The story continues ...
Acknowledgements - Thanks to Kokopelli for superior beta work. As always thanks to the whole Alpha Fight Club crew. Their stellar input is part of what keeps this story going. Also, a big thanks to all those who reviewed the partial on DLP and FFA.
Chapter 28 - Reflections of Anger and Madness
Beta note: the scenes in this chapter portray different points of view and do not necessarily flow after each other in chronological order.
London late at night
Bill Weasley sighed, swirling the tiny bit of Merlot left in the wineglass. His mother had always cautioned him about overstaying his welcome in someone else's home. "Anyway, we just got back from fighting in Hogsmeade, when Susan Bones comes stumbling into me, shouting that Harry was in trouble at - a place we use. Let me tell you, I was more than a little skeptical. I mean that place is warded to hell and back. So, to put her at ease, I rounded up Tonks and Professor Flitwick and we tried to Apparate there. It didn't work. Then we tried Portkeys; that didn't work either. That was when I knew Susan was on to something and we were in even bigger trouble than I thought."
Bill looked up from his glass. "Thank you for listening to me. I'm not usually like this babbling on and on, but I just felt like I needed to talk about it." Bill nodded in thanks to his hostess and poured another glass of wine. He preferred fire whiskey, but this was all that was available.
He set his wineglass down and then covered his face with both hands, as if to hide for a moment from the memories. "All right, I'll try to get through this as best I can. You'll have to forgive me, if I have to stop. There were a number of bodies in the house - people I knew personally. Where was I? Oh yeah, sorry. The three of us end up using a Portkey Tonks created to get us about two blocks away from - the place. I felt bad for poor Filius; he had to run on those tiny legs of his. Out in front of the place was a group of Curse Breakers, a mercenary outfit I knew from out of South America. They've been working both sides of the fence. I have to remember to put out the word. After all, any legitimate work they've been doing might be suspect if they're crooked enough to build in trapdoors in their own wards. They had a trio of Death Eaters with them and things didn't look good, but I guess the mercenaries weren't paid to fight so they made themselves scarce. Tonks is a lot better than I am at dueling -- I'm pretty average in that regard. Filius, on the other hand, is a tiny terror. I heard a couple of people talking coming back from Hogsmeade; they said he crossed wands with public enemy number one and lived! Honestly, even if the mercs had stayed I think we would have taken them. Well, at least Tonks and Flitwick would have. I'd probably have gotten my arse handed to me. We captured one of the Death Eaters outside - it looked like all of them were women."
Bill stood, finding that pacing was helping to calm him rather than trying to sit still in the chair. "Once the outside was secure, I started looking at - our place. All of the defenses were down except for the Fidelius charm. I was impressed that they'd dropped the wards until I found out the mercenaries had an effing ward map of the place. Damn Snape's miserable soul to hell! So, I get inside and it's like a bomb has gone off in there. The place is thick with smoke. I dropped a Bubblehead charm on myself and started clearing the air. I found a body dressed as a Death Eater with a chunk of ice as thick as my wrist and as long as my arm embedded in her chest. I flipped up her mask and found Hestia Jones. No effing way Tia was a Death Eater! I thought it was some kind of twisted joke. She didn't have the mark on her arm. I stumbled through the wreckage to the other Death Eater by the steps and found it was Emmy Vance. She at least was still alive. I put a Bubblehead on her, stunned her and bound her. There weren't any fires burning on this level so she was safe enough. Emmy and I go way back. We went to school together. She's always been kind of special to me. I gave some thought to killing her then and there, because I wanted her alive long enough to answer some questions. I was still trying to digest all this when I found Fleur. I..."
Bill looked at his hostess almost gulping for breath. He put his hand on the kitchen counter to steady himself. When he continued his voice was strained, "I really cared about her. I was too stubborn to admit it, but I did. I knew she wasn't ready for a long-term relationship. I figured she'd go back to France and get tired of all those pretty boys who fall over themselves trying to please her. I reckoned that when she grew up a bit, we could give it another go. Maybe she would have been the one? I guess I'll never know, now. Fleur never got that chance to grow up. She was dead, naked with a broken neck. I don't know how long I just stood there, seconds or maybe even minutes, just staring at her body. I saw the life we'd never get to have together. I've never hated this fucking war more than I did just then. Give me a minute. I'm sorry to impose, but I need another drink."
