Chapter 2 : A losing battle
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Harry woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Immediately, he knew that those were the effects of a potion and so that meant his night had once again been plagued with the demons of his mind. As soon as that realization dawned upon him, all the events of the night before came flooding back to him. He curled himself up into a ball and gripped his head, wanting nothing more than to be rid of the guilt within him. After a while, he regained his senses, took a deep breath and went downstairs to find Kreacher bustling around, making breakfast.
“Master received an owl this morning,” Kreacher said, pointing to the table.
Harry sighed, recognizing the owl as Ophelia. He didn’t want to see what Hermione had written this time. His friends didn’t deserve to have him in their lives. All he had done was bring death and misery to them. Ophelia hooted softly and flew over to perch on his shoulder. She lightly nipped his ear as she held out her leg for the letter to be untied. Harry suddenly felt a constriction in his chest as the memory of Hedwig came back to him stronger than ever. ‘So many of my friends sacrificed their lives and it was all because of me,’ he thought, blinking away the hot tears that threatened to fall. He untied Hermione’s letter and set it on the table, before fetching an owl treat for Ophelia.
Ophelia fluttered away, to sit on top of a cabinet, while Kreacher laid out breakfast on the table. As the smell of freshly made bacon and eggs wafted over to Harry, he opened the letter with an impending sense of doom. As he read through the letter, his brow furrowed deeper.
‘She’s coming here soon. Probably tomorrow... She’ll tell me about her parents when she’s here. Oh, no , then it must be bad news. Bad news...her parents... No no no. I don’t want to know. I hope it’s not too bad. But bad is bad. Dear Merlin, I need a drink.’
He walked over to the liquor cabinet and took out a large bottle of firewhisky and a glass. Changing his mind, he replaced the glass back in its place, opened the bottle and took a huge swig straight from the mouth.
“Master has started drinking early today,” Kreacher croaked as he shuffled by. “Kreacher wishes Master Harry would stop.”
“You say this everyday now Kreacher. You know it’s of no use,” Harry replied, taking another swig.
“Master is ruining his health. Kreacher wishes to help Master.”
Harry grunted in response, the alcohol taking effect on his system.
“Kreacher will prepare sober-up potion. Yes. Master Harry finished it yesterday. Poor Master. Kreacher wants to help,” Kreacher kept muttering under his breath as he walked into the kitchen.
Harry took the bottle and sat on the couch in front of the fireplace. He stared into the burning embers as the light from the flames danced across his face. He took another swig.
He saw Ginny’s tear streaked face as she looked down upon Fred’s lifeless form.
He took another swig.
He saw Remus and Tonks lying peacefully beside each other, their fingers almost touching.
He took another swig.
He saw Nagini sink her fangs into Snape.
He took another swig.
He saw Snape bleeding on the floor, as he stood by, not doing anything to help.
The bottle was almost empty.
The lights dimmed as Harry’s eyelids grew heavy. Red eyes floated along the lines of his vision. A cruel, maniacal laugh filled the air. “You can never escape me Harry Potter.” Children were crying, people pleading, curses flying everywhere.
Harry threw the empty bottle at the opposite wall. He stood up, blinded with fury and despair. He took a step towards the red eyes, staggered and fell. The shards from the shattered glass pierced his skin as he lay trembling. He was numb to all but the emotional pain that plagued him every waking second. He lay there, replaying events over and over again, with no sense of time or reality.
A loud gasp was heard.
He didn’t stir.
“Kreacher where are you!” Hermione screamed.
Kreacher materialized with a pop.
“MASTER!” he cried. “Kreacher was cleaning in the attic. Kreacher did not hear.”
“Wingardium Leviosa,” Hermione cast, pulling out her wand.
“Kreacher, get some dittany and bandages immediately.”
She laid Harry on the couch and cast a spell to remove the shards of glass that were sticking out from his skin. “Oh Harry, what is wrong with you,” she cried.
“Kreacher has the dittany ma’am. Kreacher also brought sober up potion and pain relieving potion for Master.”
Hermione unstoppered the vial of pain relieving potion and administered it to Harry.
“Rennervate,” she muttered.
Harry slowly opened his eyes. “Hermione?” he whispered.
“What?...Ouch, my head.” He tried to sit up.
