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Sooo, uhhh, I wrote a fic. :-?

Maybe. Yes. For Big Bang. And...


My only 'traditional' H/D get-together longfic. EVER!! :D

Rating: R for violence and sexual content.

Disclaimer: universe not mine. shocking, I know.

Author's notes: I don't know what to say about this. It had been my baby for a long, long time; started right after OoTP. It means the world to me that you're reading it, and that I finished it, and I hope you enjoy reading it even a fraction of how much I enjoyed writing it.

This novella may utilize some facts and elements from HBP and DH, but overall it occurs on an entirely separate timeline after OoTP and is definitely AU.

Dedication: to Aja and Amalin, who believe. Love.

Summary: Harry and Draco both have ghosts to face in the crucible of their sixth year. Rings of power, strange dreams, confusing feelings, midnight assignations and dark revelations abound. In the end, nothing will ever be the same as both of them learn the worth of their promises.

PROLOGUE // the fall.

Oh night thou was my guide
oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

- St. John of the Cross

- June 19th 1996, Malfoy Manor.

When they'd come to take his father away, Draco was asleep.

He had Portkeyed in for the weekend just the evening prior, acting on a summons that brooked no argument. The school was still in a mild state of disorder and no one would bat an eyelash to see the younger Malfoy gone once again for the weekend. Every Slytherin knew Draco had special lessons, supplementary lessons, that he had needed to attend since Hogwarts was such a pathetic excuse for an education.

Draco woke up with the sense of burning in his mind, shaking, panicking, not knowing why. He remembered a dream, barely, and he knew he was almost about to realize something vital. If he only knew it, he could win. He didn't know what he needed to know, but he knew he needed it.

In a single-minded daze, he got out of bed and slipped down the hall barefoot, uncaring he was still in his pajamas. The Manor was always kept at the ideal temperature, but Draco couldn't stop shivering. He knew the house was secure. No one would get past the wards at the gates unless Lucius Malfoy willed them to. The house was safe. Draco had always been safe here.

At the first step of the grand staircase, Draco froze in place.

The marble felt icy to his bare skin, but he no longer felt the cold. The scene was a little too surreal to take in all at once; for a second, Draco was certain he was still dreaming, and he would have pinched himself-- wake up, wake UP!-- if his father's cool grey gaze hadn't kept him still.

Lucius stood right by the door, completely composed, as calm and stern-faced as he always appeared before him. He wore the plain cloak and black leather shoes customary for travel. Draco wasn't sure what was going on, but his heart hammered madly, a tiny frightened bird.

Draco knew showing any fear would be unforgivable. He held himself up stiff and ramrod straight. To the side, there were three men Draco didn't recognize; they were in the sitting room, casting long shadows into the moonlit foyer. Aurors.

Clenching his fists, Draco looked past his father to glare at the men, who ignored him. They didn't speak, didn't even glance at him. His father appeared to be waiting for something. Draco opened his mouth to say something to them-- he didn't know what, but it would be good-- when his father preempted him.


His attention snapped like a rubber band.

He could barely speak past the dryness in his throat. "Father," he whispered.

"Come down now," he said calmly.

Draco jerked slightly, the back of his neck prickling. Suddenly, there was a flash of heat down his spine, and he itched all over. His mind was curiously blank as he came down the steps, knowing his father noted his appearance and disapproved, though he said nothing.

He stood at the last step, unmoving, his lips pressed tight. That moment of silence felt like a cut along his shoulder blades, quiet but deep.

"Good," his father said. "You will listen to your aunt Bellatrix. She will be here to take care of things shortly."

He gave a jerky nod, but his father wasn't paying attention. Bellatrix had been coming for a visit all along. It's why Draco was here, and he'd been looking forward to it. The Dark Lord may come, too, Draco knew; it would be an honor.

"I'm going to give this to you now. Never take it off, do you understand me?"

"Yes, Father," Draco said numbly.

With no further ceremony, his father slipped the large golden ring onto Draco's index finger. He had to bite his lip to stifle a cry.

It burned!

The ring felt blistering hot, and it seemed to tighten to fit itself so tightly as to cause continuous throbbing pain. The pain did gradually recede into the background, but there was a constant telltale buzzing. Draco concentrated on not flinching, and he saw his father give a tight smile. He could try to get the ring off later, he thought. He didn't understand what was going on yet, anyway.

