Finally Posting Fics - Magic Never Dies Chapter One
current location: By the window...
current mood: Finally posting these here...
current song: Vienna Teng: My Medea
Title: Magic Never Dies
Word Count: 4,800
Rating:R (future chapters)
Summary: This Fic won Portkeys' Felix Felicis Fiction Competition and garnered over 2,500 positive reviews. This is a completed alternative version of Book 7 for the Determinedly Delusional H/Hr shipper.
Action/Adventure/Romance/Humor - a bit of everything
The wedding was okay. Maybe not the last, golden day of peace he’d hoped, but still nice, even life affirming in its own way, he supposed. Fleur had been predictably lovely, Bill predictably not, but clearly deeply happy despite the vicious scars that still marked him.
Mrs. Weasley had herself, according to Hermione, placed the promised goblin-made tiara from Great Auntie Muriel atop Fleur’s fair head, and Harry hadn’t heard a single Weasley slip up and revert back to ‘Phlegm’. Fleur’s unquestioning acceptance of Bill’s altered appearance and her undaunted support of his decision to continue on as an active member of the Order had at last won over the entire family.
Harry had tried hard to stay in the moment throughout the day, to imprint upon his memory the images of the people he loved most – the ones that were left – as they indulged in the happy traditions a wedding provided.
Many of his friends and teachers from Hogwarts were there, most of whom he had not seen since Dumbledore’s funeral. It had been a strange period for Harry, the brief time between leaving Hogwarts and arriving at the Burrow for the wedding. At times he felt himself floating, disconnected, replaying over and over again the events that lead up to Dumbledore’s plunge from the parapet, dead already by Snape’s incantation. He knew he could not change them, had learned with Sirius the finality of his loss. He believed fiercely that the only way he could honor Dumbledore was to make sure he missed nothing, not the tiniest significant fact, of his last living moments. Dumbledore had been acutely aware that Harry was frozen, immobile and invisible beneath his cloak those few meters away while he had brought Draco Malfoy to the realization he was unable, in the end, to carry out his Master’s plan. Dumbledore had clearly known the outcome of that particular confrontation; but would he have still cast the spell on Harry if he had understood the true evil lurking in the heart of Draco’s guardian?
It didn’t matter, it would never change. But what exactly was Harry to learn from that betrayed trust? He shook himself, jarring the question once again from the forefront of his consciousness. There would be time enough to pursue those questions later; his time here was far more quicksilver and fleeting.
“Sickle for your thoughts.” Hermione said softly from behind him. They had all gathered to see Fleur and Bill off. The newly married couple could not go too far or for too long given the state of things but they were still clinging defiantly to normalcy and taking a weeks’ honeymoon somewhere deliberately undiscussed but carefully planned not to coincide with the full moon. Bill had shown no signs of becoming a full-fledged werewolf; still what was the point of taking chances? Life itself now was uncertain enough.
“You’d be vastly overpaying,” Harry told her.
“Wouldn’t get your money back on a couple of knuts with Harry,” Ron said darkly. “No mystery where his mind is.”
Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes and Harry gave her an apologetic grimace. They’d agreed not to discuss their plans until after the wedding was officially over but everything Harry said struck Ron the wrong way these last few days. Ron had been the first to say “We’ll be there,” when Harry had verbalized his plan to return briefly to the Dursley’s to renew whatever possible protection might be left in the shelter of his mother’s family, then head to his parent’s home in Godric’s Hollow; he’d spoken for both Hermione and himself as they turned away from the final resting place of Dumbledore’s remains. But as the reality of what that actually entailed had slowly dawned on Ron; he’d become less and willing to discuss the prospect.