“Don’t you dare get up Harry Potter,” Hermione said in a stern tone. “Drink this first. It’s sober up potion. Then just lie where you are while I tend to your wounds.”
Harry knew better than to argue with her when she used that tone with him and obeyed silently. Hermione finished cleaning his wounds and bandaged them up.
“Now sit up slowly. You have a lot of explaining to do,” she told him.
Harry sat up and looked around the room. He saw Kreacher cleaning up the glass pieces from the broken Firewhisky bottle and the blood on the floor. He turned back to find Hermione glaring at him fiercely.
“I thought you weren’t getting here till tomorrow,” Harry muttered.
“Well I’m here now. And a good thing too. What were you thinking Harry?”
Harry averted his eyes. He didn’t want to talk about this with anyone. He stood up.
“I’m going to bed,” he said.
“Oh no you don’t Harry,” Hermione replied. “We have to talk about this.”
“Hermione. I don’t want to talk to you about this. I am deeply sorry about your parents. I really am. But I am in no mood to talk to you, or anyone else,” he said forcefully, turning away from her and heading to the staircase.
“Oh so the great Harry Potter doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Did you stop for one second to think that I WANT TO TALK TO YOU? THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT YOU HARRY. PEOPLE WHO ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOU. YOU CAN’T JUST TURN YOUR BACK ON EVERYONE WHO LOVES YOU,” Hermione yelled.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT HERMIONE? YOUR PARENTS? ARE THEY DEAD? I’M SORRY OKAY! I KNOW THAT IT’S MY FAULT. I DON’T NEED YOU TELLING ME THAT. IF YOU’RE AN ORPHAN NOW, IT SUCKS. I KNOW. NOW LEAVE ME ALONE.”
“How typical of you Harry. Always jumping to conclusions and blaming everything on yourself. If you would stop to listen to me for a minute then you’d know that my parents aren’t dead. They’re very much alive and happy in their own worlds. Two worlds I’m not a part of. But of course, you already know everything don’t you? Talking is just above you isn’t it?” Hermione said, lowering her voice.
“You what Harry? You’re being a total git? Yes you definitely are. You’re my best friend and you’re all I have right now. And believe it or not, you need help as well. Don’t push me away.”
She moved forward and hugged him from behind. Harry stiffened. He suddenly threw Hermione’s arms off him. In that split second, Hermione was hurt more than ever.
Harry turned and hugged her tight.
She sobbed against his shoulder, finding comfort in his strong grip as he stroked her hair.
“I’m here now ‘Mione. I’m not going anywhere. I promise,” he whispered.
It was a tense atmosphere at the Weasley home. It had been that way for weeks now. Ever since Fred’s death, everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells around each other, uncertain of what to say. Ginny had taken her mother’s place in the kitchen since Mrs. Weasley was too distraught to do anything other than sit and stare off into space. Even Bill and Charlie were staying at home and were doing nothing other than wandering around like zombies. Percy was trying to stay out of everyone’s way most of the time, while George would leave his room only to sit by his mother and zone out as well.
Ginny had just prepared lunch for the family. As was the routine now, she came and set it on the table without expecting everyone to eat it. Most of the time, over half the food would be left over. She looked around the room. Everyone was either mindlessly fiddling with something, or lost in their own thoughts. She sighed and sat down, her eyes brimming with tears. Her family was falling apart no matter how much she or Ron tried to hold it together. She had been so close to giving up herself, but it was Ron who had stopped her from doing so. She looked around the room wondering where he was. Suddenly, she heard the front door bang and Ron stomped into the room, his hair and shirt drenched with sweat. His eyes sparked wildly as he looked around the room, breathing heavily. Even his loud entrance had done nothing to disturb the ghostly stillness of the occupants. His eyes hardened. “EVERYONE LISTEN TO ME NOW!” he bellowed.
Everyone, apart from Percy who wasn’t there, looked up at him startled.
“This has gone on long enough,” he said, his voice firm. “We’ve all been moping around for over a month now. We need to get back up and continue living.”
He looked straight at his mother. “Fred gave his life in the war. And what for? For us to sit around and do nothing?”