The next few minutes passed in a haze, and when Draco's mind cleared and the burning subsided, both his father and the men were gone. He hadn't heard the door shut, nor seen the Aurors pass. He stood there for a few seconds, dumbfounded, and was almost at the point of yelling and reaching for the door handle when he felt his mother's hand on his shoulder. It startled him so much he jumped, gasping a little.

"Shhh... shhh, darling." Narcissa turned him around gently, but Draco turned his face away as his mother moved to wrap her arms around him. "Let me...."

He couldn't quite manage to pull away; she needed this more than he did. She was shaking, he could tell. Even so, he didn't want to be coddled right now. He needed to act, and immediately. They took his father! This was unforgivable. Unacceptable.

"No! I have to--" The ring was pulsating hotly, and Draco was a bit dizzy. He leaned against his mother's shoulder, feeling like he'd be pulled under into dreams if he let go. Maybe he'd wake up and his dad would still be home.

"It's all right. We have to be strong now, both of us. My darling boy," she murmured. She smelled dizzyingly of moonflowers and jasmine. "That's right, we'll be fine, won't we?"

"Yeah." He pulled back a bit and immediately regretted it. Somehow, he couldn't quite maintain the proper level of cold anger or determination when she looked at him like that. He just felt lost. What was he supposed to do?

The tears burned at his nose and the corner of his eyes, but that was all. Draco broke away entirely and stepped back; he took one step, then another, until he was backed up against the door. He tightened his fists and straightened his posture, but the strange burning tightness of the ring grounded him the most. He couldn't look his mum in the eyes, even so.

She waited for him, and didn't attempt to hug him forcefully again. Things really had changed.

"You should go back to bed, Draco," she said finally. "It's not quite morning yet."

He shook his head mutely, not paying attention. He couldn't sleep. He had to act.

"No," he said, and then more strongly: "No, Mother. You go back. Go back to sleep. I'll take care of things." He glanced up from her white slippers, eyes flickering past her equally white face to settle on the moonlit trees visible through the main windows.

She wrung her hands uncertainly. "If you think that's for the best, darling."

His whole body felt still and sharp as a needle as he looked calmly at his mother and smiled. "I do," he said.

He knew she wanted to hold him once again. Maybe his mother wished Draco was four years old again, and all this amounted to no more than a scraped knee. Then everything could be fixed with a cuddle and a few whispered words from mummy. But no, of course this wasn't about him or any of his stupid old problems. He knew that. She must wish Draco was a grown up. Then he could have known what to do to prevent this whole... mistake, to protect his parents.

Both of them.

The idea left a hole in his stomach, both fear and some weird sense of yearning.

They'd only taken his dad for now, but this meant none of them were safe. This meant-- Draco's mind couldn't quite complete any train of thought entirely, and he gritted his teeth. Bloody hell, he needed to think, but he couldn't! Not here. Everything was swirling around hotly in his head, in time with the pounding pulse in Draco's ring finger. If not for the rush of adrenaline, he'd probably be trembling or nauseous; he barely held it back.

He realized that once again, there'd been a long, empty silence as both of them hovered next to each other. It seemed his mother sensed something in him that told her to stay clear of further attempts at comfort. This left them at an impasse, apparently.

"Don't-- don't stay up too long," Narcissa whispered. "It's not-- it's not good for you." She lingered a moment, waiting until Draco nodded, and then she hurried nimbly back up the stairs, lifting the hem of her robe with clenched fingers.

After his mother had gone, Draco climbed slowly back up the smooth, gleaming staircase. The impossible state of focused calm returned when his mum had finally left.

His fists clenched so tightly it hurt, but his face was set, almost frozen. Slowly, his mind cleared. His emotions were damped down, raging somewhere far away, as if there was a river behind a great stone dam but all he could see was the stillness of a pond.

He walked blindly forward, trying to look at the situation like a puzzle to be solved. The situation. What was it?

Firstly, Draco now had a brand new ring to show for bothering to get out of bed.

Secondly, it was Potter's fault. He was going back to Hogwarts tomorrow evening, in time for school on Monday. It was a bit absurd, really, that school-- and O.W.L.s., no less-- were still a concern. He had to do well, though. And he had to get Potter for this.

