The Measure of One's Love

Sorry for not updating for a while, but I was so busy that I couldn't even breathe the next few months.

The trial went as follows. Lucius played off the Ministry's fears. It's similar to the Ministry refusing to admit that Voldemort has returned even though the evidence was right in front of them. Harry didn't feel guilty and confessed. He feared for the fate of his own godfather. If he confessed his own "crime," that would undermine Sirius's escape. It would not be Sirius escaping from Azkaban by his own power – it would be Harry helping him escape from Azkaban.

Also, several notes about this situation:

This will be the last time that Harry is treated like this.

To answer a review, yes, I am planning something quite…bad…for Lucius Malfoy. Although, don't hold your breath. It won't be coming for quite a few more chapters.

Last note: I find it quite…um…for lack of better word for it, interesting when someone said that if this was the way Harry was going to act throughout my entire story, then I should change my story title. Actually, in my opinion, I find my title quite fitting. What does it mean to be a "true" champion?

Snape usually spent his holidays, even the Easter holidays, in solitude in his home in Spinner's End. There, he would read or brew potions, whichever suited his fancy at the moment. He had never been interrupted before, so when he heard a knock on his door in the middle of his reading, he was somewhat surprised, and quite irritated. He stood up and marched to the door, about to yell at the person to go away and leave a peaceful potions master be. However, when he saw who it was, he stopped himself. "Headmaster, it's a pleasure to see you," he said silkily. "May I ask what brings you here?"

Dumbledore entered Snape's home as he held the door open for him. "Severus, there is something I must speak to you about. I require your assistance after Easter break."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "And what does this assistance consist of?"

Dumbledore sighed. "Severus, have you really been so isolated the last few days that you don't know of any of the happenings in the Wizarding World?"

"The Muggle world is far, far more peaceful, Headmaster," Snape said curtly. He was becoming more annoyed by the second. Dumbledore was beating around the bush, and he had reading to do.

Dumbledore clasped his hands behind his back and said gravely, "Harry's been sent to Azkaban." There was a silence.

"Pardon?" Snape said blankly.

Dumbledore rubbed his temple. "Harry's been sent to Azkaban."

Snape's eyes flashed. "What do they think they're playing at? That boy would never do something as stupid as breaking the law – especially not a law that would send him to Azkaban."

"Unfortunately, he did, and the Wizengamot has found it fitting to send him to Azkaban for a week." Dumbledore stared out a window. "Severus, I'm not here to talk to you about their decision. I'm here to discuss with you how we are to remedy this. The past we cannot change, but we have the future in our hands." Seeing the Snape was giving him his full attention now, Dumbledore continued, "Harry has a very…violent past. I will not disclose it to you for it is his decision as to who should know it and who should not. But the point is, Azkaban could very well change everything he has ever known."

"You are saying that his mind might collapse under the stress."

"Of course. He is strong, Severus. However, the strength of his mind is like thick wood." Dumbledore conjured up a thick plate of wood to make his point. "Under normal circumstances, wood is very strong." Dumbledore whipped the plate against the wall, and the wood fell to the ground, unharmed. "However, when you take advantage of its weakness…" Dumbledore shot a stream of fire at the wood, incinerating it. "Do you understand, Severus?"

Snape nodded. "What are you implying, Headmaster?"

"I suggest healing…through Occlumency." Dumbledore turned to Snape.

"Forgive me for disagreeing, but Occlumency is not an art of healing. It is the art of shielding your mind…"

"I know, Severus. Perhaps 'healing' is not the right word for this. It's more about strengthening Harry's control over his thoughts and memories because, as we both know, how do you shield your mind?"

Snape's answer was soft. "You control it."

