Chapter 1 : Two Minutes Until Sunrise
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Itís nearly sunrise and instead of being in my comfortable bed, not able to sleep, I am walking quickly down Diagon Alley, towards the Leaky Cauldron, after receiving a frantic fire call from Tom, the barkeeper. Ron went and drunk himself under the table again, and is apparently refusing to leave without another drink. When Tom told me what had happened, I just sighed. I know why Ron went out tonight, and a part of me wishes I could have gone with him. Anything would have been preferable to sitting back in our flat, brooding over the news.
They say that during battle more people are killed because they refuse to wait and rush in without thinking, it lends credence to the saying ĎItís the waiting that kills youí, and right now, I think that the waiting may just kill Ron. I donít blame him though. Iím waiting too, we all are. Waiting for the day when we can put the past behind us, let it go and just move on with our lives, instead of being trapped in this never ending cycle of misery and regret that we seem to have fallen into.
The papers say that it shouldnít be too long, but news like that is often secondary information and more often than not, just rumours, so I refuse to believe or hope for it. If I donít hope then I wonít feel disappointed if it doesnít happen, right? No, I donít believe myself either. I have hope. I can feel it inside of me, pulsating, and I want more than anything to squash it, to rid myself of the thing that makes me weak.
Even though Voldemort is gone, I still find myself checking my weaknesses. Ron, Ginny, the rest of the Weasleyís, theyíre my weaknesses. She is too. My sister, in love rather than in blood; part of my collective family. Perhaps this should have made her actions seem a lot more like the betrayal everyone kept insisting it was, but it doesnít. For Ron, it was the ultimate betrayal, as she not only lied to him as a best friend, but also as a girlfriend. Somehow, I donít think heíll ever get over that, no matter how much I hope.
When ever her name is mentioned, whether just in passing or as the topic of conversation, they say that she is the betrayer of the light, of the Wizarding World, of Harry Potter, and that Azkaban is too good for the likes of her. I find it hard not to beat the living daylights out of people when they talk about things that they can never hope to understand. Living on rumours and hushed conversations in a darkened corner never does anyone any good. Ask Rita Skeeter, if you can find the disgraced witch.
They say things, but none of the rumours come anywhere near the truth. The cold, hard truth. It was the truth that killed a friend, and has made another spend his life thinking that he can get answers out of the bottom of a bottle. Only one of them knew the absolute truth, yet neither of them are in a state to tell anyone anything.
I, however, know the full and absolute truth. Hell, I knew it from the beginning and that has haunted me since the day this nightmare of a life began. It was partially my idea, but despite my protests, no one was allowed to know that I had any part in it, not even when it could have saved him from death, and her from a life worse than death in Azkaban. They left me to be the sole survivor, the one to deal with it all. Why? Because I was the Boy-Who-Lived. It was my destiny to save us all. My destiny to be left behind.
Sighing, I push the door to the Leaky Cauldron open, and step inside, thinking of the last thing she said to me. A whispered sentence in my ear just as she was taken to meet her fate.
ďNever believe anything but the truthĒ.
Easier said than done, my old friend.
Iím sitting on the balcony of mine and Harryís flat, dressed in nothing but an old Cannonís t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts - neither doing anything to combat the January cold that is swirling around me. I come up here sometimes, just to watch the horizon, and wait for the sun to rise. I find myself waiting for a lot these days. Waiting for nothing and everything.
I know Iíve pushed myself into the drink. I know thatís all my fault, but I am past caring about it, to be honest. Whatís the point? Caring can only get you hurt. I cared about her, more than anything in the world, and that hurt me. She hurt me, and thereís nothing else to do. No matter how much I pretend I want to, I canít stop caring about her, and if I canít stop it, well, can I at least be allowed to forget about it from time to time? Thatís why I do it. To forget. To pretend that I never met her, or cared about her as much as I do.
I wonder what it would actually be like if I never met her. Would I still be the same person, or has her mere presence in my life changed me that much? I know that there are many times that Harry, and even myself, would have ended up seriously injured or even dead if we didnít have her knowledge, her brains helping us along. I probably wouldnít have passed my NEWTS as easily as I did if she wasnít there to nag be about doing homework, or studying. Now I have had time to think about it, I am beyond grateful for all the times that she pushed me into the library to work on something or other. She saved me. A tear falls from my eye as I realise that Iíll probably never get to thank her. For everything.
My family, or whatís left of them - the war struck us all hard - refuse to talk about her in my presence. They skirt around issues or topics that involve even the slightest reference to her name, or who she was. They think itís still a bit of a ďsore subjectĒ and should be forgotten until I have had time to grieve and move on. They just donít understand. You never stop grieving over something like this. The loss of a lover - a lover who happened to be one of my childhood best friends - is something that you just canít move past. Especially when you donít know the truth.
I wonder about it all. The reasons behind her incarcerations were kept surprisingly quiet. You would have thought that the Ministry would make an example of the traitor, being the best friend of the famous Harry Potter and all, but they didnít. They left everyone in the dark, refusing to release any details, even to her family and friends.
He knew, though. I know he did. She told him, but not me, and that hurt. It still does, every single day sheís been gone. I know I shouldnít speak ill of the dead, but why would she tell the stupid Ferret, and not me or Harry? Why tell the one person who called her names and belittled her all through school, and not the one person who loved her with all his heart?
The sun still hasnít risen and I encircle my arms around my knees, drawing them into my body in an attempt to get warm. Iím trying to remember the last thing she said, the last conversation I had with her, but I canít. The only thing I can remember is her powerful and moving Head Girl speech at our Hogwarts graduation.
