'Tis the most tender part of love, each other to forgive.
He was everywhere. In her mind, heart, dreams, memories…Harry’s presence penetrated her entire being. Even while awake she reached out to him, whispering his name. But his fingers did not interlace hers, and neither did his face appear through the mist constantly covering her world.
Kiana was lost to both time and space as she struggled to comprehend her abhorrent crime. She could not focus on the event for long, for the image of Harry’s pain-filled eyes tortured her. She tried to tell herself that it had all been a dream, just a horrible, vivid nightmare that Voldemort had placed in her mind. But her body, covered in scrapes and cuts from the forest, spoke the truth like nothing else did. Spasms of pain shot up her spine every time she moved, which only made it easier to sink back into that place of nonexistence. Here she was not reminded of the truth and it was easy to hide.
But the outer world was calling to her, and every minute that passed made it harder and harder to resist. She feared opening her eyes, for she knew she was probably deep in the forest or another abominable haven Voldemort had picked out. She would be given no time to grieve her lover’s death. More likely, she would have to destroy all remaining emotions and become a thoughtless machine who obeyed the Dark Lord’s every command. She would probably be asked to destroy Michelle next, so she had to prepare herself for another death at her own hand.
However, when she had the strength to observe her true surroundings, Kiana was shocked to find herself in the Hospital Wing. Pale curtains had been pulled around her cot, and she perceived no sound from the world outside. Breathing deeply, she was about to leave her bed when Madam Pomfrey peeked her head through the curtain opening. The Healer did not smile when she noticed Kiana staring back, for she must have seen the emptiness of Kiana’s eyes and the paleness of her face. Even without looking, Kiana knew how she appeared.
She was already dead.
“It is Christmas morning, Miss Karn.” Madam Pomfrey spoke slowly and carefully, as if to an English language learner. “Hermione Granger requests that you join her in the Gryffindor Common Room. Wipe that fear from your face, girl; she is the only one there. The rest of the school has been assigned to Hogsmeade for the remainder of the day. Only the staff remain in the castle.”
Kiana struggled to sort through the new information. How could the students be celebrating in Hogsmeade when Harry was dead and one of their own had killed him? Or had Dumbledore simply put them there for their own safety? For surely Voldemort was to fetch her soon…
“Where is Dumbledore?” Her voice was hoarse and cold.
Madam Pomfrey’s face paled. “He and Professor Snape left the school late last night. They are not expected to return any time soon.”
So the coward took his accomplice and fled. I shouldn’t have expected any better. They are too ashamed of themselves to even look at my face. Well, perhaps Voldemort will allow me the privilege of casting some well-chosen curses at those two fiends. It’s their fault I turned out to be a murderer, after all.
As expected, her mind shifted back to the reason for the school’s upheaval. She opened her mouth to speak but quickly shut it. No, it would do no good to ask about Harry. Pomfrey would probably lie to her, anyway. Why would anyone tell the murderer where their victim’s body lies? The thought of her doing anything to Harry’s empty shell created a shiver along her arms, but others probably expected nothing less from a heartless homicidal person such as herself.
But if I could only see his face one last time…I want to see him resting peacefully. I want to know that his pain has finally ended.
NO! She frantically shook her head of the thought. She had seen death before, and the memories were not comforting. The dead hold no resemblance to their living selves; this she had witnessed first-hand. It was better to remember Harry as the energetic, caring man she loved than replace those memories with the image of his pale, hard corpse.
The further she imagined his dead body, the weaker her defenses became. Tears stung her eyes and she pushed away the sheets covering her body. She hastily searched her robes and swore when she found all pockets empty. Where the hell was her wand?
Skilled now in the practice of wandless magic, she opened her left hand and screamed the words in her mind: “Accio wand!” She relaxed slightly when her wand flew through the open curtain and around Madam Pomfrey, who muttered under her breath as the piece of wood narrowly missed her hip.