Harry shivered as he was led by two Aurors to his cell. It was as dreary, cold, and depressing as he had remembered it on his visit to it several months ago. One of the Aurors opened the door to his cell, and Harry hesitated a little before entering it, the door closing behind him. They had taken his wand, so he couldn't use the Patronus Charm…Harry sat down on the floor, hugging his knees and waiting for the creatures to begin their torment. Soon, he began to tremble, but not from cold…

Harry screamed. It was definitely nothing like normal memories. It was as if he was re-experiencing all this…When he was using the Pensieve in his home to help him recuperate and accept his past, it was him watching his younger self get abused. Eventually, through many painful tries, he was finally able to accept his past. However, the Dementors' effect was much different. He was feeling the pain as if it were happening to him at that moment.

Harry's screams rang throughout Azkaban, so much that it scared even some of the nearby prisoners, who covered their ears. Harry no longer even realized he was in Azkaban. He was at the Dursleys and he was reliving his worst nightmares. However, his worst memory was probably of his mother…

Lily placed Harry down in his playpen. "Harry, my son, everything will be alright," she whispered soothingly despite the tears pouring down her cheeks. "It will be alright." The door burst open, and Lily spun around, fear in her eyes.

"No," she whispered. "Please don't kill Harry…"

"Step aside, you silly girl," Voldemort hissed.

"Not Harry, please no don't kill him, take me, kill me instead —" Lily was panicking now.

"This is my last warning —" Voldemort hissed impatiently.

"Not Harry! Please ... have mercy ... Not Harry! Please — I'll do anything..." Lily begged.

"Avada Kedavra!"

Lily's eyes clouded over as the green light hit her in the chest.

Voldemort stepped over her dead body and towards the child. He stared at the boy and smiled sadistically. He raised his wand to the boy's forehead. "Goodbye, Harry Potter. Avada Kedavra!"

"Mom…" Harry whimpered, tears running down his face. He heard her beg for his life. He saw the green light. He heard her thump to the floor, dead. Because of him. "Mom, please don't go…" His heart felt as if it was about to wrench apart. His body felt as if it was being ripped apart. His mind was crushed.

The hours passed into days. Harry relived hundreds of his memories while in Azkaban, all of them in vivid detail. Hundreds of beatings, rapes, and scenes of emotional torture ran through him. He didn't even realize that he was in Azkaban. He could have gone crazy, but he never would've even known.

His screams vibrated off the walls. They were the screams of true suffering.

Hermione had locked herself in her room, not able to bring herself to get out of bed. She didn't tell her parents what happened. It was too painful for her. It was strange – it was almost as if her heart was sharing Harry's pain while he was in Azkaban. She hugged the teddy bear that Harry had given her for her last birthday.

"I know it's childish, but it's snuggly, don't you think?" Harry asked, an easy grin on his face.

Would she ever see that grin again, his eyes shining with gentleness and warmth? She knew he was strong – he must've been to be able to recover from his past and recuperate. But…Azkaban was about to destroy everything that he had worked for in the last few years. He had struggled so much to free himself from the damage his relatives had caused to him. He emerged as a calm, easy-going boy despite only several years ago, he appeared skittish and easily frightened. Would Azkaban break him?

Crookshanks leapt onto her bed and rubbed his head on her hand.

Hermione smiled sadly. Harry always gave her the best gifts. "Crookshanks, you can feel it, too, right? Harry's pain?" Tears ran out of the corners of her eyes onto her pillow. She held the Kneazle close to her, sobbing into its fur. Every minute that passed – it was an eternity for her. The picture of the child Harry quivering in fear, submitting to his uncle, never left her mind's eye.

Ron opened the letter that Hermione had sent him. "Bloody hell," he whispered.

"What is it, Ron? Is it from Harry?" Ginny piped up from the breakfast table.

"Bloody hell," Ron said again, as if in shock as he sat down in his chair again.

Fred and George gave each other looks. "I think he sounds more intelligible when he's asleep."

"Harry's been sent to Azkaban," Ron said breathlessly. The entire Weasley household was quiet, which was quite a feat, considering there were so many children.