Choking back a few tears of his own, he poured himself another glass. It was pretty good stuff. He mused sadly, that Fleur probably would have liked it. His hostess was patient and gave him time to regain his composure. He was grateful for that; otherwise he'd probably be sobbing like a baby. He sniffed loudly. His nose always ran when he was upset. In his youth, mum called it a 'dead giveaway'.
"Eventually the portraits got my attention; they were screaming at me. The Bubblehead charm had muffled it a bit, but I really wasn't paying attention. Hell, Morgana Le Fey and Circe could have been pole dancing in front of me and I wouldn't have noticed. Anyway, Sirius Black is screaming from someone else's painting that I need to go help Harry on the third floor. I finally pull my head out of my arse. Shit! I didn't even notice I was standing next to Diggle's body and, powers above save me, poor Sturgis. Whatever was done to him was worse than anything I've ever seen. It was horrible. Poor effing bastard! Months in Azkaban and he doesn't even get to see his wife and kids before he dies! I'm getting off topic, sorry. So I Apparate to the back corner of the library and I see Harry standing in the middle, screaming bloody murder and coughing up half a lung. He looked like death warmed over. There's all this fire and it's hard to see. He's got a weak little flame cutter still sputtering from his wand. I douse most of the fires and dissipate the smoke moving towards him. I cancel my bubblehead so I can get his attention, but he won't even look at me. I finally get around the big table and see what he is so interested in."
Bill paused taking another gulp of alcohol to steady him. "Like I said, Harry's got one arm hanging limp with bones sticking out of it, blood everywhere. He's got cuts all over too. Hell, his pant leg was on fire and he didn't even notice it. There he was, hair all burnt and he's got this crazy look in his eyes. He's screaming insults down at this thing in front of him. It took me a minute to figure out what it was."
"It was that fucker Snape! At least, what was left of him. Looked like Harry had been chopping him up for a while too. Other than part of his face, I don't think there was any part of him left intact that weighed more than a kilo. Harry was still hacking away at him. The smell was awful."
Bill turned and looked out the window of the flat. It had a nice view of the surrounding neighborhood. Outside was a street full of Muggles; all of them probably fast asleep, blissfully unaware of the joys and the horrors of the Magical World hidden from them. He knew he should finish the story. "So after coughing up my cookies I finally get Harry's attention. He looked up from Snape's remains with a dead expression on his face and said to me plain as day, 'Death to all traitors.' Good thing he was so out of it, otherwise his little cutter would have probably killed me too. I managed to get inside his guard and get a grasp on his wand. He struggled for a minute, but by then all the smoke and damage he'd sustained caught up to him. I haven't known Harry Potter as long as most of the people in my family, but I have seen him wield magic like he was a force of nature. Not like us, by any means! We cast spells! He actually wields raw magic! He just kind of collapsed into me. I did what I could, mended his wounds and stopped his bleeding. He said they had done something to Fleur and turned her into some kind of monster. He was bawling like a babe again, apologizing to me for killing her. Hopefully, he'll realize in time that it wasn't his fault. Tonks finally showed up and showed me that damn map of our wards. Flitwick was sending the one Death Eater we caught outside to the Ministry and then Dora Portkeyed Emmy back to the castle. I guess she didn't have the Mark on her either."
He paused to allow his words to be digested. It was difficult knowing that two women he had known and worked with had ended up in Death Eater garb. Bill also remembered giving Hermione Granger pointers how to make that ward map. The guilt began to gnaw at him. Brushing it aside, for the moment, he plunged back into the story.
"We were about to take Harry to Poppy, when Dora put her hand on my shoulder. She told me how sorry she was about Fleur. So I told her that Fleur was supposed to be safe. It wasn't fair. She was going to stay with Aimee Beaucourt for a week or two and then head back to France. That was when Harry, who hadn't said anything for a while, mumbled something. I thought I heard him, but I made him repeat it anyway. Do you know what he said? No, I'm sure you don't. You weren't there, so how could you know? Anyway, Harry looks up with this blank expression on his face and he says, 'Wormtail knows a Death Eater named Aimee Beaucourt.' I don't want to say how he knows that little nugget of information, but I believed him. So, I borrowed some equipment from Tonks and let her take Harry back to Hogwarts."