Distantly, he realized that this meant it was up to him, now. There were no excuses for failure. Potter had to pay. This was really what his father's departure meant. It meant Draco had to be the one to make the Malfoy name proud. There were going to be no excuses; no more time to waste. He had to be prepared for Aunt Bellatrix, and for everything else, and he had to start immediately.

Draco stopped and looked down; the ring winked at him.

"Huh," he breathed.

The strangely cold black stone set inside it glittered with tiny embers of red. No natural mineral that dark should be glowing like that, but it was obvious that his new possession had a serious enchantment upon it. Physically speaking, the ring was interesting as well; there was an inscription on the stone, something that looked like a coat of arms, an almost but not quite familiar design.

Still. If not for the effects it had on him, it looked ordinary enough. Draco had seen his father wearing fancier jewels to weekday breakfasts.

And now, it seemed, he'd wandered into his father's study. This was a place he was normally forbidden to enter. He would have expected to encounter some ward spell, but before he realized it, he was inside. The huge desk faced him, its chair emptiness accusing Draco somehow, as if it was his fault that Father was gone. Taken.

"It's not!" Draco yelled, then flinched, backing up a step.

Only silence greeted him, but it set his teeth on edge. There were deep shadows in this room, and they pooled all around him as he stood alone in the center. This was the same spot he'd stand in when he'd done something to displease his father. The realization was a jolt of electric current up his spine; he couldn't stand still.

In a few halting steps, Draco stood at the other side of the desk, next to the empty chair. His father's absence was palpable here, a screaming void. He had to remind himself to calm down; he was alive. He'd be back. He'd be back, since there was no way they could keep him there when they had the Dark Lord on their side. The winning side. Of course this was temporary; Draco had to bear with it, and act in his father's place. He'd left his instructions, hadn't he?


Draco looked out the huge bay window, though all he saw were only shadows and the stars. The moon hid behind a cloud for now, so that Draco's attention was helplessly drawn to all the constellations. The Dragon was bright from mid-March to mid-June, and the Hunter was gradually growing brighter every night. Draco could just about make out the Lady and the Wizard in their eternal dance.

This was the exact spot where his father had taught him the stories when Draco had been a child, but the memories only brought a sharp twinge to his chest. Besides, he had no time to waste on this sort of childish stuff anymore.

He turned his back to the dark sky and gripped the edge of the chair. The leather didn't squeak or otherwise protest, simply giving way beneath his fingers. For some reason, this made him angry.

With a huff, Draco wheeled the chair to the side and sat, breathing hard.

After a moment, he realized no lightning was going to burst through the window to strike him down, as he always secretly suspected it would. At any other time, he might even have been disappointed; right then, he hissed and had to grit his teeth not to start sobbing for real.

"Fuck!" he cried, knocking his head back against the headrest, but it only cushioned him. He swallowed hard, gripping his knees. He had to think.

Draco groaned. It didn't matter, now. He could sit in his father's study, on his father's chair, looking out his father's window upon his father's favorite view as dawn broke. Who needed to go back to his room to sleep, anyway?

He stared at the stone again and strained to remember more, trying to focus on his endless childhood lessons of wizarding family emblems. All that resulted was a pounding headache. The more he stared at it, the more he was certain he'd seen that coat of arms before; it couldn't be an active wizarding family, nor a very large one. Otherwise, Draco was certain he'd have gotten it easily. The harder he tried to remember, the more it felt like there was a vise squeezing tighter around his forehead.

"Oww!" he cried, whining slightly. He rubbed his forehead, trying to stop the room from spinning. "Bugger! That burns!" He could almost smell something burnt and electric, like the aftermath of a thunderstorm.

Draco snorted under his breath. He was really an idiot. He just needed to look it up, that was all. Draco closed his eyes, wishing he could do this in the morning. He wished he could go to sleep here, where his father seemed to be both most present and most absent.

He breathed in and out, letting himself be lulled by the soft chair and the silence. As long as he didn't open his eyes, he wouldn't see the shadows. He could pretend his father had just stepped out, and Draco was simply pushing his luck in the worst way. His father might punish him, but at the moment he almost welcomed the idea.

God, he didn't want to open his eyes. This was unfortunate, because he definitely had to. He had to go look at some of those private books his father kept on the shelves. He had to turn the light on. He had to get up, he told himself, but somewhere around that point Draco lost his train of thought.