Kiana caught the wand and twirled it between her fingers, enjoying the sensation of power in her hand. She glanced up at Madam Pomfrey, hoping her own face was as serene as she wanted it to be. “When you see Dumbledore, please express to him my heart-felt thanks at the opportunity to serve him. I hope that the final result was akin to his wishes.”
She loathed the sympathy that appeared on Pomfrey’s face. Was the witch mentally ill? She deserved to be shown hatred and fear, not sympathy! Didn’t the nurse know what she had done?!
Furious, Kiana slashed the opposite side of the curtain with her wand and rushed out of the Hall. She was heading toward the Main Entrance when she recalled Madam Pomfrey’s first words: Hermione wanted to see her in the Gryffindor Common Room.
Kiana snorted. So the girl still wanted to exchange Christmas gifts, did she? Very well; she could cater to an ex-friend’s final wish. Kiana would probably be met with a package of curses, but she was in the mood for a good duel.
But Hermione’s wand was nowhere to be seen when Kiana spoke the Gryffindor password to the Fat Lady and crawled through the portrait hole. Instead, Kiana found the girl dressed impressively well and standing silently four feet from her, hands clasped behind her back. She was decked out in a scarlet cotton sweater and tan pants, with her normally frizzy hair smoothed out and tied back in a clever twist. She, like Madam Pomfrey, did not smile when Kiana entered but continued to stare impassively at her friend.
Kiana was shocked into a frozen state, having expected to find a girl overcome with sorrow and ready to collapse. Was Hermione in such a state of shock that she was willing to celebrate Christmas at Hogsmeade with everyone else? That would not be so unusual; every one dealt with grief in their own way. It was not fair to judge someone who had suffered a great loss.
And the only one who had known Harry better than Hermione was Ron.
Hermione inhaled deeply. “I’m going to Hogsmeade.”
Kiana blinked a few times, struggling to comprehend. So she was right; the girl was in shock.
“Ron is already there; we’re going to The Three Broomsticks. I would ask you to join us, but I don’t think…”
“Why would you even think to ask me?” Kiana whispered, searching the Gryffindor’s body for a tear, a clenched jaw, shaking hand, anything to tell her that Hermione still had the capability to feel. “I killed him, Hermione. I killed your best friend.”
Still nothing. Even when Kiana spoke the truth aloud, Hermione stood stock still, unfazed by a word. Tension grew in Kiana’s stomach, a sign she knew to precede tears. How ironic that the murderer was the only one visibly grieving.
“Yes, I know,” Hermione murmured in response to Kiana’s statement. “So I’m letting you sleep here for a few days. No one will return to this room or the castle until the holidays are over. You’ll be safe here.”
Kiana almost laughed at the strangeness of events. What a story this would make: the students of Hogwarts showing sympathy to the girl who had murdered The Chosen One. Voldemort would now reign over all of England because of her, but no one seemed to have gotten that far yet.
“So you haven’t placed a venomous snake inside my bed?” Kiana jeered. “Or poured poison into my drink? I am not stupid enough to not expect some sort of threat on my life.”
Hermione didn’t reply to her words but grabbed her coat and headed around Kiana to the portrait hole. “The House Elves will bring you your meals here,” she said, still in that soft, emotionless voice. “Feel free to use anything of mine you see; I have quite a few books you may be interested in. Otherwise, if nothing happens, I will see you after the holidays. Merry Christmas.”
Hermione didn’t wait for a reply before climbing through the hole and disappearing. Kiana stared at the empty spot with mingled shock and anger. What game was that girl playing? Did she expect Kiana to accept her generosity unconditionally?
Kiana rubbed her temples to lessen the ache in her head. It was all too much to soak in, but it did not matter. Soon Voldemort would realize where she was and come for her. What had he said to her last night? “May your actions be betrayal or not, Karn, you are still a Death Eater and shall forever remain one. And this great act of yours will prove it to the world.”
Yes, there was no doubt what her future held. Now it was only the matter of accepting it.
