The Third Potter
~ Lady Eldaelen ~
denouement / end game
He lets the staircase twist him up to the door with the griffin knocker. It opens before he can even reach out a weary hand, knuckles scraped and bloodied, wand still fisted tightly in an adrenaline-fueled grip. The cheering increases before he crosses the threshold, probably had been going on long before he arrives. Every portrait buzzes with celebration, painted figures loose with excitement and relief and more than a little magic monk wine. Every portrait, that is, save one. Just above the high-backed chair, a pair of silver half spectacles, cloudy with moisture, glint down at him. And the owner of said spectacles doesn't hide his gratitude, nor his love, as he offers his thanks to him, the boy he's used as a tool for the betterment of the entire world.
"You did it, Harry, you did it."
failure has no place here / the past is for understanding
"We won the First War, but just barely. If it wasn't for a stroke of brilliant protective magic by your mother and father, and your own innate strength and unfathomable talent, magic would not exist in the form it does today. All humanity might have been lost. I will do everything in my power to ensure that never happens."
It is a surprise, every single word. Wizards and magic. Wars and evil and defeat and destiny. It is a surprise, but even through his shock, the explanation resonates deep in his very soul.
"I run a school for exceptional young witches and wizards, the ones with the most talent, the most potential to be what we need when the next war starts. It's not a matter of if, but when. Harry, your name was on our books as soon as it was spoken, after you drew your first breath and cried your first cry. You were born for this. All you have to do is say yes."
Harry Potter, firstborn of James and Lily, the third in his family to face He-who-must-not-be-named and the only one to survive, steals a glance around his aunt and uncle's sitting room. Aside from the lock on the cupboard door under the stairs, there is absolutely no visible evidence he even lives there. He clenches his fists without thinking, crumpling the parchment letter he's read just minutes earlier.
"When do we leave?"
alias / living epithet
Third. That's what they call him, behind his back, to his face, in whispers as he passes down the corridors, huddled in groups as they eat breakfast under the Great Hall's variable ceiling.
The Boy Who Lived. The Hope For All Wizard Kind. The Third Potter.
Harry supposes it is more bearable than what his relatives spent his life calling him before. The Unwanted. The Inconvenience. The Obligation. He just wonders if he can live up to the stigma attached to The Third. He wonders why he even cares to care.
sideways through the flow / a change in perspective
It is Hermione who covers the gaps in his magical knowledge. Even though she'd found out around the same time he had, she already knows more than anyone in their year and isn't afraid to help him out.
If she even notices (of course she notices, it's Hermione), she never shows worry about the murmurs and stares when she helps him again and again.
"If they expect you to save the world," she says with the slightest sniff of distaste, "I'm at least going to make sure you've got the basics down." She adjusts his hold on his wand, takes a step back and nods at the improvements to his stance before gesturing for him to repeat the spell they're practicing. "Not so much flourish this time."
And that is the most acknowledgement she ever gives.
opposite ends of the spectrum / oceans apart
He does not envy Ron, but he will admit to being curious every now and then. As the sixth of seven children his closest confidant is something of an anomaly, like himself, but for entirely different reasons. There are no laws, but Purebloods as a whole are not partial to large families. Harry wonders how many siblings he might have had if war had not touched the Potters. He wonders if he would be ready for the task set for him if he had grown up in a place like the Burrow, with hugs at bedtime and laughter instead of hostility shading every interaction with the Dursleys. He looks at Ron, strong in his own right, strong in his loyalty and his morality and his slight naivety, and he thinks, no. Bedtime hugs are for other boys, laughter from his mouth sounds hollow in his ear. He had a mother and a father and a family once, but they are inaccessible to him now.
Maybe, just maybe, that is what Dumbledore is counting on, this revelation he has in the middle of Christmas dinner in a matching Weasley jumper that itches at the collar and weighs down his arms and his conscience. Maybe this is what he is supposed to be protecting. Harry picks at the rest of his treacle tart and lets the wash of happy voices roll over him. He thinks of Patronuses and Dementors and works and reworks battle plans in his mind for the war he knows is coming.
remember who the enemy is / orientation is everything
They are prisoners in their own school. There is subterfuge, as much as can be accomplished between classes and around homework and revisions and the threat of bodily harm.
He refrains from participating in most of it, but there is an inexplicable gravity that pulls him down, heavier and heavier with each new edict and rule handed down. It's not until he's dragged to a dingy pub and is forced to the front of a group of his peers that he realizes what's been so wrong before.
"The teachers don't hold the power, they don't matter, not in the long run. Voldemort," he pauses angrily at the collective shudder that runs through the group, "he is our real threat. He is the only danger we should be focusing on."
Afterwards there's too many extra practices in hidden rooms, too much improvement and advancement and growth to care about lessons and essays and the pretense of school. They turn their prison into a training ground, and they fly through the ranks of their self-made education.
truly, fully / to know so deeply
The summer after the Triwizard Tournament is spent contemplating Avada Krevadas and Cedric Diggory's last moments alive. The next summer it is Sirius and veils, prophecy and destiny. The summer after his sixth year he has run out of energy to focus on death and instead his thoughts turn to life.
One life, not his life, but his life.
Harry wonders how he is supposed to defeat an enemy he doesn't understand, and decides that the few morsels of information he's gleaned so far are not nearly enough to go on to win an entire war. He stares at the ceiling above his bed for hours, mind thousands of miles away on the shores of a hidden lake, in a decrepit house with an even more dysfunctional family than his own, under the very foundation of the school that had once brought him so much joy.
The first time things click into place, he very nearly questions his sanity, because surely he did not just have a positive emotion, response, feeling, inkling -anything- towards his enemy. But the summer progresses and so does the understanding.
