I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now

Rating: M

Summary: At the Wizengamot, Harry finds himself having a battle of wits with a very different opponent instead: Marcus Flint. Warnings for slash. Marcus/Harry.

For my 300th reviewer from To Bedlam and Partway Back , Lone-Angel-1992. I'm so sorry it took a whole bleeding year. But thanks ever so much for believing I'd come out with it in the end (o:

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, nor the lyrics of the two Morrissey songs used in this piece, one in the title, and the other in the chapter proper

Chapter Sixteen

When he first awoke he wasn't sure if the darkness was for the lack of light in the room, or the lack of light in his eyes. Slowly, he processed the faint awareness he had of the rest of the room, from the large vanity in the corner, to the drapes drawn over the enormous bay windows, to the luxurious bed he was resting on. He didn't understand how this was possible, when, he reached up to touch his face, and found his eyes sealed firmly tight. It was strange, though. It felt like they were open. He could even blink, insofar as much as one could blink with closed lids. Physically he knew they were closed, but his mind seemed to be processing his sight just ruddy fine. Try as he might he couldn't unclench them.

He didn't remember how he'd gotten here. He didn't remember what had happened to him that could have him lying here, naked, on top of the silk covers, with aching muscles. Neither could he fathom just why he would be so comfortable at his being absolutely bare. Previously when he was- when he was- previously, he had never enjoyed making a show of himself. His back tingled with phantom pains that absent hands longed to soothe. He couldn't remember what it was that had changed to make this so, when it happened, or even why.

He lay as still as he could manage, trying not even to breathe as he considered what exactly he did and did not know. There was a great amount of the latter, he realised, and not a lot of the former, although he couldn't quite summon up enough of himself to care. Any sort of strong emotion had become a vague concept to him, and was fading faster as he tried to hold onto their ragged vestiges. And then he thought- why bother? Who was he, who had he been, and where had this person gone? And what, above all things, had made him like this? He had no answers to any of these questions, could not care to find them, and the more these thoughts circulated in his mind, the faster he felt them slipping from his grasp, as though they'd been circling down a drain. Within bare moments he only had a lingering awareness of a previous discomfort. There were still things that were important to him, only these no longer numbered among them.. It was his self that no longer registered on that scale, and he had other, more important priorities. He was sure of it. He exhaled in a long, pained breath.

Speaking of things that were still important to him, he became suddenly aware that he was not alone in the room, and was rewarded when he made a move as if to sit upright. A startled noise sounded from his right, and he felt a dip on the mattress as someone settled beside him. Kind hands framed his face and gently turned him towards…towards…he didn't know this boy. Well, he did and he didn't. He couldn't remember this boy's name, his age, let alone his favourite colour, but he remembered the feel of those hands that his skin craved, the callouses on them and their unusual size. These hands had been kind to him once, and, well, he hadn't noticed he was cold before till those hands brought with them their heated comparisons.

"How are you feeling?" a voice whispered to him. "When you didn't wake for two days I-"

Those hands slid down his cheeks, to his neck and shoulders and side, burning points of contact where they touched his skin. He shuddered at the blistering heat against his frigid skin.

"Is it cold here?" he asked aloud, and was startled by the sound of his voice. He didn't recall what he sounded like, a light mid-tone tenor, rather pleasant sounding, he thought. The voice that rang in his ears sounded moderately young, untested and untroubled. It brought back no memories at all. "I don't know why, but for some reason it just- feels very, very cold."

The other boy made a pained noise and brought his hands up to his face again, urging him gently forward to kiss him. He relaxed into the kiss, drinking in the familiar taste as he isolated just where the cold stemmed from: his hands, first and foremost, and his forehead. No wonder he felt cold all over. When this boy kissed him, though, he felt the stir of some kindling buried in his chest, and unlike any of his previous thoughts, it seemed to entrench itself in his mind, taking root to blossom and grow. He kissed the boy back, harder, surer, and smiled when the boy moaned into the kiss.