He woke up with a start. Slowly, Draco turned the chair around, staring outside.

The trees outside the Manor glowed with a faint peachy pink aura, their new green suffused with a golden dawn shimmer. Shadows of birds could be seen sweeping above them, only specks in the distance. Draco thought of how often his father would've sat here at this time, planning something new and brilliant and secret, and he wished he could Incendio the whole forest right then.

Potter would have to die, Draco thought almost dreamily.

As this crossed his mind, Draco's eyes moved downwards again, and he noticed with faint surprise that father's ring possessed a crimson glow.

There was the answer. He would bet anything on it. At that moment, Draco was filled with a pure conviction: right there was the key to Potter's death. The ring was definitely the key.

He wasn't as good at Charms and stone-work (though it was part of Runes) as he should be, but he knew he wouldn't rest until he knew exactly what his father intended. And, of course, what he could do to use it to suit his own needs. Draco was under no delusions that his father meant to help him with any of his personal desires here, but if it helped his father, there was yet hope. Knowing Dark artifacts, the task ahead of him would most probably involve some kind of pain and suffering, yes, but Draco was prepared. He had been ever since second year, when his father had finally taken him to Nocturne Alley.

In better circumstances, Draco could've fully appreciated all this, since Dark artifacts were... well, really cool. He was lucky to finally acquire one of such obvious merit. As it was, he knew he'd be pleased later.

He definitely wouldn't waver; Bellatrix was coming, and she'd like to see Draco fail. She'll have to be disappointed.

Leaning back in his father's leather armchair, Draco found himself drifting back to sleep with a faint smile.


- Late August 1996, Malfoy Manor

School started in a few days: Draco's sixth year. It was about time. It was about time for the House of Slytherin to get what it was due, he thought. This had crossed his mind with weakening enthusiasm the longer the summer wore on. With every day spent either alone or drilled by Bellatrix, all his father's so-called friends on high alert about associating with him now that the Malfoys were 'exposed', he got angrier.

He had enough on his hands just keeping up with the sporadic Legilimency training, Dark Arts lessons and divination and other things Draco was pretty sure he'd never need. Bellatrix didn't exactly follow a rational plan for his instruction; it was more like which way her mood swung that day. That, and how much she wanted to torture him for her own amusement. House spirit wasn't exactly a priority for Draco. In the end, it wasn't just Potter: it was all of them. Traitors, all of them, he thought, though he knew better than to say it.

It didn't matter; Draco hated them all equally. Now that the Malfoys' fortunes fell, since his father 'allowed' himself to be captured, they would have to fight their way back into the Dark Lord's good graces. Once the school term began, Draco could only hope to do some damage control among the Slytherins who had been his to start with. This meant avoiding Nott and Zabini as much as possible. He had important work to do, after all. Once he figured out what it was.

Though Draco didn't have much time entirely to himself this summer, it still galled him that he hadn't made any real progress in his research. He didn't even discover the source of the family crest on the stone. He could only think that his father had hidden the really valuable volumes cleverly enough so that Draco couldn't find them. It was probably even true.

Sitting on his father's chair with ten musty volumes laid open on his desk at night, when Bellatrix was less likely to find him there, Draco didn't think much of his own excuses. His time, once so plentiful, was running out, and the frustration was driving him mad, inch by painful inch.

"Gah!" He rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "I need a drink." It would be laughable if it wasn't so fucking serious.

He wished he could throw things, but he couldn't risk making noise. Nor the chance that the books might be charmed to retaliate. Draco sighed and knocked his forehead wearily against the desk.

He may as well have spent the summer getting into Parkinson's pants. It would have been more enjoyable, not to mention productive. It would give him a sense of achievement, for one thing. Some self-satisfaction would be nice. And it would settle the stupid bet Draco heard was going around in Slytherin about his preferences. Ugh. It was like everyone needed to be bloody Zabini to get some respect these days.

"Sorry for not being a slut, Zabini," Draco said nastily, sneering at his imaginary opponent. "Some of us have a little discrimination and taste. Not that you'd know anything about that."

Great. He was talking to imaginary Housemates. It couldn't be long before he'd become a tasteful nutter. It was all a matter of time, wasn't it? Either he'd lose it first or he'd figure things out before that happened; one or the other.

