An explanation: is not forthcoming. Seriously, I don't know what's going on in this. It was a write-something-in-20-minutes-and-hope-for-the-best!fic, which is really, honestly, not meant to be HP; it just… turned out that way. It may or may not be non-magic, but it is most definitely AU. The title is from Lenore by Edgar Allen Poe, and cruciator means tormentor or torturer. It's meant to be Bellatrix. Ish.
a dirge for her
She flashes him a weak smile, says it'll be okay, and he tries to return it, but fails. Not now, he thinks, I can't do this now. Not while he's after us. But there's no choice in the matter, so he blinks away the tears threatening to form, kisses her and then her expanded stomach. The baby's due next month, a boy. James hopes he'll look like his mother, vibrant green eyes and auburn hair, sure that he'll not live to see him born.
He's a soldier, in the odd sense of one in a society so small that it doesn't have an army, but rather a militia made up of the police and anyone capable of fighting. It seems ridiculous, really, a single man and the few who agree with him - a cult, basically - can cause so much damage, destroy so many lives, kill so many innocents. But Tolkien was right, it seems: It needs but one foe to breed a war, and those who have not swords can still die upon them.
I love you, he says, and then he's gone.
He dies on that mission, and yet not. His body is still functioning, he still breathes and eats and sleeps, but he's no longer alive, because he has nothing to live for.
It makes him sick to even think of it.
He received word of it from a distraught girl who looked hardly old enough to be out of school, much less be in the middle of a war, but then, James is only a few years older. In any case, their eyes both show the age of one who has seen more than their share of death.
She told of how upon checking up on his pregnant wife, she was met with blood-spattered walls and silence, how the house was dark and stunk of terror - he didn't ask, and didn't want to know - how she'd found what remained of Lilian's body in the bedroom, how the foetus had been literally cut out of her, the message writ in blood; the debt is paid. He vomited then; he'd seen what the cruciator could do, seen what happened to Frank and Alice. He'd been sick then, too.
The makeshift funeral is a tearful affair; his best friend helped to dig the grave, and they'd found a flat stone to mark it, writing the names and dates on it with a permanent marker. Lily had wanted to name the baby Harrison, and he might not have agreed when she brought it up originally, but that didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.
I'm sorry, he whispers. I'm sorry I wasn't there.
He's watched carefully in the weeks afterwards, as though no-one's sure if he'll break or not. He's good at hiding behind a mask, though, and they don't realise that he's already broken, simply waiting.
And when he meets the cruciator in battle, he knows it, even though it isn't what he's expecting. She - for it is definitely a she - has a manic gleam in her eye, and her fighting style goes beyond stoicism; she simply stands, and anyone who comes too near finds themselves dead. She doesn't even bat an eye, as though they aren't worth her time, and he realises that they aren't, because she can't play with them. They only really exist to her if they're writhing in pain under her torments.
And he knows that he won't survive a battle with her, he knows it, and he smiles honestly for the first time since Lilian died, and prays that he can bring her down with him, even though it doesn't really matter either way to him any more; he's going to be with them, and for that he is happy.