AN: So, i don't usually do this, but I will not be continuing What we're Fighting for as...well, The idea was not blossoming, and that sucks. but this story was begging to be written. So my deepest apologies, but I hope that you enjoy this change of direction. Now, well, here's the story.
Every single nerve ending felt as if it were on fire, but he was so exhausted that even the thought of screaming was too much to handle. His head hung limply as he was hunched over just trying to focus on breathing. His wrists were tied down to the arms of the chair with his leg similarly bound. He was naked from the waist up and blood trickled from the two long slashes on his chest. He had also been unburdened of his shoes and socks.
Blood was also streaming from his famous lightning bolt scar upon his forehead, making its way down between his eyes and dripping from the tip of his nose onto the chair and floor. His normally chaotic hair was matted to his head from sweat
The room was windowless and quite cold, and currently very dark, save for the trickle of warm light from beneath the door. Occasionally shadows would pass, and the young man would stiffen in anticipation of another visit.
Harry Potter took a deep lungful of air and let it out slowly. He was angry at his helplessness and that he was once again seemingly captured by his foe. But even more troubling was that Harry was heartbroken. He was trapped here because he'd allowed himself to believe what Albus Dumbledore had told him was his greatest strength. Harry was captured by the Dark Lord and his followers because Harry had loved.
Harry followed Ron and Hermione onto the Hogwarts Express breathing a deep sigh of relief that he was actually returning to Hogwarts. For a time, it looked that he would have to give up everything and remain with an Aunt and Uncle who hated him. Thankfully the Wizengamot had dismissed the charges and Harry was free to return to school with his fellows.
Harry suggested they find a cabin together, but Harry's best friend, Hermione Granger reminded him that she and their other friend Ron had to report to the Prefect's cabin for the start of year instruction. This had made Harry, who was already feeling a bit low due to all he had learned over the summer about the coming war and his godfather's new prison as well as his own feeling of inactivity in the war begin to feel worse.
Harry turned to see if Ginny would like to find a place, but Ron's little sister had already disappeared to find her own friends, leaving Harry feeling the fool.
Luck smiled on Harry however when he ran into his fellow year mate Neville Longbottom, who had yet to find a place to sit either. Together, the two boy moved further back into the train until they found a cabin that was inhabited by a girl with very long dirty blond hair and reading a magazine. Harry poked his head inside and asked if they could join her. When the girl nodded, Harry and Neville placed their trunks in the racks and sat down.
"Thank you." Harry smiled at the girl who had lowered her magazine and was observing them rather clinically.
"You're Harry Potter." She said in a soft almost ethereal like voice. Harry looked nervously at Neville who shrugged and then nodded to the girl.
"Yeah, Yeah I am." Harry tried to smile.
"You're Neville Longbottom. Ginny Weasley had a lot of fun with you at the Yule Ball." The girl said, making Neville blush. "I think she would have liked you to ask her out again, but Michael Corner did first."
"Uh…" Neville stammered and Harry looked quite surprised as well.
"I'm sorry, but you haven't told us who you are." Harry said, hoping to take some of the pressure off poor Neville.
"Luna." The girl smiled. Harry found that when she smiled she looked rather angelic. Her eyes were rather large, but the silvery blue made him believe that this girl might be of two worlds. "Luna Lovegood. I'm in Ravenclaw in Ginny's year. We used to play together when we were much younger."
"Do you live near the Weasleys?" Harry asked.
"Yes, just over the hill on the other side of the village." Luna smiled and then went back to reading her magazine, effectively ending the conversation. Harry turned questioning eyes to Neville who could only shrug.
"So, how was your summer?" Harry asked.
"Same as always. Boring. Gran dragged me to every single social event and paraded me about like some sort of prize kneazle. I have no idea why. She did tell me that she was rather proud of my grades though. She said I was showing improvement. I didn't think I was doing that well." Neville responded.
"Well, You did spend more time studying last year." Harry pointed out.
"How would you even notice? You were so busy with the tournament and everything." Neville said with a smile that faded almost at once when he saw the pained expression on Harry's face.
"Oi, mate I'm sorry. I just…" It's alright Neville." Harry said, waving off the concern.
"My father and I believe you." Luna said suddenly, drawing Harry and Neville's attention. "That you fought You-Know-Who and that it was he who killed Cedric Diggory. Many people believe you, and those who don't are just frightened that you are telling the truth."
"Uh… Thank you?" Harry said, again looking to Neville for help. Neville had the same look of confusion Harry wore.
They were saved when the door to the cabin opened and Ginny Weasley poked her head in.
