved him. Those who cared for him. And those who wanted to save him.
But, looking at him now; none were certain that they were up to the task.
None, except for two. One stubborn, single-minded Mediwitch; and one desperate, determined father. They were up to the task, they would succeed.
Because the alternative was inconceivable.
Do I have to scream for you to hear me?
Do I have to bleed for you to see me?
'Cause I grieve, you're not listening to me
Do I need to scream?
"He doesn't want to live. And that's making it impossible for me to heal him. His unconscious magic, the survival magic that he was forced to cultivate, it even now bending to his will. He doesn't want to live, so his magic is enforcing that wish. It's keeping the knife wounds open, and I'm only just managing to keep a steady flow of Blood-Replenishing Potions in his system to replace the escaping blood. But I cannot do it for long. I only have enough Blood-Replenishing to keep up this pace for-" here, Madam Pomphrey skimmed her notes and did a quick calculation in her head "-another six to eight hours. We have until that time's up to convince him to live, to come back to us. But that task's made difficult-"
"By the fact that he's in a coma." Severus finished for her, mind rushing furiously through the options, possibilities. "Blood-Replenishing takes ten hours to brew, which is too much time. There's only one option."
"Legilimency." Severus and Draco said at the same time. Draco stood before his godfather's assessing gaze, silver eyes a little red, but firm. "I'm going with you. I won't abandon him again."
And Severus winced at both the stubbornness, and condemnation in those words. But he'd worry about his godson's forgiveness and affection later – if it could ever be regained.
This time, for the first time, his son came first.
Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free
Set me free
He was screaming and not making a sound; falling and floating and perfectly still. He was thrashing and begging and convulsing and yet utterly powerless and ineffectual. He was everything and nothing, and Harry and Freak, and a liar and a savior and a whore. He was dead, he was barely living, he was in hell and he deserved it and yet he desperately wanted to escape.
But it didn't matter what he was. All that mattered was where he was.
And that was eternal torment – utter and complete hell.
Again and again Potter, Freak, Harry could only watch as his mother screamed, as the murderous green curse burned – searing his retinas and consuming his life – and as she fell to the ground, silent, and her flaming gossamer hair spread across the hard-wood floor like silk, like blood, like death.
And then the dark, evil face loomed before him, and Harry was so scared that he spit up all over the man's robes; and the face twisted in hatred and fury and the stick – wand – was pointed at his face. Then there was a flash of red and a screamed "Crucio!" and Harry was screaming and crying and being torn apart from all sides.
And then, after an eternity and a day, the pain was gone, and Harry was laying in his own sick and tears and snot; gasping and wailing and sobbing. Then there was the emerald fire again, and this time it was Harry who was burning, who was dying. And then a flash of white, an inhuman scream, an explosion of black fire and power; and the wand clattered to the floor in a pile of empty robes as the sides of Harry's crib exploded outwards, taking the wall and ceiling with it but leaving the child safe.
Then Harry was struggling, was crawling, as blood fell down his face and blinded him, no matter how often he tried to wipe it away. And, finally, he reached his mother. And, just as he had a million million times before, as he would do it again a million million times, he begged his mother to wake up. He pleaded and screamed and even bit her finger, but she never woke up. She just lay there, identical emerald eyes that were once to filled with love and adoration, now blank and empty and cold.
That was when the worst part of the memory started.
A figure in black swooped into the room, and Harry knew that this was not Prongs, but his father; his true father. A part of his magic that had been waiting for this moment, to make the connection, merged and anchored itself; as it should have done upon his birth.
And, suddenly, Harry was sure that everything would be okay.
But then everything went horribly wrong.
He father was there, was real, but he didn't see Harry. He didn't care. Then he looked up, and Mum was back – but glowing! – and Harry was so happy and relieved. But then there was a flash of light, and Mum was gone again, and Harry was so, so very tired.
And Da was there, picking him up and laying him down, giving him his Pwongs; and Harry fell asleep, safe in the knowledge that Da was here now, that he would make everything right. And he allowed his heavy eyelids to close, the image of the imposing, protective black figure the last thing he saw.
That was the last time Harry would see his father.
And it was then, as Harry watched in an out of body experience as his father left, and Sirius – Merlin, Sirius! – and Hagrid showed up. And Sirius gave little Harry to Hagrid without hardly a fight – See, he abandoned you too! No one cares! – and left; and then Hagrid took him to Dumbledore and McGonagall.