He thinks his mother must have come to the same conclusion at some point before her death and that makes him all the more determined to see this to the end because they are not the sorts of things a young mother in her prime or a sixteen-year-old orphan or anyone should be focusing on.
To know someone, truly know them, in the deepest most intimate of ways.
To know someone so fully, even their very essence is stripped away.
To know someone well enough to defeat them.
The ultimate of Truths.
To know is to love.
pointed omission / the elephant in the room
Hermione notices his withdrawal long before Ron's departure. She can feel it radiating off him, even through her own pain, even when they chuck the locket into the center of the tent for a few blessed hours of joint clearheadedness. She knows from Ron, from all of the Gryffindor boys in their class at one point or another, that he talks in his sleep, but to this extent must be a new record. He's fallen out of his bunk more than once, jolted himself and her awake with a shout more times than she bothers counting. The whimpers, the cries, the pleas for answers, for understanding, she doesn't know what they mean or how to help. She can only track the growing number of lines aging his face, urge him to eat at semi-regular intervals, and be there to keep him from losing himself completely in the nightmares. For the first time in her life, she's not quite sure she is truly successful.
the shadow proves the sunshine / when all that remains is darkness
The prophecy only mentioned one. Self-fulfilling or not, everyone at school knows there is and ever will be only one Harry Potter, no matter how often professors compare him to his father. He knows the feeling, knows the far-off look others get remembering someone that he can't. He's not the fastest or the smartest or the strongest. He is not the Hope for All Wizard Kind and that is just fine. He doesn't want that title.
He has only ever been Neville.
There are signs though, hints that his own destiny is greater than he dares imagine. They grow stronger each passing year as he watches and remembers. As he makes connections others miss and understands without realizing that no one else is asking a question.
He sees Harry at the funeral, flanked by Ron and Hermione and Ginny. A part of him wishes he could be at his side, too, but he knows that is not his place. He returns home to his grandmother and the smiling portraits of his parents, their vacant expressions during visits at St. Mungo's. He spends his summer dreaming of the future and the end of the war and envisions himself a tiny blip in the Grand Scheme of the World. But more than anything he wishes for the chance to prove he is worthy of his family name. He has already spent too much of his life feeling disconnected to everyone and everything around him. He waits for something that never comes.
With Platform Nine and Three-Quarters receding fast behind them and rumors swirling around the cars that Harry didn't get on the train, Neville thinks he should be panicking, wonders why he is not afraid. When the new professors meet them in Hogsmeade, he finds himself at the head of the pack, among Slytherins and a few of the braver seventh years from other houses. He is slightly disappointed with himself that he doesn't remember deciding to be brave.
There is a staircase that swings out over the center of the Entrance Hall during breakfast every day and for five minutes all the steps Vanish, leaving only the top landing. He remembers this information as they are lead into the Great Hall for the opening feast, subdued and wary and not at all as they should be for the start of his final year. He searches his memory for its origin, decides it must have come from Hermione spouting off another passage from Hogwarts, A History, and wonders what else will come unbidden from the recesses of his brain under stress.
He spends the entirety of the feast figuring out the best way to use the information about the staircase, ignoring most of the Sorting and eating only by rote action of fork to plate to mouth when he senses the others around him doing the same. He executes his plan the next morning. It is on the landing (the stairs, his escape, his security, Vanished for the five longest minutes of his life), that he rouses his peers, makes them understand what Harry had impressed so deeply on him before.
He might never see Harry again, but he will be damn sure that The Third Potter will never doubt he has supporters (friends, brothers-in-arms) in this war.
"Remember who the enemy is," he yells over the Carrows as they try to reach him, to stop him, to maintain the control they are already losing (they have already lost). He ducks a stunning spell and roars it again before a Silencio from the ground (Goyle, the coward) cuts him off.
He takes the first detention of the year with a smile and knows it will not be his last.
omnipotence in hindsight / to know is to
This has never been a game to Harry, never once has he not known that stepping into the wizarding world would result in this war. Surrounded by a crowd, they fight alone, as it should be at the End of Ends, but he knows the outcome is already set. His opponent fights out of hatred and fear and lust for power. Harry fights out of love. Love for those around him, love for his friends, love for his dead parents and mentors. Love for his enemy.
There is more than enough to ensure defeat.
no future without you / before i was me
In those quiet moments of peace, he never knows what to do with himself. Years go by before he realizes he has filled them with too much contemplation.
"You're doing it again," a voice whispers in his ear. It is spring and he is supposed to be enjoying the sunshine and his children and the bustling of the world around him, happy and alive. Instead he is thinking of the past, of the fighting and the danger and the threat of He-who-was-Tom-Riddle.
"Bad habit," he murmurs out of the corner of his mouth.
"Terrible habit," the voice agrees. "You should really work on that. "
Warm arms encircle him from the back, freckled hands clasp together over his heart. He covers them with his own and draws in a breath, strengthened by her strength. She has been there since the beginning, waiting for him to be ready for her. When all he wants is invisibility and anonymity and rest, she seeks him out, pulls him from his comfort zone, pounds away at the walls he has built, daily, hourly, constantly, until he no longer needs them for support. Until he is comfortable in his own skin, with her by his side. Until his very essence is stripped away. She takes his brokenness and makes him whole, transforms their lives together into something better, something more than he ever thought he could have for himself. She will be there to whisper sense in his ear to the last of his days.
It is spring and the sun is shining and his children bustle around him and he is happy to be alive.
This all began with Ender trying to articulate his understanding and emotions towards the Formics and wondering how that would translate to Harry and Voldemort. That led to how Harry could be labeled a Third, and it just took off from there. This isn't meant to be a straight one-to-one comparison between the two and it has been far too long since I actually read Ender's Game or Shadow or even an HP book, so apologies on any canon-bubbles I may have popped due to my judicious liberties taken with both worlds.