Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: Never pay the reaper with love only. What could I say to you, except, “I love you.”
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, and various publishers including but not limited to Scholastic Press and Raincoast Books. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author’s Note: I’m not very happy with the way this one turned out. I personally feel it’s too Americanized to be believable, but I leave you to be the judge.
The form of Harry Potter was lying on a hard mattress in the smallest bedroom of Number 4 Privet Drive; but the mind of Harry Potter was somewhere far away. Harry was sprawled there, staring at the ceiling without actually seeing it. His wire-rimmed glasses sat uselessly on the bedside table next to his motionless form, rolled over to rest on their lenses after Harry had ripped them from his crying face. His deep emerald eyes were focused not on an object but on a memory.
The memory of one painful evening at the Ministry of Magic.
Harry’s t-shirt was stuck to his sweat drenched chest and his normally messy black hair was plastered in waves on his shining forehead. He was shivering even in the scorching heat wave, feeling cold and empty inside the cramped bedroom. The Dursleys had locked him inside the room, feeding him once a day. Nothing, however, could lock Harry inside more than his own treacherous thoughts.
Sirius Black, the only father and brother figure Harry had ever known, was gone forever, and the Boy Who Lived, the only soul in Wizard-kind who could ever defeat evil Lord Voldemort was locked inside his own head.
His own mind hated him.
He hadn’t eaten for days, hadn’t moved in hours, hadn’t paid attention to anything but his own black thoughts when he heard his Uncle Vernon in the living room below him.
“Who the bloody hell are you?” He flustered. Harry tried to block the voice out and drown himself in self pity and denial, but found he was too lethargic to try properly. That and his Uncle was too damn loud. “Get out of my house, you...you...” Uncle Vernon’s voice sank dramatically. Normally this would have set off a warning bell in Harry’s mind. Normally it would have screamed that this had to do with his world, and his life and his abnormality. Normally Harry would have been pacing rather than spread eagle on the hot, twisted sheets waiting for fate or death to claim him. Normally Harry would have given a damn.
And that just wasn’t normal.
Harry thought he heard a girl’s voice reply but he dismissed it as part of his friendly delirium and sank back further into the hell-hole that was memory. Being locked up with your own mind, a mind that would rather turn against you than support you in times of need and desperation, can alter your perspective. Hating yourself can push others away from you. Indeed, nothing can alienate others more than self-hatred, denial, and delusions. Harry once remembered Hermione saying that even in the Wizarding world, hearing voices wasn’t a good sign. To Harry, Hermione and Ron seemed like an eternity ago. Hearing voices was a bad sign, but Harry wasn’t hearing voices.
Harry was hearing the shadowy figures of memory.
Harry was watching the silence play inside his heart.
Harry had avoided everyone he loved. All the owls that Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George, and even Mrs. Weasley sent were unanswered, although he read and saved each one. Every person he loved, every person who loved him in return had evil touch them—they died or they had some other calamity occur because they knew and loved him. He was the evil that afflicted them; he was the calamity that ripped their lives apart and left a stain on their hearts. It hurt him a thousand times more than it hurt them, but that was fine. He’d kill himself to save them. Hermione was right. He did have a saving people thing.
As long as it saved her and Ron and Ginny and all the Weasleys...
He had started to hate himself, and that was fine too. He deserved to be hated, and hatred like this served two purposes. It kept those he loved away. After all, who can love a man who hates himself?
Harry heard a slight rustling outside his bedroom door but dismissed this as well. It was probably only Aunt Petunia with breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. With the curtains drawn tightly over the windows and Harry refusing to acknowledge his own existence, he had lost track of time itself. It was a gift, really. A world without time is a world without a past; a world without a future; a world without death or birth. Stagnant. Stagnant, but unchanging. A world without mistakes or the inability to correct them.
The only man who enjoys change is the one that instigates it.