"Oh, Hi Harry, Neville." She smiled.
"Hi Ginny." Neville smiled shyly. His face began to turn crimson.
"I think he wants to kiss you now." Luna smiled sweetly and both Ginny and Neville turned a brilliant shade of Red that Harry was sure he'd never seen before in his life.
"Maybe when you and Michael break up you can stop waiting for him to get a clue and ask him out. Or you can just…"
"Would you like to come sit with me and the others Luna. NOW!" Ginny said quickly grabbing her friend by the hand and forcibly yanking her out of her seat and into the corridor. As the door closed behind them the boys heard Ginny beginning to lay into Luna about how certain things were supposed to be private and not explained in epic detail to the people those secrets were about.
"I guess you and Ginny hit it off at the ball better than I thought." Harry smirked and Neville smacked his friend in the arm making Harry yelp before he burst into hysterical laughter. Neville tried looking angry but he couldn't manage for long and started laughing as well.
The two boys began speaking of what typical fifteen year old boys usually speak of. Sports, music and girls. They joked about their room mates and their reputations with the fairer sex and then began to wonder what the new terms classes would be like or who the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher might be, as they had not yet had a defense teacher last more than a year.
Gran once told me that the job was jinxed. She said she couldn't remember when Hogwarts had someone last longer than a year." Neville remarked.
"Seems odd that that position is jinxed but none of the others are." Harry replied. "I wonder why?"
Neville could only shrug.
A little while later, Harry was shocked when Cho Chang and two other girls opened the door and said hi. Harry had nurtured a crush on the pretty asian girl for more than a year now, and had even attempted to ask her to the Yule Ball, but she was dating Cedric Diggory at the time.
"Hi, Harry, I was wondering if you and I could talk for a bit, if that's ok?" She asked, looking very confused and nervous.
"Uh, sure, I guess." Harry said anxiously.
"Longbottom, why don't you come out here with us and give them a bit of privacy." The girl with curly brown hair said. Neville looked to Harry who nodded that it would be fine. Neville rose and stepped passed Cho who then took the seat opposite Harry. When the door closed, Cho fidgeted for a moment before she began to speak.
"I ned a favor from you. You see, I've ben having a very hard time this summer, and My parents both thought that maybe by talking to you, I might be able to get some kind of closure or something, because you were there and all." She said softly.
"What is it you're asking me?" Harry asked feeling he already knew what it was she was after."
"I want… No, I need to know what happened. I need to here it from you. I need to know the truth about what happened to Cedric." Cho said pleadingly.
Harry sighed and sat back in his seat. He stared at Cho for a long moment before he spoke.
"You don't know what you're asking." He said, his voice carrying so much pain it made Cho shiver.
"I do." Cho replied. "I know that I'm asking you to tell me everything you witnessed and did. I wish that I wasn't asking this of you, but I have barely slept or eaten anything all summer. I ned to be able to let him go, but I just can't until I know what happened to him."
"Cho, hearing about it isn't going to bring him back." Harry tried.
"I know that." Cho snapped and then apologized. "Don't you think that talking about it with someone might help? I can't imagine it's been easy for you."
"To be honest, it hasn't." HArry admitted. "But…"
"Harry." Cho said, leaning forward and grasping his hands. "Maybe this would be good for the both of us.
Harry looked at their hands clasped together and thought about what she had said and what she had implied. Harry wondered if maybe she had a point and that by talking about what had happened might relieve some of his guilt and pain from that night. Then again, would he be condemning Cho to the same nightmares he had suffered through the summer.
"Please, Harry." Cho begged and Harry sighed in resignation.
Harry decided that Cho would not give up on this and would likely hound him until she got what she wanted. And no matter what he did, whether he remained quiet or told her everything, she was going to hate him. There would be no chance for them to be together. No matter what he decided to do, Cho would never look at him they way she had Cedric. But maybe she could one day forgive Harry for his part in it all, and perhaps even find some peace.
With a very deep sigh, Harry began to tell her of the night of Lord Voldemort's return. Cho listened with tears streaming down her face as Harry told her about how he had saved Cedric and they had taken the cup together for a Hogwarts victory. Cho grasped his hands tighter when Harry told her of Cedric's death and how quick it had been. He then ended the story with Voldemort's return, though he skipped the details and moved on to his escape and his bringing Cedric's body back.
Cho cried softly for a few minutes, holding onto Harry's hands. When she did finally manage to pull herself together she thanked Harry for sharing with her.
"I know that you didn't tell me everything, but I think it was enough. Maybe now I can let go of him." She said tearfully.
