Author's Note: This is a day early because I'll be out of town, and away from internet, for the next week. I'll be back next Friday or Saturday. Which means the next chapter might be a day late. I hope you enjoy! Lets have a cheer for over 100 reviews! Thanks so much everyone.
The Candle and the Cup
Two days before Halloween Harry heard from Bill again. It had been four weeks. Four miserable weeks. Everything around him seemed to be going wrong. Homework was harder than ever. Classes seemed to make no sense. His teachers were short tempered and busy.
His friends were unhappy with him, though they weren't outright fighting either. They still sat together at meals and in classes, but there was a new chill to their relations. He got the feeling they were each waiting for him to apologize. Which was ridiculous since, as far as he knew, he had nothing to apologize for. Frankly, he though he could do with an apology himself. Mostly he felt lonely.
He thought about his other friends. Neville was a good bloke. He was quiet but always nice. But they didn't really talk much, just about classwork or whatever game they were playing in the tower. Truthfully he didn't know him very well. Other than that he took a wrapped sandwich away from every meal. Which was another reason Harry felt conflicted. Then there was the twins. Fred and George were no different than they ever were. Loud, proud, and always sneaking away to do mischief. But it didn't make them good candidates for a serious conversation, and if he tried to talk to them about homework, they'd probably prank him.
Still, when Bill's package arrived Harry thought about trashing it. Then he caught Hermione looking at it suspiciously. A rebellious part of him shrunk it instead and put it in his pocket. Plus he didn't get so many packages that he wasn't curious.
Harry sat on his bed that night, staring at the package. He hadn't opened it, and he again debated whether to do so, or throw it out unopened. It was from Bill. If he trusted Hermione, Bill was evil, and an evil wizard just might send something cursed when they were ignored. But he didn't really believe that. No, he felt more like Pandora, knowing he shouldn't open it, but unable to stop.
Finally, he told himself he was being stupid, it wouldn't hurt to see. He opened to box, and let out a relieved and disappointed sigh. It was a candle. Five inches (12.7 cm) tall and 3 inches (7.62 cm) thick it was made with pearly white and inky black wax. Cut out of the white wax were beautiful, graceful, runes that showed the black underneath. It was a pretty candle, but just a candle. He wondered ruefully if he expected a dead cat or something. Feeling inexplicably disappointed, he reached for the letter also in the box.
I know I said I would respect your decision, and I do. But I wanted to wish you a good Samhain. I was making my own Samhain preparations, and I was reminded of you. I don't know what you know about Samhain, I know Hogwarts officially celebrates Halloween. It's one of the most solemn celebrations of the year for traditionalists. That sounds contradictory. There are many traditions for Samhain, and no way is the 'correct' way. But you'll find most have a bonfire, hearth fire, or at least a candle. Many burn things, a resolution most often. Remembering the dead is also something they have in common. This may involve anything from toasts and large feasts to quiet meditations.
Now, I have my own traditions, things that just felt right. Some of them involve sacrifices. But I know that you don't want to hear about those anymore. Suffice it to say, I remember. I remember my dead, my family, my accomplishments, my failures.
Like I said, I was reminded of you. I can only imagine what it was like to grow up without your parents. I have my disagreements with my parents but I can't imagine losing them. I'm very sorry that you lost yours. Especially such special people. It's said they fought courageously, that your father gave his life trying to protect you and your mum. I can only imagine the terrifying sacrifice.
It's been many years but this candle is specifically made for mourning. It's a meditation candle made with potions and spells to promote calm, peace and healing. It's also got spells in it to thin the veil between life and the hereafter. Although it is a traditional condolence gift, it is not made with dark magic, if that is a concern. You can use it anytime, but it's ideally used this time of year if you hope to actually have communication between worlds. The closer to Samhain it is the more likely you are to get feelings, impressions, even messages from the other side. Not that I want you to get your hopes up, Harry. These things are always vague, and it has been years. I just I hope it brings you some peace. It can't hurt, I've known some widows who burn them every year.