Bill sat down on the couch across from the figure in front of him. His expression darkened and the person across from him paled in fear. "That's when I came here, Aimee. That's when I broke that pathetic little warding job on your flat. Did you do that or pay for it? Pretty shoddy work either way, I hope you didn't pay too much for it. We had a little chat, I found the dark mark on your arm and then you told me everything that you knew after you sipped some Veritaserum. It's a pity that you didn't know more, because you don't know enough to be worth anything to us. So, after I recorded all of that, I gave you a little Obliviation because you were pretty messed up from the Veritaserum. I want us to have this chat, starting fresh as it were."
Bill angrily tapped his wand on the cushions sending little multicolored sparks out of the end. "The funny thing is I just came here tonight to capture you. I was going to turn you over like a good little Order member. Sure I was upset, but I'm not really a violent person. Then, I find out that this was pretty much all your doing. You were the one who cooked up this little plan, to capture and use our members against us, to give Fleur that Veela rush potion. If I hadn't come here tonight, we probably would have been giving all the credit for this to that dead bastard Snape. Other than nicking the map of the wards, it turns out he was just part of the expendable muscle tonight. I wonder if Snape is mad that he died for someone else's plan?"
Bill waited a minute to get control of his rage. "So Aimee, what am I to do with you? Do I turn you over to the Ministry? They've got this big push against all these 'foreign fighters' that your master is bringing in. Might even get myself a little reward. I reckon they'd make a big to do about trying you. It'd probably make some big political hay, though. Fleur told me that your family was fairly well-connected back in France. So, it would become one of those big political messes, where we'd find out who has more pull with your Ministry - your family or Fleur's? I think that's a waste of time. Don't you?"
Bill summoned a container of salt and conjured a bowl, while the immobilized and silenced Death Eater looked up in terror. He took a knife and cut her palm, draining some blood into the bowl. He mixed it and began muttering a chant over it. The chant lasted a full minute before the churning mixture in the bowl settled down. He vanished her clothing, ignoring her eyes, widening in terror. He could see an unspoken plea for her life in them.
"Don't flatter yourself, Aimee! I don't have those sorts of plans tonight; I suppose I should explain what is about to happen. This is a little ritual I learned in Egypt. I'm sure Fleur told you that I'm a fairly capable Curse Breaker? Well, this one is a mummification ritual. I'm going to draw a series of runes on your body. The enchanted mixture will draw the moisture out of your body and you'll become a mummy. I know what you're thinking? 'Bill, they do that to dead bodies. I'm still alive.' Well, actually some of the more twisted Pharaohs used to do it to their enemies while they were still alive. The dehydration will cause painful cramps at first and then, eventually, and even more painful death. If my research is correct, you should die about eight minutes before my silencing spell wears off and ten minutes before the immobilization jinx fades. Whoever comes in here next, if they are one of yours, well they'll probably assume Voldemort killed you for being a fuck-up. If they aren't Death Eaters, well who is going to cry over some little French Death Eater slag?"
Ten minutes later Bill finished drawing the runes on her naked skin. He vanished the bowl and its contents. Then he began a chant in a language Aimee recognized as Old Egyptian. The runes on her body begin to glow. Bill went into her bedroom and brought out a makeup mirror. He set the mirror down on the table and adjusted it so the witch could see her reflection. It had only been perhaps a couple of minutes and already the skin was drying out and her features seemed to be withering.
"Goodbye, Aimee Beaucourt. I want you to be able to see the reward your ambition and hunger for power has brought you. If I were merciful, I'd just kill you now, but I'll show you the same mercy you showed my friends."
After Bill Weasley took off from Hogwarts with Tonks and Professor Flitwick, a visibly limping Professor Sprout took Susan to the Headmaster's office, where Dumbledore and McGonagall listened to Floo reports from the Ministry and the Order, worry written all over their faces. He gestured to a chair for her to sit. Fawkes, sensing her distress, landed in front of her and sang softly for a moment before disappearing, most likely to the hospital ward. Someone there needed the Phoenix more than she did.