At least the tutoring in obscure divination techniques hadn't been a total waste; Draco eliminated that as one of his many talents.

His relatively weak scrying spell had told Draco little about the artifact except that it had tremendous power-- or more precisely, powers. Definitely multiple. What those powers were seemed to be anybody's guess, and probably required more research. No further clues where to start looking, of course. That would be altogether too easy.

To begin with, Draco had holed up in the Manor library, barely leaving to eat on the weekends since the house-elves brought him everything he required. The Malfoy collections were quite impressive, which is to say he could read through dozens of Dark Arts texts without making a dent. And without discernable progress, needless to say. Some of the scrolls seemed ridiculously ancient, but half the time they were pioneering Lumos charms or something.

In the end, he was left with pure speculations. Draco's instincts told him the ring was about making some sort of link or connection, since some of its properties reminded Draco of blood-stones. Those were largely legendary objects which allowed one contact with a dead person whose blood infused the stone. There hadn't been one at that shop in Nocturne Alley; Draco had looked. They were pretty rare.

Assuming that were true, then a link to whom? And what about the rest of the puzzle? Something about this ring both fascinated and repelled him, more than he would have expected in both directions. He would have wanted answers for his own peace of mind and nothing else.

Certain basic questions stood out in his mind: why did Father give this to him with no explanation, and then only at the last minute? Was he supposed to wait dutifully for Aunt Bellatrix to explain it all? Was he waiting for some other sign? Was he supposed to do anything at all, or was his willing participation unnecessary?

Throughout the summer, Draco had pondered this fruitlessly from many angles until dawn, and sometimes into late morning. Surrounded by scattered books and parchments, opened and left carelessly on the floor, he grew used to falling asleep in his father's armchair. He also grew used to never getting anywhere.

Regardless, the ring wasn't coming off. Frustrating, not to mention inconvenient if it raised any questions. He could always make up a story, though. Stick with what works, he always said.

On the practical front, Draco decided that as soon as he got back to Hogwarts, he'd talk to Snape about beginning work on a potion to dull the probable effects of the ring. Of course, so far there was nothing concrete to link the dizzy spells, nausea and overall lack of appetite to the ring. It just became difficult to stay optimistic when one counted Draco's strange dreams.

Speaking practically, yes, he should have taken the ring off by now. Being practical wasn't likely to get him what he wanted the most though, even if Draco stuck with revenge. No, he had to be smart about this.

Once he got to school, Draco knew he needed to wait. He couldn't do anything too extreme too soon. Not too difficult, since he wasn't too sure what his plans were at this point, but it paid to be extra careful. He ought to stay low-profile before he had a concrete plan, at least.

This could most easily be accomplished by avoiding Potter. It shouldn't be too hard. Potter was no harder to avoid than a shade, going by the way things were at the end of last term. No problem.

Draco found some small pleasure in the thought that the Dark Lord was taking his toll on Potter's health, at least. He merely got to enjoy the rightful benefits. It was all in the perspective. And Draco had all the perspective he needed now.


- Late August 1996, 12 Grimmauld Place

Back in Grimmauld Place, Harry only wanted to leave. Hogwarts didn't seem much like an escape these days. However, the house was almost more oppressive than Privet Drive; not that Harry welcomed the Dursleys, but they were a minor annoyance now. Funny how one's perspective changes after one's godfather dies in front of your eyes, Harry thought. Funny.

Ron and Hermione edged around him, which only drove him mental all the faster. It felt wrong, that he didn't feel much better surrounded with his friends than he had at the Dursleys. Half the time, Harry wished he was back there, in his old room, tucked in by familiar misery. Some of the time, he even wished he'd never met them, any of them, though he was always the next time he saw either Ron or Hermione. Sure, he'd be miserable at the Dursleys if he'd never gotten that letter at eleven, assuming that wasn't actually inevitable, but then Sirius might still be safe in Azkaban. Of course, 'safe' was a relative term when you're in Azkaban, as was 'sane' or 'alive'.

Harry tried to decide if he'd rather be alive in Azkaban or dead behind the Veil, himself, but sighed and gave up before he got very far. Maybe Sirius would have come to break Harry out of Surrey as well, and they'd have run away together. Harry would have liked that. Maybe Lupin could have come to visit.