The awareness he'd had of the room, he slowly realised, also extended towards the boy. He had a thick, broad frame, but that much he'd felt from his hands, slowly wandering from their delicate placement on the boy's wide shoulders, bulky with muscle. The boy was fit, he thought to himself with a little pleased mental exclamation. Although they were both on the bed, the boy half-kneeling above him, he was clearly not only much larger, but much taller than him too. Strangely enough he felt no fear or intimidation from that bulk, just a gratitude for the warmth that seemed to emanate from every inch of him as he felt the cold in his chest slowly begin to ebb.

As for the boy himself- well, he would be hard-pressed to call him handsome, exactly, but he was certainly striking. He had russet hair that fell tousled into his pistachio-coloured eyes, a strong, aquiline nose, and wide mouth. He thought that the boy's teeth were almost defiantly English as he curled his tongue over their veneer, and rather endearing.

The boy's mouth left his lips, although they kept up their stream of kisses against his face, down his throat, to his collarbone and chest. He was startled, however, when something wet scalded him even more than the boy's touch. Raising inquisitive fingers, he felt for the boy's face, and was shocked to find more of that scalding liquid wash over his hand. He tried to brush them away, shuddering when they fell on his left hand. He was feeling pins and needles beginning to build in that hand under the numbness of the chill, awareness slowly and painfully creeping back in.

"Are you crying?" he asked, astonished. "I don't understand. Why are you crying?"

"Please," the boy said, shaky and hurting, "don't. Don't ask. Don't- just- just don't." He could feel the boy's hands all over him again, trying to calm him with his caresses, but they were only spreading the alarm. The boy couldn't hide the way they trembled. When the boy drew back, he could see for himself just how ill the boy looked, with his sunken eyes and haggard expression. He pitied the boy, really, and tried to lend him as much comfort as he could. He reached for those hands to hold them still, and for a moment it was like the boy stopped breathing.

"It's okay," he said, "I'm okay. But you're obviously not. What's happened? Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I love you," the boy suddenly blurted out. He was stunned. It was the first time he'd ever heard these words- he knew this as surely as he knew the boy's touch. The boy had been the only one to show this to him, in this capacity, and he trusted that the words the boy spoke were the truth. Bemused, he frowned. He didn't understand why this would make the boy so uneasy.

"I love you," the boy said again. "I love you, I swear I do. Whatever it takes, I'll do it, just- just let that be enough. Please, let that be enough- for you to stay- for us to like this. Always, and forever. Is it? Harry?"

He was confused again, and slightly insecure. "Are you calling me hairy? Should I- should I shave or-"

The boy groaned, pained and sounding oh so lost. More tears were falling, burning as they touched his skin. He felt so cold, and the tears were cutting blistering rivulets where they ran down his skin, and yet there was no pain. When he looked down at where his hands rested on the boy's face they seemed largely normal, so he just hoped for the best. He did discover that it was easier for him to curl his fingers now, lubricated and thawed by the heat and dampness of the boy's tears. So he tried for the simplest solution he could manage, cradling the boy's head where it still rested on the same level as his chest, while trying to project as much comfort as he could manage through his thin, vulnerable skin.

"Hey," he said, "it's okay. It's all right. I- you too. You're not hurt, are you?"

The boy didn't answer, just continued to clutch at him, the blistering liquid falling on his skin and the large shaking shoulders evidence that the boy wouldn't stop weeping, even if he tried to keep his cries muffled. He didn't understand what the boy was so afraid of.

He had to see, he suddenly decided. He got it in his head that all this mess had come about because he was no longer able to open his eyes. If only he could do so again- well, perhaps this boy wouldn't be so upset anymore, and besides, when the boy smiled, he'd like to be able to see it with his own two eyes, rather than through whatever awareness he managed to 'see' things with now. It was a rather daunting task, because it felt as if there was a heavy weight settled atop his eyelids that was keeping them winched shut, even when he reached up with his hands and physically tried to pry them apart.