The attacks stopped as quickly as they had begun. To Susan it seemed like random violence, reminding the population that Riddle wasn't about to go quietly into the night. She was rubbish at strategy, but she knew enough to realize that this was really all about Harry. He was isolated in London, with only Diggle and Podmore to protect him. She looked at the empty frame of Phineas Nigellus, willing him to come into his portrait to tell her what is happening. Is this what her life was to be - anxious waiting followed by relief or despair? Was she really cut out for this? Every girl dreamed of being rescued by her fairy-tale prince. Those stories neglected to mention the terror that goes along with knowing that somewhere out there, her prince was fighting for his life.
She was grateful for the pangs of anger, rage, terror and other emotions she couldn't identify - things barely sensed through the link. Susan tried to shut out the world and focus on that tiny thread; the bond was her connection to the man she told Hannah she loved. She hadn't even said those words to Harry yet.
'Please let him be safe!'
Minutes passed. She felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up to see the concerned face of the normally stoic Deputy Headmistress. The old witch handed her a tissue. Susan wiped away the tears streaming down her cheek.
"Nymphadora and Filius have returned with Harry. He is badly injured." The Headmaster said looking at her.
Susan started to stand. "I should go."
He motioned for her to sit down. "You'll be in the way down there, much as I would be. Madame Pomfrey has ample assistance. Let us wait for Phineas. He will be here shortly."
The seconds ticked away until the echo of the most loathed Headmaster in Hogwarts' history wandered into his painting. "My apologies, Albus and Lady Susan, many of the paintings were damaged or destroyed in the battle. I had to travel to the Family Vault to confer with the ones on the first and second floors to gather the full story behind the battle. I believe I have all the pertinent facts now."
In a voice reminding her of the emotionless drones that read the news on the Wireless, he began to recount the battle at the Most Ancient and Noble house of Black. Susan knew Phineas wouldn't mention the special capabilities of the paintings, as Harry had expressly forbid it.
Susan's tone of voice left no real room for discussion "I need to see him."
Madame Pomfrey hesitated. She had almost decided to dismiss her, but there was a glint of anger in the young witch's eyes. Poppy was too tired to fight. "Very well. He is resting right now, but there are other patients in the ward. Do not disturb them."
Susan hobbled into the ward. In the previous five years, she had been in here just three times for potion burns and once to help get her hair re-grown after the 'Blast-Ended Skrewt incident.' Since becoming involved with Harry, the infirmary had become a second home. There were quite a few people in there. She nodded to Hannah's mother, one leg in traction, suspended in the air. Peter Abbott sat in the chair next to her with several bandages on his left arm, but he refused to meet her glare. She heard the soft moaning of Molly Weasley as the witch tossed restlessly in her sleep, probably reliving some of the horrors she had just witnessed. Her husband gave Susan a sad smile from his own bed. At the end of the ward, she saw Fred Weasley and Tonks standing over yet another injured person. Susan figured they must have a dome of silence around them because it looked like they were yelling, but she couldn't hear a thing. Fred even had his wand out. Susan wasn't even sure where McGonagall came from, but the Professor separated the two of them and sent an angry looking Fred Weasley stalking towards the exit.
She turned her attention back to the person in the bed in front of her.
"What am I supposed to with you, Harry? I turn my back for a moment and you're back in trouble again," she said, trying to smile bravely.
Earlier that evening in Hogsmeade
Voldemort stood defiant as Hogsmeade turned into a veritable fireworks display. Even with his recent injuries there was no one on the battlefield that came close to his level of power. His opponents were none other than Filius Flitwick and two lackeys from the Order. The Charms master was in fine dueling form. providing a hearty workout. Time had not dulled the Ravenclaw's reflexes. Like most high-caliber duelists, the dwarf employed passive Legilimency to gain split second advantages.
He cut down one of Dumbledore's new recruits and parried two fast curses from Flitwick. He was hoping to make Dumbledore fill yet another teaching position before the start of the school year. That's when the flood of memories and emotions broke over him like a cresting wall of water. Potter from within and Flitwick from without! He staggered backwards barely remaining upright. A pitifully weak piercing curse stabbed his arm, drawing a thin line of blood. He angrily snapped off a blasting curse at the person, who had managed a lucky strike against him, injuring the leg of the witch and sending her tumbling backwards in a mass of red hair.