To use it find a quiet place that you won't be interrupted. Bring or transfigure a cushion, you'll be sitting on the floor for a long time. Sit on the cushion cross legged. Light the candle with your wand. Then sit back with your hands relaxed on your knees. Breath deeply with your eyes closed. Think of the loved ones you've lost. The smoke from the candle should put you into a meditative trance. What happens after that is between you and the candle. You don't have to use the whole candle in one sitting, so don't worry if it's not gone when you come out of trance.
I'm sorry that you couldn't accept the dark history of what I do. I wanted to remind you that I haven't ever done those things, and you yourself don't have to be a dark wizard to be my friend. I've missed our letters.
Harry's throat closed up. Not only did he miss Bill too, but no one had every given him condolences for his parents death. It was like, because he lived, it was ok that they died. He knew that that wasn't true. It was just that there had been so many deaths back then that his parents deaths weren't significant. But they were significant to him. The longer he was in the wizarding world, the more he found out about them, the more he missed them, not less. Before, the Dursley's had said they were drunken freaks who were better off dead. Now he knew that his father was mischievous, smart, and loyal. His mother was kind, brilliant, and dangerous enough to be an auror. They had both loved him so much they gave their lives for him.
Cautiously he reached out and picked up the candle. He could feel the powerful magic immediately. His fingers tingled and he felt calmness wash over him. It was like nothing he'd ever felt before. As he reluctantly took his hands away, he felt no conflict for the first time in weeks. He would use the candle. Thinking about the best time, he decided he would sneak out tomorrow night. Halloween would be too chaotic, and he didn't want to wait until after.
Harry dug through his trunk to get his invisibility cloak. It had been a long day, with the other schools arriving, but he was determined to use the candle tonight. Finally he found it and swung it around his shoulders. He picked up the box with the candle and crept out of the room. He didn't see Seamus' eyes following him curiously.
The corridors were dark but he wasn't the only one sneaking about. The older students he saw creeping around were all headed to the great hall. He supposed they didn't want the pressure of other students knowing they entered. It's what he would have done. He himself was headed to the divination tower. There were unused rooms up there. Students never used them because Trelawney never left her tower, but he wasn't planning to make a lot of noise. If Trelawney did catch him, he thought this might be something she'd approve of.
He slipped quietly into a room with no trouble. He transfigured a chair into a cushion, and sat there staring at the candle for a long time. "Please, please let this work," he whispered. He wanted to know his parents so badly. He thought about Magic, as Bill thought of it. Of it being alive, helpful, and powerful. With determination he whispered again, "Please let this work." This time he knew who he was asking for help. Finally he took his wand from it's holster and lit the candle. His eyes closed and his breathing deepened.
The smell was nothing definable. It was sweet, and bitter, and yet inexplicably comforting. Before he knew it tears leaked in a steady stream down his face. He didn't sob, but he had never felt his grief so profoundly. The ache in his chest felt like a bolder. His mind was filled with memories at the Dursley's. All the times he wished so desperately for his parents, wished for mummy to hold him, or a daddy to say he's proud. He remembered the night they died, in the clearest detail, better even than when the dementors were near. He was struck by how young they were. They were younger than Bill is now. Just beginning their life, barely out of school, with so much to live for.
His thoughts focused on his father. "You look so much like your father."... "Arrogant, just like your father."... "He's here! Take Harry and run!"… "Your father was particularly passionate."... Passionate, that's what his father was. Even Snape would agree. He was proud, passionate, arrougant, mischievious, loyal. As Harry thought about his father, he felt warmth surround him. It felt like fire. Comforting but dangerous. He began to get impressions, seeing things he didn't remember, fleeting things as insubstantial as mist. James was laughing, smiling, flying, even running as a stag. He saw a little boy, muddy and proud of it. Teenaged James ran naked away from a furious red haired witch. He saw him tickling a baby Harry's stomach and carrying Harry on his shoulders. He saw him fighting men in dark cloaks with a viciousness that was frightening. He saw him kissing Lily like he never wanted to stop. He even had a brief glimpse of his parents making love, before it was lost in swirls of color and feelings. Feelings that poured into Harry between memories, and Harry knew they were for him. Not just the baby him, his parents knew when they were alive, but the him he was today. A whisper of a hug surrounded him, and a ghostly hand ruffled his hair. He felt pride, love, laughter, and teasing. Then the feelings slowed and changed.