Partway through the boy realised what he was doing and gripped him with renewed desperation.

"You can't," he gasped, "please, don't-!"

There was a touch of strained pleading underneath the boy's words, though, that pushed him to try even harder. He could do this, he knew it. For both their sake's, he had to. Perhaps then he'd be able to remember who he'd been. Perhaps then he'd even be able to remember if he'd love this boy who so obviously cared for him, too.

"It'll be okay," he tried to assure the boy, taking ahold of his hands and locking them together with his stiff fingers in his lap. He kept straining against whatever kept his eyes closed, which was harder than it sounded, because half the time he couldn't even tell if they were open or closed. The boy kept babbling at him to stop, that no, he couldn't, shouldn't, do this, that this was the only thing keeping the pain at bay, that please, please, wasn't it enough that they just loved one another-

He couldn't remember who his parents were, what his name was, where he lived or even how old he was. But strangely enough, he could remember a little jingle he'd heard once, a bit of a tune that trickled through his head, needling its way through, wheedling past all the erected defences the same way the boy's cries pierced his heart.

It must have been part of a ditty he'd heard once a lifetime ago, and it went a little like this:

'Close your eyes, and think of someone you physically admire

Let me kiss you; o-o-oh

Let me kiss you; o-o-oh;

And when you open your eyes

You see someone you physically despise

But my heart is open

My heart is open

To you…'

He opened his eyes.

The original order had been for Marcellus to implant a subconscious thought into Harry's mind, to have him forget, and close his eyes to all that had happened, especially regarding the horcruxes- he'd never be a threat that way- although Marcellus hadn't known such a thought would manifest itself in as physical a manner as this. His condition became quite telling, then, if Harry should ever break it, but Marcellus knew his son grieved every time he looked the boy's way. If Marcus felt even an inkling of what he did for Brunhild for this boy, then he could not imagine his pain, and hated his own involvement in the cause of that pain. Marcellus would not do his son the injustice in brushing their bonding off as puppy love. For one thing, to bond as deep and as rapidly as they had could not have been a decision undertaken rashly; Flints did not fall often nor did they fall lightly. Not to mention this boy had displayed power of his own right, having been able to, in his desperation, converge on a days' old bond after having underwent numerous magical fluctuations, and turn his own son's trait against him. There were very few who could even dream of besting a Flint at mind magics and apparently, this boy had naturally been one of them.

And although he would never voice it aloud, Marcellus felt this was one decision his Lord had not handled well. He had all but effectively crippled Marcus, now that he and Harry were bonded, chaining his son to a boy that was little better than a tool. While his son's beliefs would not allow him to pitt himself against their Lord, Marcus would never be able to respond to their Lord again without that lingering resentment of Harry's treatment. Their Lord did not understand sentiment well, for all his intellect and learning, did not understand that Harry had already been on the tipping point where the Dark was concerned. For Marcus's sake alone he would have refrained from all involvement, and his being Neutral had all but sealed it in stone. He would have welcomed the opportunity to evade the fighting altogether under that excuse, and would have been the first to champion their Lord's efforts at retrieving the horcrux from him. If only they hadn't reacted the way they had towards the discovery of the seventh horcrux. If only the boy had stayed ignorant, or his Lord had not been so adamant, the Dark would have gained two tools, and his son would have been happy.

Barty had not been wrong to say that this way, Marcus would still have had his boy. But he would be remiss to say that the boy was all there. The original order had only been for the memories of the horcrux, but he had not expected the horcrux seated within the boy to have affected hi on such a deep level. And thus Marcellus had broken Harry's mind, again and again and again, stolen any traces the boy had of his identity, and wiped him clean. He knew Muggles had a saying, 'tabula rasa', to illustrate a blank slate. The boy would be exactly that, save his mind would never imprint a thing again. The only thing he would remember was Marcus.