With Voldemort’s words spinning through her head, she laid herself down on the worn couch beside the fireplace. It was the same couch Harry had used so many times, and now it supported his killer. Harry’s dazzling smile filled her mind as she drifted off, prepared to survive with her cold body and stone heart for the rest of her life.
Her growling stomach was the first to wake her. Her muscles ached as she pulled herself into a sitting position, but her body wasn’t as fatigued as when she had awoken in the Hospital Wing. Leaning her head against the couch, she peered out the large paned window to discover how long she had slept.
The sun was almost covered under the horizon, and flairs of its dying light painted the sky hues of pink, orange, and purple. It couldn’t be past seven, meaning the House Elves should arrive with her dinner any time soon. They had been obedient thus far, bringing her lunch of cabbage soup and bread at precisely noon. Kiana hoped they would continue their streak.
She was thankful, though, that Christmas was coming to a close. She had been tortured all day with the thought that she was spending her very first Christmas alone.
But it won’t be the last, she had to remind herself. I’ll be spending every holiday until I die by myself or among the Death Eaters. Pretty soon I’ll forget what day it is and I’ll never have another Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or birthday again…
A soft voice outside the Fat Lady’s portrait broke her from her thoughts. She sighed in relief, massaging her aching stomach. She took her wand from her pocket with the intent of summoning her food to the couch. She didn’t want to waste her already low energy on a useless walk to the portrait hole and back. She frowned at the piece of wood in her hands, becoming reproachful of the magical item. It was because of magic’s existence that her life had been destroyed. If Dumbledore had never sent her that letter from Hogwarts, if she had never convinced her mom to send her to this magical school, if she had never met Harry Potter…there were too many ifs. Dwelling upon them would do nothing but intensify her sorrow; it would never change the one unbearable, undeniable fact: Harry was gone forever.
A presence at the portrait hole brought her gaze away from the wand between her fingers. It had been there for awhile, but she had been so absorbed in her thoughts she had not noticed. She cautiously peered up to give a nod of thanks to the house-elf when…
Her wand dropped from her fingers. Her throat and chest constricted, making it difficult to breathe. She must not be completely awake yet; no wonder her vision was hazy. She had no idea her personal memories could produce such a vivid image.
For Harry Potter stood beside the fireplace, his hands resting in the pockets of his torn, filthy robes, and a small, almost teasing smile was on his dirt-stained face. Light from the open portrait hole surrounded his figure, creating an almost heavenly light.
“Harry…” She could hardly speak his name, her throat had tightened so. She was only aware of the quick rise and fall of her chest and the smile on the boy she loved. Why had he come to visit her so soon after his death? He should be as far away from her as possible; surely his hatred for her was fresh and deep. Or did the dead not experience such emotions?
His smile widened at her petrified features, but his eyes held the intense pity and compassion they had always possessed when he had been alive. The illusion of him was so real that she could make out every part of him. The cuts on his face were swollen and deep, she could clearly see the slash in his robes and skin from her curse, and the encrusted dirt on his robes had fallen, littering the carpet.
The more she studied him, the more intensely she felt her heart pound and her chest tighten. She was soon gasping for breath, unable to take in the sight before her…
“Merry Christmas, Kiana.” His voice was soft, but it was there. It echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls and returning to her intact. The more she blinked, the more she breathed, the more certain she was that the boy in front of her was not an illusion or a ghost from her memories.
She could not stand the ache in her heart any longer. Standing, she cautiously crept toward the boy, but her head was spinning and she had difficulty walking straight. She slowly reached up her hand, fully prepared for Harry to disappear when she waved her fingers through his image.
Kiana cried out in shock when Harry reached his arm out and intertwined his fingers around hers. She felt the warmth of his flesh as his hand tightened, and she allowed her suppressed grief to rise up and blur her vision. All her strength died as she stared into the boy’s eyes and realized fully, completely, that Harry Potter was standing in front of her…alive.