His mother's face swirled up in his mind. "You have your mother's eyes."... "She was so very talented."... "No! Not Harry! Please not Harry!"... Lily was delicate, fierce, sharp, brilliant, and beautiful. She was like a diamond. Harry felt that fierce devotion and love envelope him. He knew then that comparing Lily to Molly was like comparing a tigress to a house cat. He saw her running and climbing trees with a young black haired boy. She snarled at a meek, young looking, James and Sirius. Harry felt her competitiveness as she sweated over a cauldron. He felt her brilliance when she made her first spell. Lily too was vicious when she fought the death eaters, she didn't hesitate to cut down a man from behind. He saw her adoration when they married. He saw a pregnant Lily holding her belly and felt her love and protectiveness. Then he saw a curious thing. The nursery he'd seen so many times in memory. Lily had pulled the rug up and was drawing complicated ruins around his crib, and Harry felt her determination. This memory lingered longer than any other, but he didn't know why. Again he felt whispery arms enfold him, and a faint kiss to his forehead, as feelings of love, pride, regret, and sorrow filled him.
The intensity began to fade but Harry could still feel both of them with him, loving him, healing him. He floated in a cloud of feelings for a long time. It was as if time had lost all meaning. Occasionally a new memory would surface. Sometimes they were from his parents lives, but more and more they were his memories, but with different feelings. When he saw himself sliding down to the Chamber of Secrets, he felt his mother's scolding, even as he felt his father's pride. When a glimpse of his cupboard left him cold, Mum's anger warmed him, even as Dad felt a sorrow miles deep. It wasn't like reliving his life. Nothing so comprehensive. More like... a conversation after a long separation.
As he thought that he felt a bit more in control, and less floaty. What did he want to say? What did he want to ask? His conflicted feelings of the last few weeks flowed though his mind. He thought of Bill and his friendship and the memory of sitting together outside the tent played in his mind. For once the answering feelings weren't as crisp. But they were far from negative. Mum was encouraging. Like being patted on the head and told to go play. Dad was more watchful, cautious, and protective. Harry inexplicably thought it felt like a father looking at a child's potential date. Harry couldn't make sense of that since Bill was friend, not a date.
But it reminded him of his other problem. Hesitantly, he deliberately remembered checking out his classmates. The memories made him blush, there were more of them than he'd realized, for longer than he'd realized. Even in this cocoon of love he half feared their reactions. The response was immediate and irrefutable. He felt their love, acceptance, and encouragement. Then a feeling of teasing and laughter from his father. A parade of handsome wizards flashed though his mind, only to disappear with a distinct, 'not good enough' feeling. His mother's response was more serious. …not…freak… Tears ran anew as he felt acceptance and reassurance from this most important source.
He was gathering himself to ask more questions when he felt the sorrowful feeling increase. Then everything began to feel faint and far off. Despite his feelings of new loss and disappointment, feelings of calm, and love remained.
For long minutes after he simply breathed in and out, savoring everything that had just happened. He knew his parents now, knew them in ways he never imagined. When he finally opened his eyes he found the only light in the room coming from the moon outside. He'd used the whole candle. He checked the time. It was just after 5:30 am. He'd been here for five hours. In a way he wasn't surprised. He felt he'd been in this dusty room for years, but it also felt like only minutes. For a moment he wondered if he'd dreamed it all, but the memories and feelings were too real to deny. Stiffly he got to his feet. His body cracked and groaned with every moment, and he felt a hundred years old. Gathering his things he set the room to rights and headed back to gryffindor tower.