"For what it's worth, I'm so sorry." Harry said. Cho waved it off and then to Harry's great surprise, She leaned forward and hugged him very tightly.
"I never doubted your story or what Dumbledore told us, even despite what the Prophet's been saying, but I had to know. I just want you to know that I don't blame you."
With that, she kissed his cheek and stood up to leave. Harry remained seated more than a little confused by what had happened, and how his feeling towards Cho had changed in the last few minutes. It gave rise to the question of whether or not he really fancied her to begin with.
"Are you alright?" Neville asked. Harry looked up and saw that Ron and Hermione were there with Neville looking quite worried about him.
"Yeah, Yeah I think I'm ok." Harry tried to smile.
The three entered the cabin and sat down, Ron and Neville on one side, Hermione next to Harry who was staring into space. Hermione grasped his hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Do you want to talk about it?" She asked.
"No thanks. I think I've done enough talking. I think I just want to…"
"It's ok mate." Ron said with a smile. "We understand."
Harry nodded and leaned back into his seat, shutting his eyes. He felt strangely exhausted after his conversation with Cho. Yet at the same time he felt lighter somehow. Harry hated to think that Cho had been right, but perhaps talking with someone about what had happened had been cleansing.
Harry woke with a start and looked around. Ron, Hermione and Neville all looked at him with concern.
"You alright Harry?" Neville asked.
"Yeah, fine." Harry nodded. "Did I miss the lunch trolley?"
"Yeah, she was here about twenty minutes ago." Ron said.
"You might still catch her. She's probably towards the front of the train." Hermione said.
"Do you guys want anything?" Harry stood, reaching into his trunk for his money bag.
"Do you want us to come with you?" Hermione asked with concern.
"No, I'll be fine. I just want to get something to eat. I don't ned an escort for that." He smiled. Hermione frowned as Ron began rattling off some things for Harry to buy. Harry gave them a wave and slipped out of the cabin and started to make his way towards the front of the train hoping he could find the little old lady with the lunch trolley. He glanced into different cabins as he passed sometimes envying the other students who seemed to have not a care in the world.
Harry found the lunch trolley in the fifth car surrounded by a few people, who like Harry had missed the lady on her first pass. Harry got in line and waited for his turn. As he waited, he noticed a girl two people in line ahead of him that made his breath catch in his throat.
The girl was just a bit shorter than he was with soft honey gold hair that fell just passed her shoulders. She had it kept out of her face by a jade green headband. She was facing away from him, so he couldn't see who it was, but he found her very attractive from that angle.
She was wearing a knee length green pinstriped skirt and a black blouse. She stood straight and proud in her high heeled shoes which accentuated her legs much to Harry's pleasure.
When it was the girls turn, she stepped around the trolley and Harry got a good long appreciative look at the girl, and he swore that his chest was going burst.
She was stunning, with soft blue eyes and cream colored skin. She looked like a dancer he'd seen on the cover of one of Aunt Petunia's magazines years ago, but the image had stuck with him. Her lips were thin yet full, and her nose was thin and petite, just like the rest of her. Harry couldn't help notice her chest, which wasn't huge, but by no means was this girl flat chested.
Harry listened as she gave the lady her money and asked for several items. Her voice was musically, though she sounded like she was in pain somehow. As he watched her a bit closer, he noticed that her eyes looked almost hollow as if she had no soul. It pained him to see this vision of beauty looking so… was empty the right word?
"Hey, hurry up." A girl with pixie styled auburn hair said, grabbing the blond by the elbow. "We've ben waiting forever."
"There was a line." The blonde girl said collecting her treats and turning to follow the auburn haired girl.
Harry saw the girl with the auburn hair look at him briefly and give him a look of mild interest. Harry wondered if she realized that he had been staring at her firend. The blond gave a look over her shoulder and for a breif second, she locked eyes with Harry and he swore that time stood still.
The girl looked him up and down before turning again and walking away.
Harry was completely taken with her and felt he should know who she was, but he hadn't recognized either girl. They were familiar, but he couldn't place either of them. All he knew for sure was that neither were Gryffindors.
As he picked out his own snack, paid and began making his way back to his friends, he racked his brain in an attempt to match a name with the faces of the two girls. He didn't think they were in his year, as he was pretty sure he knew everyone in his year. He thought maybe they might be sixth years.
He made it back to his friends and passed out the loot for everyone to enjoy. Both Hermione and Neville thanked him while rone crammed thre chocolate frogs into his mouth.