"What?" Molly turned to him, shocked and disbelieving. "But he's such a nice boy! He would never have done anything to break the law so terrible that he had to be sent to Azkaban because of it! The Wizengamot must have made a mistake!"

Ron handed her Hermione's letter, too shock to continue speaking.

Arthur, who read over her shoulder, stood up, bristling. "I'm going to have a little chat with Lucius."

"NO, ARTHUR! Sit!" Molly growled. "But Sirius was innocent anyway! Why does it matter if Harry saved him before? It was good!"

"They're playing off the fact of what could have happened!" Fred said angrily. "I suppose they thought it would deter such actions from happening again."

"I don't get why he just didn't curse Lucius's mouth off," George said, with equal anger. "I'm sure he can. All the teachers compliment him on his wandwork. Some of the best they have ever seen. Almost flawless. I bet he could turn Malfoy into a little cockroach and no one can turn him back."

"You guys really don't understand Harry, do you?" Ginny asked quietly. The entire table turned to her. "He would never seek revenge. Malfoy did this to Harry to get his revenge on him for the humiliation at Flourish and Blotts and the humiliation of losing his house elf and his pride. He was petty – he lost to a twelve-year-old. If Harry transfigured Malfoy into a cockroach or something as revenge, he'd be no better than Malfoy, and he's big on a different kind of 'better.' He doesn't care about blood purity or whatever, but he cares a lot about moral character."

"Wait until I get back to Hogwarts. I'm going to kill Malfoy Jr." Ron had finally found his voice.

"Harry will probably stop you," Ginny said plainly.

Fred slammed his hand on the table. "This is so bloody stupid! People are taking advantage of him left and right and he doesn't even do anything about it! What's so great about moral character if people just walk all over you?"

"He's barely twelve. What if he does do something about it?" Ginny asked impatiently. "This isn't a game of pretend! This is real life. Fine, I'll put it in practical terms then, if you're so against the romantic idealism! If he attacked Malfoy, he would've been restrained by all the wizards and witches in the Wizengamot. Then he'll be having an even longer sentence to Azkaban. Sirius might not even be cleared! And he's willing to sacrifice himself to prevent all that!"

"He saved your life! Don't you care about his?" Fred roared.

"Fred, sit down!" Molly scolded.

Her son looked as if he was about to argue, thought better of it, and then sat down. "What does he get out of all this?" he growled at Ginny.

"He got everything he could have wanted out of such a situation, minus his sentence and the consequences of such a sentence. Sirius was completely cleared of charges. That was all he wanted. He wanted Sirius's freedom. He wanted them to be a happy family without the stress from being chased down by the authorities! He wanted to be able to say goodbye to Sirius at the train station without Aurors rushing forward!" Ginny bit her lower lip. "I do care about him…and I don't agree with him being sent to Azkaban. But I trust his decisions."

Luna glanced at the Daily Prophet. It actually caught her attention this time. "Harry's in Azkaban?" She tilted her head. Do they allow visits? No, probably not. The sentence was only for a week. Maybe she can make him something for when he returns though. But what though?

They didn't know each other that well. However, the bond between them was strong.

But what was she to do to make Harry feel better? She tapped her lip thoughtfully with her pencil. Maybe…it wouldn't be the first present someone would think of to give to someone like Harry, but in Luna's opinion, it would suit him perfectly.

"Sirius, stop drinking!" Lupin said, pulling the bottle of firewhiskey away from his friend. "I know you're upset but you've been drinking for six days now. We're going to pick him up tomorrow, so get a hold of yourself!"

"Moony, do you…?" Sirius slurred. "…do you think…Harry will be alright?"

"Of course I do," Lupin said, although he was having doubts himself. "C'mon, Sirius, let's get you upstairs before you break something."

Sirius, Remus, and Hermione arrived at Harry's cell and were appalled. Not only were human feces littered everywhere, but there were also signs of blood. "What happened?" Hermione whispered in horror.

