Chapter 1 : hold me close.
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Lovely Chapter art. by LadyAsphodel@TDA
I suppose it seems rather odd to begin a story with The End. As though it defeated the purpose. But that was what it felt like in that moment. It felt like The End. I never thought it would come to this.
I suppose that that is not wholly true. I'd been longing and dreaming about this day for weeks, months, years. I had prayed for so long for The End. And yet, now that it was here, it seemed so terribly unreal. Surreal. As though it could not possibly exist in the world. As though I must have disorientingly slipped into a parallel dimension, where there was an end.
What seemed even worse about this being The End, was that suddenly The End was somehow terribly frightening. Somehow far more terrifying then running from deatheaters. The End was supposed to be a celebration. A joy, a relief. Instead I just felt frightfully small. Small, tired and uncertain. I hated feeling uncertain.
Suddenly our - my - purpose was gone. This regime which we had spent the past seven years of our lives dedicating our lives to destroying, was gone. Everything we had studied, read, learnt, all our career plans had been focused on death, destruction, wiping him out.
So what were we to do with ourselves now?
It terrified me that I had given the war, this cause, the power to cause me such gut wrenching pain. Such emptiness. The ability to make me void, nullified, impotent. But I supposed if anything would have such a power over it, it was only natural that it was The End. It was always The End. Ever since I had been eleven, it seemed as though her life had only ever revolved around the completion of The End. Seven years was such a long time for everything to revolve around one event.
As I whispered those fatal words, Harry and my eyes met. Empty. Why, when we should be filled with such joy, ecstatic jubilation, did our eyes look so empty? Oh I suppose there was relief, blessed relief, but beyond the relief... nothing. Just emptiness.
Only Harry’s eyes anchored me. Gave me a foundation. A base upon which I could stand. I felt like if he wasn’t there I might have lost myself, just drifted off on the wind. Empty.
I couldn’t understand. Was emptiness supposed to feel this painful? The pain was all consuming. Inside out. A deep aching. For a brief moment I wondered if all the muscles in my body had been able to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and now that it was lifted, so suddenly, my body was screaming out in pure undulated relief.
Our lives had only just begun, and yet I felt so old. So very old. Sitting in St. Mungos hospital, four and a half hours after The End, Harry beside me as we clutched each others hands.
I felt so old.
As the nurses clucked around us like hens, and doctors with grim faces preformed test after test, it felt like my life had run its course, I had outrun my purpose, and here I sat in a nursing home, with the clucking of nurse-hens, waiting for death to release me.
How could I only be eighteen, and feel so old?
Only Harry's hand kept me anchored, kept my soul from leaving, kept my lungs breathing, my heart beating. Somehow I knew that the grip of my hand did the same for him. Oh we were weak, malnourished, dazed, and near half-unconscious, but we held onto each other with a grip that the doctors couldn't break.
They'd already tried.
Nothing could tear me from Harry in this moment. He was all that mattered. He had been all that mattered for seven long years. The only hope. The means unto The End. Everything in her life had always revolved around Harry.
I almost wished I could say that not everything had revolved around him. That I had maintained some small fraction of my life as my own. Perhaps than now I wouldn’t be so empty, so tired, so uncertain. But I knew. I knew even the smallest aspects of my life had only become more and more devoted to his over the years. Until when even my mind finally slipped into blissful sleep all my dreams had been about him, and when I woke, my first instinct was the need to see him, to watch him breathe, and know that he was alive and breathing, here next to me.
He was here now. Breathing alive. Beyond all comprehension. I would have cried in relief, but I was too empty, too tired to really feel. Much too tired to cry.
Oh I had tried, tried to at least devote parts of my attention and life to others, since I clearly found myself incapable of devoting it to myself. But even than it had still in some roundabout way been about Harry. I would catch his eye and I would know, and it had terrified me that every breath I breathed was for him. And I would wonder how long one could live like this, so entirely devoted - body, mind, and soul – to one person.
I realised now that I could, and I would live like that forever. Harry had been my world for so long. I don’t know if I could breathe the air in any other world now.