"Why did you do that?" Marcus had raged, had all but screamed at their Lord. He had only been told they would be removing any trace of the horcrux in Harry's memory- certainly not how. None of them had dared to forewarn him, not even a little. Marcellus knew better than anyone how effective his son's talents could be used in a battle, and he did not want this matter to be the impetus of what had the potential to be one of the worst fights in wizarding history. As it was, their lone other witness, Barty, was having great difficulty staying on his feet. He knew better than anyone how a Flint viewed their bonded; they might have been in their early days yet, but Marcellus could not have chanced his son valuing his heart over his head. Not when this much hinged on the decision.

"How could you do something like that to anyone- let alone to him! It could even be said that you knew his best out of us all, after having faced him each year at his worst. How could you take something like that away from him! Effectively he's been all but Kissed-"

"He will remember you," the Dark Lord replied firmly, showing no perceived insult, for which Marcellus was eternally grateful. "Is that not enough?"

"No!" his son had shot back immediately. "Nothing short of him complete and whole could ever be enough." His voice sounded wrecked.

The Dark Lord raised a haughty eyebrow at him. "Obviously, then this just means that you don't love him enough," he baldly declared to Marcus's shocked face. "If you cannot bring yourself to love him, regardless of what he is- then this was clearly a mistake from the beginning, one Barty, I'm sure, will be more than eager to help you rectify."

Marcus had clammed up immediately. Like Marcellus had noted earlier, their Lord was truly woefully inadequate where matters of the heart were concerned. He did not think his Lord would take offence to his saying so, would perhaps even laude his words as truth. But his Lord could not understand that it was hardly a matter of loving someone enough. Marcus loved, he truly believed that. Had Marcus known about their true intentions, he would have fought against them with every fibre of his being. For once Marcellus was thankful that telepathy lay with him instead of his son. He did not envy his son his empathy right now. Marcus had loved enough to defy his Lord. And he had loved enough to stay.

Marcellus had asked, quietly, if his son wanted him to do the same to him. He could make it so that their whole worlds would revolve around each other, and gave his word that absolutely nothing would interfere in their relationship again. But Marcus had stared at him, long and hard, with something like incredulity in his eyes before he shook his head, slowly, and said, "No. That's the coward's way out, Father; it's no better than allowing such a thing to happen and then to plead ignorance. Harry deserves better than that. I swore an oath, and even if he doesn't remember it, and I'll keep to it to the end of my days. But if you ask me, Father, why, I swear to Modred, Morgana and the Four Winds-"

"I love your mother," he had replied. "I don't have to ask why. I know."

Marcus met his eyes with a wizened look.

"Do you hate me now, for my part in this?" Marcellus had asked him.

Something in Marcus's eyes died that night. You already know my thoughts, the words resounded in his head. Do you even need to ask?

He had no clue then that those would be the last words he would ever say to his son. Perhaps, if he'd had some forewarning, even then, something might have changed. But he hadn't, and so the sequence of events went plodding on towards its inexorable end.

Around them the world continued to turn, unheeding of the slow crumbling of the Flint house in its midst. Hogwarts began again in September 1st as scheduled, with McGonagall appointed Headmistress in Dumbledore's place. Photos had been released of the drooping old man who, with his magic bound, was exactly that, and nothing more. Dumbledore was ailing, and fast. Popular sentiment was the stress of the Triwizard Tournament, combined with his Golden Boy's summons before the school year had even started, and the weight of his tarnished reputation had finally been too much to bear. Britain's wizarding world would mourn him, yes, but very few would actually remember him. The old man did not last to see the turning of the season. In this case, it was January that saw the cruellest month. His funeral was a quiet affair, attended by more of the Dark instead, who took measures to make sure that no ghost would ever rise from his grave.