One of the Aurors answered nervously, "The guards said that apparently, he was in so much emotional pain, he bit himself. They could hear his screams echoing off the walls." He glanced with pity at the curled up figure on the floor of the prison before looking away.

The minute the door opened, all three of them rushed towards Harry.

"Harry!" Hermione was about to hug him when Harry flinched and moved away from her quickly in terror. Her heart nearly broke. She had never seen such a thing. "Harry, it's me, Hermione. Wake up. It's over."

"H-Hermione?" he whispered in a small voice. "What's going on?"

"You were sent to Azkaban for a week, remember?" she said gently, adopting the tone Harry always used when trying to coax a frightened animal.

When he looked up, Hermione jumped. He looked…terrible. He obviously hadn't been eating for a while. Tears were running down his dirty face, making streaks. His eyes looked almost dead. "Tergeo! Scourgify!" she whispered, cleaning him up.

"Harry, let's get you out of here," Sirius muttered, lifting his godson up and carrying him out of his cell.

Hermione looked back at the cell that Harry was in. It pained her. She knew Harry must've thought he was safe from his relatives once he entered the Wizarding World. But, no, they continue to have their influence on him. It was almost like a betrayal of sorts. Hermione lightly touched the walls of the cell on her way out and held the feelings in her heart. This was Harry's suffering. She would remember it. Nothing was worse than not remembering someone's suffering in the name of love. Sighing, she followed Remus and Sirius back to Potter Manor. "Harry, prison rags really don't suit you," she tried to joke gently to pull him out of his depressed state, although she wasn't very good at that kind of thing. Usually, she just attempts to do so, and Harry, not wanting to hurt her feelings, does most of the work.

However, Harry appeared too exhausted to even smile as a response.

Hermione hung her head. She had never seen him so helpless. He was usually energetic and full of life. When they arrived at Potter Manor, all the house elves surrounded them, clambering to take care of their master. Sirius finally handed him over before collapsing on an armchair, his face in his hand. While Remus talked to him, Hermione went upstairs to Harry's room.

There, she found him curled up on his bed. She noted sadly that it was a very different way from how he usually sleeps. Usually, he sleeps with one hand behind his head, the other on his stomach, with a content smile on his face. "Harry?" Receiving no answer, Hermione pulled up a chair and sat down next to his bed. She won't leave his side. Closing her eyes, she dozed off. A few minutes later, she jerked awake to Harry's whimpering. Nightmare… Careful with her movements, she touched Harry's shoulder to wake him. He had always been a light sleeper.

To her surprise, Harry jerked awake and leapt away from her touch, his eyes wide in fear like a cornered animal.

"Harry! It's me, Hermione!"

Harry was breathing deeply, trembling uncontrollably. However, it was clear that he was trying to get back his bearings.

"Remember, Harry? You went to Azkaban for a week! But it's over," Hermione said gently.

Harry closed his eyes. "I remember. It's just…for a while, I thought I was really back there."

"Harry, you will never go back there," she said soothingly.

"I know, but tell that to my body and my subconscious," Harry muttered. He shivered. "I need to calm down or else Hogwarts is going to find me a big pain, especially at night." He placed a hand to his face, his eyes pained.

Hermione closed her eyes. "Harry, how do you do this?"

"Do what?"

"How do you take this all?" Hermione said, her voice high. "Your parents were killed and a terrorist was after you when you were just a baby. Then you lived eight years in constant terror at the hands of your own relatives. Until you go to Hogwarts, you were trying to recuperate from all that. Then, even at Hogwarts, you faced isolation and terror again! Now Azkaban…How do you still remain so…"

"So…what?"

"You know," Hermione said as if going off another topic. "The other day, I told Ginny that you saved her down in the Chamber because you love her."

Harry cocked his head. "That's true, kind of. Treat others as you would want to be treated, kind of like the Golden Rule. Only, since you want everyone to love you, you can translate it to 'love others as yourself.'"