Harry felt a small breeze from the hallway ripple over his sticky, hot form and dismissed this as Uncle Vernon coming to see him again. Not that the man cared if Harry was sad or sick, but Uncle Vernon looked as though he couldn’t handle it if Mad-Eye Moody showed up on his doorstep and demanded he produce the teenage Wizard in question. So, Uncle Vernon always asked if Harry was writing to his little friends and his godfather, and Harry never answered him. Harry never made a sign that the older man was even in the room. He stayed stubbornly sluggish, staring at the ceiling and refusing to move.
Once Uncle Vernon threatened to beat Harry if he didn’t speak. Harry had turned empty, soulless eyes to him and stared, burning into him with pain, anger, and guilt. Uncle Vernon backed out of the room slowly, deathly afraid of Harry and his evil enchanted eyes, but unable to look away from the dead, expressionless orbs that seared through him. He hadn’t come back for a week.
Harry’s nose twitched involuntarily. He caught the scent of honeysuckle and vanilla next to his bed. It was warm, alive, and somehow very comforting. Harry remembered that smell, remembered...something. In his self-induced mirage of the past he almost found a face. He almost remembered a name.
That voice. Harry searched back through forgotten dreams that mingled with recollections and thoughts, grasping at the memories that slipped away from him. He hadn’t thought in so long, hadn’t opened his eyes to face the world around him in so long that all the colors in his mind were muted to dull grays and muddy browns. The only color that stood out clearly in his twisted, bruised mind was black. Neon black. The frightening color of his nightmares. Neon black and blood red. Red. Something triggered but Harry was too tired to think anymore, too beaten to respond to the tugging of realization that burned in his mind.
“Harry? You need to look at me, Harry.”
With enormous effort he rallied from some secret place inside him, Harry tuned vacant, unfocused eyes to the form hovering above him. Red. The memory stayed this time, thankfully, and reality came rushing back. Somewhere inside a spell lifted and sanity was restored. The colors were no longer muted and dull. Harry coughed twice, trying to make his broken voice form words when none came. He hadn’t spoken in days.
The girl smiled weakly in obvious relief and placed his glasses on his nose, her long slender hand lingering over his sweaty face. “Hi, Harry.”
“Go away.” He forced himself to sound hard for her sake. He didn’t need this. All he could do, all he could manage was to go on in the familiar pattern of his delusion. He had to sink back to reliving the haunting ghosts of past mistakes or the world would fall to irrevocable insanity. It was his job; his duty to make her stay away. Everything within him screamed to push her back in an effort to save her from the inevitable evil that was Harry. I’m doing it for her sake, really, if you think about it. The hardness in his voice, the dull stare in his eyes was supposed to get him some relief from the torment of knowing that he damaged the ones he loved. All it got him was narrowed eyes.
Damn that Weasley stubbornness. “Leave Ginny. I don’t want to see you.”
“Why? Why should I leave? More importantly, why should I give a damn if you want to see me or not? You’re seeing me.”
“I don’t want to see anyone.” Please Ginny, please go away. Let me stay here in the darkness where the only person I can injure is myself. Please, Ginny.
“The man in Hell wants ice water. Doesn’t mean he’s going to get it.” She flipped her hair.
“Can’t you see I’m suffering here?” his voice sounded strange to his own ears. His words were not his own, his voice did not belong to him. Who are you and why are you forcing me to speak?
“Yes. And of course, it’s all about you, isn’t it?”
Her words hit him harshly. This was spectacularly unfair. All I’m trying to do is save you, his mind screamed at her. I’m just trying to protect you! Damn, don’t you see I’m the cause of it all! “What are you talking about, Ginny? Sirius is dead. Sirius died.”
“That’s right. Sirius is dead. You’re not dead Harry. If you were dead, you wouldn’t be arguing with me, although I’d believe it if the ghost of Harry Potter came back just to haunt me. You’re that damn obstinate.” Him obstinate? Look in the mirror, beautiful. “I don’t see how you’re suffering except this self inflicted mini-drama you seem caught up in. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Harry.”
“WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU ONLY DELAYS THE INEVITABLE, GINNY!” Harry heard himself bellow at her. He forced the trembling (from rage or sadness, he wasn’t sure which) out of his voice and tried to speak calmly. “I’m suffering because he’s dead.”
“Exactly. He’s dead. He’s gone, Harry, and alienating the ones who love you is not going to bring him back. In fact, I think he’d be bloody disappointed in you right now.”
“What the hell do you know about it, Ginny?” He was bitter, and she could see that etched on his face. Bitter and cold, and it looked as though nothing she could say would sway him.
“Apparently quite a bit more than you do.” How the hell could she stay so calm with him yelling at her?
“You don’t know ANYTHING about it Ginny.”
“I know that you’re sitting here, wallowing in self pity, when you should be out there getting ready to take on the bastard who took Sirius away from you.”
“What?” Well, that was unexpected.
“You’re the Boy Who Lived, Harry. You’ve survived him five, six times now? Clearly you’ve got something no other Witch or Wizard has.”
“Ginny, that has nothing to do with this.” Arguing was making him feel weak. Of course, it could be that he hadn’t eaten in a week either. God, go away, Ginny. I’d rather die than hurt you.
“That has everything to do with this. There are people out there willing to die in order to protect you Harry.” She nodded at his shocked look. “That’s right. Die. They are willing to give their lives to let you have a chance at him. The least you can do is be worthy of it, because right now you’re acting like some drunken idiot who’s afraid of responsibility.”
“You can’t say that.” She can’t say that.
“I just did. They’ll start dying in waves if you don’t get off your lazy, self-pitying arse and help them. You’re their hero, Harry. Although, looking at you right now I have no idea why in the blue hell they’d pick you as a champion, but pick you they did. My brothers are some of those willing to die. You’d better prove to me you’re worth the sacrifice my family is making, Harry. They’re out there lining up to protect you.”
“I’m not worth that.”
“Sometimes you are, Harry. It’s the times when you act like an insensitive prick that you aren’t.” she said bluntly. “My mother thinks of you like a son, Harry, and right now one of her sons isn’t eating, isn’t sleeping, and isn’t writing. You’re a worse blow to her than Percy ever could be.”
“I didn’t mean...”
“Ph, no, of course not,” she mimicked. “You didn’t mean to cut yourself off from all of us and make us worry like hell. You didn’t mean to make Mum nearly kill herself with the strain of living through this...no...”
“And how much of this do I have to live through to get away from it all, Ginny?” His voice was urgent now, disbelief that she’d say this to him being over-ridden by the shocking truth of it. He’d hurt Mrs. Weasley now. Good boy, Harry. Rack that up to the other lives you’ve wrecked, you giant prat.
“We all have to live through this, Harry. It’s not just about you! I heard you yell at Ron and Hermione last year. I heard you, Harry. You kept saying that you did all these things; that you got the Stone and you saved me in the Chamber and you helped save Sirius and you fought You-Know-Who. You’re wrong Harry. Yes, you were the one who did all those things, and yes you deserve some of the glory, but tell me something, Mister I Am More Humble Than All Of You Put Together Potter.
"Tell me how exactly you would have gotten to that Stone if Ron couldn’t kick your arse eleven thousand different ways at Wizard’s Chess. Tell me exactly how you would have beaten Quirrel without Hermione’s logic? How the hell would you have even gotten to Quirrel without her? How precisely would you have found out that Malfoy wasn’t the Heir of Slytherin without Hermione’s potion and Ron’s help? How exactly would you have freed me from the Chamber without Ron? How would you have known it was a basilisk without Hermione?
"How would you have saved Sirius Black without Hermione and her Time-Turner? How would you have been prepared to go into that Tri-Wizard tournament without Ron and Hermione’s help? How would you have gotten past the first damn level without Hermione?