Harry didn’t mind Ron’s reticence; he completely understood backing away from the swift and disturbing changes that were raising their troll-ugly heads everywhere they turned these days. Some part of Ron still clung to the hope of Hogwarts opening in the Fall, of riding the Express back to Quidditch games and classes and the snug familiarity of the Gryffindor Common room. If Dumbledore would be absent so would Snape; Ron could find comfort in the most unlikely places. Harry understood the impulse but had himself had moved irreversibly on; he was being drawn relentlessly away from his own mental havens by the siren song of the remaining Horcruxes. ’Find us and you can finish this,’ they sang. ‘Find us and you can avenge Dumbledore, Sirius, your parents. Find us and fulfill your purpose. ’
He’d never asked Ron or Hermione to accompany him. He’d planned to go alone, still planned on it. They were, however, his best friends, the ones he loved most. He did not want to sever that link or undervalue it; Dumbledore had seemed to feel strongly that his ability both to love and to inspire friendship was important. It had been hard enough to turn away from the sheer normalcy of his sudden attraction to Ginny, a sensation inextricably linked in his mind with the joy of flying and Quidditch and winning. She’d been avoiding him all day, always on the opposite end of whatever room he’d been in. He was glad that none of the Weasleys save Ron had known about their brief relationship, that Mrs. Weasley's joy in Fleur and Bill had not been diminished by unhappiness or what-ifs about her only daughter. If Ginny minded deeply she was hiding it extremely well. Harry’s pride stung but the rest of him knew only relief.
Fleur and Bill made their way from the Burrow to the center of the crowded circle of family and guests saying their goodbyes. Fleur wordlessly kissed both of Harry’s cheeks, her eyes bright. Bill shook his hand, grinning. The red ponytail and dangling fang earring were back, and Harry reckoned the claw marks didn’t diminish Bill’s rakish aura of cool all that much. “Don’t do anything Albus wouldn’t do” Bill told him quietly. “Take care, Harry. And… thanks.”
Harry shook his head, his stomach clenching with grief and guilt, but managed to hold on to his own smile. Just. “Be happy, both of you. Have, er… fun.”
They made their way on, past Hermione and Ron and a happily sobbing Mrs. Weasley and broadly grinning Mr. Weasley, then turned to the assembled throng.
“We know that a speech is customary at this point,” Bill began. Fleur made a swift wrap-it-up motion with her free hand. “but we also know Fred and George have something up their sleeves, so we love you all, and thanks!” There were two soft pops, and a rain of too-late rice sprinkled the grass.
“Unbelievable!” Fred said, clearly affronted.
“How could he possible think…” George huffed.
There was a sudden series of soft booms, snaps and whizzes and “Good Luck Bill and Fleur – Don’t Forget Those Special Charms!” whistled and spun through the air, spelled out in fireworks.
They helped out with the clean-up, swapping round at making sure Mrs. Weasley was sitting down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and nodding dutifully at her reminiscences of Fleur’s loveliness and Bill’s happiness. This worked like a charm until it was Harry’s turn, and her mood turned inevitably darker. He seemed to have that effect on everyone now. He could feel her already red-rimmed eyes ranging over him, taking in the slowly healing gash across his cheekbone where Snape’s rage at being called a coward had struck.
“Lovely wedding, Mrs. Weasley,” he said hopefully.
Two tears broke free and rolled down her cheeks.
Bloody Hell!, thought Harry despairingly. Even grown woman cry when I talk to them now! Should I tell her that Ron wants to come with me just so she can be pissed off and stop feeling sorry for me? It almost feels the kindest thing.
“He was so proud of you, Harry, so very sure of you. I can hardly bear to think what will become of you without Albus. It’s simply not fair.”
“I’ll be alright,” Harry said with an optimism he didn’t entirely feel yet, but hoped to. Sometime soon. Or he was quite possibly screwed.
“How are those dreadful people treating you? I suppose it will come down to Minerva deciding when you can leave there now. Shall I ask Arthur to Floo her and see when you can come here? We’re happy to have you, and with Fred and George sleeping over the shop now you could even have your own room to sleep in until term time.”
“They’re not so bad this time, the Dursleys. Dumbledore explained to them last year about wizards coming of age at seventeen so they know they’re going to be shut of me soon. Uncle Vernon’s just looking for repayment now.” Harry told her, evading the question.
“Repayment!” Mrs. Weasley exploded. “The very idea!”
