carmilla: (Snape/Harry)
[personal profile] carmilla
WARNING: Violence, some dark content.


He's gone. No, best to do the thing properly... he's dead. I can say it now without my hands trembling or my eyes stinging - just. But I still get a nasty twinge in my stomach, and a feeling in my throat like I've swallowed a lump of lead. And it's taken me over a week just to get that far. It seems so strange; I never felt this bad about anything, even Cedric's death, and I was surely much closer to him, and I saw him die before my eyes. Perhaps that's it. Perhaps it's because they haven't found the body, won't find it. I haven't seen him dead, he's just... gone.

The second casualty of this war; the second we know of, anyway. It's easier to think of it like that, easier to think of him as a hero dying in battle. Because it means I don't have to think about how he probably died... or what they might have done to him first....

They knew. Of course they knew. It was ridiculous to think that he might have got away with it twice, playing the spy, the triple-crosser, the faithful Death Eater returning to the fold. But they played us. Oh, they played us. Mistrusting him one minute, pumping him for information the next... Dumbledore set up an incredibly elaborate ruse, to fool them into thinking that information he'd given them was accurate, that it cost us casualties. I'll never forget the feeling of helpless panic I got when I saw five or six wizards plummeting from their brooms, McGonnagal at the head; it was a horrible, sick sensation, even knowing it wasn't real, even though I knew that if I could tear my eyes away I would see her, there, watching with us. And all of that for nothing. Because he got admitted into their inner circle... but he never got out again.

The last thing we heard from him was a panicked, half-inaudible message that he sent to Dumbledore through a tiny crystal set in his ring. He said, "Don't trust me. If you see, me, hear from me, it's not me." That was all. No pleas to be rescued, not even 'pray for me'. All he thought of was keeping us safe from whatever they did to him. The last we saw of him was his wand, snapped in half in the middle of a circle of scorched earth. It was arranged into a letter 'V'.

Why do I know all this? I shouldn't. I've no place here really. I can't even tell Ron and Hermione half of what I know. People treat me like I'm special. For the first time since that afternoon in the Leaky Cauldron, it scares me more than it exhilarates me. What have I ever done? What can I do, besides ride around on a broomstick or sneak around under a cloak? 'Sheer nerve and outstanding courage' - what's it worth? When it comes right down to it, a lot of people have saved me over the years. If I had to depend on myself, I'd be dead.

It was my choice. Of course it was my choice. Dumbledore would never have forced me to get involved with any of this. And of course I chose to. It meant spending the summer with him instead of the Dursleys. It meant seeing Professor Lupin and Sirius again. How could I say no?

I thought I was mature. I thought I was prepared. I thought, after all I'd been through, I could deal with this. I was wrong. Suddenly, I was being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to attend a conference about some new crisis, and sitting round the table with Dumbledore and McGonnagal and Cornelius Fudge and... him. Like I had some right to. Famous Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. It gave me the right to be heard, to mean something. I never hated it more.

They didn't treat me like a boy, that was the worst of it. Nobody was condescending, or at least, they weren't more condescending to me than to anyone else. When I said something, they would turn around and listen. Look at me as if my opinion might be important. And I just wanted to sink into my chair and hide from all those earnest faces. Even Dumbledore's gentle encouragement was unnerving rather than reassuring. These were the chambers of power, the places where life-or-death decisions got made. What was I doing there?

Even he was... different. Not pleasant, he is - was - never pleasant. But he didn't give me those same, cold stares that said only too plainly, 'You may have fooled them into thinking you're something special, but I know better, boy'. And once or twice, when I did manage to say something worth listening to, I thought I saw something close to respect in his eyes. And somehow, that meant more to me even than one of Dumbledore's smiles. In the classroom he might favour his darling Slytherins out of all proportion, but in council, he only gave praise where it was earned.

Whether or not he respected me, I certainly came, albeit rather grudgingly, to respect him. He was sharp-tongued as ever, and didn't think twice about lambasting an idea if he thought it foolish. As a strategist, he seemed to err on the side of caution - except when it came to his own safety.

And that was what really got me. The sheer, bloody-minded determination to see things through, no matter what it cost him. I saw him striding into the west wing of the school when it was blazing all around him, to drag out a third year Hufflepuff who had panicked and hidden in the bathrooms. We had the entire school fireproofed after that, and nobody was allowed through the gates without being screened. We still don't know how it happened. And night after night, I saw him disappear into the dark to meet the Death Eaters, and wondered if he'd ever come back again.

That last time, we knew that the stakes were higher than ever. And just before he left, I called out to him, and held out my hand. He didn't take it. He just said, very softly, "I have no use for goodbyes." Then he disappeared.

I find myself missing the strangest things. How his eyes flashed when he was angry with someone. How his cloak billowed around him when he walked. How his hands twisted together when he was thinking of what to say, the way someone else might 'umm' or 'aah'. And I remember the strangest things too. The way his arms gleamed in the light of the fire as he stepped out, holding the kid, (he'd been forced to leave his robes outside. I think it was the first time I saw him without them, and remember being surprised at how casually he was dressed). And that look in his eyes when he turned away from me. Something that looked a lot like regret.

And yet, we never really made peace. I never told him how I had grown to respect him, what he did, how he thought. I never told him that I didn't hate him, not really. I never thanked him for saving my life, or trying to... how many times? Three? Four? I don't know, and I'm ashamed of that. And I never heard him say that it's alright. I never heard him say that he didn't hate me either. And now it's too late. Too. Damned. Late.

**********

Pain. That's the first thing I think every time I open my eyes. Sometimes I just have a pounding headache, cramps in my stomach because I haven't eaten enough for days - weeks? - bruises and aches from sleeping on the stone floor, the ever-present agonies of my ruined hands. Sometimes one of those things is near, and then it all comes flooding back, like a re-opened wound; the twisting horrors of the Cruciatus, the less refined but equally effective torments of cold steel, hot iron, blows to the head and stomach until I was dizzy and nauseous. They broke my hands. Broke them a bone at a time, laughed at each fresh, ragged scream. Then they bound them so the bones would knit at odd angles. It hurts to look at them now; they're twisted and useless. My fingers can hardly move; even when they do throw me some scraps I can barely feed myself. The sheer, crippling helplessness is almost the worst torture of all. Almost.

I've long given up hope of rescue. Everyone must think I'm dead. I might as well be. They left me behind for their little pets to play with. I know what they are and what they do, these soul-vampires. It is not a happy knowledge. I know that there are other memories, ones I can't access. There must be, surely. But when I try to search for friends, for hope, I see none. I see an old man, seeming ten feet tall in his towering anger, calling me idiot, traitor, murderer, and knowing that it was all true. Sometimes I sense that there is more to this memory, more than anger and hurt and suffocating guilt, but I can't reach it. I see a black-haired woman, staring at me reprovingly, a bumbling oaf refusing to listen, two men, both ragged, both too thin, one dark-haired, one fair, with hatred in their eyes. And when I try to think of friends, of allies, this is all I find.

But sometimes, when those black monsters are further away, when I am thinking of nothing in particular, another image comes to me. A young man with pale skin and a haunted, beautiful face, holding out his hand to me. It is not a happy memory, for it brings pangs of sorrow as, in my mind's eye, I see myself turn away, see the hurt in those wide, soulful eyes as I reject him. But it is something, nonetheless. Someone who offered me friendship, acceptance. And in my more lucid state, I even know his name, though I've forgotton all the others. I can't even, always, remember my own. But there he is, staring at me, reaching for me... Harry.