As for the Golden Boy himself- well, as expected by a large majority of the populace after the events of the summer, he did not return to Hogwarts for his Fifth-Year, not that he could have. There was certainly no evidence to the contrary, and when some of the Hogwarts staff began their inquiries, an official statement was released saying Harry Potter had gone to study at bloody Durmstrang, Karkaroff would corroborate the story, now, wouldn't he? As expected, the public backlash was harsh, but without a visible figure upon which to sally their antagonism, the furore soon faded, and Harry Potter once more receded into the mystery he had first emerged from at the age of eleven.

McGonagall was hardly fooled, of course, but his Lord had managed to placate her somehow- neither party cared to go into the details of the proposition, and Marcellus would protect his Lord's privacy with his life. With the fierce Scotswoman at the helm, in tandem with his Lord, new changes were introduced into the Hogwarts curriculum, supported by Lucius and his ilk. The magic taught became a bit more balanced, a bit more Neutral, and his Lord had actually taken up the mantle of Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, building his cause through more legitimate means, this time around.

The curse, of course, had no effect on him, and his Lord finally realised a deep-seated dream of his, buried long beneath his ambition and drive, but hardly forgotten. Personally Marcellus thought it would be good for his Lord to settle himself back in Hogwarts, and regain the experiences he had lost through splitting his soul. His Lord had retrieved all of the pieces save the ones in live vessels, namely Nagini and Harry, and no one had ever retrieved a horcrux from a live vessel without splintering both the vessel and the horcrux. His Lord wanted to be the first, of course, but he would not be trying that for some years yet. If Harry had been in his right mind, he might even have let his Lord try his removal methods on him, first. But he was not, and so his Lord was left with just Nagini to aid his experiments. Marcellus wished him well in his future endeavours. He would not live to see any of that happen.

He had felt it in his head two days after splintering Harry's mind when the boy awoke, if not for the slurred stirrings of his mind, already familiar as family, then certainly when Marcus projected his pained relief and despair so strongly that he was surprised half of Middleton wasn't up in arms. Marcellus followed Harry's stream of thought briefly to see how his mind had coped with the change. It had flowed quite smoothly with mindless chatter and random observations of his surroundings, utterly blank and as deep as a reflection with no hint of recollection or remembrance. Marcellus had taken that to mean his work had rooted itself deep in Harry's mind after all, and grieved privately, for both his sons. Marcus's mind took no pains to hide his grief, his thoughts sharp and rankling. Underneath it all Marcellus still heard the lullaby his son's mind sang to Harry's, of love and peace and permanence. He was both proud and humbled to know that despite everything, his son's intentions had never once faltered.

Something changed, though, when he felt Marcus's mind bow beneath his depression, and in its place Harry's mind rose, soaring above his thoughtless babble and wrapping himself around Marcus's grief. Somehow they had switched places, and Harry's mind solidified into implacable strength through trust in Marcus, supporting the weight of his son's sorrow with his achingly gentle comfort. Marcellus knew his son had a good heart, and once he finally reined his emotions back in, he would begin to see past his wallowing despair and care, for the boy. It was only good that till then Harry was-

At once Marcellus's mind stoppered at the thought. Once Marcus reined his emotions back in- Harry was supporting him. Marcellus knew, that as good as Marcus was, his training had never covered the kind of soul-wrenching grief he was feeling right now. The kind of soul-wrenching grief he should have, by all means, been swamping Middleton and possibly the entirety of Rue Morgue with and sent them all weeping to their knees. Marcellus could still feel his son's, and Harry's thoughts, so he knew the issue did not lie with his telepathy. And not only was there something dreadfully wrong with Marcus's empathy, Harry should never have been able to garner enough presence of mind to be a player once more in this game of mental strengths. The support should have been one-sided from Marcus, and Marcus alone. To actually have them switch roles-

He took off as fast as he could, shoved children and adults, men and women alike unapologetically from his path as he made his way to the rooms Marcus had claimed for Harry and himself. Gasping for breath, he threw open the doors to the most extraordinary sight.