'No! No! Please do not tell me I was just cursed by Molly Weasley? The utter humiliation!'
Voldemort focused and stayed on the defensive; it was all he could do with whatever was happening to Potter!
'Severus must be torturing him! It should all be over soon; still, if the death of the boy creates a backlash, it would not be prudent to remain engaged in battle.'
"Withdraw!" Voldemort commanded loudly and triggered his Portkey.
'Some other time, Filius.'
The pounding in his skull continued as he returned to headquarters. If anything, it intensified. He was both curious and wary of the sensations coming through the link. It reminded him of watching a violent storm from a distance. He toyed with the notion of lowering his shield and following the link back to the source. Voldemort extended a tendril of his mind only to slam his mental shields back into place, slamming it so hard that his head throbbed yet more.
Suddenly the swirling mass of fractured thoughts stopped, as though someone had thrown a switch. He couldn't detect anything, initially. Allowing his lips to curl into a smile, he allowed himself a smile at Snape's success. The boy was no more. The bane of his existence was ... wait! There was faint rumbling still.
'No! He still lives! Impossible!'
In the hallways surrounding Lord Voldemort's private sanctuary, the Death Eaters passing close enough heard howls of anger - none dared investigate.
International Portkey Terminal
Draco Malfoy fished a galleon out of his pocket and handed it to the Knight Bus driver, accepting his change, and not really trying to hide his disgust at having to get onboard like the rest of the cattle that usually milled here. Mother was not at the International Portkey terminal waiting for him and the Floo at Malfoy manor was offline.
'At least my trunk is spelled to be near weightless! It would not do for me to be seen struggling with my own luggage.'
As the Knight Bus hurtled into the English Countryside, Draco reflected on his eight weeks of debauchery. The wine flowed freely. Women serviced him, some willingly and some not. True, he could not use his wand, but Potions is his best subject for a reason! It had more to do with his drive to match his Godfather's achievements and less to do with his Godfather's blatant favoritism. Yes, he had been granted private lessons and advanced tutoring, but he worked hard with his Head of House to excel.
Draco had been surprised at his mother's offer of an extended European vacation. She had told him it would take his mind off his father's 'unfortunate circumstances'. It was also meant to reward him for his superior academic performance. He would have less time to plot and scheme this year without the assistance of his tutors, but sixth year is considered to be an 'off' year recovering from OWLS and eventually preparing for NEWTS.
The bus came to an abrupt stop and he exited. It was another half a kilometer from the end of the road to the mansion gates. Sighing, he called for Crud. The house elf had only been with the family since his third year. The thing was not nearly as efficient as the elf it replaced. Father had been too busy to properly break it in and mother was never much of a disciplinarian.
He waited for a minute and tried to summon it again with the same results. He allowed his anger to build. I am not a patient man! This is getting on my last nerve!
Grabbing his trunk, he stalked down the road. One of his few acknowledged fault was his tunnel vision when truly angry. The Malfoy temperament was legendary. Had he been able to keep his anger in check, he might have noticed the lawn looked unkempt and the lights of the main house were dark. Drawing his wand he tapped the touchstone at the barred gates. It would sound a gong inside announcing his presence.
It was only after his third tap on the touchstone did he notice the placard affixed to the gate.
NOTICE OF SEIZURE
PER MINISTRY DIRECTIVES, THE ESTATE OF LUCIUS MALFOY IS HEREBY SEIZED. THIS PROPERTY AND THE CONTENTS WILL BE AUCTIONED ON SEPTEMBER 8, 1996. PLEASE MAKE ALL INQUIRIES AND REQUESTS FOR TOURS OF THIS PROPERTY TO THE OFFICE OF ASSET DISBURSEMENT.
Draco wasn't sure how long he stared at the placard. It took awhile for the truth to sink in. His mind processed the ramifications. The Ministry could seize properties and levy fines, but the Goblins would not surrender the family vaults or their contents. He was tempted to utilize the secret entrance and salvage what he could from the house, but immediately discarded the plan. The Ministry could check the logs at the Portkey terminal and the Knight Bus. Even the most dim witted among them would be able to reach that conclusion.
Checking his watch to discover it was nearing midnight, he knew he should be leaving. The only question was, where was he to head? Surely the Parkinson's would take him in. Their estate was ten minutes by broom from here. It would be awkward carrying his weightless trunk, but he disliked the idea of leaving it here.