The four Gryffindors talked lightly for the rest of the trip while Harry was still lost in his own head thinking about that incredible girl he had seen. He knew he had to find out who she was, and hoped that when they got to the castle, he would be able to spot her and perhaps Hermione would know her name.
When the Hogwarts express stopped at Hogsmeade station, the students began to disembark, and Harry received his first surprise when instead of Hagrid's welcoming voice calling the first years to him, he heard the sharp and clear voice of Professor Grubbly Plank who had substituted for Hagrid the year previous.
"Where the hell's Hagrid?" Harry asked.
"Language, Harry." Hermione scolded. "And, I don't know. But I'm sure he's fine."
"Maybe he's still on his assignment." Ron shrugged.
"He'd better be ok." Harry said to himself as he followed his friends. They headed up the hill where the carriages were waiting to take them to the castle. As they drew closer, Harry received his second surprise. There standing quite proudly and harnessed to each carriage were two skeletal black winged horse like creatures. Harry cautiously approached the carriage that Hermione was now getting into and moved to inspect the animals a bit closer.
They appeared like something out of a nightmare, with their blood red eyes and their scaly reptilian wings, but as he drew closer, the beast nearest regarded him and lowered its head to sniff him, much like a cat or a dog, before it extended its neck and tried to get Harry to pat it.
Tentatively, the Boy-Who-Lived touched the creature's snout and was surprised first by it's warmth, and next by the leatheryness of its flesh. It was not unpleasant, and the beast seemed to enjoy his touch.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, looking very puzzled. :What are you doing?"
"Petting it." He said with a smile as the beast maneuvered its head so Harry was scratching under its chin. "If it weren't harnessed to the carriage, I think it might roll onto its back so I could scratch its belly." He smiled.
"Petting what?" Hermione asked looking even more confused.
"Huh?" Harry was now the one who was confused. "Don't you see it?"
"See what?" Hermione asked, looking the where Harry's hand was still scratching the air.
"Are you joking? You can't see it?" Harry asked. He grabbed her hand and held it for the beast to sniff. Hermione looked quite freaked out when she felt the beast breathe on her before it nudged her hand.
"What is it?" Hermione asked. Ron and Neville had now joined them. Harry noted that while Ron was looking all around like Hermione had ben, Neville was looking right at the creature.
"You can see it, can't you Neville." Harry said. Neville nodded, looking very nervous.
"I've ben able to see them since second year. They've always pulled the carriages."
"How can you two see them and we can't?" Ron asked.
"We can find out later." Hermione said with a mixture and anxiousness and mirth as the creature kept nudging her hand. The four got into the carriage and it started for the castle. They rode in relative silence as both Ron and Hermione were pondering what it was that Neville and Harry could see pulling the carriages. Neville wondering why it was that Harry, whom he was pretty sure hadn't been able to see the beasts before could see them now. And Harry, who was back to thinking about the beautiful girl he'd seen on the train.
The four Gryffindors stepped out of the carriage and joined an ever expanding group of students who were entering the Great Hall and began to take seats at the four house tables. Harry and his friends took seats near the middle of the Gryffidnor table and waited for the feast to begin.
"And it begins." Hermione sighed. Harry knew at once what she was talking about. He could see people looking at him and whispering. Clearly the Daily Prophet had done a very good job of smearing his name. Harry could tell already that it was going to be a bad year, and then he received his third surprise when he saw a short, heavy set witch wearing a pink cardigan with a pouchy face tight curly hair and a tiny black bow.
"She was at my trial!" Harry said pointing to the witch who wore a simpering sort of smile as she watched the students taking seats.
"Then what's she doing here now?" Hermione asked.
"She's got to be our new defense teacher." Neville said. Ron scoffed at the notion, but Harry grimaced.
Harry turned away and began scanning the Ravenclaw table for any sign of the girl he'd seen. He looked up and down the table three times before giving it up. Clearly she wasn't a Ravenclaw. Turning in his seat, he began to scan the Hufflepuffs with no luck. On his second sweep, he caught sight of her, but she wasn't sitting at the Hufflepuff table. She was walking with her friend with the pixie hair style towards the Slytherin table.
"Hermione." Harry said tapping the bushy haired witch on the shoulder. Hermione turned around to se what her friend was looking at. "Who is that girl. The blond one sitting at the Slytherin table."
"Which one?" Hermione asked.
"That one. Sitting across from Parkinson." Harry said.
"Are you mental?" She asked. "Harry you've had classes with her since first year."
Harry looked at her clearly confused.
"Harry, that's the Ice Queen. Daphne Greengrass."
Harry felt like he'd been punched in the gut by a angry Hippogriff.