Harry chuckled. And maybe the tooth fairy would have brought him news of Hermione, whom he'd have never met, let alone Lupin. Well, he'd have met Lupin as Sirius's mate. It was funny, thinking about everything that never would have happened if not for Harry being there. It was possible Ron and Hermione would never have talked, and maybe Lupin would've never been outed as a werewolf except that Professor Quirrell might never have gotten exposed, and Voldemort would still be around at Hogwarts. Then there was Riddle in second year on top of that....

Harry groaned and buried his face in his pillow. It was hopeless.

Well, he'd already known very well he was being selfish and ungrateful and possibly even spiteful, but he didn't care. He didn't care about much of anything, except maybe Sirius being dead and Voldemort being alive. That wasn't bloody fair.

As things were, Harry thought he'd be happy if he never dreamt again.

"Bad dreams?" Lupin asked him one morning.

Harry stared at him. Then he looked at the toast. Then at Lupin's haggard expression and the rumpled shirt collar sticking out of his house-robe. Then he noted Lupin's hands were shaking ever so subtly around his mug. Then he left the kitchen.

The next morning, Harry stayed, cloaked in obstinate silence which was his main way of communicating lately. Rather than feeling the burn, everyone probably thought it was a nice change after all the shouting he did last year. It seemed clear there was no winning at anything once you turned fifteen, Harry decided.

Rather than any desire for company, of which he had little to none-- and which didn't extend beyond Ron and Hermione lately regardless-- he found himself actually worried about Lupin.

After a minute of standing around and not doing much, Harry stood up awkwardly and got himself some oatmeal kept warm on the stove. He sprinkled some walnuts and brown sugar and then poured milk over it. It seemed like the thing to do. Or something.

Lupin smiled and inclined his head. "That's how Sirius would have had it, up till third year. Then James had told him it was a girly way to eat oatmeal."

Harry flushed, then scowled. He didn't know what to make of this revelation about his dad, exactly. "Um. Do you want some, then?" Harry asked politely.

"I've already had breakfast, you see. Now I'm enjoying some time before I have to wake up."

"I see."

Lupin nodded. "I think maybe you do."

"Why didn't we have a wake?" Harry said suddenly, surprising himself.

There was a pause, during which Harry felt quite stupid. It appeared Lupin was only considering what to tell him, though. "We can't afford one right now," he said quietly. "We can't risk a gathering for him outside this house, and he's not that popular--"

"He is! Everyone here loves Sirius!" Harry burst out, slamming his palms down on the table.

Lupin wasn't fazed, apparently. "Albus remains unable to come as of yet, I'm mostly away on Order business, you know that. Most of the current Aurors don't know him like we do, even Tonks. And then there's Snape," he added with some humor. "It wouldn't surprise me if old Severus put a wrench in the works should something like that be in danger of occurring."

Harry glared at him. Lupin sighed.

"I'm sorry, Harry."

"That's not good enough and you know it!" yelled Harry.

"I'm sorry," Lupin said, more quietly, his face becoming very still.

Harry refused to feel guilty, lapsing into a sullen silence. At least the oatmeal was good.

"I dreamed of him, too," Lupin said, apparently out of nowhere. "The first time. Not much use for bad dreams anymore. It--"

"You're not about to say it gets better, are you?" Harry said incredulously.

The lines around Lupin's mouth seemed to deepen. "No. Of course not." He wound his fingers together on the table. "You can tell me, if--"

"No. Er, but thanks."

"-- if you liked," Lupin finished, then sighed. It seemed to be a pent-up sigh.

Harry had to make an effort not to scream. This was way too... polite. It grated on his nerves, though he'd have to admit that if he let it, the soothing atmosphere would get to him.

Instead of making a ruckus, Harry got up to pour some hot milk into a mug. Then he sat down without a word. He could leave, but he wouldn't run away.

The problem was that Lupin said everything in that calm, quiet tone that sounded as if it was supposed to be understanding. Somehow, that was the worst part. No one understood; not Lupin, not Dumbledore, not his friends. No one did, but most of them pretended to. That's what Harry couldn't take.

No matter if they loved Sirius too; no matter if they missed him. Maybe they knew what it was like to have someone they cared about die in front of them, but not because of them. What it was like when it was the person who had let you hope you could have a happy life, a real life and a family and a place where you belonged, after all this was over.