“They heard Dumbledore say that Sirius’ will left me his gold and the Black family house. Uncle Vernon thinks he’s entitled to something for all he’s spent on me the last sixteen years. I’ve half a mind to take him over there. The shock of it would kill him.”
“What will you do with it? The Order might not need it anymore.” Mr. Weasley said, coming to sit beside his wife at the table with a sigh of weariness and glass of the wedding mead for each of them.
“So that’s it then, Dumbledore dies and the Order dies with him?” Harry asked. He’d been afraid of this; it just hadn’t seemed truly possible somehow.
“The current Order that took vows to help Dumbledore. But it is the Order of the Phoenix after all, Harry. It will rise again, reformed, from its ashes. Dumbledore made sure of that.”
“How is it going to rise without a leader? Who’s going to take Dumbledore’s place?”
“We’ll know when the Phoenix chooses.”
“What Phoenix? Do you mean Fawkes? I wondered where he’d got to, I never saw him after that night when he sang…”
All three were silent a moment, remembering the golden bird’s beautiful lament beyond Hogwarts’ walls the night Dumbledore had died.
“We were always lead to understand, when we joined up, that if anything happened to Dumbledore the current Order would be dissolved for the safety of its members,” Mr. Weasley said. “Fawkes was to appear to someone when the time was right, and that person would be his new master. We would all have the choice of rejoining the one he marked as leader, or not.”
“But anything could be happening while the Order is disbanded and waiting!” Harry said worriedly. “Voldemort knows we’ve lost Dumbledore, he’ll be striking harder than ever now!”
“The Ministry is working overtime….”
“The Ministry is a pack of idiots,” said Charlie, dropping down into a chair next to his Mum and across from Harry.
“I mean, look at them, they employ Percy,” added Fred, settling beside Harry.
“Need we say more?” George took the seat next to his twin.
Mrs. Weasley sighed. “He didn’t even make it to his own brother’s wedding, the useless little prat.”
There was a moment's silence round the table, which happened to be the same moment Ron and Hermione arrived.
“What?” asked Ron suspiciously. “You were talking about us, weren’t you?”
“Not at all, dear. I was finally admitting that I had six wonderful children and one cuckoo in the nest. Where Percy went wrong I’ll never know, he was certainly amongst the most fortunate of you in the brains department…”
“Shame about being born without a heart, though,” Charlie commented.
Ron and Hermione had remained standing, and Harry noticed Ron was giving him a… significant look. Either that, or he should really have that eye twitch looked at by a licensed healer.
“Ready to go finish up the… er broom shed, Harry?”
“What, you two take him snogging with you now too?” George asked with a grin.
“That’s just wrong, by the way,” Fred added.
Mrs. Weasley sent well aimed ear-twisting hexes at her twins, and Mr. Weasley shook his head. “Never mind them, you three. Expect you’ve got rather a lot to chew over about now. Only natural. See if you can round up Ginny while you’re out there, will you?”
Harry nodded gratefully and they fled the kitchen. The discussion picked back up behind them, thankfully about the wedding once more.
Their shadows lengthened as they walked along the path to the orchard into the setting sun. Hermione still wore the long, gauzy blue dress she had brought for the wedding and even focusing on his own feet as they progressed Harry could not help but notice the way it rippled like flowing water as she moved between them. He wondered how there could possibly still be such beauty in the world when everything had so changed. Didn’t it know what was coming? What was it thinking, with weddings and sunsets and Hermione in a blue dress? The Chosen One hasn’t got a clue! he ached to shout aloud. Duck! Run!
“We can go sit over there by the goal trees,” Ron suggested, clambering over the fence. “It’s pretty well blocked from the house by the broom shed. No one will bother us.” Harry offered Hermione a hand as she gathered her dress to follow and waited while she steadied herself on his shoulder before climbing after her. Ron and Harry both dropped down into the long grass with the still silent Hermione between them and the last of the sun ahead. Crookshanks appeared as if by magic to wind his way around them and two gnomes Harry hadn’t even noticed scurried furiously away.
Silence settled around them, and Harry felt it start to smother him with all that was going unsaid.