Harry was kneeling on the bed, very properly, quite naked with his back facing the door. Marcus's head was cradled in his arms, thankfully still attached to the rest of his body, and Marcellus could see that his son was crying. But when Harry turned to face him, his eyes were open.

Only they were not the striking emerald he once remembered, so symbolic of the Boy-Who-Lived, Lily Potter's son. Rather his pupils were entirely milky, as if he were truly blind.

"You should have given me a choice," the boy intoned, one hand moving across Marcus's twisted face, smoothing his brow. "I would have stayed."

"I did want to give you a choice," Marcellus admitted truthfully, not quite able to hide the tremor in his voice. Although he had been the first to declare the boy had power of his own, he had not expected his little wire to have ever been tripped. Now Marcellus was caught, as the Muggles were wont to say, with his pants around his ankles. He did not find it a pleasant feeling.

"Marcus would call that a cheap excuse," Harry said baldly.

Marcellus swallowed. "And can my son no longer speak for himself?"

"Oh, he can," Harry hummed, continuing to run coaxing fingers over Marcus's mask-like face. It was eerie to see his son lying stiff as a manikin. Logically Marcellus knew Marcus should have been able to hear them perfectly well, but there was something unsettling about the stillness of Marcus's body. "He just chooses not to. He feels like he's said everything that he's wanted to say, and has nothing to add. I'm quite inclined to agree with him."

"I'm surprised that you aren't more angry, Harry," Marcellus admitted, "given what my Lord had me do. And what I might have done on my own, besides," he confessed. It was true. Being a telepath did not grant him additional sympathy. On bad days Marcellus suspected his telepathy actually lessened it. While he might not have agreed with his Lord's prescription for Harry, he would have freely done much worse if he ever suspected the boy of recanting their side.

"Please believe that I'm angry," Harry said, in the politest tone possible. "I'm extremely, exceedingly angry. I certainly don't appreciate what you've done for me, and I certainly don't appreciate what you've done for my godfather."

Despite the tone, Marcellus still shivered. Charlie Weasley had been a cut and dried case: memory wiped, and returned to his family. The whole brood had been told secretly that Dumbledore had saved them from an attack at great personal cost; that was the 'true' reason behind the destruction of Grimmauld Place and the old coot's exhaustion. The redheaded clan, along with the Muggleborn, had crippled themselves with grief and would no longer be any concern. The Muggleborn made it even easier by leaving their world entirely, too traumatised by the memories she no longer had. Black, however, had not been quite as easy.

If he had been released, even with his memory wiped, the man still stood a good chance if he ever pitt his destructive family magics against Marcellus's own mind-wipes. And if Black ever regained his last memories of his godson, he would be hell-bunt upon bringing down the Dark. Black was very much like a feral dog: rabid, untameable, and completely dedicated to single-minded destruction. With the tools he had at his disposal of his wards expertise and family traits, the man might have given the Dark's forces a decent run for their money. They would take no chances. Both Black and the wolf, Lupin, had been killed. Cleanly, at least, in Harry's deference, with markers raised to them both in Godric's Hollow beside Harry's vanquished parents. It had been the last thing Marcus had seen to, and his killing of Pettigrew. Their Lord had relinquished that much, at least. "Is this how the Dark repays her faithful followers?" Harry mocked, making him wince.

Marcellus was drawn out of his thoughts when he realised Harry was speaking again.

"You forgot, too," the boy was saying, only he was sounding a lot angrier, a lot deeper, and that much more familiar. "When you warned Harry about Black needing an Anchor, you forgot that Anchors weren't only necessary in rituals."

The bottom dropped out of his stomach. "Marcus?" he whispered, horrified. And then the words sunk in, and he suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe.

"You didn't remember at all, did you," Harry sneered, and it was an expression he'd seen a hundred times, a thousand times before, but on a different face. And yet there was something off about the intonation, which told him these words were entirely the boy's own. "You didn't care at all about me. I thought you knew your son better than that; I'm no better than a brain-dead toy at this rate. You couldn't honestly have expected him to be satisfied with this outcome, no matter whose decision it'd been. And you're wrong, Father dearest. I would have never made the connection about Anchors if it weren't for Marcus, but I wasn't lying when I said Marcus didn't want to speak to you. I don't know a son that would, to a father that damned him to little more than a half-life."

