Chapter 37 : The Little Dark One
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Last night the water had been beyond frigid, but today it was like a cool balm to his hot skin. He caught a seashell in the shallow water before it was pulled out by a retreating wave and hurled it into the vast nothingness of the ocean, shouting.
Such uses of his magic would normally drain him, leaving him hazy and almost pleased, but today it did nothing. His mind whirled around him and the sharpness prowled, exhausted. They hadn't really slept and during the night they had figured no better way to bury the thoughts.
Whenever they pushed at the memories, they would spill around their force further.
He did not think they were in England anymore, but that was just a suspicion, since he had never really been allowed to have maps and since he had no idea if parts of England were hot while other parts, at the same time, were frigid. Still, logic told him he was far away from England.
Emma seemed to know the cottage, but when he asked her when she had last been there she simply shrugged, her eyes unfocused and thoughtful.
"I donno. Maybe I haven't been. But I think I have. Maybe I was little."
He knew, when they returned home, if someone asked - he wouldn't know either.
He hurled another seashell, but the press on his mind had not receded. The sharpness grew irritated and he closed his eyes, swaying on his feet with a sickening feeling in his gut.
Blood, pooling in packed dirt. Screaming. Fire, Fire, Fire. Chaos, reigning around him.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?" Harry asked, glancing back at the cottage. Emma was building a sand castle with Alexandra near the front porch.
"Why are we here?" Harry frowned softly at him.
"I did blast a hole through our second floor wall, Devlin." His hands were in his pockets, his hair curling in the salt air. "Everything has to be repaired."
Zee was being a lunatic again, chasing waves and then howling as they chased him back. Dubhán watched him for a moment out of the corner of his eyes.
"Is this yours?"
"Do you understand what protection charms are, Devlin?"
Maybe Potter expected him to say no, or maybe he just didn't expect such confidence.
"Yes," he said.
Harry frowned and opened his mouth, probably to request where such confidence had come from.
"If we both understand, then we both know we can't really answer each other's questions, right?" Dubhán, asked. The last thing he needed in his aching head was the press of outside magic.
Harry looked at him for a long moment, but then he nodded.
He was dreaming of escaping by the wooded edge of the camp. His brow was hot and moist as he tried to untangle the wards. His voice a soft sigh settling in the surrounding air as he softly spoke the instructions to himself. He managed to escape.
Beyond the wards should have been woods, deep and dark, but instead there is a field of amber wheat. He barely pauses to consider. There is such a need to run, run, run that all other logic is lazy and dulled. His legs lift and push forward and fall forward as he staggers through the tall grass with a sensation of drowning. Somewhere in front of him, he can hear his sharpness, urging him forward.
It begins so small that he hardly notices. The sound and smell of it presses upon his mind like a warning. Then he sees it; big and dangerous. It engulfs the right half of the field like a hungry beast. The grass is burning, leaving empty scorched earth behind.
His sharpness howls, trapped somewhere beyond his sight in the flames. The flames push them further and further apart, forcing Dubhán back against the wards that he has just escaped. His skin is hot, his mind on fire-
His own scream, muffled in the pillow, woke him. His lungs filled with air. His body shuttered. His mind pulsed. His face was wet with too-hot tears and it took a great effort to lift himself up.
He clamored up and made a run for the bathroom. Something hot and ugly was churning in his gut, forcing him to be sick. His mind pulsed, rushing and staggering in painful chaos.
He wiped at the sick with his hand, his back arching and his body trembling.
Much later, Potter found him quite by accident. He was dressed in just his lounge pants, looking as if he had woken to use the loo. The shower was on and Devlin turned to him from under the onslaught of frigid water and from beneath his hands which covered his face, to regard him.
"Devlin - are you alright?" His face was worried, his voice perfectly revealing.
He could see one of his brilliant eyes and half of his nose from between his hands.
He shook his head, because he was afraid if he opened his mouth he might scream with frustration. Thoughts slid into one another, lying on top of each other until he felt an explosion inside was imminent.
Blood oozing onto the ground, the liquid crimson meshing with the brown of packed dirt. Fire, fire, fire. A man laughing manically, on his knees-
"Can you look at me, Devlin? Maybe I can help, alright?"