“I’m going back to the Dursley’s to get my stuff, and then on to Grimmauld Place. I’ve decided to use that as a sort of base camp for a bit, since it’s unplottable and all. Until I get a better idea of how to find… what I have to find,” he said. “Then I think it’s off to Godric’s Hollow.” That ought to set things straight. The thought of Grimmauld Place was off-putting to him, he couldn’t imagine Ron or Hermione would willingly choose to spend time there.
“Okay,” said Hermione. “We’ll…”
“Talk it over,” Ron interjected quickly.
“Look,” Harry said. “You guys don’t have to… just get on with your lives, okay? I’ll keep up with you about what I find, if you want to do anything about it you can decide then, right? There’s no need to…”
“There’s every need,” Hermione said furiously. “Dumbledore is gone. No offense Harry, you’ve never failed to come through in the end, but you’re running blind without him and it’s a… a suicide wish to just start poking around looking for those Horcruxes on your own! We have to research the possibilities, make a plan, make a plan B…”
“I will. I have what Dumbledore gave me about the other ones to be starting off with, I’ll have the library at Grimmauld Place to use…”
“You’ll open a book, read three pages, close it and decide to go off and reconnoiter, Harry, and you know it!”
“Well, that’s always worked for him before…” Ron volunteered.
“There was always Dumbledore…” Hermione started.
“To what? Save me?” Harry cut in. “He didn’t always save me, Hermione. He didn’t always have all the answers, either. I know it will never be the same without him, but I don’t exactly have a choice anymore. Snape saw to that.”
“And Snape knows you, Harry. Have you thought of that? Whichever way his allegiance lays now, he’s spent the last six years pointing out every one of your shortcomings, whether it was fair or not. It’s time to change.”
“I do know that Hermione. I understand it’s time to get over being predictably clueless saving-people Harry, honestly. I’m doing the best I can.”
“I know you think you are.” Hermione said wretchedly, staring fixedly at a piece of grass she’d been worrying between her fingers. It was crushed, her fingertips stained green. “But if you were, you’d accept our help.”
Harry let out a heaving breath and tore his eyes from her hands. “I am, Hermione. I want your help. But what exactly does that mean? What are the two of you going to do now?”
His words were met with silence; he couldn’t look at either of them. He felt in his bones that Hermione wanted them to come with him; he wished she wouldn’t, for many of the same reasons he had broken up with Ginny. He sensed that Ron didn’t want to, but he wished in a way that he would, he could use someone he trusted to watch his back. When it came right down to it, however, he knew Hermione would truly be the most help, but he didn’t want to tread on her fledgling relationship with Ron. It was all such a bloody mess.
“Well, you know where I’m going to be,” Harry said, rising to his feet. “I’m heading for the Dursley’s in the morning, and I should be at Grimmauld Place by noon at the latest. You can Floo me there anytime. You can just show up, the both of you, anytime. Anything I have is yours, you know that.”
He walked quickly away, almost vaulting over the fence in his hurry to leave them, his fear of hearing a single word of their conversation.
He made his way back into the house and said his goodnights, relieved that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would think he’d left Ron and Hermione to a private snog rather than an argument over involving themselves in his miserable destiny.
“Did you see Ginny out there anywhere, dear?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
He’d have needed a night vision spell and pretty quick eyes the way she’d been avoiding him. Not that he blamed her.
“No, but we were down in the orchard. She’s likely closer to the house somewhere, she was talking with Luna last I saw her.”
“Good night then, Harry. Sleep well.”
He climbed the four flights to Ron’s room and made his hunched way over to the bed squeezed in by the window. The ceiling seemed to get lower each time he stayed here; he couldn’t for the life of him think why Ron didn’t just do an enlargement charm and be done with it. (‘Well, I’m used to it, aren’t I?’ Ron always said. ‘Besides, this bloody house gets it in its mind to change back at the most inconvenient times. Like when you’re standing straight up.’)