Minutes later Draco landed only to see a similar placard at the Parkinson estate. It stated that Boris Parkinson was a captured and convicted Death Eater. A second placard indicated the new address of Donna Nott-Parkinson and her daughter. He cursed himself for not following the news during his vacation. They must have replaced Fudge. Whoever the replacement was, the new Minister was not playing around.
Opting not to try and find Pansy and her mother tonight. He recalled the Knight Bus. He would return to London for now. In the eight weeks he had been gone, the landscape had changed significantly. Draco would need to adapt to this change.
Forgoing more posh accommodations, Draco took a room at the Leaky Cauldron. His money bag would have easily allowed him to stay at one of the more upscale ones, but he was understandably cautious. In the morning, he used one of the three post owls at the Inn to send a brief message to Pansy.
I have returned from vacation and discovered my father's home has been seized. I saw that the same fate has befallen your family as well. Do you have any knowledge of my mother's whereabouts? I am currently staying at the Leaky Cauldron and expect to be here for at least the next twenty-four hours.
He arrived at the bank noting the additional troll guards in the lobby. There had never been more than two at any given time. Five were currently present. He also noted a witch in Auror robes discreetly seated back in the area where normally only Goblins hat sat. The scene offered no answers, only more questions.
He was pleased to see that his personal vault had significantly more gold than it had when he left. There was a letter and a large envelope waiting for him. He recognized his mother's elegant writing.
I hope this letter finds you well. I have taken my leave of England. The war does not bode well for all in this country. With luck, I was able to contact you on the continent, but it may be impossible.
I have acted in my own interest and had the new patriarch of the Black family dissolve my marriage to your father. His actions have brought shame upon the name I was once proud and honored to take. I had a way out and chose to exercise it. My departure was somewhat hurried, as you can well imagine, your Uncle Tiberius would most likely have attempted to kill me were he to learn of my plans.
Unfortunately, you do not have that luxury. Your name will now carry a stigma with it. No doubt your father will continue to try and recruit you into his master's service. One of my final acts as Lucius' legal proxy was to emancipate you. My son, you are now your own man. Make your decisions with your best interests in mind - not your father's interests or his Master's. With your father marked, you most likely will not be marked, to preserve the continuance of the Senior Malfoy line. I doubt he ever disclosed this to you, but he was not marked until after your birth ensured that a male heir was available. Prior to that he acted as others do today, doing his bidding yet remaining unmarked.
In the envelope, you will find the name of the solicitors you may wish to contact. I have also enclosed transfer applications for both Beauxbatons and Drumstrang. I encourage you to consider those options. You will also find a copy of your betrothal contract to the Parkinson girl. In addition to granting your emancipation, I have also freed you from this responsibility, unless you choose to uphold it. I recommend you carefully weigh your options and perhaps attempt to negotiate a better deal for yourself. Again, the choice is now yours. You owe it to your heritage to ensure that your line survives into the next generation. If the pureblood mantra is what you actually believe in instead of something you subscribe to when it is convenient, then this should be your primary goal.
Enough money has been taken from the family vaults and deposited into yours to allow you the means to continue your education here or abroad. If you choose abroad, you will need to judiciously use the galleons to expedite your transfer.
I cannot emphasize how impractical it is for you to remain in England. If you stay, you will be drawn into the war in one way or another. Years ago I was a teenager in a similar situation. I chose to honor my family and marry into the Malfoy family as my method of protection. It was protection with a high price. I found myself a trophy wife in a loveless marriage, not allowed to bear more children and limited in my ability to rear my only son. I do not wish that life on anyone.
Draco, I know you do not particularly care for divination and seers, but I have come to place certain stock in their sayings. In my trips abroad during the last year, I consulted three of them. Independently, they all agreed that the next few years are to be unfavorable to those with the last name of Malfoy. You now have the means needed to make your own choices in life.
Be safe my child,
His hand trembled as he finished the letter. Anger, shame, and frustration tinged with a slight fear, passed through him. He almost impulsively tore the transfer applications to shreds.
'No! I will not dismiss the idea, until I have thought it through. For the moment, I am my own man. How long that will last is impossible to know.'