“Answers, you ask? You wouldn’t have. No matter what you’ve done or how you’ve succeeded you’ve always, always had them around you to love and help you.” Her voice had risen, and she had uttered the last few sentences at a shout, flinging all of his insecurities and falsehoods back in his face. “You are a hell of a man on your own, Harry, and you know I love you for it.” Her voice cracked and she plowed on before his bruised and slow brain could fully understand her; fully comprehend what she just said. “You really are spectacular. But you are nothing on your own compared to what you are together. You can’t do it alone.”
He started to speak but she interrupted him. “And it’s about damn time you took on a man’s responsibility.” Her eyes flashed.
“Man’s responsibility?” It took all his inner strength to keep from repeating that—at a shout. “You want to know about a man’s responsibility? There’s a prophecy, Ginny. A prophecy that talks about defeating Voldemort.” He watched her eyes widen but didn’t care. “Sybill Trelawny made it. About the famous Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. You remember him, don’t you Ginny? The one who killed my parents? The murderer? Well guess what I’ve found out? I have to kill him or be killed. That’s right, Ginny. Responsible enough for you? Man enough for you? I must either kill him, and turn into a murderer like him, or be killed and ruin the world’s only chance of being free from that bastard. That’s a little more than a man’s responsibility, Gin, in my view. That’s sodding insane!
“Kill or be killed, and here I am, a fifteen year old Wizard up against the strongest Dark Lord in a century. Dumbledore couldn’t get rid of him, but every other witch and wizard is expecting me to do it. Dumbledore has enough power to change the color of the bloody sky for Merlin’s sake and the people, your family, the Ministry—all of them are looking to me. Me!” Harry pointed at his scar. “All because I have a scar on my forehead. I’ve got a scar, dead parents, a wand that apparently goes insane every time you get it near Voldemort’s, and now..” he paused, licking his lips and running a hand through his wild hair. “And now I’ve got a bloody prophecy to add in! That is the definition of sodding insane, Gin. I’m doomed to death or murder, and neither is too damn appealing right now, so forgive me for being less than totally social,” he ended in a sarcastic tone.
Ginny, to her credit, managed to keep her composure. “Leaving us without you is not going to solve anything, dammit! Some of us can’t function without you!”
“Don’t you see I’m trying to save you?” All of Harry’s arguments seemed like ice melting in the hot sun under her scrutiny. How can she do this to him? I’m trying to save you!
“Don’t you see you can’t do it alone?” She repeated calmly, looking deep into his eyes.
“Sirius died because of me!” Harry was gasping. This entire thing was going wrong.
“But he lived, Harry. He lived because of you.”
He blinked and stared at her for a long moment, afraid to look away. Tears were sparkling on the corner of her eyes and Harry hated himself more for causing them. He started to reach a hand up to wipe them away (a reflex to him more than a thought) when Ginny repeated herself nervously.
“He lived because of you, Harry. No one is going to think you a murderer for getting rid of V-voldemort. No one. They’ll hail you as the hero that I know is inside you. All you need to do is face your fears. You fear losing those you love more than anything. You need to leave that. You’re a Gryffindor, Harry. You’re brave.”
“What is brave, Ginny? I can’t be brave if I’m so afraid.”
“Brave is seeing whatever is waiting for you out there, fate or death, glory or pain, and going out to meet them, Harry. Go out to meet them with your head held high, straight-backed and proud.” She smoothed a strand of hair away from his face. “Bravery is fear. Fearing what lies ahead and yet still having the courage to face it; fearing the power in your own hands.” She held his palm and traced the lines in it gently.
“And yet trusting them to protect the ones you love. Bravery is believing in yourself when all those around you doubt you, and yet making allowances for their uncertainties and fears as well. Bravery is facing each morning with a new perspective. With new hope. Bravery is what you do every day, Harry Potter, and that’s all there is to say about it.” Her voice was warm, sweet, and firm...home. She held a cup of cool water to his parched lips, urging him to drink. “Come on, Harry. Drink up. You can only have a little bit at a time or you’ll get sick.” Her about face was amazing. Harry wondered when he'd learn about women.