ďTo hold it together when everyone around you would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.Ē
Iíve fallen apart without her.
Itís nearly morning and Iím curled up on the ratty old couch in my living room. In one hand is a half eaten tub of ice cream and in the other is the remote, and Iím flicking through the channels, trying to find something half decent to watch. She always said that Muggles came up with the most interesting ideas, and she was right. She was always right.
I spoke to Harry yesterday, and he told me the news. I knew it was coming, but I didnít expect it to happen so soon. When I am by myself, I marvel over the fact that it all still seems so new, as if it all broke out only yesterday. When I am talking to my brother or Harry, however, I can see just by looking at them that none of this all happened yesterday or the day before. I can tell by the lines on their faces, by the way their shoulders sag, or by the way both of them look constantly ill and tired and underweight, that it all has been going on a long time; too long. Looking at the two of them makes me wish that I could alter the course of time, that I could go back to when all this mess began and stop it. Maybe that would erase the lines, the tears.
I couldnít sleep. I had only one thing on my mind last night and Iím not sure whether to share it with you. Youíll think me selfish and cold hearted. But, damn it, havenít I earned that right? I gave up my dreams, my chance to make something of myself, to look after the shells that my brother and his best friend become. My chance of true love was ripped away from me because of her. Am I not allowed to wallow in self pity for a while, to throw a tantrum? Or to wish that she had died along with Malfoy? At least then it would have been a definite; death is the best form of closure, they say. At least then my boys could have moved on and lived again. After all, theyíll find her again in death.
I crawl off of the uncomfortable sofa and walk into the kitchen. I put the half empty tubs of ice cream back in the cool box, and head towards the shower, readying myself for another day of work. As the water cascades over my body, I remember something she told me at the end of my seventh year, when I asked her why good people died young. She said she read it in a book once. Big surprise.
ďDeath doesnít like to be kept waiting.Ē
She was always on time.
I raise my aching neck up and force my eyes to look out of the window. I can see the sky lightening, and know the sun will soon be rising. Another day is waiting. How many more do I have to face on my own, only the screams of those more insane than I to keep me company.
Leaning forward, I add another tally to the wall, using a sharpened rock, and sit back against the wall again. There are nine hundred and nineteen of them now. I count them every day. Nine hundred and nineteen. Two years, six months and five days. Two and a half years of hearing only the voices of the guilty, of eating nothing but bread and water, of staying inside the same four walls, waiting for eternity. Tomorrow, there will be nine hundred and twenty of them. Tomorrow will be another day closer to my death.
I wish for it. Death, I mean, not tomorrow. Everyday I wake up disappointed that I survived the night. Perhaps dying in oneís sleep is too good for me. Perhaps it should be more painful, more agonizing. I donít care anymore. For me death is all the same, a means to an end, and God, do I want that end. I was sent here to suffer for as long as they can make me, while Draco gave it up for a chance at eternity; the one thing I crave. I want it more than anything, more than I want to see their faces again. I want to see my friends, but I want death more. I want to go home.
I wonder if they know the truth about it all. I know Harry does. Harry knows everything, but can speak of nothing. I made sure of that; I couldnít have everyone knowing. After what I did to the world, I deserved everything they threw at me, including a place in this hell. Draco felt the same too, but felt that they would find more justice in his death than in his life. Only three people in the world know the truths and the reasons, and only one person can speak about them, and I choose not too. Sometimes I wonder if I should have told Ron, or Ginny, but then realise why I didnít. They wouldnít have understood why we did it. To us, it was the only way to end it all, to rid the world of its plague, and no price was too high. Not even the life or freedom of Draco and I. Harry begged to take my place, but I refused. The world needed its hero when it was all over. They needed someone to thank, to love, to celebrate, and Draco and I couldíve never filled that role. Harry had to be the one. He was always the hero. I told him that once.
ďMany were born to play a hero. You donít just act it, Harry. You live it.Ē
He just wished he were normal.
They told me that I am leaving here soon. Thatís all they told me. Nothing about how I am leaving, or even why. Am I simply being released back into a society that fears and despises me? If so, why? What did I do that was so different from the hundreds of other people in similar cages, living lives that are a replica of my own? Am I leaving for death? Are they going to take me to my death? Will I walk the Green Mile, the very last walk of my life? Will they come to my cell, expecting me to protest my innocence at the top of my voice, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming to my death?
Why are they so cruel as to not tell me my fate? Why do they make me pray for an end of which I am uncertain that Iíll receive? Am I that much of a monster; am I less than human now? What has Azkaban turned me into? It has turned me insane, it has turned me cold and emotionless, it has even made me wish for revenge, but has it finally turned me into the villain?
A small part of me hopes that it has. Somewhere inside, I hope that they all hate me, because then I know that they donít hate Harry, or Draco. If they turn all their hate on me, then those two are spared from it. That Draco is not hated in death and Harry in life. Thatís my motive for all of this: making sure that they are not the disappointment, the traitor, the enemy. I can live without happiness. Harry cannot, and I donít think Draco couldíve. They both grew up in loveless families, both believing that they were not wanted; were only born to die. How could I deprive them of the happiness, of the love they had finally found, even if one of them found it in death?
They are happy now, and I am left to remember how happiness was once a dream.
I stand up and stretch, hearing the satisfying pop and crack of bones and muscles that have long been left unused. Wandering over to the corner, I reach up as far as I can, and look out of the window. Two minutes until sunrise. Two more minutes closer to an end.