Hogwarts Guest Accommodations
It was three days before Harry was released from the hospital. After a single off-color comment by Ron about how 'Bloody effing brilliant it was that you offed Snape' followed by Hermione's histrionic, guilt laden apologies for creating the ward map that was stolen by Snape, Harry wasn't looking forward to spending time with the other displaced students. While Harry was still in the hospital, Tonks tore into Hermione something fierce, suggesting she get started on mapping out the castle's wards so as to finish her 'fascinating and completely theoretical' project. Lupin dragged his raging girlfriend out of Ravenclaw tower while she continued to scream at Hermione, going well over the top when she suggested that Hermione should go back and drain the blood from Diggle and Jones' corpses to use for ink. Everyone knew that Tonks' tirades were uncalled for, but all the same it took its toll on Hermione. After Hermione's third attempted apology sent the perpetually volatile Harry storming from the room, Susan reached her limit.
"Look Hermione, I'm going to say this just one time. You - were -- used. It's a lousy thing to happen to a nice person, but you need to quit trying to talk to Harry about it. He's not ready to talk. He's too busy tearing himself up to even consider how badly you feel. It may sound shallow and crass, but that's just the way it is. Right now you are only making it worse." Susan looked up at the small crowd that had gathered. "I'm going to see Dumbledore. Leave -- Harry -- /alone/." She left the unspoken 'or else' off the end of the sentence.
And so it was that they moved into their new quarters, away from the other students. The spacious quarters were actually rather quiet and bare. Trixie and several Hogwarts elves were leading the salvage operations at the ruined headquarters. The sanctuary room would need to be opened by Harry, but only when he was ready. Several storerooms at the castle were currently filled with what had been salvaged from the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. The house itself would most likely need to be razed and rebuilt.
For his part, Harry was sullen, withdrawn and moody. He came to bed hours after Susan turned in, and was gone by the time she woke up. He barely talked to her and refused any and all of her advances, including her romantic overtures. Harry was shutting down; when she suggested he talk to Flitwick about resuming training, he declined, saying that he wanted to wait until his injuries fully healed. She countered that Madame Pomfrey had cleared him to resume physical activity. He ignored her for the rest of the evening. It had been a very long four days.
Susan had hoped to use the same trick on Harry that the healer at St. Mungos had used on her when Trixie recovered his wand from the wreckage. She left a cloth and a can of wand polish on the nightstand next to the two wands. As far as she could tell, neither the wands nor the polish had been touched. Harry had touched the rag, throwing it to the floor after blowing his nose with it. She almost wished she could owl her healer for advice. Dumbledore had left for a meeting of the ICW and none of the other teachers seemed willing to confront Harry without the Headmaster's backing.
It wasn't exactly true, the Vampire Coedus might, but Susan was leery of letting the two of them to talk privately.
The time was not totally without good news. Ginny Weasley returned. Her magic was weak, but by all estimations, she would make a full, albeit slow recovery. She spoke with a slight lisp and her hands occasionally trembled. A sad look of acceptance crossed the younger witch's face as she told the group that she wouldn't be allowed to have her wand back for roughly four weeks to prevent lasting damage to her magical core. Her brothers had a small party to cheer her up, Susan had tried to convince Harry to come, but ended up going alone. Coming home from the party she knew she was going to take action.
To her, wallowing in Harry's fog was a form of non-existence. She would take him for a walk down to the lake every day. Her ankle was slowly improving and walking was part of her therapy. Susan allowed one more day to go by, while she played out the possible arguments and counter arguments in her head. Without knocking she entered his private quarters where he was sprawled across the bed with a book in his hand. She sat quietly, waiting for him to speak. He didn't.
"Harry, this has got to end." Harry looked up from his Transfiguration text with a blank look on his face. He hadn't turned the page in twenty minutes. He regarded her carefully for a minute and then looked back down at the book.
"Harry, stop avoiding it. I want you to talk to me."
"I thought you were telling everyone else to leave me be," he mumbled.
And so it begins.
"Well, I'm not everyone else," she said, unconsciously striking a fierce pose. "You don't have to talk to everyone/, but you need to talk to /someone and it might as well be me. We're supposed to do our handfasting in ten days. You need to start training again. We've been in here five days and you haven't touched your wands once! You're not going to bore Riddle to death."