Harry changed his clothes for pajama bottoms and brushed his teeth across the hall. He dropped in to bed at last, bone tired, and began his clumsy attempt at occlumency. He no longer knew if it had any point but it had become a sort of habit, and the habit usually soothed him. Probably because it allowed him to delude himself into thinking he was at least doing something, that Voldemort didn’t call all the shots.
The ghoul in the attic must have had a sensing spell on his bed; almost as soon as his head touched the pillow it began its nightly pipe-banging serenade. No wonder Ron could sleep through anything, it was simple self defense. He rolled to his side and stuffed the pillow over his ear. From this position he could see Ron and Hermione making their way back to the house up the path from the orchard. They were still talking animatedly, but that was conclusive evidence of exactly nothing. They could make an argument out of anything, those two. The moonlight glinted off of Hermione’s hair; she had taken it down from its wedding pins. Harry reckoned if he were out there with a girl as beautiful and intelligent as Hermione right now he wouldn’t waste it arguing. He rolled over in the other direction and determinedly closed his eyes.
Harry still wasn’t particularly fond of the sensation of apparition but he couldn’t argue with the convenience of it; and it was certainly safer than broom travel these days. His seventeenth birthday gift from the Dursley’s was the privilege of being expressly forbidden from revealing any outward sign of ‘all that unnatural stuff’ to the neighbors on Privet Drive. He had been careful to apparate away to the Burrow from behind the garage; he returned now to the same place and made his way to the kitchen door rather than the front.
His knock was answered reluctantly by Petunia with a sighed, ‘oh, it’s only you.’
He wasted a smile in her general direction and made his way directly up the stairs to what had been his room. His trunk lay open at the end of the bed with most of the detritus of 6 years at Hogwarts already packed inside. Spell books, cauldrons, Quidditch equipment, house robes. All pretty extraneous now. There wasn’t much else in the room that belonged to him; there never had been. He crossed to the desk where Hedwig slumbered in her open cage.
“Wake up there, sleepyhead,” he called softly, and she opened one reluctant amber eye. “Off to Grimmauld Place, now. You’ll likely find some lovely vermin for lunch there, it’ll be well worth your while. I’ll be along in just a bit to let you in.”
Hedwig hopped out from the cage, stretched her left leg and then her right in what looked to be an odd sort of dance, gave an experimental shake out of her feathers and then took off out the window without a backward glance.
“Just the way to do it,” thought Harry.
He pulled out his wand and shrunk down her cage, setting it into the trunk. His clothes and things from the stay at the Burrow went next, and his eyes ranged the room. His broom was already packed, as was the photograph of his parents he often left where he could see it. He crossed the room, took down the drawing of Hedwig he had done the summer after his first year and laid it on top, then closed the lid. Another tap of his wand and the whole trunk fit easily into his backpack. Done. He slung the strap over his shoulder and walked out the door. He left it open behind him; it was the multitude of locks and the cat flap he had hated most. He paused at the door to the cupboard under the stairs and opened it tentatively, but the mattress he had slept on and his little shelf were gone and it was filled with the Dursley’s suitcases and out of season clothes. Things that actually belonged in a cupboard under stairs.
Unfortunately for Harry it was Sunday and the entire Dursley family was ranged around the dining table. Dudley was still glued to the television, Vernon still hiding behind his newspaper, Petunia still keeping up a running commentary to no one in particular about the goings on in the neighborhood she had observed from behind the imagined safety of the curtains.
“Well, erm… ‘Bye.” Harry said.
“Just a minute, young…man,” Vernon lowered his newspaper. “Is that all you have to say after sixteen years of this family’s generosity to you? ‘Bye?”
“Um… thanks? Thank you for… well… maybe just thanks.”
“Is that all the gratitude you can show, after we kept you safe and protected from that Voldietort fellow? Gave you a place to hide while that school of yours was on break, kept you fed and watered? All that your Aunt Petunia did for you and the best you come up with is ‘thanks’?”
“Should I have sent flowers?” asked Harry, struggling not to laugh.
“Think you’re pretty big now that your fellow freaks call you a man, or a wizard, or whatever you are now, don’t you? Well, you still look like a skinny little runt to me. An ungrateful skinny little runt.” Vernon folded the newspaper and set it down with shaking hands.