They had wanted to put Harry and I in different rooms. We were too tired to even protest, but our grip on each other said it all. That unbreakable hold. Our fingers stark white, our fingertips turning blue from the lack of circulation. The doctors decided it was for the best to keep us together without asking questions. What questions were there to ask?
Ron was with the Weasley's, mourning the loss of Fred. I was too tired even to mourn. And in the corner of my mind a little voice kept telling me that I was supposed to be celebrating. It was The End. I was too tired to listen to the voice.
I remembered dancing with Harry. In the tent, to the radio.
It was the only time I ever saw him dance like no one was watching. I suppose one of the moments when he genuinely felt that no one was watching. Oh certainly we were on the run, stuck in a tent, exhausted, starved, terrified and hunted. But in that moment, no one knew where we were, and in that moment no eyes were on us, no judging teachers, no worried adults, no bloodthirsty death-eaters, no scavenging journalists. And in that one moment we were able to be happy.
And he would smile. That devastating smile that broke my heart because I knew that we had so little to smile about. And so we would invent reasons to smile, and pretend they were true. And when he smiled, I really could for a brief moment believe that these inventions were real. That we truly were happy. That there was no misery or pain or destruction in the world between our smiles.
But than, the smile would slip, his eyes would fade, and I would know his mind was elsewhere, with other people, people who no longer existed, people who had died, and whose deaths he blamed on himself. As though he didn’t deserve to smile when so many couldn’t any more. And I would tell him again and again inside my head that it was not his fault, and hope against hope that he would somehow telepathically get it and believe it.
And then that moment ended.
Too soon. If only I had been able to wallow in it for a while. But back then every moment seemed to escape through our hands like sand, and stealing moments of happiness seemed like trying to catch and hold waves back from the sea. At times it even felt like a betrayal to hold those joyful moments, because there was too much to do, too many to save, too much that depended on us.
Too many moments in this war that ended too soon. Too many lives that ended to early.
Some moments could not end quickly enough. Blood and pain... such excruciating pain.
And what now? The End has come. Clutching Harry's hand I meet his green eyes, searching his. I was the one with the plan. Why was I coming up empty now? Why had I not thought of The End? Why have I not included what comes after The End in my many, many plans? So many plans. All of them completed now. Nothing more to do. All goals reached. Not just The End of Voldemort, The End of the deatheaters, The End of the war. It was The End of me. Of my plans. Of my life as I had known it.
“I'm so tired Harry.”
The first words I speak since Voldemort's death. They were hardly awe-inspiring. Not the kind of thing they will record in the history books. Not even in the Daily Prophet. They certainly don't contain a plan. I hated how small I sound. How small and weak and – childish.
I sound like a lost child.
It's so long since I've been able to afford sounding like a lost child. Does anyone care if I sound like a lost child now? Can I lose myself now to a childhood I gave up when I was eleven?
Old. Childish. A child forced to become old? I can't think any more. It's all blurred. What became of the greatest witch of her age?
“I'm so tired Harry.”
“I know Mione. I know.”
I'm not sure how, we were both so tired we could scarcely move, but we managed to manoeuvre ourselves in the unpleasant, unyielding hospital chairs until we held each other, ignoring the protests of the doctors and the nurse-hens. We were a weaving of limbs, an embrace of familiar arms, tender hands, gentle fingers.
“I don't know what we're doing next Harry.” I confessed in a whisper.
Speaking out loud had become too much an effort. My mouth felt dry, my lips were cracked, and it hurt to move the, stung painfully as I wet them with my tongue in an attempt to regain some moisture to them.
“We'll be all right Mione.” He whispered back, his eyes closing, as if that too was too much of an effort even to keep them open.
I closed my own eyes, and decided it wasn't worth the effort to open them again. I knew I was safe. I knew Harry was safe. I knew we'd be safe tomorrow as well. And that- that was all that mattered.
“I love you Harry.” I whispered, my words becoming slurred and heavy as I allowed the seductively warm fingers of sleep to drag me under.
“I love you too Mione.” I heard him whisper in my ear.
And with that I believe him. We'd be all right. Because Harry and Harry's safety was all that mattered. And he was safe. He was breathing.
Here. With me. In The End.
In the end there was only Harry.
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