"Speak plainly!" Marcellus thundered, fear driving him as much as fury.

The boy laughed in his face. "Thank your family traits," he said with a curled lip. "You best of all should understand how imperative balance is, in a bond like ours."

He staggered back, the words hitting him like a solid blow. "Marcus- his mind- he-"

"None of your bloody training will do him any damn good now," Harry spat. "His mind is sunk so far into mine- tell your Lord he can kiss that piece of his rotten heart goodbye- and should I remind you what you've already done to mine? Care to do all that again- to your son's this time? You were a fool to even have offered in the first place. Obviously telepathy cannot cure idiocy," the boy added scathingly. "And don't even think of trying to break the bond," Harry continued in a heartbeat. "You'll get back something less than a vegetable if you do- Alice and Frank Longbottom would be considered top-notch compared to him."

Brunhild would never forgive him. He would never forgive him. His own son-

"Your family traits practically force two souls into one," Harry said, utterly ruthless. "What happens when one soul has to be split between two bodies?"

"Your magic," Marcellus gasped desperately. "Your power- you saw your own potential measured against the Dark Lord's that day. You brought my son to his knees then- can you break what I've done?" In that instant, he cared nought for the horcrux that he could feel just hovering at the surface, strangely passive in these activities.

Harry threw his head back and cackled, and if it weren't for the softness of the strokes applied to his son's face and hair, Marcellus would have feared for Marcus's life, more so than he already did. "Revolting against your Lord, Father?" he mocked. "It's too little, too late. What's done can not be undone without an equal price; I'd thought you understood the weight, the costof magic. After all, you lot were so quick to assert that the Light understood absolutely nothing when it came to this, lazy sods that they are," he said cruelly. "Looks like someone forgot to do his homework. As it so happens," he began again, falsely gay, "I can break your spell." Marcellus perked up immediately.

"But-" He stilled cautiously at the smirk spreading across Harry's face. "But I can only save one mind. Equal weight, Father dearest, remember. I can break your spell, and save Marcus, but it will cost you your mind. I'll even save your Lord's bloody soul. After all, you were the one who cast this upon us both. Balance is, once again, imperative in this instance. Well?" the boy demanded sharply. "Is he worth it? Is your son worth it?"


He was immediately ashamed of how he couldn't get the words past his throat. Every nerve in his being was screaming at him to save his child, his flesh and blood, but he couldn't. Nay, not couldn't; he would not do Marcus the dishonour. It was rather that he wouldn't.

"Telling, isn't it," Harry murmured, and then all the gleeful malice that had been painted across his young face completely vapourised, leaving the two bond-mates wearing equally blank masks. "I think you should leave, Marcellus Flint. After all, there is nothing for you here."

Once more he tried to force his throat into motion. Once more it clenched up on him and refused to obey.

Marcellus could say nothing that would not damn him further, so he went.

He never saw his sons, either of them, again. In fact, no one saw hide or hair of Marcus and Harry ever again. The Dark Lord would never admit it, but Marcellus could read microexpressions as well as he could thoughts, and their Lord had been too shocked to hide how stricken he had been at his news. His Lord's response proved some balm on his soul, as it confirmed that the Dark Lord never wanted things to end like this. Not only had he lost his horcrux, but despite common opinion, their Lord did have some small modicum of empathy, and his original decision had been oriented at satisfying Marcus as much as he understood how. Harry- the horcrux- would have been well cared for under Marcus. That had been the outcome the Dark Lord had sought, although next to none of it had come about. Marcellus was one of the few who knew about their Lord's childhood, or lack thereof, and understood how the Dark Lord might have come to the decision he had concerning his son and Harry. He, however, had been remiss in not correcting his Lord, and his sons' loss was as much as his fault; perhaps more so, since he was the one who implemented the blockades in Harry's mind in the first place.

