Would you believe I'm sitting here for the thousandth time since this all happened and wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into this time around. I'm sure you'd just snort indignantly and wave off my question with a 'what else is new?' gesture. Although, come to think of it, that's something the old you would do. I've begun to notice the new you cares about my feelings in a whole, different, wonderful way. I'm not sure which one of you makes me more nervous.
February 12, 1997, new timeline
Harry walked listlessly from room to room at Grimmauld Place, not really keeping track of his progress or direction, simply moving to do something. Strangely, it felt a little safer if he stayed in motion. It kept the suffocating thoughts and feelings from overwhelming him. He felt, actually, that if he were to sit down somewhere, he would find it impossible to get up again. In his depression, he actually fantasized about sinking into one of the soft chairs and disappearing into the upholstery where he could stay forever, warm by the fire and unneeded. Not unwanted. Just unneeded.
He felt well and truly tired of being needed. Being needed had taken on distasteful connotations these past months. He was needed to face down and kill the Dark Lord, needed to coordinate the defensive efforts of the upper level students at school, and in order to preserve morale, needed to stay cheerful during the Holidays. After all, he wouldn't want to upset anyone by letting on the whole Wizarding world was falling down around them. Reality has no business rearing its ugly head around Christmas. Let people bury their proverbial heads in the sand, he thought. It wasn't going to change anything.
Harry cringed at the reality everyone was ignoring. More good witches and wizards were slaughtered every day. One by one, the other magical races of the world were falling, either in battle against Voldemort or by defection to his cause. Harry could practically feel evil tipping the scales its way.
And yet, day after day, Harry did nothing. He attended classes. Wouldn't want to miss those, seventh year is so important and he must stay focused on his NEWTS, he thought sarcastically. If he didn't test well, whatever would he do with his life? Harry laughed bitterly, the sound bouncing around the large empty room.
I am doing nothing, he told himself truthfully. I sit and wait for those who think they know what's happening to tell me what to do, and still more people die, he thought. God, he was tired though. Tired of fighting and weary of attempting to convince Dumbledore and the Order that more preemptive action was necessary.
Harry stopped his restless pacing as he passed the mantle. Beautifully framed photographs decorated the surface. He ran clammy hands down the front of his jeans, before reaching out to trail his fingers over the various pictures. Figures moved through the frames, laughing and waving at him. Most of them were of his parents, Remus and Sirius.
Sirius. I killed him. That thought, no matter how old or used, always took Harry's breath away. That he could have, with his carelessness and inexperience, done so much damage, never failed to rob him of the ability to breathe.
The silence of the study became oppressive, but Harry didn't leave. Instead, he paced the room, back and forth, recalling the Order meeting earlier.
Snape had sat, completely stoic as usual, as he reported on the newest deaths and raids. His eyes had shifted to Harry more than once and against his will, he felt himself shrink under the older man's cold glare. You're inadequate, the look said. You're a failure. Harry had just looked away, sighing and rubbing his aching eyes under his glasses.
Snape wasn't the worst, though. Not by a long shot. There were also those members of the Order who looked at Harry as though waiting for him to do something. Harry knew they were pleading silently with him to stop the madness. After all, that's what he was born to do. Get on with it, these people screamed silently at him.
But even these weren't the worst of the lot. No, that honor was reserved for people like Remus and Dumbledore. The pity in their eyes was so poorly disguised that a two year old would have been aware of it. Don't let it affect you, they conveyed with their eyes and their comforting touches. None of this is your fault.
Harry felt betrayed more by the blatant lies of these two, his most trusted mentors and friends, than the thousands who blamed him silently. Of course it's my fault, he screamed silently in his mind. He had kept his eyes on each speaker in turn, retaining some semblance of involvement in the meeting, but in his mind he raged against them. My inaction causes more senseless death, both Muggle and Wizard-kind, everyday.
Harry dropped into the nearest chair and leaned forward resting his head in his hands. Not for the first time, he wished fate had dealt him a different hand. He was exhausted. So tired of all the responsibility, the burdens and the guilt. All we wished for sometimes was the kind of life his friend, Ron, had: the security of a loving family, a happy childhood and most of all, freedom from his cursed scar and all it had come to represent.
"I hate this," he whispered vehemently. "I hate this life and…I'm coming to hate myself." Surprisingly, verbalizing this thought drove home its simple truth. Harry had very little left of himself that he was proud of.
As Harry leaned back in the chair, covering his eyes with his arm, a faint whispering crept into his head. At first, he didn't notice it, being hypnotized by the heavy silence of the room. After a few minutes, however, he noticed its incongruity with the normal sounds of the house.
Harry stood and turned slowly in a circle, trying to locate the source of the whispers. Just as he as reaching for his wand in alarm, a faint light from one of the bookshelves caught his eye. He moved slowly toward the bookcase, eyeing the strange object that seemed to call to him.
It was a small disk, in fact in looked like a small skipping rock, and while Harry had never noticed it specifically before, it seemed familiar. He picked it up and turned it over in his hand, searching for some clue to its origin or use. Immediately, the whispering amplified into a distinct, clear voice.
I'm safe. I'm a friend, the voice whispered. Why do you lament?
"I hate myself," Harry answered. He sat down again in the armchair and softly caressed the smooth stone in his hand. Just the simple act of touching it seemed to help him feel better.
His rational mind was sounding an alarm. His Godfather's house was still full of things connected with the Dark Arts. He had been warned more than once by a condescending Potions Master to heed any unfamiliar magical objects he might find in the house. Snape's lecture on the subject would have been more appropriate for a toddler, but Harry had sat quietly and listened to the sneering voice lecture him.
Don't touch anything if you don't know what it is. Do not communicate with books, objects, portraits or anything else that attempts to communicate with you. Report anything that seems out of place, appears out of nowhere and in general gives you the feeling of being dark or suspicious. Harry smiled briefly at the memory. For all of Snape's abuse, at least Harry could take what he did and said at face value.
"In general, Potter, you're a fool, so I don't expect you'll really follow any sage advice, regardless of the fact that you remaining alive is of the utmost importance to all of us. Simply try not to get yourself killed before you do your job, hmmm?" And with that, Snape had breezed from the room, robes flowing behind him.
Harry let the memory fade. As he stroked a crack in the stone with his finger, his contentment increased. He purposefully buried his mind's warning about the object. It had been too long since he had felt even the slightest pleasure.
Is it yourself you hate, Harry Potter, or just the circumstances of your life? The voice asked.
Harry didn't hesitate. Gryffindor by nature and blood, his answer was swift and true. "My life's circumstances," he answered out loud.
Then change them, Harry Potter, the voice whispered seductively. Wish for a new life. Live a new life. Is this not your heart's desire?
"My heart's desire," Harry whispered. The mirror of Erised had shown his heart's desire in his first year at Hogwarts. Even though he was seven years older, he realized instantly that it had not changed.
"Yes, it is," he said. "I want a life with my parents. I never wanted to be cursed with this scar." He paused, tears choking his words as he poured his heart out to the voice. "I just want to be happy."
Harry lost hold of himself and fell to his knees on the floor. His sobs were quiet but tortured as he gave into his despair and fear. Caught up in his grief, Harry never heard the voice answer his last plea.
So be it.
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