Then, Harry could only watch and scream as they left him, abandoned him, on Number Four's doorstep – Pain and Agony and Torment's doorstep – sprouting things about the 'Greater Good' and 'Family'.
And then everything would fade to black, and the voices and faces would condemn, and taunt, and torment him again – tearing him down piece by piece with horrible truth a lies – to the point that Harry didn't know which was which anymore.
And then the black would fade, and he'd wake up… again in his crib and faced with his mother's terrified face just as the door blew open from the outside as it began again.
And Harry would scream, and thrash, and beg and plead and yet never move a muscle, never say a word; as his hell continued.
And, once again, Harry cried out for mercy, for help, for rescue.
And, once again, his pleas went unanswered.
But Harry had expected that. After all, that's what a Freak deserves.
And yet… what was that…?
Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am
Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream His name
Is this the One they say will set the captives free?
Daddy, rescue me!
I've been marked, set apart
But I'm cut so deep and afraid of the dark
One drop of blood from the hole in Your hand
Is enough to heal me and make me stand
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me…
"Are you sure about this, Mr. Malfoy, Severus? If Harry decides not to come back, or he dies with you still in there, your minds will die with him." Poppy half reminded, half pleaded with her colleague. On one hand, she desperately wanted to save Harry, to rescue him from the hell they'd condemned him to. On the other, she didn't want to lose another student and a beloved friend should they fail. But even as she asked, she knew what their answer would be.
And, when Severus gave her a sharp, confirmatory nod and Draco a stubborn, firm glare; she just nodded and sighed and set to work.
She moved two beds to either side of Harry's and bid them to lay down. As soon as they were as comfortable as she could make them, she passed them the potion. Without hesitation, both tipped them back and swallowed. And, under the concerned and fearful gazes of those still in the room, Draco and Severus grabbed a hand of Harry's each; before their eyes rolled into the backs of their heads, and they passed out.
"Madam Pomphrey? What is that potion?" Remus Lupin timidly asked, being sure to avert his eyes from the prone form of his honorary godson; the ex-cub that his Wolf wanted to tear apart and kill.
But, it seemed that Poppy had not forgiven Remus for his actions and words, and likely never would, for she completely ignored him; as though he did not exist.
Seeing the tension rising between them that was just waiting for a spark to ignite, Minerva quickly stepped in. "Poppy? I've never been a genius in potions, but I've thought myself to be competent enough. But I must admit, I've never seen that particular potion. What does it do?"
But, instead of Poppy, it was the heavy, agony-filled, toneless voice of Lucius Malfoy that answered. "It is the 'Animum Certamen', or 'Mind Combine', Potion. It allows their minds to meld with Mr. Potters far more completely than Legilimency ever could. Not only does it continue for far longer than simple mind-scanning would, but it allows them to go deeper into the mind and subconscious, to find and bring out Mr. Potter. But if they were to fail… if they cannot find Mr. Potter, or cannot convince him to return, then their minds will remain combined with his; and when Mr. Potter's mind dies, so will theirs. In this case, they will pay for failure with their lives."
And with that, Lucius moved away from their horrified faces and his best friend and only, beloved son's prone bodies; and sat in a chair facing the far wall, back to the assembled company.
And a lone, crystal tear fell down his anguished face.
As my Father passes by
He looks straight through the lies
And darkness cannot hide
"Kill the Spare…"
Whispers and snatches of memory flickered and blinked in and out of existence; there one second, gone the next. There was no structure or reason to the mindscape, no sense of up or down, time being utterly insignificant and meaningless.
Occasionally there was a wisp of insubstantial mist, a torn cloth, a shattered stone; and Severus knew that this was all that was left of Harry's mental barriers, after he'd attacked and torn them apart so brutally the year before; inadvertently leaving him wide open for the Dark Lord's own machinations.
Just another in a long, infinite line of injustices and wrongs he'd heaped upon the boy… upon his son.
Draco gripped his godfather's robes against the disconcerting feeling of floating and falling simultaneously. This was unlike anything either of them had ever seen or experienced before.
And both knew, somehow, that their target was hidden in one of these memories – these tattered remnants of a tormented mind – and, in order to find their wayward Gryffindor, they'd have to wade through them one by one.
And hope that they wouldn't be too late.