He spluttered his way through the cup and sank back, small dark spots appearing on his oversized shirt. Harry looked at her strangely, amazed that she could be so tender after her was such a bastard to her, noticing from the corner of his emerald eyes that Aunt Petunia was craning her horsy neck around the door frame. Swinging around to dangle his legs over the side of the bed, he tried to form a question. “Ginny, what?”
“Shhh. You need to take a shower, Potter.” Her face was forced straight but her eyes were smiling at him, glinting in the soft glow from the curtained windows. “I’ve been informed that you haven’t taken a bath in five days. It’s rather disgusting, Harry James Potter.” He raised an eyebrow at the use of his full name and she laughed again. “After you’re clean and presentable you can eat and have more water. I’d give you more now, but you can handle waiting, and I don’t want you sick. The last thing we need is a trip to St. Mungo’s.”
Ginny raised her wand and flicked it towards his dressed. Too-large, frayed jeans, an oversized t-shirt, and a pair of green silk boxers with golden snitches on them flew towards her and landed in a neat pile on the end of his bed. Harry felt a deep blush cover his face at the arrival of the underwear, but Ginny made a ‘tisk’ing noise in the back of her throat. Wrenching a small trinket shaped like a bag off her charm bracelet and holding it between her thumb and forefinger, Ginny took careful aim with the tip of her wand and muttered “Engorgio!”. Harry soon saw that it wasn’t a charm at all, but a suitcase. He also noticed that Aunt Petunia had run away.
Ginny rifled around in the large bag, pulling out a Gryffindor t-shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans, both in Harry’s size. Piling the green boxers on top of them, she shoved the stack in Harry’s direction. “Mum wasn’t sure if I should bring clothes or not, but I figured you wouldn’t have proper clothes since those Muggles don’t take care of you the way they should.” Ginny pursed her soft, red lips, looking for the entire world as though there were quite a few other things she’d like to say about these particular Muggles and their care of Harry, and brushed a strand of thick red hair out of her face. She Banished the other rejected clothes back to the dresser before Harry realized she was...
“Ginny! Magic...” was all he managed to croak out.
The redhead nodded gravely as she flopped down on the bed next to him. “Voldemort is back. The Reasonable Decree for the Restriction of Under-Age Wizardry has been removed for Witches and Wizards in fifth year and older. With so many people going into the War, and with so many attacks and the need for defensive spells and training, parents are teaching their children defense against the Dark Arts at home, Harry. The Ministry finally realized that they’d be spending too much in parchment and people were going to disobey anyway. Since I graduated fourth year, I’m technically in fifth and therefore I can use Magic. Even in front of Muggles, since your Muggles know all about our world.” She smiled mischievously. “And they’re starting to learn that one needs to fear redheaded Weasley females.” She pointed at the door again. “Out.”
Harry shuffled weakly towards the door with a great look of long-suffering etched on his features. Who in their right minds didn’t fear redheaded Weasley females?
After a long shower, Harry felt refreshed and awake. The cold water washed away the heavy feeling that had been following him, and the motion seemed to shake the cobwebs from his mind. He washed his hair, resisting the urge to make shampoo horns like he had when he was 6, and shaved in the foggy mirror, banishing five days of stubble with a razor and cream before he realized that he could have used his wand and kept most of his blood inside him.
He scrutinized the small droplets of scarlet that were sprouting on his chin and thanked all the gods that ever were he was Magic. Razors, or, as Ron liked to call them, shining blades of death, were not necessary in the Wizarding world as a simple spell did the trick. Ron never could understand (and on second thought, neither could Harry) why anyone would consciously choose to place a cutting blade against their own throat. Harry shook his head, grinning, and washed off the remaining bits of lather. He slipped into his clothes (which really did fit him perfectly) and padded out into the hallway. He wanted to find Ginny and apologize for his behavior. It may have been justified in his mind at the time, but no one, no one, had the right to talk to her like that. Ginny deserved better.