A strangled cry escaped her lips as she fell into his comforting arms. Every emotion and pain she had hidden from the world was multiplied as the reality of his existence became clearer. She screamed and wept long and hard against his chest, savoring the sensation of his arms around her and the kisses he bestowed upon her head. She did not draw back and peer up into his eyes until she knew she could cry no more.
Harry’s smile had vanished as he looked down at her, holding her face between his hands and stroking her cheek with his thumb. Something was troubling him deeply; she saw it in his eyes and the tightness of his face.
He hushed her, holding a finger to her lips. “Let me start. I realize what a shock this must be for you, but as soon as I got away I knew there was nowhere I wanted to be than with you. I didn’t want to wait until Dumbledore talked to you.”
Kiana thought her body couldn’t produce any more tears, but she found her eyes watering as she listened to the pain in his voice. “How…how did this happen? I killed you! You were dead…”
He brushed the tears from her eyes. “I was close to death, Kiana, but if there’s one thing I want you to understand, it is that you did not hurt me. No, wait…” She had opened her mouth to respond. “Don’t say anything yet. I know you’ve believed for a long time that all this is your fault, but believe me when I say that you couldn’t be more wrong. It is because of you that I’m standing here now; it’s because of you that Voldemort wasn’t able to kill me. It was he who cast the mortacious spell, Kiana…not you. You’ve been helpless this entire time, regardless of what you might think. You were cursed longer and harder than I’ve ever been, and learning the truth from Dumbledore almost destroyed me.”
Kiana swallowed hard. “I still don’t understand.”
Harry sighed, his gaze wandering to the world of night beyond the castle windows. His eyes glazed over as he recalled the horrendous events of the previous night. “Dumbledore knew of Voldemort’s plan to destroy me ever since last summer. He was worried that he would succeed this time, because I was failing Occlumency and Voldemort was finding my weaknesses. But then you came, and Dumbledore easily perceived how we both felt about each other. He never wanted to put you through what he did, Kiana, but he had no choice.”
Harry inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as tears glistened within them. “He allowed Voldemort to use you as his pawn to weaken and murder me. Voldemort thought that nothing could halt my death, but he, as you know, greatly underestimates the power of love.” He smiled sadly down at her. “He did not realize that you would never completely yearn to murder me, no matter how hard he or another Death Eater fooled with your mind. Voldemort made you cast the curse, yes, but because of your resistance to the deed and your love for me, the spell was not as powerful as it should have been. It did not kill me, and I have you to thank for that.”
Kiana did not feel as much relief as she should have at his words, for she still sensed a pain within Harry. A pain he was not disclosing to her.
She tried to lure it out of him. “You didn’t die, but you still went unconscious. Where did you go, Harry? Who took you away, and why did it take you so long to come back to me?”
Harry read the fear in her eyes and held her closer to him, trying to comfort her with his warmth. “I would lie to you, but I know that would only anger you. Yes, I did go away for awhile, but I don’t remember where. It was a place cold, dark and full of pain…so much pain.” He squeezed his eyes shut as a tear fell from his eye. “But Dumbledore was there, as well as Snape. They somehow revived me, although it was a slow process. Only a few hours ago, I awoke in the woods. I was cold, hungry, and alone, but all I could think about was you and what had happened to you. So I ran back here, and I found Hermione on her way to Hogsmeade. She told me where you were.”
Poor Hermione, Kiana thought. Seeing Harry alive after hearing he was dead. That must have scared her out of her wits.
“But I did not come back to tell you my story.” Harry pulled her away from him and looked deep into her eyes. Intense pain rose in Kiana’s chest when she saw the agony and resentment on his face. She knew what he was thinking before he began talking.
“I came back to ask for your forgiveness.” His voice broke as he reached for her left arm and pulled her sleeve back. He ran his fingers delicately over her Dark Mark, which glowed green at his touch. His jaw shook and he looked ready to scream as he studied Voldemort’s sign with utmost revolution and horror. Kiana could see his thoughts as clearly as if she were practicing Legilimency: he felt that it was all his fault she had been branded with the Mark, and it was of his doing that his girlfriend had been tortured by Voldemort and Bellatrix simply because of Dumbledore’s orders to save him. If it hadn’t been for Voldemort’s hatred for Harry, Kiana would never have suffered. Once again, the people he cared for were being hurt all because they loved him.