A cupboard with locks and a bloodstained cot… Mummy'll come… mummy'll come…
A faded, threadbare blanket embossed with the initials 'HJP' being thrown into a fire, a demonic face gleefully grinning at the child's anguished cries… Nooo! Muum!
A room of men, of demons, all with salacious, sharp-toothed grins on their leering faces. The sense of tearing, of pain, of violation and filth; and the sound of screams for mercy… Please! Da! Da, PLEASE!
A medieval torture chamber, located in a downstairs basement. Knives and whips and ball gags and dildos. Blood and sweat and tears and pain; a monster's face laughing with every strike upon the nubile back… I don't… I can't… Da… Da, why didn't you take me with you?..."
A missed weed in the garden, an unforgiving blow from a frying pan to his face, and a week in his cupboard without food or a bucket to relieve his needs. Silent tears and broken anguish… Da, where are you? Where are you Da? Why did you leave me?...
Purple turban on the floor, a two-faced demon whose touch brought fire and words soul-searing agony. A mirror with a forgotten image of love and family, calling to him even as he fell beneath the assault… Mum… I'm coming… I'm finally coming…
From agony to torment, from shattered hope to desperate please, Draco and Severus entered and viewed and attempted to heal each one; never finding the Harry they were looking for, the subconscious representation that they needed. And with every memory, a little more time passed, the clock ticked downward; with them having no way to tell how much or if they were going to die the next second.
Each memory, no matter what they found, had a prevailing undertone, an identical echo. From Privet Drive to Hogwarts, from few and weak happy snippets of memory to numerous, pain-filled and hopeless ones; there was one distinct central topic.
Rescue. A desperate cry for relief, for love, for release. But not from just anyone. From his mother, who had left him unwillingly, torn from his helpless grasp. And his 'Da', who abandoned him willingly, and tore apart his soul and hope and faint dreams upon their reunion.
Harry, who had known no other family than the one which he was born from…
Harry, who had known who his father was and what he looked like, having had an image, a faint memory, from before he should remember; that he linked with a forgotten letter five years later.
A memory, the only memory he would have ever had of his family – his Mum and Da – together.
And, suddenly, Severus knew where Harry would be; what memory he was trapped in.
The beginning of the end.
Madam Pomphrey's hands shook as she administered the Blood Replenisher to the levitated IV bag. Being a half blood, she was one of the few who had ever thought – much less dared – to combine both Wizard and Muggle techniques. It was just another thing on a long list of why Poppy was so good at her job.
And another reason why she hated herself for not helping Harry, for only relying on her wand; instead of utilizing her eyes and common sense as well.
"Poppy? What's the matter… what's happening?" Minerva asked, voice heavy with worry and fear as her sharp, cat-like eyes caught the slight tremor of her colleague's hands. Her near-perfect vision, which had still failed to see or comprehend what was right in front of her for four years.
The Medi-Witch took a deep breath before shoving all the accusatory and self-condemning thoughts into the back of her mind, until such a time where she was alone to scream and cry and maybe even indulge in a bit of Severus' behavior – that is, throwing breakable things at stone walls. In the meantime, she ran shaking hands over imaginary wrinkles in her apron in a misguided attempt to sooth both them and frayed nerves, before turning to face her long-time friend.
"That was the second to last Blood Replenisher in my stock. Given the steady loss the blood, Severus and Mr. Malfoy have less than an hour to save Mr. Potter. Past that… there will be nothing that I can do."
And Poppy had never felt more useless as a healer, a witch, a human being than she did in that moment. And, given the stricken and terrified expression on Minerva's face, she felt the same.
Far away from the two women, augmented ears hearing every word of the whispered conversation, one long, anguished man cried; as the beast within howled in triumph.
Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heav'n and Earth belong to me
Finally, after what felt to be an eternity but might have very well been only seconds, Severus and Draco found the memory. Just viewing it from the outside, Severus could tell that it was playing on repeat, skipping back to the beginning like his mother's old record-player used to, before Severus fixed it.
Just as he would this time.
Draco, who was a pureblood and so had little to no knowledge of Muggle items – much less record-players – could only watch as his love reached the end of the terrible memory, before it descended into spite- and hate-filled words that destroyed his love a piece at a time.
As the darkness seemed to coagulate, to concentrate and become darker, the voices and words becoming louder and more poisonous; and Harry cried out again – the sound so similar and yet as equally heart-shattering as all the previous times they'd heard in throughout their journey – they knew that they could wait no longer.