"No, you can't," he said, through clenched teeth - swallowing the scream.
"Please let me try, Devlin. Please tell me what is wrong."
"I can't think straight. I can't stop thinking. We can't put it back."
"Oh," he said, very softly. He shifted to sit on the toilet. He was greatful he had remembered to pull down the seat, since he had forgotten to flush the sickness away. "The Healer's did say your head might be...jumbled... for a bit."
"You can't help," he said, to combat the understanding that had filled Harry's voice.
Harry watched him for a long time, it seemed. There was a thoughtful frown etched onto his lips. A shift of his fingers and the temperature of the water pouring down upon him rose by mere degrees. Dubhán did not have the strength to object.
"You know, when your mum told me she was pregnant and we were going to have you, I got all crazy. The idea of being a father terrified me, because I was so afraid I would fail. No one had ever really treated me right, growing up. All this stuff I had managed to not think about - I was suddenly constantly thinking about. As your mum decided what color to paint your room, I was worrying about what a boy was supposed to have. And these normal thoughts - they would bring up all the bad thoughts. My uncle really hated me, growing up. He was very...unkind...and even little things would make me think of all that unkindness, terrified that I would be just like him."
The men who had dragged Maria into the camp were flashing before his eyes as he peeked through his hands and under his soaking fringe at Harry.
"How did you stop it?"
"Your mum talked and yelled at me a lot at my foolishness for thinking I didn't have a choice in what parent I would be. But that takes time."
He looked away.
"I don't want to see you suffer like that, Devlin. If there is something so terrible that you can't stop thinking about - we could just take it out today. We could put it in a vial, and when the healer says your head is all better - we could put it back."
He let go of his head and observed Harry carefully for dishonesty through the blur of the water.
"That can be done?"
"Yes. Dumbledore has a cabinet full of things he doesn't want to forget and maybe a few he'd rather not remember. A mind Healer probably wouldn't recommend it - coming to terms with what has happened and all that important stuff - but if you promise you'll talk to Snape with me this week and see about putting them back in, I'll take it out today. You can think about the one thing clearly for a moment, right?"
His body sagged and he felt tears of anger, injustice, and frustration collecting beneath his eyes. He shook his head slowly.
"No. You don't understand. It's not one thing. There are so many of them."
Harry seemed to sag too.
"More than you've told me about, I gather?"
He looked away before he nodded. Harry shifted and closed his eyes - thoughtful or with defeat, Dubhán did not know.
"And these thoughts - these memories - they are all things you're worried Alex and I will hate you for doing?"
Harry's eyes were still closed, but Dubhán's head had snapped up at the words. When Harry opened his eyes, Dubhán stared into them. They were calm and cool, the pain deep in the green pools; not the face of someone who had just realized why he was hiding things. He had known, of course. Harry had told him so. How many times he could hardly count. I don't care. I will always love you.
"It doesn't matter to me, Devlin. Nothing you did there matters to me." Even now, Dubhán was left wondering if tomorrow, or the next day, or when they returned to the house, if this would still be clear enough to make him know it to be true.
"You can't say that, you don't know." He pushed against what he could not understand. He had no basis for this knowledge to settle upon. The unknowingness of it all terrified him almost as much as the fear of what Harry would think of him if he knew.
"It's like this, Devlin," he said, spreading his palms out on his thighs, his Killing Curse green eyes never leaving him. "Is there anything Emma could ever do that would make you want her to be where Maria was?"
He felt as if he had been punched in the gut at just the mere suggestion. The hot ugly something churned in his stomach and traveled half-way up his throat. He shook his head hollowly.
"No. Nothing. Ever."
"But you can't know that, because you can't know everything she will ever do."
"There's nothing," he said, the words leaving his mouth before the complete realization had hit. When it had, he stared at Harry for what felt like a very long time and Harry stared back at him, smiling patiently that smile that was just for him.
Harry tapped his fingers against his thigh and the water turned off. Dubhán did not object.
"I'm like him you know," he said, staring at Harry through his wet eyelashes. "You call him a monster, but I'm like him."