“So I should be more grateful that you wouldn't waste food on me and kept me shut up in a cupboard? If I am a skinny little runt that’s the only explanation. Both my parents were perfectly normal by wizarding standards.”
Harry knew the idea of his parents being perfectly anything was enough to elevate Uncle Vernon’s blood pressure to dangerous levels; he was playing with fire. Really, he should just go.
“What about this Serious Black fellow, this godfather of yours. I never knew you had a godfather. Why didn’t he take you in, if he’s well off enough to leave you a vault of gold and a house?” Vernon questioned, eyes narrowing.
“He was a friend of his father’s,” Petunia said, shocking Harry. “He was imprisoned shortly after James and Lily died, he was the one who betrayed them.”
“He didn’t,” Harry almost whispered in his shock. “He was falsely accused. Why didn’t you tell me you knew? That summer when he broke out of Azkaban before my third year, all the Muggle television stations ran his picture. Why didn’t you tell me he was my godfather?”
“He was a dirty, filthy murderer,” she said matter-of-factly.
“No, he wasn’t. It was Peter Pettigrew that betrayed them. He confessed right in front of me, I heard him!”
“Then why did you threaten us with writing to your godfather the next summer? You wanted Vernon to think he was a criminal then.”
Touché, Aunt Petunia.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “I thought…”
“No, you didn’t. You’re just like your father that way. Anything to get what you want.” Two spots of red shone on Petunia’s cheeks; Harry had never seen her quite so angry.
“All I wanted was to be treated like a human being, instead of a badly behaved dog. All I wanted was not to be beaten up by your bullying son and husband. I never asked for anything more than that.” Harry snapped, stung.
“All your father wanted was my sister Lily, my oh-so-special sister Lily, and then he went and got her killed and landed us with you!” Petunia snapped back. “Vernon’s thinking too small calculating your room and board for all those years, when it’s your very life you owe us! And now you think you’re going to just walk out of this house knowing that your Dark Lord will come looking for you here? Well I know where you’re going. Albus Dumbledore himself sat in our front room and gave your hidey hole away. # 12 Grim Old Place. So you give Vernon whatever he asks for. We’re moving.”
Vernon’s mouth dropped open, he couldn’t even manage a gasp. Dudley looked as if he’d swallowed something nasty.
“Shut up, Dudley.” Harry and Petunia both said, almost in unison.
Harry was floored. They had talked of Grimmauld Place in front of the Dursley’s, Dumbledore had even brought Kreacher into their sitting room to determine if the Order was going to lose the house to Bellatrix. Trust Petunia to remember the one thing that absolutely ensured her being tortured instead of a nice, quick Avada Kedavra if the Death Eaters decided to come knocking for Harry in Little Whinging. Yet she seemed to understand the danger; moving quickly and quietly away from Privet Drive could literally save their lives once Harry was gone.
“How much do you want?” he asked. They didn't deserve a penny, but he didn't want them on his conscience, either.
“All of it,” she said evenly. “Not this Sirius’s money, your parents’. I want every last galleon changed into real money and delivered here. We’ll disappear, go where no one’s ever even heard of magic, somewhere Dudley’ll be safe from you…wizards.”
“You’ll have quite a time finding it,” Harry told her tiredly. “It doesn’t exist. Magic is everywhere, and magic never dies. Magical people are just like Muggles, some good, some evil. You’ve spent my whole life trying to squash it out of me and it didn’t work, did it? It isn’t the magic you should be afraid of, Aunt Petunia. It’s Lord Voldemort. It always was.” He backed toward the kitchen door, watching her, not stopping until the door knob was in his hand. “You can have whatever you need to move,” he said. "I’ll have it sent here, from Gringotts. And then we're square, and good luck to you.”
He closed the kitchen door behind him, walked dazedly behind the garage and apparated across London to a familiar patch of unkempt grass in the middle of a small square. Ahead of him, appearing to shoulder aside its neighbors to greet him even as he thought of how little he wanted to be there, was the battered door of #12, Grimmauld Place.