“Harry, please don’t,” she whispered, trying to pull herself from his grasp. Her arm was burning at his touch, but that was not what made her weep. It was the torture he was putting upon himself that created her sorrow, for it wasn’t right for him to beat himself up over something he had no control over.
Harry only increased his hold the harder she tried to pull away. “Don’t try to comfort me, Kiana, for everything you’ll say will be a lie.” His despondent tone tore at her heart like a knife. “I unfairly tried to guilt you into divulging your secret, and it only caused you more grief because you knew that telling me would kill both of us. Then when I saw your Mark…” He faltered and broke down, letting the tears wash down his cheeks like a flood. Kiana tried to let him cry against her, but he turned away, covering his face in his hands and falling against the brick wall. Kiana stood paralyzed a few feet away, afraid to touch him lest he lash out at her.
When he had regained some control over his tears, he turned back to her, face bright red and eyes swollen. “I will never forgive myself for increasing your pain, and neither should you offer forgiveness.”
“Harry, you didn’t know! Please don’t torture yourself over your actions, because…”
“I should have gone to Dumbledore right away instead of hiding the truth!” he screamed, another cascade of tears falling. “I saw your scars, Kiana. The morning after you had been released from Dumbledore’s office, while you were still asleep, I saw the marks on your back from Bellatrix’s wand. But instead of going to Dumbledore like I should have, I tried to get the truth out of you! I had known something was wrong from the beginning, but instead I let myself believe that you had become a Death Eater willingly. I believed it even when I saw the pain in your eyes when I accused you of it. So don’t say that nothing was my fault, Kiana, for I made nothing better for you. And all that time you were fighting to save my life!”
Kiana covered her mouth to stifle her sobs. She had never seen such desolation or inner hatred on someone’s face before. She reached out her hand, begging him to see reason. “Harry, I understand how angry you are at yourself, but you’re wrong when you say that you don’t deserve forgiveness. Yes, I was hurt when you accused me of all those things, but I understood why you said what you did. All the evidence pointed against me! But I beg you to believe me when I say that I forgive you.”
Harry’s head snapped back toward her, and he frowned as if he hadn’t heard her correctly.
“Yes, Harry; I said that I forgive you. You deserve all the forgiveness in the world because nothing was your fault. I allowed myself to become a Death Eater because I love you. Please stop believing all those lies you tell yourself, and hopefully one day you’ll accept my forgiveness and learn to forgive yourself, as well.”
Harry was still rigid, his chest rising and falling heavily, but the tension in his face had released. He studied her like he was seeing her in a new light. “But why would you forgive me when I’ve destroyed your life?” he asked, his voice softer and less harsh. “Voldemort isn’t gone; he’ll most likely come back for you and punish you for not finishing me off. You won’t ever be free.”
Kiana slowly approached him. “I know, Harry. I’ve thought about all the possibilities, but nothing is going to stop me from staying here with you. Voldemort knows the truth now; he knows about the love between us. But that shouldn’t change how we act from this day on. We’ll talk to Dumbledore and hopefully he’ll have a plan for us both. Let’s just focus on the present now and not think about tomorrow. It’s Christmas, Harry. Let me spend Christmas with you like I always wanted to.”
Harry’s eyes scanned the holiday lights and overly-adorned Christmas tree by the fireplace, allowing her words to sink in. His lips slowly curved into a smile. “This did make for an eventful Christmas, didn’t it?”
Kiana laughed, and it amazed her how good it felt. It banished all the tension from her body and pushed all thoughts of the future from her mind. “It sure did. Next Christmas will be a disappointment after all the action seen this year.”
Harry opened his arms to her, and she rushed back into them. “I’m sorry,” he murmured as he buried his face into her hair. “I didn’t mean to lose my temper.”
