This was something I wrote for a fic contest a while back, but the contest fell through. I thought I'd post it. Hopefully it will be enjoyed as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's, er... kind of confusing, so I hope it comes out all right...
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, but oh, how I wish I did.
Warnings: Character death (implicit); this is confusing -and yes, that is on purpose.
Word Count: 2464
Through the Haze
"I didn't mean to do it."
Harry wasn't sure why he felt so cold. He wasn't certain as to why his limbs were suddenly so heavy. He only knew that this was darkness, this was finality.
The moment the words left his mouth, Harry was being stared at rather closely, as if he had grown a second head. "But... Harry," Ron began. Hermione touched his hand, shook her head.
"Well," Remus said, looking pale. "I think it would be best if we left." Placing a hand on Harry's shoulder, Remus returned him to 12 Grimmauld Place. Moody followed with Ron and Hermione. They Apparated to the place to find Snape crumpled in a heap on the floor, his nose dripping blood.
The Mark and Scar burned with the same ferocity, for the same reasons, for different emotions. The brightness of the burning was blinding; it would haunt him as he slept.
"Hermione, Ron- take Harry upstairs and get him to bed," Remus said as he and Moody knelt beside the unconscious Potions-Master.
"But I'm fine," Harry protested.
"Harry. You won't be," Remus murmured.
"He's right, lad," Moody agreed roughly. "Go on up and get in bed. You'll have a long night ahead of you."
"What about Professor Snape?" Hermione asked.
"We'll take care of this," Mad-Eye snapped. "Now get him upstairs."
"C'mon, Harry," Ron said, tugging gently on Harry's sleeve. Hermione took a more direct approach, grabbing Harry's hand and dragging him toward the steps.
"Here, Harry," Hermione said, tossing a pair of his pyjamas on the bed. She had taken to acting worse than Molly Weasley about him. Hermione and Ron sat on either side of Harry as he fingered the material of the sleep-clothes, making no move to put them on.
"Stop looking at me like that," Harry muttered suddenly, avoiding their eyes. "I'm not going to break or explode or anything."
"We're just worried, Harry-"
"Well, don't be."
"Mate," Ron faltered. "You just killed You-Know-Who-"
"Voldemort," Harry insisted. "And what about it?"
"Don't you see, Harry?" Hermione began.
Harry interrupted again. "No. I don't see."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well, if you'd wait a moment I would explain it to you," she said pointedly. Hermione waited, eyeing him carefully before continuing in the assurance that he would not interrupt another time. "You killed- You-Know-Who..."
A flash, and then a clashing of light. Struggling to overcome the other end, and the pain was unbearable. In this, they were alike. In this, they were one.
"So, you're connected to him, Harry! That scar on your forehead-"
"Is gone," Harry finished softly, pushing his hair back to reveal a clear forehead.
Hermione gaped. "Harry-" She swallowed hard. "Harry, that scar- I never told you, but I looked it up. It's a Rune, Harry. It's Sowulo." The boys gave her blank looks, and she sighed. "It means victory, or the promise of victory. It's used as a symbol of salvation, light and order against the forces of chaos and darkness," Hermione explained.
After a moment, Ron said, "I wonder if Dumbledore knows."
"Surely he does, Ron," Hermione snapped.
"I meant about today," Ron smirked.
"So did I," Hermione glared.
"Well, how do you know he knows, 'Mione?" Ron challenged. "Have you spoken to him?"
"Guys," Harry muttered, his hands freezing. They looked at him, and when he realised they were waiting for him to say something, he twitched. "I'm tired," he tried lamely.
"Oh," Hermione said. "Oh! Right. C'mon, Ron."
As they reached the door, Ron turned. "Harry," he faltered.
He vaguely thought that he would never hear his name being said again. The following vague thought was that it didn't matter.
Harry looked at his friend. "What did you mean, earlier..? When you said you didn't mean to kill You-Kn- Voldemort," Ron finished with a whisper.
Harry's features turned to stone. "I'm sorry. I really am," he murmured softly. "But I'm- I'm very tired."
Hermione grabbed Ron's hand. "Come on," she murmured, tugging him out the door. Harry didn't miss the concern in their eyes. It made him feel better, knowing he hadn't simply lied-
He was tired, this was true. Every part of him whined with exhaustion, and moving was impossible. He wanted nothing more than to sleep.
He couldn't sleep. He simply laid on the bed, staring at the wall. Harry had finally done what he was meant to do- but it wasn't what he had meant to do. He shook his head. That hardly made sense, even to him. He couldn't straighten himself out, couldn't see. The veil over his eyes-
-was heavy and suffocating. He wondered if he had fallen asleep with his jumper on again, wondered if he would awaken to find himself twisted in his sheets. Wondered if he would awaken.