"But people don't treat you the same way! Harry, if you were taken down into the Chamber, how many people would actually go down there for you?" Hermione asked angrily. "And it makes me really angry to see you willing to sacrifice everything you have, and yet, you're not getting anything in return. You were willing to sacrifice your life to stop Voldemort from returning last year, and what did people do? They turn on you without a second thought when they heard you speak Parseltongue! You're loyal; they're not! Doesn't it make the Golden Rule null and void?" Then she muttered, "People don't give you a reason to be good to them. I didn't even give you a reason to save me last year."

"Hermione, if we all think that way, how will anything change?" Harry asked. "The change has to start somewhere. Why not with us?" Then he reached for her hand, which he had just jerked away from. Hermione noticed that his hand was trembling. "You're loyal, and looking at you only gives me more reason to continue what I'm doing."

Without even realizing it, tears ran down Hermione's cheeks. "Harry, where did you learn to love so much?"

Harry thought about it for a while. "I don't think it was something I learned, at least not by observation – as you can probably guess. Feeling pain, I know I don't like it on myself, so why should I give it to others? I think it was just that observation. I think that love is a choice, Hermione. Perhaps you can't control it completely, but you can either decide to try to let go of your heart…or you can choose not to."

That was the last straw. Hermione broke down, sobbing. Tears dropped onto the back of Harry's hand. Even though he was in such a weak state, her love for him had never been stronger. Her chest felt painful. For some weird reason, it was as if the more pain he suffered, the more she loved him. "I love you, Harry. With all of my heart. I hate to see you hurt. I hate to see people walk all over you. I hate when you're willing to sacrifice so much, but no one even cares. I hate when people turned their backs to you. How could they do that to you? It's so stupid!"

After a silence, Harry whispered, "Merlin, Hermione…"

Hermione felt his arms wrapping themselves around her, pulling her into a hug. Harry pressed her against his chest, and Hermione could hear Harry's heart. It was so strong. She looked up into Harry's eyes. They were gentle and loving, filled with affection. Somehow, throughout Harry's life, his eyes never changed. With a smile, he said, "You're a wonderful person, Hermione, no matter what people say. Thank you."

Hermione muttered, "Jerk…can't you just let someone wallow in their misery without you making them feel better?"

Harry rubbed circles into her back before saying softly, "Think of suffering as the true measure, and proof, of one's love, Hermione. It doesn't look quite so depressing, right? People say that they would jump in front of a bullet for their friends all the time. But you know, death is not quite as painful as suffering while still alive – at least, I don't think so. Death is quick, but suffering isn't. How many people would say they would undergo torture for their friends? The greater the suffering, the greater the love."

Silent tears ran down her cheeks. "Such beautiful words, Harry…"

Harry smiled. "I should be a poet."

"Stupid, you already are."

Harry chuckled. Then he saw an owl outside his window. "Hold on, Hermione…" He stood up and opened the window. The owl flew in and dropped a package on Harry's bed. "What's this?" He picked up the letter attached to the package.

Harry,

I thought you might like this. It's for keeping nightmares away.

Luna

Harry opened the package, expecting an exotic concoction or something of the sort, but when he saw what was inside, a smile lit his face. It was a simple necklace – a small crystal on a thin gold chain.

"What is that?" Hermione asked curiously.

"Something to keep my nightmares away. From Luna." Harry turned towards the window and said softly, "Hermione…I think…everything will be alright in the end." With that, he clasped the necklace on.

Hermione watched his eyes. They reminded her of when she had looked into his Pensieve…but worse. Again, he was very good at hiding his true suffering. Just to what extent did his experience in Azkaban damage him?

I know this is going to be one of the most controversial chapters in my story, but try to be open-minded to the ideas expressed here. Or if you don't like it, this is one chapter that I don't want flames from. This chapter embraces the core ideas of this story – suffering as a true measure of love…sacrifice…perseverance…humility - so this is the only chapter that I don't want any flames. Questions are welcomed, but flames I will ignore.

Please review.