He made eye contact with his father and Bill before turning to look directly at George. “I understand that it seems like everything’s lost without him,” he said, his voice softening. “But he wouldn’t want this. You know him better than anyone. What would he say if he saw us all this way?”
George just stared back at him blankly.
“What is wrong with all of you?!” Ron yelled.
“Ron calm down,” said Ginny quietly.
“How can I Ginny? Just look at them,” he said, sinking into the chair next to her and burying his face in his hands. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”
There was silence for a few minutes before he got up again.
“I’m going to Harry’s,” he said to the room. “Let me know when you all decide not to just turn to the wall and fade away.”
Ginny looked at him, her eyes hollow. “Don’t leave me here alone with them,” she whispered.
“Then come with me.”
“But then who will take care of them?”
“They aren’t babies Gin. Besides, it’s not like anything we do is of any use.”
Ginny knew that no matter how hard it was to accept, he was speaking the plain truth. While they would all keep grieving over Fred, it was time to move on with their own lives.
“I’ll just get my stuff. Meet you downstairs in fifteen,” she said, her eyes slowly regaining the fire that had been lost over the weeks.
Ron hugged his mother before they left. “Stay strong Mum,” he whispered in her ear. Straightening up, he then took purposeful strides and stood next to Ginny by the fireplace. They looked at each other, strengthening their resolve. Then one after the other, they left, engulfed by the emerald flames that provided them an escape from the leaden weight that filled their hearts.
Harry and Hermione were sitting at the kitchen table, each clutching a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Hermione had just recounted her tale of what had happened, and both were sitting in comfortable silence, lost in their own thoughts.
"You know that you'll always be a part of my family right? Hermione?" said Harry, breaking the silence. "I know how it feels when it seems like you're alone. But you and Ron have been a part of my life for so many years now, and you've stuck with me through so much. I consider you both as family."
Hermione gave him a weak watery smile. Harry probably didn't realize the extent to which his words had touched her, plainly speaking the simple truth that he felt. He did not know how capable he was at filling Hermione with warmth and a sense of belonging. While her heart was breaking, it was also mending. She sighed.
"But I feel so helpless just sitting here. I feel like I need to do something. Maybe I could make things right again," she said, hot tears threatening to fall once more.
Harry squeezed her hand. "No matter what you want to do, I'll be there."
They suddenly heard a loud sneeze and a clattering noise coming from the living room.
"RON! Watch where you put your foot!"
Harry and Hermione walked into the living room to find Ron and Ginny standing in front of the fireplace, covered in soot.
"So I'm guessing you're here to stay," said Harry, looking at their bags and raising his eyebrows.
Ron gave him a sheepish grin while Ginny dashed forward to hug him.
They stood there in their own world, taking in the feeling of being in each others arms. It was as though time had stopped. Harry stroked her fiery hair, basking in the familiar floral scent, as her warm body pressed up against his. All the wonderful memories, the time spent with her in the corners of the Hogwarts grounds came flooding to him. Precious time had been stolen. So much happiness had been stolen.
"Ahem." Ron cleared his throat.
As Harry and Ginny broke apart, his eyes took in every detail of her face, memorizing it. Her face was paler than usual and her eyes had a shadow of sadness within their depths. There was a faint mark of the tears that had dampened her cheeks. The war had left deep wounds on them all; wounds that would probably never heal.
Images from Harry's nightmare popped before his eyes. The reminder of the anguish that this beautiful woman had felt, tore at his heart. He needed to get out of there. Hermione hadn't gotten around to questioning him about his episode yet. He didn't want to give her another reason to.
'Control yourself Potter," he told himself, taking deep breaths.
He realized that he and Ginny were still gazing at each other in the living room, while Ron and Hermione had gone into the kitchen.
"Kreacher will give you some hot chocolate," he muttered. "Can you tell Hermione that I'm going up to my room? I'm a little tired."
Without any further ado, he sprinted up the stairs and fell on his bed, casting a locking charm on the door behind him. He fell victim to the throes of guilt that overpowered him once again.
A young redhead watched him go, dumbstruck.
A/N: I hope you that chapter kept interest up! Things will be picking up soon. I hope you'll keep reading! Does anyone have any thoughts on what's to come? Will Harry open up and let go of his guilt? The grey box below is hungry for your opinion!
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