Remus came in early in the night, sitting on the side of Harry's bed. "Harry?" he murmured softly. "C'mon, Harry. You need to eat."
The boy kept his back to him. "Tired," he mumbled.
Remus swallowed hard. "I know, but-" he murmured, then shook his head. "Come on, lad," he said firmly. "You need some food in your system. Besides, Molly will have my head," he tried to joke, smiling sheepishly.
Harry pulled himself up with not a little effort and looked at Remus, feeling heavy with exhaustion. "Is Snape all right?" he asked dully.
Remus hesitated. "The Mark was awakened in the Death Eaters. Many of them were hit very hard when Voldemort died, including Severus. But he'll be fine," Remus said reassuringly.
There was a long pause. "How are you, Harry?" Remus asked quietly.
"Thinking," Harry muttered. "Remus- my scar disappeared."
The older man's brow furrowed. "What?"
Harry nodded, lifted the fringe off of his forehead, showing the smooth, unblemished skin of his crown. Remus reached out, ran his fingers over the place where the scar had been.
"Remus," Harry said urgently. "I was thinking... If my scar disappeared, couldn't-" Remus was already shaking his head, but Harry barged on. "Well, wouldn't things... go back? To -to how they were? Like-"
"Harry," Remus faltered, not wanting the boy to finish the thought.
"Like my parents," Harry said firmly. "And Sirius."
"That's not how the world works, Harry. Not even ours. I'm sorry," Remus said softly. "I wish it was," he added, choked. "Believe me... But it's just... not."
Harry nodded, unconvinced, and Remus placed a shaking hand on the boy's shoulder, trying to find the right words. He failed. "You feel all right, though, Harry? Yes?"
Harry nodded once, sharply, but said nothing more. Remus watched him carefully, out of sad amber-eyes, and finally sighed. "Come on, my boy. Let's go to dinner."
He wouldn't sleep, probably couldn't if he tried. He kept seeing the happenings of the night, over and over again in his mind, right down to finding the Potions-Master sprawled on the floor with blood covering his lips, like a dark and seductive lipstick. The thought very nearly made him laugh.
Harry followed Remus from the room, down the stairs to the dining room. He sat at the table, rumpled and exhausted, and avoided the eyes of those around him. Hermione flashed him a small smile, looking rather uncomfortable.
They ate in silence -well, most of them ate. Harry and Remus spent an hour delicately pushing food around their plates. Snape was most understandably not present, but Tonks, Moody, Arthur, Molly, and Dumbledore were among those seated around the table. Excluding Dumbledore and Remus, the adults spent the meal sending each other significant and anxious glances over their plates, until finally-
"So, Harry. You finally defeated Lord Voldemort," Dumbledore said conversationally.
A piece of food fell from Ron's mouth and Molly shot him a murderous glare. Harry glanced around the table to find everyone suddenly studying him intently. "Er. Yes," he said awkwardly.
When Dumbledore asked, "And how do you feel about that?" Harry felt as if he were on one of those dumb Muggle talk-shows that Dudley had always watched.
"Empty," Harry said, the first word in his mind spilling from between his lips.
Dumbledore nodded sagely, but before any more could be said, a loud crash came from upstairs. Remus and Tonks stood up immediately, Remus saying savagely, "Damn pixies are back. Nymphadora?"
She nodded and followed Remus up the stairs. Molly blushed, smiled apologetically. "We've been trying to keep things clean, but they just seem to find ways in everywhere," she said fretfully. "Sirius never did find out how-" Molly clapped a hand over her mouth, looking horrified.
Harry forced a weak smile to his lips before pushing back from the table, saying, "Excuse me," and heading into the living room. He stopped just outside the door, leaning against the wall, and listened to what was being said.
"Oh, Molly," Arthur murmured.
"Well. That was rather stupid of you," Moody remarked.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Molly wept. "I didn't mean- oh, dear."
"It's all right, Molly," Dumbledore said softly. "He's fine."
I'm fine, Harry thought wildly.
Wild. That was the only way to characterise this, how his heart was beating, his breathing now heavy and harsh. He was still fighting the fog, but now it was physical, less mental. Stumbling on his feet, trying to find a light in the darkness.
He stumbled up to his room, moved to his trunk. Harry dug through his things: Potions essays, old clothes- he even found one of Lockhart's books from second year, and promptly threw that under the bed. Finally, he emerged with his photo album. Climbing into bed, Harry opened it to the first picture.