He felt as far from a monster as he ever had. His pajama's were a bright orange with stars, his hair plastered against his scalp, and Harry was sitting on the closed toilet that Dubhán had forgotten to flush to rid of all his sickness. Still, he wanted Harry to acknowledge it - wanted his world to return to 'normal'. Sometimes it was easier being the monster, he thought. Sometimes it was easier knowing what you were supposed to do.
"I call Snape, 'Severus'. There was a time that Severus could have said the same for himself, you know."
He shook his head with vigor, imploring Harry to understand.
"I don't mean that. I mean I'm like him. I look like him - he says so. I think like he thought, when he was a boy. My magic - it works like his. I like the things he likes - I like power. I'd never felt anything so wonderful as when I put Maria under my control. I am terrified by what he is terrified by, and I will do anything to prevent it, just like him."
Harry peered at him for a long moment.
"And you rescued Maria. And you stayed there to save Emma. And you saved that boy from being permanently damaged by Crucio. And you tried to save me from the Ministry."
"You say that as though it makes up for it all! I've lied to you too, you know!" His voice had risen, his fists curling.
"I'm sure." The nonchalance with which Harry said that, threw him for a moment. Harry shrugged. "Even if you hadn't been kidnapped and held there for this long, Devlin - normal nine year olds lie."
He felt his brow furrow and his bottom lip slip between his teeth.
"What if he gets me back-"
"What if he gets me back," he said with a bit more bite, his tone impressing upon Harry not to interrupt. He didn't look like a monster and maybe that's why Harry couldn't see. He wanted Harry to see. Needed Harry to prove himself. "What if the next time I see you I'm a man and I look just like him and I'm in a battle and I'm killing the men with white robes. What about then? Will I be a monster then?"
Harry closed his eyes.
"Answer me. Tell the truth."
"We would both be men, than." He nodded again. "And I would be there with you, dressed in white, killing the men dressed in black. We would both be killing men. I would be fighting for what I believe in, fully aware of all aspects to both sides, and you would be fighting for what he had made you fight for - so no, you wouldn't a monster."
"Yes I would! I'm not stupid! I know what I do!"
"No. Right now, that's how it seems, Devlin," Harry said softly; he had leaned forward. "But that's because you're nine. Not because you're stupid. He isolated you - physically and mentally - from any opinion that varied from his own. He tried to make you just like him - but I won't let him finish, Devlin."
"You want me to be like you-"
"NO!" Harry said, his eyes flashing. "I want you to be you."
"There is no me," he said, the thought slipping past his lips like a terrible secret. "There is no me. There is Devlin, and Dubhán, and the Little Dark One, and the sharpness, and Devy - bits and pieces that don't fit together. There is no me."
"You are Devlin," Harry said, leaning forward. Everything, from his voice to his posture, imploring him to believe. "You are Devlin."
"He would say I am Dubhán. You say I am Devlin. Emma says I am Devy. Part of me knows itself best as 'the sharpness'. Everyone of them is here, but I'm not just one, and they don't fit together."
Harry rubbed at his face.
"I am Harry. I am the boy-who-lived. I am the savior of the Wizarding World. I am Head Auror. When I was little, I barely knew my name was Harry - the people I grew up with didn't call me that. I am also your dad. I am Emma's dad. I am Alexandra's husband. Let me tell you," he leaned forward again. The smile that was always Dubhán's was still lingering on his lips. "A lot of those things don't fit nicely together, Devlin. For instance, the dad I have always been to you is different than the dad I have been to Emma. Managing to be a good husband and a good dad - rarely ever fits. The boy-who-lived often doesn't mesh well with a hard-ass Head Auror."
"Who you are is constantly changing, Devlin. Sometimes you're more than one thing at once. Sometimes there is a bit of overlap. Sometimes other people forget you've grown up."
"I have done things you could never forgive," he said, trying to press his point. Trying to redirect to something he understood. Something painful but yet comfortable. Something normal.
Harry drew back and looked at him - as if to appraise him.
"Alright. Let's play that game," he said, nodding to himself. Dubhán did not quite understand what he meant and regarded him wearily.