Harry felt a bit guilty for thinking of it that way, because he knew he had Ron and Hermione and the Weasleys, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't the same. That was his godfather, not his friends. Harry couldn't imagine always depending on them; they had their own lives, and he couldn't keep dragging them into his problems forever.

Even Lupin didn't know what that felt like, even though now it was only him and Pettigrew, who didn't really count. He'd given up on having anything for himself, that much was obvious. With every day, Lupin looked more hollow-eyed and wrinkled and weary, as if someone was rubbing him out with an eraser, bit by bit, and at the end there would be no Lupin left, only shadows. He probably wouldn't know how to depend on Sirius for anything even if he was here, still alive. That made Harry angry. He knew Sirius had wanted to help.

For various reasons, Harry was surprised by Lupin's next attempt to reach him.

"Sometimes one needs a connection. It helps to keep it together." Lupin smiled wanly. "Especially for young people, it's--"

"Like you're keeping it together? You're going to teach me how to suffer well, or what?"

Harry really did feel the intense urge to run away this time. It was too bloody surreal; all of this. Lupin's appearance, their conversation, that flat tone in Lupin's voice.

He frowned, showing a bit more of that worn, weary emotion. "Harry--"

Harry got up with a clatter, fist clenched around the edge of the table. "Sorry. I have to go."

He ran to his room so fast he rattled the portrait of Mrs. Black, who started screaming. No matter how many times they'd closed the curtains on her, something went wrong. Usually Kreacher. It never stopped, not really.

He knew how Sirius felt in this house, that was for sure. He had to get out.

The problem was, he couldn't go anywhere; not in London, not right now. And Sirius wasn't about to accompany him to Platform 9¾ this year, rules be damned. Sirius wasn't about to follow him anywhere anymore; where he went, Harry couldn't follow, though he did make and discard a thousand crazy plans. It had tapered off since his talk with Luna before he'd left last term, but it hadn't stopped. He still thought about it. There wasn't much to think about except what ifs, anyway.

Oh, Harry could tell that they all knew how he felt, and they were all sorry, but it only served to drive him mad. He could tell by the worried looks and the hushed whispers just out of his hearing, not that Harry needed or wanted to know what they were saying.

There was no escape at night, either. Harry hated dreams for awhile now. He wished that they lied; he could handle knowing that. What he couldn't handle was not knowing; never knowing for sure, since his major fuck-up last year. He knew that his dreams were his responsibility, that if he didn't control them, they would control him. Easier said than done, naturally.

He saw Snape looking at him with extra venom (or was that satisfaction?) when he'd come by on 'Order business', which only confirmed Harry's conviction that he'd have nothing to do with any of it if he could help it. He'd manage without help in the future, at least as much as he could. He certainly didn't need any help from him; one encounter with gray underpants was more than enough for anyone.

He did wish he could get a grip on the dreams he did have soon. Never to dream again: that would do the trick.

In the dream, Harry would always be falling; it was the same every time. He would fall deeper and deeper into darkness, forgetting the ground still existed beneath his feet, forgetting that he could fly, forgetting the spell that'd saved him during the First Task.

Something was holding him back though, something he couldn't name. Something that had nothing to do with flying or with the shadows moving across the moon. Something important, and he would never remember it when he'd need to, Harry knew that much.

He would be falling backwards with a sense of mute, betrayed horror, the night sky a curtain of glittering black behind him. Not this. Not this.

He saw the moon behind his eyelids, and it burned him. It was silver and huge, the shadows still moving across it, turning into shapes. In the dream, he recognized them with a distant sense of pleasure, though there was nothing there that he could've put a name to.

Sirius was there, in the darkness, waiting for him. Sirius needed him. Harry knew that better than he knew his own name.

He couldn't be afraid. Falling was the most natural thing in the world, next to flying. Falling was flying, for Harry.

Even so, there was fear, all the more intense for its incongruity. He felt like screaming himself deaf with rage, but he was silent. He could almost have been drifting, except he wasn't: he was falling.

There was no pain, except the sheer acid of helplessness. He knew exactly what he should've done, in that moment, and at the same time, he knew it was too late.

When he'd wake up, he'd forget everything but the knowledge that he could've saved Sirius, and he'd failed.

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mildlunacy: (Default)
the artist formerly known as lunacy

October 2012

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