He was right about Brunhild though; she never forgave him this. She grieved everyday for the son she had raised and the son she had never known, and her overwhelming sorrow seeped into the very grounds of their bond. It all came to a head one day when he heard her scream, and then a crash from dropped silverware. Marcellus had run as fast as his aching bones allowed him, wand drawn, only to find Brunhild in the drawing room, an upset tray at her feet, but otherwise unharmed. Her eyes were fixed on the family tapestry, and the moment he glanced over he knew why.

He had seen the night Harry and Marcus had bonded, seen the gold strokes line the Flint family tapestry, forming one 'Hellion Jamison Potter', funnily enough, linked to 'Marcus Orion Flint' by a solid gold stripe. He had called Brunhild that night to join him before the heavy parchment, and they had cheered themselves with elf-made champagne, and their laughter then had been as light as the bubbles that volleyed in their flutes.

Now the names had smouldered to ash, and beneath them, twin dates each had appeared. They were born three years apart, but had died on the same day. The date inscribed told them Harry and Marcus had passed two days before. The boys hadn't lasted three months between them. It was even more damning that he had not even noticed their passing. That truly cemented how large the rift between them had grown that even the tenuous thread of their family traits had dwindled so thin and snapped without his noticing.

He moved to comfort Brunhild, who was weeping heavily directly in front of the tapestry, quivering fingers not quite daring to touch the heavy parchment. But when his hand fell on her shoulder, she had whirled about, wand out, and snarled, "You will never touch me again." He did not need his telepathy to tell him that his wife meant that with ever fibre of her being.

It was Harry's last vengeance, he surmised, strangely calm as he watched Brunhild march away with her wounded heart, the strength of the boy's untapped potential reaching out with blood-tipped claws even in death. Brunhild's mind was rejecting his, had slowly begun to over the past three months ever since Harry and Marcus's affair. Done so gradually, her mind would heal while his would not. His death would be a pitiless denouement into darkness, utterly alone as his telepathy began releasing its tendrils into his own mind, crushing it beneath the weight of its power now that Brunhild's would no longer welcome it. He was no less immune to his power's need for an Anchor than his son.

But Marcellus would not beg his wife's forgiveness, now partner merely in name. He would give her everything when she left, not caring if she would want it, or if he would be left destitute. It was not like he would live much longer on his own, besides, nor would he try to. He would not disrespect Harry and Marcus's memory in that way. He would share their fate, the same way how he had once caused it. His last thought was one of gratitude, that Brunhild at least was spared. Harry was quite discerning with his punishment. As his eyes slipped close he thought he heard laughter from a corner pocket, as though someone were waiting for him in the wings.

Honestly, I hadn't meant it to quite be like this. The first epilogue I'd written was more in the style of 'all's well that ends well', with a nice, rounding summary to tie up all the loose ends. The more I tied, though, the more ends I discovered, and in the end I found myself in quite the cat's cradle with no end in sight. Eventually, the loose ends staged a mutiny and demanded to be tied up well and proper, which led to this. The tone changed very much over a very short period of time, and I know there will be a fair number of readers who will not agree with this. However, I still find this the most apt ending, I believe, certainly more so than that 'happily-ever-after' style it originally was.

As announced previously, the winner of my 300th reviewer context was TsaeDranFiegel, who requested a Harry/Justin piece. It's chaptered and swelled into something of a mammoth, but it's been progressing well, which is all I can hope for really.

On another side note though, there will be spin-off in this verse, a sort of epilogue, I guess, featuring Charlie and the mysterious Stephen Nott. It's looking like a oneshot, if a somewhat lengthy one, and should be up soon enough, hopefully to tide between the chaptered projects (o: Thank you all for your wonderful reviews, criticism, encouragement and support throughout this piece. And for this last time, do review!