"Let's talk about what I know," Harry said. Dubhán's heart pulsed against his cold ribcage. "We won't even address the boy you bit, since I am sure you know you had no control even though I damn well understand feeling guilty, anyways. I know you own an illegal wand - two, actually. I know you have used those wands as an underage wizard. I know you have seen, but not reported, instances of illegal curses being performed. I know you have used the unforgivable Imperius curse. I know you have physically assaulted achild. I know you have seen someone die - probably a few of them, for a child as young as you were to understand the concept fully. I know you are an illegal, unregistered Animagus. I know you have seen torture."
Dubhán felt frozen, his magic boiling; it burned like a molten fire beneath his skin. His blood felt as if it were rivers of ice under his warm skin; waves of heat upon veins of cold. His heart beat frantically, trying to unfreeze him. His magic squeezed him from all sides, trying to determine what he needed so desperately. But he did not know. He could not think.
"Those are all things I know," Harry said, leaning backwards against the toilet. "Let's talk about what I suspect."
No, please, no.
He wanted to beg Harry. But no words came out. Dubhán wished the shower was on again. He wished the water would pour down and hide the fact that tears had suddenly come pouring out of him. He clung tighter to his knees and hid his tears against the wet surface of his pants.
"Look at me, Devlin," Harry said, soft but somehow firm all at once. He shook his head against his pants. "Devlin."
Devlin did look, and the sharpness and Dubhán screamed at his foolishness.
"I love you, Devlin." Harry leaned forward again. "I love you, no matter what you did while with him. I want you to hear that. I want you to feel that. I want you to know that. There is nothing he could have done to you that would make me hate you."
Devlin sobbed, wiping at his face.
"Have you ever tortured anyone?" Harry asked, his voice a bare whisper. Dubhán's hands felt slick and hot. He closed his eyes, feeling the hot trail of his tears. He did not need to answer Harry; his body was answering for him. It was like the first time Voldemort had come to see him when he was awake again, hovering over the bed. You're afraid, he had said, sneering and Dubhán had shaken his head, denying the undeniable. He hadn't needed to say the words or make a sound; his body had already shown the truth. He clawed at his head, willing himself to snap together. "I don't care. I still love you. That wasn't your choice. It was a choice someone took from you."
Voldemort's face was getting closer in his head, the memory refusing to be shoved aside. Blood-red inspected him with a finality that Dubhán had not understood.
When we play again, you will beg me. You will scream. You will tell me that you are afraid.
"I know you have seen people die, Devlin. I can't imagine how horrible that must have been for you." Devlin pushed his head against the back of the wall, exposing his neck. Normally such a position would make him feel terribly vulnerable, but he thought Harry could have broken his wand and he wouldn't have noticed, because he already felt like his world was crumbling around him. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think and he couldn't stop thinking.
He had tried so desperately to keep 'Dubhán' separate from what Harry knew of 'Devlin'. In some ways, when Harry had told him, after his failed escape, that he would always be his Devlin, it had given Dubhán a kind of permission be his Devlin, without having to combine the two identities.
Now, as he shoved desperately and uselessly at the memories, Devlin and Dubhán were left in his head - exposed and facing one another. The mess of both their experiences sprawled in erratic, illogical, chaos around them and between them.
And he knew. He knew the question that came after torture. Knew what was worse.
His body moved involuntarily, shuttering and sputtering as sobs burst from his spasming lungs. The mirror in the bathroom cracked - the hairline fractures deepening and opening into visible chasms. Harry glanced at it momentarily.
"Devlin." Harry's voice was soft, right near his head.
Dubhán sprung to his feet. His body was vibrating and his mind struggled to make one last attempt to make Harry understand how little Dubhán fit into his world.
"You don't you understand! You don't!" Harry looked at him. As close as Voldemort had been when he had read Dubhán like a book and deciphered his terror. He did not want Harry to decipher him. He threw more words between them, truth and lies all mixed together, and wished fervently that he could confuse them both. "It doesn't matter what I say, because I will. When he askes me, I will. I always obey him. I don't want to die. I don't ever want to die."
"Devlin," Harry whispered, his hands reaching forward to close the divide between them. Harry's hands were warm against his damp face. His thumbs moved against his cheeks. Harry smiled - the smile that he always seemed to be able to pull out of his sleeve just for him. Dubhán felt his heart still and his lungs tremble and he knew, once more, Harry had managed to make him feel like Devlin. "He tried so hard to make him like you, but I promise I won't let him finish. I promise."
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