Kiana smiled. “I understand. Look, what’s that?” She pointed up to the ceiling.
Harry laughed. “Look’s like mistletoe. Does it mean the same thing in America as it does here?”
Kiana inched her face closer to his, smiling mysteriously. “I don’t know. What do the British do when they stand under the mistletoe with someone?”
Harry held her face in his hands and leaned forward to kiss her fully on the lips. Something warm and light passed through them both as they focused on nothing except the feel of their lover’s body.
“Oi! Love birds!”
They broke apart and peered around to find Ron and Hermione standing behind them, both wearing exact opposite expressions. Hermione was glowing and had tears in her eyes, while Ron was frowning and tapping his foot in annoyance.
“Can you snog and walk at the same time?” Ron asked, hitting his watch with a stiff forefinger. “We’re going to miss our dinner reservations at the Mermaid’s Lure. You know, that expensive new restaurant in London that took us three weeks to get a good reservation?”
Hermione cast a scornful glance at Ron. “Do you know nothing of what they’ve been through? Honestly, Ronald, give them a few minutes.”
Ron shrugged. “All I know is that I’m hungry, and if we miss our reservation time I owe Mum and Dad a heap of Galleons!”
Harry laughed at the annoyed look on both their faces. “Can we spend one holiday together where you two aren’t bickering? But yes, we’re coming now.”
Kiana raised an eyebrow at the expectant look Harry passed her. “We? Excusez-moi, Mr. Potter, but I don’t want to intrude on any event that you three have had planned for months. Besides, I probably look as hellish as Bellatrix right now. There’s no way I’m going into London looking like I just got out of Azkaban!”
Harry smiled. “Have you looked in the mirror lately?”
Kiana frowned at him before turning toward the full-length mirror placed beside the fireplace. Her jaw dropped when she noticed a tall brunette girl staring back, a girl who looked the complete opposite of any Death Eater. Her hair had returned to its natural shade of brown and was pulled up into an exquisite bun. Her Goth make-up had been carefully replaced with light shades of pink and blue to complement her glittering blue dress, the hem rising a few centimeters above her knees. Black high heels completed her Christmas outfit.
Harry smirked at her awed expression. Kiana noticed that his outfit had changed, too. He now wore a rich suit of dark blue.
“Does that mean you’re going now?” he asked.
“I…I…” Kiana stuttered, glancing from Ron to Hermione and back to Harry. “If it’s okay with all of you. I don’t want…”
“Oh, stop being so polite, Kiana.” Hermione rolled her eyes and grabbed Kiana’s hand, pulling her toward the portrait hole. “You’re more than welcome to come. Besides, Harry will feel left out without a date.”
Ron’s face clouded with confusion. “But I don’t have…” He blushed with realization when Hermione passed him one of her famous I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that look. It was apparent that Hermione had been planning on going with him for awhile, but Ron, not unlike himself, had forgotten their scheduled date.
Kiana turned toward Harry and grinned. “Well, I don’t want Harry to be left alone, do I? Especially when I’ve been careful to keep him close thus far.”
Harry took her hand and squeezed it. “And I hope you continue to do so. Oh, and I almost forgot…” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a thin, silver bracelet. He took her wrist and carefully fastened the chain around it so that the words “L'amour conquerra tous” were visible in the firelight.
“I left you once before,” he said, staring deep into her eyes. “But I promise I’ll never do it again. I will stay beside you forever, even if we both find ourselves under Voldemort’s hold. And if you truly forgive me like you say, then will you accept this bracelet back and my promise?”
Kiana smiled up into his dazzling green eyes. “I accept it all, Harry, and I give you the same promise back times two.”
* * *
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh, no. It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.
- William Shakespheare, Sonnet 116
Thank you for finishing my story! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I really appreciate all the feedback I've received so far, so please continue to give me your comments, questions, critisisms, sarcastic remarks, etc. : ) I appreciate all feedback! Thanks again! **magic mania**