He didn’t see Ginny anywhere, and his feet took him back to his room unwillingly, missing her. Harry found the bed made with clean linens and the entire room tidy. The window was thrown open and sunlight was streaming in to make bright patterns on the floor and bedspread that moved as the leaves on the tree outside swayed in the wind. The now short curtains rustled in the slight breeze that had sprung from nowhere and Harry heard a bird chirping outside, calling to its mate in the summer air. He noticed in an almost detached manner that the lock was off Hedwig’s cage and the beautiful majestic creature was missing from his room, clearly having gone out to hunt since she hadn't eaten properly in days. He noted absently that the lock was off his own door, and, glancing at the frame he wondered if a lock could ever be placed on it again. Ginny could be quite vindictive with a wand. He saw this absently because his mind was on the small, petite redheaded Weasley who was clearly responsible for everything. Harry smiled to himself.
Harry wandered downstairs, his wand in his back pocket (Honestly, who has ever suffered from the instantaneous side effects of explosive wands? Who lost half their arse to spontaneous combustion? No one, that’s who.) and caught a whiff of...fried chicken?
He pushed open the kitchen door and saw Ginny making a large lunch, Summoning various ingredients to her as she needed them. Dudley was in the corner of the adjacent dining room, licking his lips loudly, as Aunt Petunia looked positively petrified as herbs and spices were flying off her shelves and landing neatly in the redhead’s outstretched hand. Ginny turned to her and asked calmly if they had any mustard. Aunt Petunia nodded her blond head hastily and pointed to a yellow bottle tucked in the open refrigerator door. Ginny looked puzzled for a moment and Harry found the look absolutely endearing.
He mentally slapped himself. Ginny is Ron’s sister for Merlin’s sake!
“Now, I wonder why that didn’t come when I Summoned it?”
Harry found his voice and forced himself to speak before he ended up staring at her all day from the corner of the kitchen. “Hello, Gin. It smells great.”
Ginny’s expression brightened and she turned to look up at him “Hello, Harry. Are we feeling...more social now?” She asked pointedly and smiled at his nod. “Excellent. Can you pass me that?” She pointed a long finger to the bottle in question. Harry walked over and grabbed it as Ginny turned back to charming the knives to cut potatoes for salad.
Harry snuck up behind her, the bottle clutched in his long fingers, unsure why he had a sudden desire to get close to her. Ginny started to spin around and met with the solid bulk that was Harry. “Omph. Well hello there.” She giggled and placed a hand on his chest to steady herself, afraid of falling into the salad. She sniffed gently, taking in his warm scent. “Much better.” She sighed almost dreamily, gazing at his smoother face and deep eyes. Harry felt her hand jump. He arched his neck down to look at her, finally having her pinned between the counter and his body.
“You smell very nice yourself.”
She blushed gently but took the bottle and motioned him towards a pile of plates. Harry felt a pang of...was that disappointment that lurked in the back of his heart? She’d obviously learned to control the blush that was the terrifying downfall of all Weasleys, and for some reason this made Harry upset. He couldn’t get her to turn scarlet at the sound of his voice anymore. Well, he’d just have to try harder, wouldn’t he?
“Lunch is almost ready, Harry. You can set the table, please.”
“How many, Gin?” He hesitated, and then murmured gently. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have...” She cut him off and tilted her head.
Harry raised an eyebrow at that. Ginny, however, looked at him pointedly and calmly repeated the number. “Five. It’s Saturday, and your Uncle Vernon is here. He’s not going anywhere today.” Ginny held up her wand. “At least not until he learns Alohomora, at any rate. And...” She bit her lip. “You can be a right bastard, Harry. But I’ll put up with you anyway.” Harry laughed loudly at this and went to do her bidding, carrying the large stack of plates with him as he went. Somehow, she made the world light up with her smile.
You took the time to read, now please take the time to review.