And, as one, Severus and Draco, Godfather and Godson, Da and Boyfriend; stepped forward, and took the plunge into what would be the most important battle of their lives.
The battle for a soul.
Harry just lay limply in his mind, weak and defeated, as the memory played again; the harsh words now playing on endless repeat in his head – words that, for some reason he'd always thought as truth, now seemed to be nothing more than empty and hollow lies. Harry couldn't pinpoint why this was, why it seemed that with every passing second something healed within him; even as he was torn apart by inevitable abandonment and poisonous barbs from forked tongues.
But before Harry could think too deeply on this, he was distracted by the flash of green and red as his mother fell – again – by the burning agony as he was hit by the torture curse – again – and as the viridian light consumed his body and tore him apart, leaving him sobbing in the rubble of his nursery – again.
And here, here was the part that he feared and hated the most out of any other – even the pain of being tortured and almost-killed.
The part where he met his father for the first… and last time. The first and last time he would ever see tenderness or love on his father's face; the first and last time he'd ever hear his father swear to protect him; and the first and last time he'd ever experience the solid and warm feeling of his father's arms around him – no matter how short that moment was.
But this time… this time it was different.
It took Harry's feverish and distraught mind to determine why at first… and then he realized. Alongside his father – who was just standing in the doorway, staring at his Mum's body in shock and remembered pain; rather than running to her as Harry remembered him doing – there was another. A beautiful, golden-haired angel stood slightly behind the black-garbed man; looking even more radiant in comparison to the garishness of the first.
Harry felt hope – bright and hot and glorious – explode from his chest. Maybe this was finally it! Maybe this gorgeous angel was here to take him away. Maybe this was his purgatory, and he'd served it, and now finally…
Please… oh please please please Mum… please say that I'm coming to see you soon… oh, please…
"Madam! What's happening?" Lucius Malfoy had to yell to make himself heard over the din as the monitoring charms started going haywire; beeping and whirling and flashing.
Poppy didn't even pause upon hearing the volume and tone in the Malfoy Lord's voice that would have brought many others to their knees. She flitted about, flicking and slashing her wand in complex movements and motions that only seemed to grow more violent and frantic with every passing second.
At last, she threw down her wand and grabbed both Lucius and Minerva's arms and dragged them towards the three prone forms. Before either had a chance to protest the manhandling, Poppy had shoved a bundle of bandages into each of their hands and pushed them into position – one on either side of Harry's bed.
"P-Poppy…" Minerva asked in a shaky voice, face paler than alabaster parchment. "Is that… there's more blood than before…" And, after glancing quickly, Lucius knew this to be true; and cursed.
"Yes!" Snapped Poppy as she tore the blood-soaked bandages from the still boy's arms – still as death… no, don't think about it! "We don't have much time left! You need to put as much pressure as you possibly can onto the cuts to stem the flow! I've got to get the last Blood Replenisher into his system!"
Without a second's hesitation, not giving a single thought to his robes or pristine appearance, Lucius immediately folded the bandages and pressed them tightly to the long, jagged cut on the boy's right arm; while Minerva followed shortly behind with the left. Poppy flew like the hounds of hell were on her heels, and came back seconds later with the required potion.
The next moment it was in the IV bag, and the beeping and flashing lights faded and all was blessed silence. Ominous silence. Deafening silence.
And still, Lucius and Minerva did not dare ease from their task. After an eternity that was truly only seconds, Dumbledore – who had remained broken and horrified and useless in the corner – asked the question none of the rest had dared to voice.
"What's happened, Poppy? And how much longer do we have?"
It was a testament to how shaken and exhausted Poppy was that she didn't just ignore the man outright – as she had been doing with both him and Lupin – although she refused to look at him. "Something happened, I don't know what, but Harry accelerated the bleeding. He's ready and willing to die – desperate for it, I imagine." Here, she rested her forehead in her palm, exhaustion leaking from every pore of her body. "That was my last Blood Replenisher. Coupled with the accelerated bleeding; Harry, Severus, and Draco only have minutes left – ten, tops."
She sighed shakily as Dumbledore's breath hitched and Minerva sobbed. Lucius showed no other reaction than the steady stream of tears that traitorously leaked from his ice-blue eyes. "I've done all that I can do… the rest is up to Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy. May Merlin help them."