By the time he got to the tower he could hear the very early risers moving around and starting their showers. Ignoring them he fell into his own bed, and went immediately to sleep. He was very cross with Ron an hour later. Seems he wanted to go watch people put their names in. Harry almost told him to get stuffed. There friendship had been frayed enough lately though, so he forced himself up. One night of short sleep wouldn't kill him. And he felt too good, too happy to be really upset.
Harry felt the calmest and happiest he had ever been all day. Nothing could bring him down. Because of the lack of sleep, he was tired but he felt too cheerful to care. That is until the stupid cup.
Harry felt the world still. This was wrong, so wrong. Maybe Ron hadn't woken him up this morning, this had to be a dream. He hadn't put his name in, he didn't want to put his name in, how could it come out?
Numbly he followed instructions. Everyone accused him of cheating, even his defenders seemed doubtful. When Fleur asked snidely why he should complain, when everyone had been hoping to be picked for weeks and weeks, he felt his temper snap.
"Well zis little boy didn't! I don't want to compete! I don't want to be the champion! I don't want the prize money! In fact I'd pay to not compete! That magical contract can't be binding! I didn't put my name in!" Harry yelled, but no one seemed to care. No one believed him. And apparently no one could do anything about it, even if they did. He didn't know if he believed Moody's assassination hypothesis, but it sure didn't comfort him.
When they released him to go to bed he felt drained and hopeless. It just figured that something good happened and then this. Was he never allowed to be happy?
"So... tell me... How did you get your name in?" asked Cedric.
Harry huffed and glared at him. "I didn't. I'm not lying. I don't want fame or money. I hate it. I hate the whispering and the staring. I play quidditch because it fun. This contest doesn't sound like fun, it sounds scary, exhausting, and time consuming." Harry groaned suddenly remembering his new electives. "Damn it! I don't have time! McGonagall is never going to let me continue my new electives now. I had to practically beg McGonagall to let me do it in the first place!" Frustrated, Harry kicked the wall, and got a sore foot for his trouble.
If Harry had hoped for understanding, he was to be disappointed. Cedric just looked politely bewildered. Exhausted, Harry said again, "I don't know how my name got into that cup. Maybe it was a joke by Fred and George," he said.
Now Cedric looked like he believed him. "That would be like them, and they're awfully fond of you." He seemed thoughtful. "Well goodnight, Harry. May the best man win!" said Cedric as he left cheerfully.
When he got to the common room he found that Dumbledore was right and a party was in full swing. Harry didn't care. He tried to go directly to bed but was stopped at every turn, everyone wanted to know how he did it, but no one believed his answer. When Fred cornered him, he started a chant, "Speech! Speech! Speech!" Harry got an idea. He agreed to a speech and climbed up onto one of the study tables. The room laughed and quieted. Most of them thought they would finally hear how he entered, or maybe a rally for gryffindor pride.
"Thank you. I'm glad that you all are happy about me being champion. Because I'm not. I didn't enter my name. If someone here did so on my behalf." He looked at George and Fred. "I'm not laughing. Because I didn't enter my name, I've made a decision. I'm going to lose. I'm going to do the absolute minimum that the magical contract allows. If anyone has made bets already, I suggest you get your money back. I guess that's all." He climbed off the table to the sound of grumbles and protests. Most were too stunned to speak. At least this time, no one stopped him when he went to his dorm.
Ron was waiting for him. "That was a very nice speech. Probably got most of them fooled," he said. He was scowling at his lap and not looking at Harry.
"Ron, surely you believe me!"
"Do I? I guess you should have been more careful last night. You know Seamus saw you leave, saw you put on the invisibility cloak and everything. Is that how you did it? The cloak?"
"No! And besides the cloak wouldn't have worked."
"Yeah I thought not, you could've shared the cloak. So it was dark magic then."
"What?! Ron where did you get that idea."