"So it's not about me and my problems," he said, his voice dripping with distain. "It's about me killing Riddle. Am I /your /weapon now too? Who cares how many people I have to kill along the way? What about that, Susan?"
"Damnation! Harry, there's a war going on! Sometimes the wrong people die. I liked Fleur, but thanks to Riddle, she was set on killing you. Pomfrey says the Black Widow Rush was probably going to kill her anyway. Jones and Vance had orders to kill you. How angry was I after the mess in Gringotts? You got all of five minutes of silent treatment! You've been conscious for a week now! You talked a hundred words or so on the first day and then basically shut down. I kept everyone away. I told them to give you time. Well, the time's up Harry. Enough self-pity, it's time to move on."
"Move on? Move on where?" Harry croaked. "You've got all the answers, tell me." She could see his hands trembling. There was a feeling of wild magic in the air.
"No! You tell me," Susan exclaimed. "Our bond is getting stronger, Harry, I've been as miserable as you are. You're scared right now. Why?"
"You know why!" The bed shook slightly.
"Say it then!"
"No!" Books fell from the shelf; his fists clenched. Susan wondered if he would hit her. She weighed the risk and continued.
"Say it, Harry! It's not about Fleur or the rest. It's about Snape. You lost it when you killed him. So what? Even you have your breaking point!"
"Is that what you want me to say? That I snapped? That I lost it? That I barely remember killing him?" Harry bellowed. " I remember every single second of it! I see it every night! I sliced him into bits and I didn't care! I'd still be there if it wasn't for Bill! I enjoyed it, Susan! I'm a sick, crazy bastard! I'm a monster!" With this last declaration the sheets ignited. Susan doused them immediately.
Susan moved closer. "Listen to me, Harry! You are not a monster. A monster wouldn't feel remorse or guilt and you're wallowing in both. Snape was the monster; all you did was defend yourself. Don't blame yourself for surviving!"
Harry stared straight ahead, refusing to meet her gaze. "I'm afraid, Susan. It could happen again. I could snap again. The rage is there, just below the surface; I felt it when I had to get away from Hermione. You can probably feel it too," Harry said, turning away from her. "Did Dumbledore tell you about my Animagus form? I'm a raven, but when I'm transformed I can draw energy away like a Dementor. One day, I'll probably be able to do it in my human form, and after that I'll probably go all the way and just become a dementor myself. Face it, I'm a monster!"
Susan digested the news. Dumbledore hadn't mentioned it. She had to play her bluff. "We'll find a way to sever the link to them, even if you have to hunt every last Dementor in the world down. I won't let you go dark. You can win, Harry, but you have to snap out of it. You've go to do it for me, for our baby."
Susan felt the swirling mass of wild magic do the equivalent of a hiccup. Harry's eyes were wide - she had his undivided attention.
"I'm late, Harry - maybe it means something and maybe it doesn't, I'm not sure. Why don't you pick up your wand and find out?" She wasn't more than a day late, which wasn't unusual at all; it was all a bluff to shock him into living again; there was probably nothing more shocking than this. She recited the little rhyme most witches learn with the onset of puberty, "'If the aura stays blue, then no baby is due. If the aura turns pink, wonder what people will think.' Go ahead Harry. I showed you the charm. Cast it on me."
Harry hesitated, "Uh, maybe you should. I - ah..."
Susan pointed at the nightstand. "Harry, make the first spell you cast after this ordeal a meaningful one - make it about life and hope for tomorrow. Help /us/, Harry. You said it before, 'remember /us/', our special phrase."
He slowly reached over, hesitating as if the wand would sting him, taking it in his right hand. He exhaled a slow breath. The wand waved in a slow counterclockwise motion as he whispered the incantation. Susan felt the subtle wave of magic wash over her as she glowed with a pale blue. She saw his brow crinkle. She reached her hand out and touched his cheek tenderly smiling at him and staring into his eyes. "I guess I was wrong. I just felt different."
Harry gulped, "Susan, you weren't wrong - you just turned pink."
Author's notes - Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The chapter was slow coming out, but it should be a crowd pleaser. I didn't want Harry to just shrug off his little breakdown last chapter. Full discussion on DarklordPotter and FanficAuthors. Hope to see you there.