To Harry's shock, rather than collapse at his Mum's side as he had in the memory a million times before, his Da instead moved over to him, picking him up and clutching him to his chest as though to never let him go.
Harry leaned into the embrace, knowing that it wasn't real and only a figment of his tattered and desperate mind – but not caring either way.
Until… "Harry…" His Da spoke, and it sounded so much more real and substantial than anything else in this dark place that Harry began to wonder… and fear. "Little Harry… Oh I'm so, so very very sorry… I'll never leave you again, my baby boy. I promise. Never, never again."
"S'not twu." Little Harry sniffled, eyes bright and pain-filled. "Yew will, yew nevew wanna me… yew will leave an' yew nevew come back; jus' like mummy."
"I'm so sorry…" Da choked out, and Little Harry was surprised to find his Da's cheeks wet and tear-stained. "I should never have left you, but I promise I won't ever again. Please come with me, baby boy, please let me make it better."
Hearing the words that he'd been so desperate to hear for most of his life, Harry perked up and looked up at his father – eyes now full of adoration and curiosity. "Yew make it's bettew? Jus' likes An' Tunia dids wif Dudwey? Yews can makes de Fweak's all bettews?"
"Yes, yes Little Angel. Come with your Daddy and me and we'll do our best to make it all better." The Angel's voice was just as beautiful as Harry thought it would be; and for some reason that he didn't know he blushed as he was called 'Little Angel'.
Hardly daring to hope, leaning into the comforting embrace and locking eyes with the silver of his Angel, Harry bit his suddenly trembling lip. "Yew… yew pwomise?"
"Yes… yes, we promise." Both of them said this at the same time, and suddenly there was a flash of golden light – identical to the light Harry had watched encompass his Da, his Mum's ghost, and himself in the cruelly repeated memory – that washed over them; and Harry was filled with the purest, strongest, most wonderful feeling of contentment and happiness and safety that he immediately broke down in heart-rending sobs.
Little Harry didn't even notice as he started growing, becoming larger and larger in his Da's arms until he had to shift his grip – to accommodate the suddenly fifteen year old body in his arms. As he grew he regained all of his terrible memories that he'd lost and forcefully forgotten. But as each new one popped up, it was swallowed by the golden, glowing feeling in his chest; until the shadows and darkness were subdued and Harry was left sobbing in relief in his Da's arms.
Interrupting his Da's frantic and soothing noises and his Angel's – his Draco's – shocked and awed gasps, Harry turned and faced his Da's suddenly warm and loving onyx eyes – so different from the remembered dark and cold tunnels – and choked out in a hoarse voice, "You… you'll always be my Da? And I'll be your… your Little Boy?"
"Yes Harrigan… I promise. Now and forever, and even beyond that." Severus promised solemnly, and Harry gave a blinding, radiant, watery smile; before turning to face Draco.
"And you… you'll always be my Dragon? And I'll be your…" And here, his voice dropped to a self-conscious whisper and a blush infused his cheeks. "Your Little Angel?"
"Yes Love. For eternity, if you'll have me." And he too was graced with one of his love's beautiful smiles – a smile that he'd missed over the hellish summer, and felt blessed by the gods to see now.
And, as they all clung to each other – healing and loving and comforting – they finally felt whole.
It wouldn't be easy, it wouldn't be painless, and it would be a bloody uphill battle; but they would do it and come out the other end stronger and closer than ever before. They would be a family.
And, as they were encased in bright white light that caused the shadows to flee and fade away; they knew that everything would be okay.
They'd promised, after all. And Family never breaks a promise.
I don't have to scream for Him to hear me
Don't have to bleed for Him to see me
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me
I don't have to scream
I don't have to bleed
'Cause I'm clean, He is listening
And I don't have to scream
You are free
You are free
You are free
A/N: Here you are. The official last chapter of 'If I Die Young'. In case anyone was wondering, the two songs are:
Scream by Zoegirl
Set Me Free by Casting Crowns
Both are excellent songs and I've been dying to use them in a fic. So glad that I got the chance to use both; as they complement eachother so well.
Anywho, thanks for sticking around and being so faithful and patient, and I dearly hope that this lived up to your expectations.
Keep an eye out for my other stories, and I think that I'll start a new one to commemorate the completion of this one. Maybe. You never know…