Finally, Ron looked up. "The package you got from Bill. Seamus said you took the package with you last night, and look, now it's gone. You'd think if Bill was going to help someone enter a contest with dark magic, it would be one of his brothers. But no. Seems Bill likes the Great Harry Potter more than his own family." Now Harry saw that Ron looked sadder than he'd ever seen him before.
Harry swallowed and tried again, "Ron, it's not like that. It was a Samhain gift. It was a candle. I snuck out last night to light it. Please Ron."
Ron turned away. "Goodnight, Harry," he said sadly. Then he pulled his curtains.
Harry closed his own curtains and cast a silencing spell. After such an incredible experience last night, tonight had to be one of the worse ever. He was tired, angry, and depressed. The worst was Ron, because for once, Ron had a point. It was based on wrong assumptions but the evidence looked bad. Harry would be upset too if Ron had stolen his brother. Harry didn't have any proof otherwise either. The candle was gone, and he hadn't shown it to anyone. He could get Bill to write Ron, but that would confirm Ron's suspicions, not deny them. How do you prove a negative anyway? Stupid Seamus, why couldn't he have kept his big gob shut.
Harry felt tiredness sweep over him. He just wanted to sleep, but with Ron's accusations, he knew he needed to do one more thing before he went to bed.
First of all, thank you very much for the candle. I used it last night or rather this morning. It was the most wonderful experience of my life. I met my parents Bill. Not like, face to face, but I felt them. They love me, and they're proud of me. I saw memories of what they were like. And I felt who they were. They were such incredible people. Mum was so brilliant and sharp, and Dad was always laughing and passionate. I wish so badly that I had grown up with them, but I'm glad I got to know them at all. So, thanks.
I'm afraid that's the only good news I have. Tonight was horrible. Halloween always is, I guess I should have expected it. Tonight they picked the champions for the tournament. It should have just been a spectacle and a feast and off to bed. Instead, somehow, I got chosen as a forth champion. Not even Hogwarts champion, but some unnamed other school. The real Hogwarts champion is Cedric Diggory. I don't think I even technically represent Hogwarts at all. Fleur, the Beauxbatons champion, kept calling me a little boy, in this ugly snide voice. By the way, Victor Krum, from the Bulgarian national team? He's the Durmstrang champion. I've tried to tell everyone that I didn't put my name in the goblet of fire. But no one believes me. Dumbledore kept asking who I asked to put it in for me. Most of the Hogwarts teachers seem to be defending me only because the have to. Well, Mad-Eye Moody believes me I think, but he thinks it's all a mad plot to kill me. I don't know what to think about that.
I came back to the common room and everyone was having a party. It made me so mad I did something rather stupid. I told them I was going to lose. Deliberately. I don't think they're going to be happy with me in the morning. I don't even know if I can deliberately lose. I don't even get to know what the first task is, since it's supposed to test our daring and nerve. Not that I think I'll win. Everyone in the contest is at least three years older than me, how can I compete with that?
But the very worst thing happened when I got to my dorm and talked to Ron. Seems one of my dorm mates saw me sneak out to use the candle. This apparently confirmed to everyone that I put my name in last night. But Ron has an additional theory. He knows that you practice 'dark magic' and that you sent my a package. So he thinks you used dark magic to get me into the contest. He's... really upset. I don't know what to do. Ron's my best friend, my first friend. I don't know what I'd do without him. Yeah he gets jealous and sometimes he's annoying but I don't know what I'd do without him. Whenever I really needed a friend, he's always been there. I don't want him to think that you like me more than him. He's your family! Family is more important than anything.
I'm still not sure about dark magic. I liked it, but now... now I can just see Ginny, lying cold on the ground as her very soul is sucked out. Voldemort used dark magic to make the person who wrote in that diary sacrifice their soul to give him a body. And what Grindelwald did, I can't even really believe it, it's just too horrible. It makes sense of something that made no sense, but it's still so sick and twisted I don't know what to think.
But you were right. I don't have to like dark magic to be your friend. And I could really use a friend right now.