The baby that was him stared up at him, forehead still marked with the jagged edge. Harry sighed. If the past hadn't changed, the future couldn't. So what did the disappearance of the scar mean? Did it predict his imminent death? Or was it something else?
A knock on the door came about three hours later, and Harry ignored it, still clutching the photo album. Ron came in anyway, Hermione trailing him hesitantly. Ron was in pyjamas, Hermione a dressing gown. "Shouldn't you be in bed?" Harry asked sourly.
"Harry- are you- all right?" Ron asked.
"I'm fine," he said dully.
I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine. The words sang, a continuous repetition in his mind. Perhaps if he played them long enough, he would begin to believe them.
"You're not," Hermione insisted, but stopped herself, biting her lip. "Harry- we've been trying to figure out what you meant- when you said you didn't meant to- to kill Voldemort," she stammered.
Harry shut his eyes briefly. "I meant just what I said," he murmured.
"I think," came a voice from the door. "That we should have a nice cup of tea," Dumbledore said, coming into the room. "And explain things to each other."
There was no explanation for this. No reason that he should be seeing what he was seeing. He felt as if he were within Erised; his mind was jumbled and there was such a crowding that he could not begin to separate the surreal from the actual.
Remus and Tonks, Moody and the Weasleys -even Snape, who looked rather worse for wear- clustered into the small room. Dumbledore Conjured chairs for each of them, and they all sat wearily, warily. As soon as tea was produced and passed around, Dumbledore spoke. "Now," he said, "shall I explain, Harry, just what it is that has occurred?"
"Ah," Dumbledore breathed out, sitting back and taking a sip of tea. "Now. We," he indicated the members of the Order, "have been discussing this little happening and its consequences, and I believe I have at last come to a conclusion."
The old professor paused again, sipping more tea. Moody grunted. "Well?"
"Oh. Yes. Well. Harry, your scar has disappeared, yes?" Harry nodded. "We have been wondering, my dear boy, why it was that you, too, were not killed when you attacked Voldemort. I believe that the scar was a separate entity from yourself, Harry: the only thing that truly connected you to Voldemort. And so instead of taking you with him, Voldemort took the mark he had left on you.
"I'm sure that Miss Granger has informed you of the meaning of the scar?" Dumbledore asked. Harry nodded again. "You see, Harry, your scar served as a beacon. Now that Voldemort is gone, all of him is gone. As long as your scar existed, we knew there was the possibility that Voldemort would return."
But he had returned. That much Harry knew was so. Even as he stumbled through the haze, even as he walked toward what could not possibly be there, directly in front of him, Harry knew this. As surely and solidly as one could know something in a place like this.
It seemed simple. In fact, Harry felt rather stupid. Ron spoke up suddenly. "But... Why do you keep going on and apologising about killing You-Kn-" Ron sighed. "Voldemort?"
Harry looked to Dumbledore. "Ah, yes," the wizened old man said. "Mr. Weasley, I don't believe that Harry was apologising." Harry shook his head fervently, and Dumbledore nodded.
Ron looked flustered. "Well," he faltered. "What then?"
"Quite simply, Mr. Weasley, Harry did not honestly intend to kill the Dark Lord."
"But," Hermione started. "But he- Harry, you cast an Unforgivable Curse!"
Harry nodded. "Yes."
Hermione looked confused, as did the majority of the Order members. Dumbledore looked entertained. "Well," Hermione began. "But... Doesn't that- entail intent?"
Harry nodded. "That's right. Remember, 'Mione, when I tried to- to kill Bellatrix, after Sirius..." he trailed off. "She told me then, that for it to work, I had to mean it. I... I could never mean it."
"Well, then... How did you do it?"
Nothing could really explain why Sirius was taking his hand, leading him to a mirror. But- it couldn't be a mirror. Excluding Erised, mirrors reflected what was there, and Harry was positive that Sirius hadn't turned into a green-eyed redheaded woman.
His mother took his hand, his father rested a warm palm on his shoulder. Sirius smiled, eyes wet. Harry turned, looking back at from where he had come.
Numb and surprisingly shell-shocked, Snape asked dully, "When is the funeral?"
Dumbledore, for once, looked as old and weary as he was. "Tomorrow. Bound to be full-up. We'll have to have extra security, what with the Death Eaters out and plotting their revenge."
"I never thought I'd see this day," Molly said through her tears.
Moody shook his head. "I hoped we never would."
"The end of the Potter-line," Arthur said sadly, solemnly.
From over in the corner-window, where he had been standing since early that morning, Remus shook his head, said softly, "The beginning of a new world."